It's no secret that when we launched Buggy with more than double the fleet this year than we had last year, we faced a major hurdle--a nationwide driver shortage. Prior to 2021, we had never struggled to find qualified drivers. In fact, we always had a surplus of applicants. But the pandemic changed that. Many experienced drivers, how tend to be on the older side, opted to leave the workforce altogether, or do gig-work as opposed to full-time employment. The news of this driver-crisis was all over the news, impacting not only private companies like ours, but school systems as well. Routes across Miami, and other cities, were cancelled and families were often left blindsided by the shortage.
At Buggy, we felt the squeeze, but we forged ahead. We found create ways to get new referrals--often through incentivizing own driver network--or turning to social media. By late September, we no longer had a driver shortage within our company, and we could breathe again. We also saw last month a 60% increase in driver applications, which brought great relief. It's important to have a steady pool of applicants so we can continue to build our "dream team" and grow Buggy at a healthy pace to meet the demand.
This shift in driver interest may be a signifier of the pandemic slowing down, with more and more drivers returning to the workforce. There are a few theories--both health and finance-related--that could explain the change. The reality is that gig-work will always be a competition to consider, but we are not apples for apples. Oftentimes, gig-type jobs treat drivers as disposable, and at Buggy we consider them crucial team players who are treated as individuals.
To us, we are only as good as our Buggy drivers. It's important that our drivers feel valued and appreciated for their contribution to our community.
Buggy is growing nonstop, and that includes both within our core-schools and branching out to new schools. This month, we started servicing Pinecrest Elementary, a school that's long-been on our target list for a few reasons. For one, it's smack in the middle of our two largest school populations: Gulliver Academy and Sunset Elementary. We launched our service at Gulliver back in 2019, and Sunset has perhaps the most difficult parent pickup of any school in South Florida. Pinecrest also make sense because many of the children live in Coral Gables and South Miami--areas where we have a concentration of Buggy vans servicing. And thirdly, Pinecrest staggers pickup times by one hour depending on grade. It makes the line a little less overwhelming at pickup, but it's a logistical nightmare for parent's whose children fall into separate schedules.
A little on Pinecrest: It's an A+ rated public school with a fantastic reputation and beautiful, lush campus. Many families move to Miami with the intention of their children attending this school because the education is just that good. Due to it's high demand, it's very difficult--if not impossible--to get in without being zoned for it. The word on the street is that their waitlist never moves, and so your best bet on getting in is to move to the Pinecrest area. It's also conveniently located next to a recreation center with tennis, tutoring and other activities, so Buggy can easily shuttle kids from the school to their extracurriculars.
If you'd like to reserve your spot on our Pinecrest van--please don't hesitate to give us a shout!
The Buggy Team
We are excited to welcome back to the Buggy family, Kimberlynn. She drove for us pre-pandemic for a year, took off a brief haitus the pandemic--and now is back servicing the Coral Gables, Brickell and Miami Beach areas. Luckily, she knows Miami like her back hand, and has learned all school pickup protocals down pat.
As a mother of a young boy herself, Kimberlynn has a good handle on how to manage a busload of small children. We love how she goes out of her way to acknowledge and celebrate each child's birthday, as well as remembering all their afterschool activities. Caring drivers truly leave a positive mark on the kids they service, and it's great to see her welcoming the kids onto the van each day. She calls them "my kids," since the reality is that while the children are on the van, they are.
Our best drivers recognize the huge responsibility they have in keeping our Buggy kids safe and well-cared for during the ride. It's a responsibility Kimberlynn--and the Buggy team--does not take lightly.
This week, Buggy is launching a route at yet another Coral Gables area school: Temple Judea Preschool. The route will run from school down to Cocoplum. Due to high demand (and high traffic) in the Gables, we expect to have this van full within the next couple of months. Temple Judea is a little gem within North Gables, the only reform congregation in the area has built a reputation for being accepting of Jews of all varieties. The congregation was founded over 60 years ago, and has steadily grown over the years into a strong presence in the community.
Their school--The Margaux School--is known as a wonderful place for a child to start their education. Kids learn the foundations for Jewish traditions and spirituality, in a playful and nurturing setting. The small class sizes allow for an intimate environment while they learn both Judaics, socialization and the building blocks of early reading.
Our drivers are experienced and well-trained at servicing young children and handling their unique needs. Also, all our Buggy vans are equipped with 5-point harness car-seats as well as booster seats.
We are excited to be expanding our footprint within the South Miami community. The more kids we service within a concentrated area, the more we can optimize our routes for maximum efficiency. Our goal is always to get kids come quickly--and safely!
We were so lucky to welcome the wonderful Keionna to the Buggy team this September. From the onset, she has been an absolute rockstar and key team player. She has years of experience both transporting children and the elderly, so she has a firm grasp on how to excel as a Buggy "Coachie." As a mother herself, she is "at home" with the kids and loves to get to know them. She commented that working with kids is a "privilege", since they bring a smile to her face every day. The kids, in turn, feel her warm energy and enjoy the ride that much more.
We love her attention to detail when it comes to the routes, even going so far as to do several practice runs when she was just getting started. As a North Miami native, she knows all the background and navigates around traffic like a pro. We've assigned her to the Brickell>North Miami van to put all her knowledge of that are to good use at schools such as Iprep North and Miami Arts Charter, where we have an estabilished clientele. Boy does her expertise make a difference when it comes to that school traffic!
After a bit of a rough-patch during the early part of the pandemic due to the driver shortage, we have come a long way. New hires like Keionna show our progress, and how finding the right driver is literally "everything" when it comes to providing a top-notch service. We are excited that Buggy is finally building the "dream team."
I’ll let you in on a little-known secret: Over one-third of Buggy families have a stay-at-home parent. It’s a fallacy that in order to justify using Buggy you must have both parents working. Here are a few reasons stay-at-home parents rely on Buggy to transport their kids to and from school.
1. They care deeply about the environment.
The jury’s out on the damage being done to our planet from carbon emissions. Unless we all drove a Tesla (dare to dream!), the reality is that those long carpool lines of one child per car are wreaking havoc on our communities. As much as parents love to pick up their children, we are left to wonder--is it worth destroying the planet? Or, in the very least, can’t we all start to carpool and fill our SUVs and mini-vans with other children to minimize the pollution?
2. They want their children to develop better social skills and get some form of a “bus” experience.
Many parents look back on the “good old days” when all the kids walked alone to the corner and piled into the yellow school bus. In many way, we’ve moved away from that tradition as a society. Kids these days are too scheduled, and parents too busy, to manage the less efficient yellow school bus with it’s rigid pickup and dropoff points. . However, there are parents that feel the experience of sharing the ride with other kids helped them develop as a person. They want their kids to get a similar experience, and so riding Buggy, while vastly more comfortable, fits the bill.
3. They value their time or have other pressing commitments outside of work (often pertaining to other children.
It’s not uncommon for children’s pickup times or extracurricular schedules to conflict, leaving the at-home parent unable to manage all the children’s transportation alone. This is where Buggy comes in. Even if the caregiving parent can conceivably make it to all the pickups, there’s the stress of unexpected traffic or the mere fact that he/she doesn’t want to spend 3 hours a day in the car. Can you blame them? In driving cities it’s especially burdensome when you have busy, active children.
When parents start using Buggy, they often call it a “lifesaver,” something they couldn’t imagine living without. Knowing that we are making such a difference in the lives of our riders--and their parents--is what motivates us to keep pushing forward.
The Buggy Team
Is it better to group children of similar ages range in the van by age? The answer is yes, and no. In our experience, there are both pros and cons to our riders being extremely close in age. Most parents are usually excited to hear that their children will be riding with their peers in school, as they see it as a social advantage. This is especially true for those families who recently relocated and are already worried that their children will struggle to make friends. To them, Buggy has the built-in social benefits that will launch many a playdate and sleepover. And this is all true!
The truth is: Our Buggy vans that are very age-specific tend to be more boisterous and have a lot more social interaction going on. Friendships tend to accelerate faster on the van and the kids often have a really good time on Buggy. Many times, the kids will socialize at school or outside school, and pick up right where they left off. The Buggy ride is a nice pause in their day to catch up and relax with their buddies or play video games together. All good things.
However, there’s a clear downside to vans with entirely the same age group-which is the increase in fighting and arguments. With closer relationships comes the higher likelihood of drama, and interactions outside Buggy impacting the van environment. In our experience, this is especially true of boy and girl interactions amongst middle and high schoolers. Sometimes teasing or poking fun can lead to feeling being hurt, and the Buggy driver or managers needing to step in to help.
How do we address fighting on the van? Our first step, which is a very effective one, is to give both parties their space and separate the children. Luckily, Buggy vans have between four to five rows, which is ample space to keep the children apart. Sometimes, that alone does the trick and restores peace to the van. Other times, intervention is needed and we get the parents involved. These kinds of issues are much rarer occasions on vans where the children are further apart in age, since the kids interact less. So we’re learning to keep a watchful eye on the all-middle school or all-high school vans where the environment is a bit more prone to arguments.
As always, our goal on Buggy is to create a warm and welcoming environment for kids commuting to school. As we have grown, we’ve consulted the expertise of counselors, as well as used trial and errors to develop the most effective policies that are in line with our values, and mission.
The Buggy Team
Part of what makes Buggy special is that we've assembled a team of wonderful, caring and safety-conscious drivers! They absolutely make our world go around because let's be honest, they ARE our business. That's why we invest in and train each and every driver we hire. Most of them are parents themselves, so they can relate to the important problem we are solving. Also, we hire them as full-time employees, the goal being to foster a sense of community and commitment.
Simone is a prime example of what is means to be a stellar Buggy "Coachie." In nearly a year, she has never once missed a pickup, and is always suggesting improvements to our routes. She also cares about each child, and tries her best to get to know them individually. All this while raising 2 adorable daughters of her own! We are super lucky to have her on the team.
Good News: Buggy has expanded and is now servicing Calvary Christian Academy with routes to Miami Shores, Wynwood and Brickell. Calvary Christian has a vibrant school community that comes from all walks of life, with the mission of developing children of faith into competent, well rounded adults. They have a reputation of being a place where everyone feels welcome and nurtured, and are socio-economically diverse. They also have a strong after-school program with tons of enrichment activities to choose from to keep kids busy.
Given their stellar reputation in the community for over 60 years, kids travel to Calvary Christian from long distances, such as mid-Miami and even North Lauderdale. Buggy is happy to step up to help service these families, who understand that a good education is worth commuting for!
We love providing opportunities to service more parents in the Greater Miami Area and are expecting a lot of demand in Hollywood.
The Buggy team
Our mission with Buggy has always been to create a warm, friendly atmosphere for the kids we service. It goes without saying that we have Zero Tolerance for bullying and do everything we can to prevent it from happening. We also keep our lines of communication open with drivers, parents and riders. Here are three steps we are taking to ensure everyone feels welcome on Buggy:
1. Reinforcing our policies and values: We regularly send out memos to parents and children reminding them that Buggy is not the place for bullying of any kind. Managers will often come onboard to try to mediate any issues between children, and nip it in the bud before it escalates.
2. Separating Children When Needed: On occasion, when two children seem to "trigger" one another, we separate them. We have the child who the driver believes to be instigating the fighting sit upfront, and the other child in the back. Luckily, our vans are spacious with 4-5 rows, so it's easier to do this.
3. Camera Screening: Our vans are equipped with Angelcam, which provides real-time footage of interactions between riders on our van. This allows for impartial decisions to be made if there is a bullying-related issue. Having these cameras is integral to our vans running smoothly.
We make it a point never to rush to conclusion about a child, and we never, ever place blame on the parents. As parents ourselves, we know that we cannot control how our children may react to teasing, or a difficult social interaction. At Buggy, we do everything to prevent this issues from occurring, address it as needed, and remain always open to suggestions!
The Buggy Team