09.19.20 Interview by Jeanne Trombly – Jeanne Trombly is a freelance writer and a real estate professional striving towards a zero carbon footprint.
Why/How did you become a WCS Member?
By happenstance – I love when this happens – it’s about me being where I’m supposed to be and connecting with the people I’m supposed to be communicating with at the right time. I was on GirlBoss, which is a website for entrepreneurs and creatives. From there, an attorney pointed me to the Kayo Series. From there I connected with Lisa Ann Pinkerton and I was on board immediately. I joined WCS on the spot.
It’s great how WCS is about different topics coming together under the same goal of helping the planet get healthy. I learn so much about every time I tune in and I’ve connected with so many women offline. I was recently invited to a pitch so I’ve already had awesome opportunities through WCS. It’s what you make of it.
You are a recent graduate of Pepperdine University (May 2019) and have wasted no time in getting back to your hometown of Nashville Tennessee and launching several initiatives!
My husband and I were intentional about coming back to Nashville. In California, renewable energy is a hot topic, and it’s an easy “Yes”. Not even a question mark. In the South, there is a little bit of trepidation over things that are new and different. Even Yoga. Some people here have expressed they are uncomfortable with Yoga. To me – Yoga has been a saving grace for my health and connecting me back to my own spirituality. So it seemed imperative to bring myself and my husband back to the South to focus on creating prosperous healthy clean communities.
Can you give us an update on Earth Rides’ launch in the midst of a global pandemic? (By way of background, Earth Rides’ is a service that is offering electric vehicle rides for pay.)
We are launching Earth Rides’ in Nashville. Our mission is to make healthy decisions – healthy lifestyles – and to help make clean tech “cool” by offering the rideshare experience in Tesla vehicles.
A lot of our riders are enamored with the sexiness of the Tesla! The overwhelming majority of our consumer/riders have never been exposed to electric vehicles so it is a great opportunity to educate. We are helping bridge the gap between the showroom and the test drive. During the ride there is a lot of conversation about the car, such as the regenerative braking and neutral carbon and so on. It’s that excitement from first time EV riders that we really enjoy.
We recently executed a SAFE with an Angel in August (Simple Agreement for Future Equity) which provided us enough capital to buy several vehicles. For 50 days we BETA tested our platform by doing $5 rides around Nashville.. We officially launched October 1st and the app is continuously being updated. Our first target area is Nashville, followed by Atlanta and then Los Angeles.
You have decided that your drivers will be employees as opposed to gig workers. Does this mean all drivers will be full time with health benefits and paid vacation?
We are using part time and full time drivers. We currently pay an hourly wage above minimum wage plus commission. Of course, drivers collect 100% of their tips. After a three month initiation period for drivers we will then bring on benefits. Right now we’ve got three full timers and we are looking at hiring two part time and a few more full time.
I recently finished the book Lunch with Lucy – the author/founder sold her company for $40 million. She focused her entire career on the notion that employees are first. Not customers. Employees. If the employees are taken care of, they will take care of the customers. Every month, Lucy would review the company’s profit or loss, and distribute 10% of the profit among all employees. So the CFO and the janitor would each receive the same bonus every single month. That’s something I would like to emulate with Earth Rides. Safety and quality are also what we pride ourselves on.
It is interesting that you opted for Law school vs Business school for your advanced degree. What went into this thought process?
I’m first born in the US in my immediate family. I’ve always been driven even as a child. By first grade my mom knew that I had it handled. Homework was always done and I got straight As. So she let me do my thing.
Growing up – it was assumed that I would be super successful and yet what does successful look like to an immigrant family? Being a lawyer. Being a doctor. On the other hand, owning your own business is so risky and it requires creativity. In order to provide for my family I needed a path that is safe and stable. So that’s what was pitched to me. Law school is safe and stable.
The other thing that influenced me was the murder of my uncle when I was 14. I watched the legal process in the court system and realized learning the law would be an opportunity to avoid prison and that particular lifestyle.. As the case took two years to prepare and two weeks at trial, I saw what it took, I saw myself being “successful” in that career. Plus, I’ve been touted as someone who’s a bit argumentative and who can hold my own opinion.
Pepperdine for Law School. Why Pepperdine?
Pepperdine is a sister school to Lipscomb University here in Nashville where I went for undergrad and both are Church of Christ schools. I graduated from high school early at age 17. I was going to start college in January and was wandering around a college fair when I found out my top school was not going to give me any tuition help. I had hardly given any other schools any attention but then I walked around the whole room with open eyes! Lipscomb ended up giving me a full scholarship and then introduced me to Pepperdine. I didn’t even know it existed, let alone where or what Malibu was.
I currently don’t do much legal work as I feel like generational wealth won’t come with a law practice. You have to be in the office all day, every day for crazy hours and that really takes a toll on one’s health. My health is the #1 most important thing in my life and that’s really why Earth Rides came about. The question of, “how do I mix my passion for good health and wellness with a desire for prosperity?”
Are you religious?
I wouldn’t say religious. I would say spiritual. Religious can be a word that divides. I like words that conquer and bring people together. Being Right and Wrong should never be the focus of a conversation. My paternal grandfather is a Nazarene Baptist preacher so I know that particular culture very well. Sometimes when you feel so right about your views you don’t have the opportunity to learn.
Is Nashville Tennessee a receptive place for a clean tech start up? Can you expand on any local resources you’ve received?
We’ve connected with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. We are a part of their brand awareness and charging infrastructure committees.
Other groups locally that we’ve had synergy for success include the Tennessee Women in Green. Also Collective 615 is a co-working space for women. I love talking about WCS with them. And Women Together is international – Eileen Fisher – the clothing brand. About two times a month she has talks.
The Tesla has risen to the gold standard for EVs, but what about other 100% battery EV cars such as the Hyundai Kona, the Bolt, the new Audi and so forth?
At this time theTesla has the range and the safety that works out to be the best economic option for us as a startup. There are Teslas now that have over 700,000 miles driven. Now who’s to say that won’t change. Elon himself also hopes for ubiquitous EVs everywhere.
How has your family background shaped and influenced your decisions and values in life? Is your husband from Tennessee?
He’s from West Virginia! I found a Southerner in California! I found my tribe. Now that we are in Nashville we occasionally drive over to his area in Huntington, West Virginia. While West Virginia is beautiful, there are really gross factories dumping pollution into the river and factories spewing pollution into the air. It’s a reminder of why we are doing the work we are doing. Seeing the passion of clean tech in CA has really sparked this desire to maintain and improve Tennessee and the south from what is happening and what is to come.
In regards to my culture, I’ve got a few things going on. Coming from the South – a lot of people ask me where I am from. I was born and raised in Tennessee but people really persist and ask me “no really where are you from.”
So before going to law school I decided to take a gap year – defer one year – and go to Panama – learn what it meant to be Panamanian, something others called me all my life even though I grew up in Nashville. I spent that time living with extended family (i.e. no hot water for a year) and ingraining myself in the culture and daily life of the community.
I’d say my decisions in life come from being in tune with my higher self, the light inside that says, “hey stay a bit longer, don’t go there, call that person”. That light always puts me exactly where I need to be at the right place at the right time. In regards to my values, I’ll let readers learn them from my actions and just words.
Any advice/thoughts you’d like to share with our dynamic community of female clean tech and sustainability advocates?
So many health conditions are considered “normal” such as allergies and asthma and so forth. I didn’t realize how unhealthy I’d been all my life until I got very sick during my gap year and it awakened me to how we take health for granted. This is my mission in life, to promote health – clean air, energy, food and water and so forth. To create healthy environments. I’d tell the community something that I know they are already doing which is challenge the status quo and ask questions on EVERYTHING you’ve been told.
Final Thoughts on the Future of Earth?
Earth Stations. It might be too early to mention this but we are in discussions with a local builder who has real estate. Nobody likes to go to the gas station. So my vision for creating Earth Stations was once an “if”. But now it’s a “when”.
Let’s say we have 15% of the rideshare market in Nashville. With that, we will need 187 cars because there’s roughly 40,000 rides per day on Uber/Lyft in Nashville. So what do we do with these cars in-between rides? I love this idea of a physical location with healthy lifestyle choices to experience while charging. Stay tuned for more thoughts on this.
To get to know Raven better there’s an excellent interview on the podcast 99% Local where she expands on her ideas.