Brothers-in-law band together to build shared transport business

Andrew Robarts and James Champion (Supplied)
Andrew Robarts and James Champion (Supplied)

Andrew Robarts and James Champion are the business partners and general managers of Zeelo South Africa.

They are also brother-in-laws living and working in Umhlanga Rocks, Durban.

Before Zeelo, Champion was in sales for a large corporate before being a partner in a successful estate agency in Umhlanga. Robarts was based in London, working for a national supermarket chain.

While Zeelo was initially primarily focused on providing shared transportation services to and from events around the country, its first commuting service got underway in July, providing staff transport from the Gautrain Station in Sandton to three offices in the Sandton area.

"We are looking to provide these services for more businesses across the country, as well as linking major business hubs within cities, to help reduce the number of cars on our roads, relieve the parking pressures within cities, reduce carbon emissions and give people their time back," says Robarts.

"The prospect of getting Zeelo up and running in South Africa led us to both leave our jobs, and Andrew to relocate back to Durban, in order to embark on this entrepreneurial journey together," says Champion.

Zeelo is a personalised shared mobility service, connecting underserved areas with shared transport options, so people can make the most of their travelling time.

Users can book and pay for their ride on the Zeelo website and will have their tickets sent straight to their phone, plus they have access to 24/7 customer support and live vehicle tracking on the day of travel.

Zeelo has been operational in the UK since 2017 and the business officially opened its doors in South Africa in 2018. Since then, Zeelo has transported over 150 000 travellers to various corporate offices and events, all the while, achieving a Trustpilot rating of 9/10.

"Our biggest challenge has been the fact that there were only two of us getting the business up and running in South Africa over the past 8 months. We were able to benefit from the knowledge and support of the UK team, but it still required a massive amount of hard work and extra hours to be put in, in order to get the business off the ground in this new market," says Robarts.

"We also had the challenge of implementing the Zeelo tech offering in a new market. We were unsure how the systems would operate in South Africa and how the market would respond to the product."

Robarts and Champion advise would-be entrepreneurs to have the confidence to go out there and get started with your business.

"Don't be afraid of failure when doing so. We have failed on numerous occasions, but this is also where we have learnt the most and have been able to grow as a business and as individuals," says Champion.

"Always be open to learning new things and tap into the wealth of knowledge that is available online and through reading books. Reading stories from other entrepreneurs will provide an insight into what it takes to get your business off the ground and can help you to avoid making some of the mistakes that they might have made in their careers."

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