Lynne Scullard, founder of Scully Scooters, hopes to make a dent in South Africa’s unemployment problem by teaching people how to ride scooters. She started the company after her skills training business lost its biggest client and she had to cut down on every expense possible to save the business, including replacing her BMW X5 with a scooter. But, after paying R50 to fill up her tank, she realised there was an opportunity in the scooter business. Now she runs training for McDonald’s delivery people, and is behind all the Sheshatuk TukTuk drivers in the Sandton area.
“I call it pavement entrepreneurship,” says Scullard. “We take people who have no job and who have no hope of finding one and put them through a training programme where they learn to ride a scooter safely, with the intention of getting them a job. Or, through our enterprise development programme, we give them further skills on how to run a business and help them to get their mobile small business started.”
Whether it is a mobile shoe-shine company, mobile mechanic or other service, their programme has given freedom to many people who otherwise may not have had any hope of finding employment. Scully Scooters trains riders and covers their learners license fees. It makes money through partnerships with other businesses, like fast-food restaurants and other companies that have delivery as a value-add service. They pay them for their recruitment services.
Operating in Cape Town and Johannesburg, the company has trained close to 800 people, creating almost 300 jobs. Now, with the backing of investment holding company Talent10, which recently bought a 51% stake in the business, Scully Scooters is about to embark on an accelerated growth path. Talent10 founder Joe Bester says the plan is to see South Africa emulate many of the eastern economies, where scooters are one of the main modes of transport. He says that because the cost of transport is so high, it often acts as a barrier to employment.
“This is creating economic empowerment for people by making them mobile, and it’s something that we believe has not been properly explored in South Africa,” says Bester.
“There’s also an opportunity in the retail environment where there is a demand for logistics services to deliver goods more efficiently and at a cheaper rate.”
When she started the business, Scullard aimed to get 750 000 scooters on the road. She concedes this may be ambitious, but believes it is achievable as it’s less than 5% of taxi commuters in Gauteng.
She has two significant challenges: the first is that the learner’s license process does not prepare riders for the road as it is a theoretical test; the second is that it is difficult to find people who have a work ethic and can be placed into a work environment without too many hassles. So a lot of their expenses go towards recruitment and license test.
“We have to interview 100 people to find five good candidates,” she says. Another obstacle, which is more superficial is that most people associate scooters with delivery people and don’t see it as a suitable mode of transport.
She agrees that the gear that one has to wear – reflective jacket, gloves and helmet – is anything but stylish, and that there is very little sex appeal to scooters themselves, but that the cost benefits and time saved easing through traffic, more than makes up for that.
“I spend R200 on transport costs per month. That’s for petrol and insurance. With that level of affordability, I don’t care if look like a chop (while riding my scooter),” she says.
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