John Jacoby turned a dream into two operations, one in Los Angeles and the other in Hawaii.
WHAT HE DID BEFORE: John Jacoby worked in the medical insurance exam business for 10 years, drove for UPS and FedEx, and worked at Honda Motorcycles of North Hollywood. “Prior to [working these jobs], I was a bad boy and heavily involved in cocaine use, destroying my life and doing nothing but being negative,” Jacoby says. “I finally got sober on Oct. 15, 1999, and what a blessing it has been. I’m still sober today.”
WHY HE GOT INTO THE BUSINESS: As an extrovert who loves fancy cars, a friend of Jacoby matched him with the right job by introducing him to a limousine company in 1998. “I realized this is where I belonged. Helping people and paying it forward.”
START-UP COSTS AND METHODS: The startup cost was around $25,000, and involved a lot of “footwork and asking questions to those that believed in me,” he says. Jacoby bought a 10-passenger limousine from Jay Real at Carson, Calif.-based Coachwest. “I have a lot of quality friends in the corporate world who guided me,” Jacoby says. “I kept my business small and slowly grew by getting a sedan and then an SUV (GMC Denali) a few years later. I was home-based for eight years and now have an office at Van Nuys Airport (Jacoby Limousine Service) and an office in Kauai (Keoni Limo). I went to Kauai in 2003 for the first time and fell in love with the people and island. I saw a void for a cool, outgoing limo service there and decided to make a dream come true, again. I started the [Keoni Limo] branch a few years ago and it’s my baby.”
BEST MARKETING STRATEGY: Honesty, integrity, and word-of-mouth. “I keep my prices fair but negotiable,” he says.
BIGGEST MISTAKE: “Not having faith in myself and trusting people too easily, especially drivers,” he says.
BIGGEST SUCCESS: Staying sober no matter what, never giving up when it got tough, and seeing a client family smile when he shows up at 5 a.m. to take them to the airport, realizing they didn’t know him at all but trusted him completely.
UNIQUE APPROACHES TO CUSTOMER SERVICE: Look sharp, be yourself, be honest, smile, admit and apologize when you make a mistake. Most of all, act as if every minute is another opportunity.
ADVICE TO OPERATORS: “Remember, we’re in a luxury business in a tough economy, so feel blessed and honored that someone trusts you enough to use your services,” he says. “Treat your drivers and staff as a team, give positive guidance, and be open to change and criticism.“
To move to Kauai and run Keoni Limo with office manager Aquarius Kalama, a native Hawaiian who tells stories and legends when driving clients in Hawaii. “My L.A. office is growing nicely and we moved into a bigger office at Van Nuys Airport in June,” Jacoby says. “I plan to have a 24-passenger limo/shuttle bus, a few more sedans, and SUVs. I still drive and have a great team of drivers and office staff. The sky’s the limit. Whatever God has in store for me and the team, we’re ready.”
Fast Facts about Jacoby Limousine Service and Keoni Limo
Locations: Van Nuys, Calif; Kapaa, Hawaii
Owner: John Jacoby
Year founded: 2003
Main service regions: Los Angeles metro and island of Kauai
Types of vehicles: sedans, SUVs, stretch limousines
Fleet sizes: 3; 1
Annual revenues: $600,000
Websites: www.jacobylimo.com; www.keonilimo.com
Information: Kauai, (818) 763-2031; Los Angeles, (808) 343-4610; (866) 900-2031