Operator Roger Smith [right] and chauffeur and son Joshua E. Smith in front of the Heaven Hill Distillery
rackhouses, where bourbon is placed to age.
Growing business: Smith attended his first trade show last year at LCT Show East in Atlantic City, N.J. “I was awestruck,” Smith says. “I was just getting established so it was a perfect opportunity to gain insight into the industry and network with other companies. I look forward to attending more shows in the future.” Networking with industry people has helped get Cutlass Royal up and running. “Knowing people in the business with years of knowledge and who are open to sharing that knowledge with us has been a big key to our success.”
Biggest success: New customers and clients from the local community. “Without them this idea would be just that. But because our community uses our service and believes in our company, our phone has been ringing every day since we started.”
Best marketing strategies: Cutlass Royal uses social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to deploy different marketing strategies. “I have visited local establishments such as hotels, restaurants and our tourisms bureaus to be highly visible in the community,” Smith says. “I have recently joined the NLA, Bardstown-Nelson County Chamber of Commerce, and we have also done several community events where I donate our services.”
Teachable moments: Smith says he learned not to sign up too quickly with advertisement companies before doing some homework. He had issues communicating clearly with the advertisers on what the reach and ROI would be before starting a campaign.
Start-up costs and methods: Smith got into the industry on a small budget without much capital. “I had $5,000 and needed to come up with the rest to fund the purchase of my fleet and do some advertising,” he says. “I attended free seminars on how to start a business, and found out that being a six-year veteran of the Marine Corps qualified me for a small business loan with the help of the SBA.”
What he did before: Smith worked in the automotive parts industry and moonlighted as a music DJ. He is back in school to get his Bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana Wesleyan University.
Why he got into the industry: “I live in a small town in central Kentucky called Bardstown, which is known as the "Bourbon Capital of the World,” he says. “I saw there has been significant growth in residents, tourism, and of course, the bourbon industry here. But one thing that was missing was a good professional transportation service.” Smith began to research the limousine industry. “I’ve always had a thing for cars and driving them, and I enjoy meeting people,” he says. With guests coming into town to visit the many bourbon distilleries, he figured he could improve their travel and overall experience. “I knew with a lot of hard work and determination, I could provide a reputable limousine service that would meet and exceed the needs and expectations of our customers.”
Advice: “When I first started out and did a competitive analysis of the competition in my area, I had to call several limousine companies and see how their customer service was. After many conversations, I would advise new operators to remember that customer service starts with answering the phone. The phone call reception is the only chance you get to make a good first impression, so make it your best each and every time.”
Future plans: Cutlass Royal plans to grow in the community and slowly expand to nearby cities, counties, and eventually, statewide. “I would like to continue to add to my fleet and build my company into a distinguished limousine company in Bardstown,” Smith says. “I plan to continue providing an unmatched reputable transportation service for our community and to anyone who uses our services.”
Cutlass Royal Limousines LLC
Location: Bardstown, KY
Owner: Roger Smith
Main service region: Greater Bardstown, K.Y. area
Vehicle types: sedan, limousine
Fleet size: 2
Information: (502) 275-1662