Erika Jernigan is making a buzz with Lexi’s Little Bug, her kids-only rideshare service.
By Jessica Bizik
Photography by Justin Ross
In 2016, after six years working for Capital One, Erika Jernigan found out the company was imposing a mandatory schedule change. Making that transition was no sweat for the single, kid-free thirtysomething. However, several of her colleagues struggled with the change, because they couldn’t find safe, reliable, affordable transportation for their children.
That’s what inspired Erika to launch Lexi’s Lil Bug, a rideshare service focused exclusively on getting Baltimore kids ages 5-17 where they need to go. To use the service, parents simply download the LLB app and request a ride at least four hours in advance. While some request rides on the fly, most sign up for an entire semester or school year — making the transportation service part of their family’s daily routine … and, in many cases, considering Erika an unofficial part of the family. (She regularly gets invited to her clients’ birthday parties, prom send-offs and other celebrations.)
“I’ve taken a very personal approach to building my business,” she says. “For example, at the beginning of each school year, I host in-person meet-and-greets with families in Baltimore City, so both the parents and the kids can get to know me and feel comfortable with me. I put in the time to earn their trust.”
Currently, Erika is running a “one woman show” (read: she’s the CEO and only driver) but her goal is to vet and hire a small fleet of equally professional, committed employees to help take Lexi’s Little Bug to the next level this year.
“That has been the biggest growing pain for me so far. I have a waiting list for my services, but I haven’t felt comfortable turning over the keys, so to speak. It’s something my business coach and advisors have been working with me to overcome,” says the solopreneur.
To that end, she has established a rigorous vetting process for potential drivers. That includes all the state-mandated requirements, such as a background check, fingerprinting, and clean driving record. But, on top of that, she’s looking for individuals with at least five years of childcare experience, preferably some driving experience, and the right personality.
“I’m looking for highly responsible, motivated individuals. People with tons of patience and empathy, who truly adore children and will care for them as if they were their own,” says Erika, who is excited about becoming a job-creator and committed to providing her employees with flexibility and a living wage. It’s an apt workplace philosophy for a company whose mission is helping clients achieve work/life balance.
“My biggest motivation is making sure other women don’t have to choose between their careers, their personal aspirations, and their kids,” says Erika. “None of my clients, male or female, ever have to feel stressed if they’re running late from work, or feel guilty if they want to take a yoga class or go on an impromptu date night. That’s why we have evening and weekend hours.”
So regardless of the time or day of week, parents always know there’s a caring, familiar person making sure their kids get to soccer practice or dance lessons or grandma’s house — safe and sound.
“Lexi’s Little Bug is a transportation service,” Erika continues. “But, really, it’s a peace-of-mind service.”