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Florida operator John Finch first found a place he could be passionate about: The Emerald Coast where he vacationed as a kid and where he now likes to paddleboard. Then it was a matter of finding another line of business that he could be equally devoted to.
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. — The garment and chauffeured transportation industries may not be readily linked as business sectors, but one with experience in both understands they revolve around quality and style.
For John Finch, those two service virtues came together in Sunshine Shuttle & Limousine and Sunshine Coach, two luxury ground transportation companies serving Florida’s extensive Panhandle region along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.
Building a model company
Finch started out in 1987 as a model for a men’s sportswear company in New York. After his four-year contract was up in 1991, he moved on to wholesale apparel merchandising. He capped his fashion career by founding his own clothing company called 33 Degrees, a $25 million revenue venture he sold in 2004. During those years, he traveled constantly for business, becoming an expert client in all aspects of chauffeured transportation across the U.S., Asia and Europe.
“I sold my apparel company and was doing some soul-searching about whether to get back into the apparel business and re-launch another line or brand,” Finch recalls. “I took three months off and traveled. I was very fortunate to have those three months. I knew it was time to turn a new chapter in my life, and maybe not spend the rest of my life in New York City.”
Born and raised in Memphis, Tenn., Finch developed a strong attachment to the Panhandle coastline, where he often traveled on summer family vacations. The region, also known as the Emerald Coast, has the widest and whitest sand beaches in the U.S., except for Hawaii. It is a popular destination for summer tourists coming from a wide swath of the Sunbelt, from Texas to North Carolina.
- Name: Sunshine Shuttle & Limousine / Sunshine Coach
- Location: Panama City Beach, Fla.
- Founded: 2004 / 2011
- Owner/founder: John Finch
- Key service region: Northwest Florida; Panhandle coastline
- Client market: Tourism/leisure, 50%; conventions/corporate, 50%
- Employees: 40 chauffeurs plus 10 internal employees, including mechanics, operations staff, business development, and vehicle preparation.
- Fleet size: 44
- Vehicle types: sedans (10), stretch limousines (3), minivans (10), vans (3), mini-buses/shuttles (10), motorcoaches (6), classics (2).
- Annual revenues: $1.5 million, Sunshine Shuttle & Limousine; $500,000, projected for Sunshine Coach.
- Key clients: summer tourists, hotels/resorts, corporate conferences, flight crews, tram services, catalog fashion photo shoots, school field trips.
- Website: www.sunshineshuttle.com; www.sunshinelimousine.net
- Contact: (850) 650-6333
Receiving chauffeured wisdoms
During his fashion and apparel career, Finch learned many times over how chauffeured customers like to get confirmations, make reservations, and be able to get someone 24/7 in case their schedules change and they need to fly out earlier or later.
“I never had time to rent a car,” Finch recalls. “I used car services all the time. The car would never leave me. It would wait for me in different cities while I went to appointments and to see my accounts and buyers. I’ve dealt with so many different types of services my whole life. Who knows it better than me?”
While working in the fashion world, Finch would take time to relax in the area, and it was during one of those visits when the chauffeured transportation idea began to brew.
“When I came here to Panhandle and was still going back and forth to New York, I would set up a car service to pick me up,” Finch recalls. “One morning at 6 a.m. I had a pick-up and was pacing back and forth by 6:05, 6:10. . . I missed the flight.” That happened a second time. Finch also couldn’t find anyone to speak to late at night when needing to change chauffeured reservations for the next day.
“These no shows were ridiculous,” he says. “There was no [decent] car service down here. There were taxis, but often the drivers decided to go fishing and wouldn’t care.”