9 April 2024

Sometimes you need more than a driver - you need a Daisy

| Dione David
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Driving Miss Daisy Wollongong founder Bethany Paterson with her husband

Bethany Paterson (pictured with her partner Adam) launched the companion driving service Driving Miss Daisy in Wollongong to give residents a ride to freedom. Photo: Driving Miss Daisy.

Bethany Paterson’s grandma was one of “the lucky ones”, able to live out her life in the comfort of her own home until the day she passed away.

Her children, Bethany’s parents, lived nearby and were able to shuttle her to medical appointments, help with the shopping, run errands and facilitate trips to the library.

“I watched them do that for years and only later came to appreciate what it meant. There’s no possible way she could have stayed home as long as she did if it weren’t for their help,” Bethany says.

“I think as people spread out and we lose our ‘villages’, that sense of belonging and community is becoming rarer and rarer. There are so many people in need who are stuck at home, who want safe and reliable transport but who don’t have family nearby to call on. You know, someone who’s more than a taxi service.”

When COVID hit, like many, the Figtree woman’s mind turned to what was important to her. After 17 years in the corporate world, she ditched her job at a major insurance brand in Sydney and her search for a higher purpose led her to launch the Wollongong chapter of Driving Miss Daisy.

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Driving Miss Daisy is a companion driving service offering door-to-door transport for people who need a bit of extra support, including people living with disability, in aged care, children and anyone needing more than just an A to B transport service.

Fees are a blended rate of the time spent with the client and kilometres travelled, pre-booked and pre-quoted to ensure no unnecessary surprises at the end of the journey. For these rates, clients get a “Daisy”, which is like a driver but so much more.

Unlike a taxi service, each trip is tailored to the individual. Daisies will wait with their clients if a GP appointment is delayed, join them on walks or hang out for a cuppa.

“For some of our clients, we might be their only opportunity to get out of the house, so there is a big emphasis on the companionship piece. Our clients can be quite elderly, some have disabilities and others just need a bit of TLC,” Bethany says.

“Some of our elderly clients do have adult children nearby, but they work full-time jobs and have children of their own, and the time they have to spend outside of those commitments is finite. They choose to use our services to help with appointments, errands and life admin so that what time they have together can be used as quality time.”

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Since launching at the start of 2022 with herself and one car, Bethany has grown to have seven Daisies on her books, driving a modest fleet of three cars.

The business has about 180 clients on the database and last month almost 50 clients – a mix of regular and ad-hoc – made over 300 bookings.

“My wonderful team is out there delivering on the promises I make to our clients, many of which are like family to us,” Bethany says.

“Like Cassie, who lives with low vision and has a seeing-eye dog named Meesha. She works for Vision Australia and travels a lot for her job, and we always get excited when Cassie and Meesha make a booking.

“I have moved into a bit more of a business building role, and use myself as a backup whenever there’s a job one of my Daisies can’t do. I still drive most days.

“I love it. I love driving, getting out into the community, connecting with people and helping them live their lives.”

Driving Miss Daisy Australia has 35 franchises nationwide. This year at the company’s annual awards night, Bethany and the Wollongong Daisies claimed the top gong – Franchisee of the Year – and Bethany was named “Team Player of the Year” by her Daisy peers across the country.

“We don’t do it for the awards, but it was thrilling to get that recognition from our fellow Daisies, who are all wonderful people out there making a difference in their communities,” Bethany says.

“I am sure they agree, this job is the real reward.”

For more information visit Driving Miss Daisy Wollongong Central.

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