Female Founders: Noreen Butler of RUBI On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
…Founders may have a great idea but no one person ever has all the answers. I’ve worked hard to surround myself with a team that not only complements my skill set, but also has the courage to challenge me and offer solutions.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Noreen Butler.
Noreen Butler was a single mom in search of help to support the busy schedules of her children. With a mission to create a community of drivers for families in need, RUBI was established and has since maintained the highest standards to select its drivers. RUBI understands that transportation is critical to advancing health equity and is dedicated to integrating technology, community, and new solutions to help kids and families by providing a safe, dependable mode of transportation. She resides in Washington, D.C. with her children and enjoys giving back to her community.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I started RUBI because of a personal need. When a home-based childcare provider left to pursue an educational opportunity, I had no way of transporting my children while maintaining a full-time job. Solving this problem for myself, and others in the community, became a passion and then a mission. RUBI’s real objective is to provide families with a comfort knowing their loved ones will be transported safely and reliably from one place to another.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
The answer to that is easy but defining your brand and establishing a meaningful name is not. Without a budget or a branding specialist on staff, RUBI went through multiple name iterations that ultimately led to a name we love. RUBI has significant meaning to me. Ruby is my birthstone, and I wanted a name that expressed the precious commodity that we are transporting and is encompassing of all ages from seven years old and expanding into seniors as well. We designed a unique ruby pin drop to symbolize the location of your precious gem and in the app you are able to watch your loved ones that are en route from the palm of your hand. My children played a critical role in this process and were not only my focus group, but also a part of my marketing team.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I take the role of transporting children very seriously so there honestly aren’t any funny mistakes I’ve made. Mistakes for sure, just none that I would characterize as funny. To be honest, my math skills have never been a natural strength because of my dyslexia. So, when I started on this mission to create RUBI, I knew I needed to surround myself with a small and trusted team with skills and expertise that would complement my weaknesses. I am not very technical, but I knew what I wanted my app to do. Finding them took a long time, but I now have a rock star CTO and app development team that gets my vision. When I set out on this mission, one of the things that gave me such peace of mind when I hired a driver for my own kids was that he would send me a text when he was en route to get them, standing by waiting for them, when my kids were in the car and when they were dropped off safely. I created a 1,2,3,4 system with my drivers to communicate with me when all of these moments were happening in real time. When we were beta testing, I would relay the same updates to the families and everyone loved the constant communication and reassurance that their precious gems were safe every step of the way. Now that our app is complete, it is amazing to have all of this automated and to not have to hear my phone dinging nonstop! Without making mistakes and validating ideas it is hard to have a business model that is meaningful.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve been incredibly fortunate and blessed to have the guidance, support and mentorship of a very seasoned, humble and well-regarded professional entrepreneur and worldwide motivational speaker. I will forever be grateful to Jeff Hoffman (Priceline.com/Booking.com) for encouraging me to put one foot in front of the other on the difficult days that every entrepreneur encounters.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
Because of statistics similar to the one you quoted, many women, unfortunately, lack the confidence to take the first step. It’s a daunting process for anyone but when venture capital firms, technology vendors, bankers and lawyers are dominated by males, walking into those spheres is intimidating. Surrounding myself with mentors and investors who have a track record of supporting female entrepreneurs has been critical to my growth as a professional woman.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
I really believe that sincere mentorship is critical. Sincere in the sense that a mentor truly understands the personal and professional hurdles in front of someone not only trying to grow a business, but also manage the personal responsibilities of a family.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
I think female founders, and those in positions of leadership, are empathetic, intuitive and naturally supportive as a team is developed. While this may mean there should be more women defined as founders, it also means there should be more women in positions of leadership at established companies. Women make great leaders and as I was interviewing CEOs in the transportation space, I learned it is a male-dominated industry. In fact, someone said to me, “I don’t like being around a conference table unless there is a woman present.” He then went on to say women make great leaders. That resonated with me. I am seeking female investors and advisors. I believe that more women need to empower each other and help work together so we have more of a presence around conference tables, especially in male-dominated industries such as tech and mobility.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
Founders may have a great idea but no one person ever has all the answers. I’ve worked hard to surround myself with a team that not only complements my skill set, but also has the courage to challenge me and offer solutions.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Not everyone is meant to be a founder. Founders of a company need to be comfortable failing, leading through periods of uncertainty, able to embrace criticism and willing to work hours outside of the norm.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Self-confidence with a belief in oneself. Without any expertise or experience in the transportation industry, I needed to educate myself and develop a network of relationships that could be leveraged as the business model for RUBI took shape.
- Confident communication skills. With safety at the forefront of everything RUBI does, I am crystal clear in any communication with my driver network about my expectations to provide safe rides for a community entrusting us with their loved ones.
- Ability to question the status quo. Many people, family included, questioned my ability to develop a company that would simply transport children from point A to point B with strangers behind the wheel. By developing a comprehensive interview and training process, I confidently can represent to the community that RUBI’s driver network is safe and reliable.
- Empathetic. My role as a mother has absolutely helped guide my interaction with RUBI clients. Families of all shapes, sizes and resources need safe transportation for their loved ones and I’ve built a team uniquely qualified to provide this support and peace of mind.
- Authentic. I’ve worked diligently to build a driver network that is respectful, reliable, motivated, and eventually an extension of the families that they serve.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
RUBI works in a calculated way to support organizations where transportation is an identified challenge. Relevant examples include after-school and sports-oriented organizations that need to transport inner city or economically disadvantaged communities without direct transportation services.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
One of the biggest barriers for many is transportation. If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people it would be for those who are able and can afford to donate rides to those in need. I would like to be able to offer our service to those that need rides to go to medical appointments, to work and job interviews to help make the world a better place.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Oprah Winfrey has always been an inspirational hero of mine. She is from humble beginnings, independently minded and just so thoughtful about the communities she influences. I have a vison of creating a network of safe and trusted drivers around the country to help Bigs and Littles of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of America organization to service their needs to get to and from activities, school and any destination to help them be the best versions of themselves. I would love Oprah to be a part of this mission with me. I feel it could be tremendously impactful and is purpose-driven. Incredible endeavors like this take a special village to achieve.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this
Female Founders: Noreen Butler of RUBI On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.