Héloïse Poëy-Noguez brings together mobility and solidarity
In December 2017, the young entrepreneur launched SoliMobi, a web application that connects people who don’t want to travel alone. The objective is to create social bonds, reduce insecurity and promote eco-mobility.
Mobility and solidarity are part of Héloïse Poëy-Noguez’s DNA. The smiling 31-year-old Parisian who is passionate about travel and meeting new people was raised on the island of Saint-Martin in the West Indies. In 2005, when the “citizen of the world” returned to Paris, she had a tough time adjusting to the change. The human warmth and social support she experienced growing up seemed to have disappeared.
SoliMobi born out of an assault
From station agent at Air France to salesperson and receptionist, Héloïse worked a string of odd jobs before going to university to study marketing and communications and finally discover what she wanted to do in life. Then, in February 2016, an article about a woman who was sexually assaulted in a train, with no one helping her, jolted her into action. “It was right after the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris and everyone was talking about solidarity, and I thought: ‘Something needs to be done.’ It was also when the collaborative economy was starting to take off. People were sharing meals, homes, cars and so on, and I thought: ‘why not share a commute, a walk or a bike ride?’” The idea behind SoliMobi (a contraction of Solidarity and Mobility) thus came into being, and its web application, developed for optimal mobile viewing, was launched in late December 2017.
A community-oriented BlaBlaCar for “walkpoolers”
What is the concept behind SoliMobi? The same as for BlaBlaCar except that it’s aimed at people who walk or use green transport. It costs nothing to sign up. After creating their profile, “SoliMobers” can propose or choose a journey, indicating when they wish to leave and how they want to travel (on foot, bicycle, scooter or public transport). The platform then connects them with one or more members of the SoliMobi community. To fine-tune their search, users can provide additional information, such as the purpose of their journey, their age, their gender or their interests.
The reasons for wanting to share a journey or an outing – to jog or bike with other people, explore a city you just moved to, shuttle the kids to after-school activities, commute to work on public transport, accompany an elderly person afraid to travel alone – are numerous and varied.
Fostering inclusive mobility via clean transport
SoliMobi, a certified social and community economy enterprise, is a powerful means of driving inclusive mobility via clean transport. “We are a facilitator of mobility and an accelerator of social cohesion,” says Héloïse. “The objective is to reclaim public space, encourage encounters and physical exercise and make travelling safer and more pleasant in an environmentally friendly way.”
The community-oriented mobility platform now has more than 2,250 users. Every month, around 100 recurring journeys are shared by “SoliMobers” in the greater Paris region, particularly in Seine-Saint-Denis. Seventy-five percent of the users are women. “But I don’t want the app to be pigeonholed as a service for suburban women,” says the contagiously enthusiastic young woman, even though she won the “BGE Talents des Cités” contest for urban priority neighbourhoods in 2017 and was awarded the “sexism isn’t our thing” label.
Also adapted to company mobility plans
The web service is also intended for employees. In fact, its main source of funding is business customers: corporate and public authority contracts allow individuals to use the service for free. SoliMobi offers an attractive option for company mobility plans, which are now mandatory for businesses that have a staff of over 100. It’s estimated that an employee in the greater Paris region spends 68 minutes per day on average commuting to and from work. In those conditions, why not share the trip with a colleague? There are many benefits: “It’s more relaxing, builds team spirit and brightens the journey,” says SoliMobi’s founder, who feels she’s doing something useful thanks to her young company. “If, in my own small way, I can help mitigate the effects of climate change, restore social ties and help people feel safer, then I’m really happy.”