Meet George McEncroe
Whenever you start a new business, or create an award-winning Melbourne International Comedy Festival show, or collect testimonies for the War Crimes Tribunal – and my friend Georgina McEncroe has done all those things – you need to write a biography.
If you’ve ever had to write your own bio, you’ll know it’s excruciating. That’s why I told George not to bother. I know her – she’ll be way too self-effacing, and downplay all the impressive things she’s done. Which would be fine, but I’m helping George with Shebah’s marketing, so it would reflect badly on me.
Instead, I’m going to tell you three crucial things to know about my friend George.
1. She cares
George cares. She even wrote a stand-up comedy show called “The Care Factor”, which was all about her struggles with caring too much. Because George cares about everything.
She cares particularly deeply about the safety of women and children – hence Shebah. Shebah is a passion project for George. Over the past twelve months, I’ve watched in awe as she’s spoken at parliamentary enquiries and met with various transport ministers to plead the case for safe, legal, female-only ride-share service.
It’s a tough schedule for a single mum. With four kids. Working four part-time jobs.
But, right from the beginning, George has cared. She started her career working with young people diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The average life expectancy for these kids was 26, and George, who was only in her late teens at the time, supported many of them right to the end.
After graduating from Monash University as a teacher, George taught English in Istanbul. When she returned, George began working with her friend Helen Durham, who is now director of International Law and Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross. They interviewed women from former Yugoslavia about their war experiences – testimonies that were later tendered to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. As a direct result, rape officially became a war crime.
Clearly, this wasn’t enough of a load. George started teaching English and working as a welfare coordinator (of course) at Ivanhoe Grammar. You know what amazes me? She’s still friends with lots of her ex-students. They’re young adults now. Every time she has some sort of gathering, I can guarantee at least one young person will take me aside and confide that George changed his or her life.
Oh, yeah, did I mention that she also has children? There always seems like more than four of them to me. I think that’s because, at any one time, half of the kids running around the house aren’t hers. Because George’s has one of those houses. You know, one of those houses where you know you’re allowed to raid the fridge. And there’ll always be a BBQ chook to feed any stray kids, and a bottle of white wine to soothe any stray mums.
2. She’s funny and fearless
When I met George, she told me she wanted to do stand-up comedy. I already knew she was hilarious. But I also thought she was a suburban mum who’d left it a little too late. A couple of years later, she was nominated for best newcomer at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. A couple of years after that, she started one of several stints in the harshest comedy market of all – the breakfast shift on commercial radio.
That was the last time I ever doubted that George could do anything she put her mind to. Stand-up is one of the scariest things a person can do. Once you’ve mastered it, you can basically do anything.
George parlayed her stand-up gigs into a career as a writer and broadcaster. You might have read her op-eds and articles for The Age, Mamamia, The Herald Sun, and The Big Issue, or her book chapters in Mothermorphisis, She’s Having a Laugh, Women of Letters, Kitchen Table Memoirs, Slow Guide to Melbourne, and Listening to The Silences: Women and war. You might have seen her on the telly – Spicks and Specks, The Circle, and Can of Worms. Or you might have heard her on Triple M Brisbane, Triple M’s Get This, ABC 774, ABC RN, Gold FM, Kiss FM, 3AW, Triple R, and various podcasts like Meshel Laurie’s Nitty Gritty Committee.
3. She’s a leader
If you asked George what she was most proud of, she’d probably say coaching the Fitzroy Junior Football Club. Or her daughter’s basketball team. Or one of the various school committees. Or the charitable events, or mentoring young people, or MCing weddings.
If you ask me, she should be most proud of Shebah, even though the company itself is still embryonic. I’m proud of her because she saw a problem and she was inspired to fix it.
In fact, as I remember it, two things were worrying her. Firstly, she was recently divorced, and looking for ways to add to her income. Twice she started the process of applying to drive for Uber, and twice she decided it was too risky. Secondly, George was worried because her eldest daughter and her friends did not feel safe in either taxis or ride-share cars. They were walking home from parties because they didn’t want to get into a stranger’s car.
As she tells it, she was hauling wet clothes out of the washing machine when she thought, “I wish there was a female-only rideshare service.” At the same time, she thought, “I wish someone else would hang out the washing.”
But George has never waited for “someone else” to do something. So she hung out the washing. And then she trudged back inside and started what is now Australia’s leading ride sharing service for women.
So as far as I’m concerned, she’s the Queen of Shebah.
Shebah Chief Marketing Officer