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PHOENIX, Ariz. — Accent Transportation Services started in a geographic and financial desert. Because of a dearth of business-credit availability during the Great Recession, Accent’s founders, the husband-wife duo of Misgana and Bilen Kebede, resorted to their personal credit and income to birth their operation and then relied on personal credit to finance vehicles.
Misgana Kebede originally comes from Ethiopia and moved to Orlando, Fla., to work at Walt Disney World — his first introduction to the service sector. He then worked for Starwood Hotels in Washington, D.C. while pursuing a degree in Finance & Logistics, Transportation & Supply Chain Management at the University of Maryland. He moved to Phoenix to work for manufacturing and technology titan Honeywell International and was preparing to attend a part-time MBA program at Arizona State University when he realized the potential of his transportation start-up.
Arizona operator Misgana Kebede emphasizes the latest technologies and gadgets in providing top-notch customer service to corporate chauffeured clients.
In four months, Accent grew from one Lincoln Town Car to three vehicles with the addition of two SUVs. “I was too ambitious to spend my day stuck in the office, so with the support of my wife, I decided to walk away from a promising corporate career to focus my attention on Accent,” Kebede says. He enjoyed returning to the service industry because he always has loved the human interaction and constant challenges it provides. He injected that expertise into his operation’s DNA.
In Accent’s short time on the limo scene, it has built a growing client base, composed of about 70% corporate and business travelers. The company was featured on the front page of the business section of the Arizona Republic in July 2010 and in the November/December issue of Arizona Business Magazine. Kebede attributes such wide exposure to his company’s commitment to serving with integrity and his team members’ passion for their work.
“We strive to provide genuine customer service and amenities that will keep our clients productive and entertained while being driven,” he says. He urges operators to take these extra steps to create value and differentiate themselves from the low-price competitors and make price irrelevant. Accent uses various marketing strategies and finds that Internet marketing works best.
“Once a customer reaches our website through a keyword search and is interested in what we have to offer, they typically read our customer reviews, [which] are managed by an independent entity that confirms to our customers that the reviews are not written by us,” Kebede says. “This helps the customer decide to try our services, and then we do everything within our reach to ‘Wow’ the customer. They then become clients and refer us to others.”
Kebede went against the grain of most start-ups by investing early in equipment and technology, and joining national and local organizations. He has been the treasurer for the Arizona Limousine Association for the past two years.