Today’s post is the first in a series about young ecopreneurs, written by University of Iowa student, Simeon Talley. Blue Planet Green Living is pleased to welcome Simeon to our team of contributing writers, and eager to meet the people he will be interviewing in the coming weeks. If you’d like to suggest a young ecopreneur for Simeon’s series, please let us know. — Publisher
Imagine that you’re a student at the University of Iowa, living not too far from campus. Running late, you find yourself in need of getting to downtown Iowa City in a hurry. Maybe you have a date, and it’s the first date. Or maybe it’s that last class of the day — the only class of the entire week that takes place at night. Regardless, you need to get moving. What are your options?
Driving? That takes too much effort. Walking? You surely won’t get there soon enough. Calling a taxi? After the wait and the expense, that’s completely out of the question. So what are you to do?
Call my friends, Vik and Veena Patel, who operate a pedi-cab service. They’ll pick you up and quickly get you where you need to go — all at no cost to the environment.
They’ll get you there on time for that first date (listen to the bells ringing) or just in time so that you’re not the last person to walk into class (envision awkward looks as you make your way in a crowded room to the second-to-last seat available).
Having previously lived in Texas, siblings Vik and Veena saw that, in some communities, people could catch a ride to and from work in a bike- or pedi-cab. So they did a little research on bicycle laws in Iowa City. After navigating their way through the legalistic language, they decided that pedi-cabs might be feasible in here, too. So, they bought a couple of bikes that had carriages welded to them and began their pedi-cab business. According to Veena, “Business has been good!”
Every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night, you can find Vik and Veena shuttling students to and from the downtown area. While most of their clientele are students, the community as a whole has responded positively to the new pedi-cab service. Iowa City is a reasonably walkable city and certainly a city friendly to cyclists. Additionally, most students don’t live too far from campus or the downtown area. Vik and Veena’s pedi-cab service has filled a unique niche in getting people to and from their destinations quickly and in an environmentally friendly way.
Separating themselves from their taxi cab competitors, the Patels don’t charge a fee for the rides they provide. They make their money solely through tips from customers.
If your initial reaction was one of slight confusion, you’re not the only one. But Vik sees this “as a way to build relationships and create a loyal clientele.” And it seems to be working. In only a few months, they’ve built a business that is sure to do well and become a consistent community favorite.
Soon Vik and Veena will have to pack up their pedi-cabs and place them in storage, as it’s kind of hard to ride a bicycle in snow. When the weather warms in the spring, they’ll start peddling again.
Every day, there are people right here in our own community — and in yours — who are making a difference while making a living in surprisingly creative ways. Ecopreneurs are involved in all types of businesses, from the fashion industry, to home construction, and to creating more sustainable travel opportunities through eco-tourism. Vik and Veena Patel are two young ecopreneurs who are already making a big impact, and they’ve just gotten started.