Every workday, at 5 p.m., Amia Guild would leave her job as a supervisor at Comcast to pick up her then 15-year-old daughter from school. Guild sent her child to a better school than the one in her home district, so the school bus wasn’t an option. When all the after-school programs finished, her daughter had to wait outside of the building for her mother.
“I started seeing the trend, not just with my child but with many other families, that these children were just standing outside with nowhere to go, and no one to get them until the parent got there,” Guild says. “And I said, ‘something as to be done.’”
That’s when the idea clicked for Takes a Village Transportation, a safe van service that would transport children to and from school. However, Guild first had to get the financing. Although the 50-year-old Georgian had her mortgage and savings with a commercial bank and had a good credit score, she could not get a business loan from them.
“I had no one willing to work with me because we were so new,” she says. Then she found Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), a CDFI based in Cleveland, Georgia, who provided her with a loan of $36,000 to purchase her first 15-seater van.
“Amia’s business had shown increased revenues and she had a clean payment history,” says Bonita Doster, a small business loan officer for ACE. “Like many other entrepreneurs, she just wasn’t able to get a bank to take a chance on her for a loan.”
Takes a Village specializes in making its service accessible to people of color and low-to-moderate-income families. The company name is based on the African proverb of children being raised by others in the village besides their biological parents.
“You have to know and help beyond the village in which just you live in,” Guild says. “People miss those opportunities to serve. You don’t have to live in a village to be a part of a village.”
Ida Rose-Mize was one of the first parents to start using Takes a Village Transportation.
“I knew I had a need for it,” Rose-Mize says. The pediatric dentist in Lithia Springs, Georgia, would often have to cancel appointments with her patients to pick up her children. “I tell people all the time, it’s added years to my life. I would have to get up early in the morning and drive back and forth to the school, and it’s hectic, getting in traffic and just trying to get there. Now it takes some of the hustle and bustle out of my day.”
Although Guild’s business was closed for four months during the height of the pandemic, the need resumed once schools reopened and the company made six figures in profit. ACE helped her find available funding for PPP and assistance with other loans and funding grants — one of which she received last December for $7,500. She also takes advantage of the services ACE offers. Now, five years after Guild began operation, Takes a Village Transportation has five 15-passenger vans, three drivers, a bookkeeper, an accountant and a persistent waiting list.
As schools and activities began resuming after the early months of COVID-19, Guild started fielding requests for more tailored transportation. That led her to a new, expanded idea: ride-share, but for children. Guild is in the process of launching a Takes a Village Transportation app, through which she says she’ll be “able to service a greater magnitude and greater reach, across Atlanta metro.” She also hopes to eventually launch the app in Indiana and Indianapolis.
Once the app is downloaded onto an IOS or Android phone, parents can input their current location and where they want to go; select the option for a single or carpool ride and if there’ll be any stops. The parent will be given a security code specific to a designated driver. They can verify that information in a messaging system that unlocks a GPS for the child so a dual-dash camera on the car’s dashboard shows the child entering and riding in the vehicle for the entirety of the trip.
Drivers will have to undergo local and national criminal and sex offender background checks, scrutiny of the past seven years of their driving history, do three video trainings on preventing child abuse, and maintain a car that cannot be older than 10 years and passes a 15-point vehicle inspection. Guild’s business will carry several insurances for liability and split the profits with the driver, 70% to them and 30% to the company.
Guild’s strong faith has been the source she has relied on to start and sustain the business, especially as she left her job after a recent promotion to make her dream a reality.
This story is part of our series, CDFI Futures, which explores the community development finance industry through the lenses of equity, public policy and inclusive community development. The series is generously supported by Partners for the Common Good. Sign up for PCG’s CapNexus newsletter at capnexus.org.
Connie Aitcheson is a freelance writer based between Florida and Kingston, Jamaica. She worked for many years at Sports Illustrated and has been published in Essence, PTSD Journal, Cosmopolitan and espnw.com.