The 2021 Women of the Year Awards: Change Maker – Winner

Sandra Phillips is founder of Movmi, a mobility consultant that works with public sector clients and other organizations to help them build out their transportation infrastructure.

Change Maker: Winner
Sandra Phillips
Founder and CEO, Movmi Shared Transportation Services

It sounds like hyperbole to say that Sandra Phillips got in on the ground floor of Canada’s smart transportation movement, but it really isn’t. The Switzerland native hadn’t been in Vancouver very long when she got a job as Car2Go’s first local employee (she was the company’s seventh North American staff member).

Her mission was to find out if the German car share service could work in her new hometown. Along the way, her role changed a few times (being able to speak German meant she was something of a natural Canadian liaison to head office), but her passion for connecting people and vehicles in new ways never waned.

“My heart was in launching new services, partly because I grew up in a small town of 10,000 people where I could get from anywhere up to the mountains without having a car,” Phillips says of Villmergen, which is about 20 minutes outside Zurich. “It was all seamlessly connected, whether it was a gondola or a ferry, a train or a bus, all connected through one fare card.”

In 2014, Phillips founded Movmi, a mobility consultant that works with public sector clients (TransLink and various municipalities) and organizations like Evo Car Share, Vancouver Bike Share (Mobi) and BCAA to help them build out their transportation infrastructure.

“When we launched Car2Go, I would go to parties and tell people what I did and get blank stares, people going, What are you talking about?” she recalls. “Eventually, people started coming to those parties in Car2Gos. That shift can happen if you create reliable supply and reliable services.”

Vancouver-based Movmi often serves as a go-between for those public entities and the car, bike or scooter share outfits in a bid to create that reliability and seamless transport for the consumer. “It’s the classic Swiss joke, but we’re essentially the neutral party in between,” Phillips laughs.

On a more serious note, she argues that, with all the new technologies that are becoming available in the transportation space, there are some know-ledge gaps in how to properly apply those innovations. “A lot of traditional transportation engineers and urban planners don’t know what to do with all of this,” she maintains. “How do you tackle it and use it in a way that’s beneficial to the community? So apart from last year, we’ve had work for the last seven years.”

COVID-19 saw Phillips shrink her workforce as things dried up temporarily, but Movmi is now up to four full-time and two part-time staff from its pre-pandemic count of 10. “We have to continue to make the ecosystem more reliable, and bring in the latest and greatest when it makes common sense,” she says. “Kick scooters aren’t really a solution when you don’t have a safe bike lane to ride in.”