GEST Carts Chicago, The Windy City’s first-of-its-kind electric transport service, not only provides free sustainable rides to your destination but serves as a mobile billboard for brands.
GEST Carts, which stands for Green Easy Safe Transportation, is a national franchise with operations in six cities. Launched in December 2019, the Chicago franchise, both Black and woman-owned, is led by Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, Tiffany Shepard, Chief Financial Officer Marissa Wright, and Chief Sales and Operations Officer Harold Shepard.
“The riders love us,” Tiffany Shepard tells BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“Older riders are grateful and have called us a ‘blessing’ for the ride to their home or to the grocery story and young/party-goers are grateful for the fact that it’s free and thus cheaper than Uber. Either way, we’re not in it for credit as the advertiser on the outside gets all the credit.”
Advertisers can get a “custom designed, vibrant, personalized traveling billboard” that makes free transportation feasible with “over 1 million impressions per shuttle per month,” according to the company’s website.
Having worked with a variety of clients, GEST Carts Chicago is looking forward to working with natural hair and body brand Shea Moisture during Essence Fest in New Orleans.
“We are for brands who care how and where they spend their OOH [out-of-home] funds—brands who walk the walk,” Shepard said.
How to get a free ride
Unlike a taxi, the zero-emission, multi-passenger vehicles can be requested via the GEST app. Riders can also meet at designated corners in Central Downtown Chicago and Wrigley, or shoot a text to 502-501-4378.
Hours of operation are currently Fridays 6-11 p.m.; Saturdays 1-6 p.m. and 6-11 p.m., and Sundays 1-6 p.m.
When did you launch GEST Carts Chicago?
GEST Carts was launched in Cincinnati as a woman-owned company. My company, GEST Carts Chicago, is their first franchise and it is Black- and woman-owned and launched in December 2019. And all the other franchises that have launched since then are Black-, woman-, LGBTQ- and/or veteran-owned.
GEST Chicago, GEST Detroit, GEST Denver, GEST Charlotte and GEST Vegas Strip are all Black-owned (five of the seven franchises) with Denver also being LGBTQ- and veteran-owned.
Are you and the other franchises actively working together?
The franchises are very collaborative. We have a monthly call on Fridays to share tips and tricks with each other. And we often help each other fulfill client needs for larger orders like when Procter and Gamble’s brand Old Spice wanted us to activate at Super Bowl in Los Angeles.
What types of companies or clients have you worked with?
We are so proud of the companies who have partnered with us like Uncle Nearest, Hard Rock Casino, My Black is Beautiful, Maker’s Mark, and Old Spice. These are companies who have decided to be more intentional with where and how they spend their OOH dollars…with a company that’s diverse and sustainable—not on some large diesel bus.
Describe what it was like when you received your first advertiser.
It was amazing! Our first advertiser was Uncle Nearest whiskey. We loved having a Black-owned brand as our first advertiser and it helped us prove the concept to future advertisers and riders.
What are the best and challenging parts of running a Black-owned business in advertising?
Most people need to see our vehicle in order to understand the concept. Lots of large companies have 90- day invoice terms, which for a small company can feel like a lifetime. The current equipment supply and employee shortage. We’re ready to expand but the shortages make it tough.
What is the future of GEST Carts Chicago?
We look forward to continue to partner with large brands who want us in the downtown areas while also partnering with community service providers like ComEd, Obama Foundation, and financial institutions, so we can continue to serve the communities who need free transport the most.