Gena and Dori Avishay, owners
Web site: www.alpinelimousinenyc.com
Years in Business: Three years
Fleet: 49 (45 sedans, one van, one SUV, two stretches
Staff: 55 (16 office, 39 chauffeurs)
Software: Limo Hub
Business Breakdown: 95 percent corporate, five percent general transportation
How did you get into the industry? My husband and I used to work for another limousine company. He was practically working 22-hour days and I was a full-time mom in addition to working full-time. I used to check his statement to see if he got paid for every trip that he did, and I found there were some trips missing. The company would say we’d see it on the next statement, but they didn’t realize we were desperate to pay our mortgage and needed each trip to be paid. Through a friend, we got a bank loan and started our own company. Former passengers told us, ‘Once you get a vehicle and get licensed, I will drop this company because I’m not happy.’
Friends in high places. We started with one friend and also the president of Sony Music, who also followed us to our new company. We also had an associate of Rupert Murdoch. We only had one vehicle but we had these very important clients. Little doors were opened here and there. I did a lot of the marketing, preparing my own marketing tools, and contacting clients. I also dispatched for the first two years. People would call me and say, ‘Gena, I have a very important client. What can you do for me? Can you serve breakfast in the vehicle?’ I said, ‘You name it.” So we went with bagels, lox, orange juice, etc. Even in the sedan, I managed to build something i in the vehicle where food could be neatly placed and nothing would tip over.
Aim higher. I sent some marketing materials to NBC. They asked us if we could handle $1 million per year in business. We told them absolutely not - we’re a little guy. We don’t even have 10 vehicles. We didn’t want to tell them ‘yes’ and then make them look like fools. However, we did say, ‘Give us one small department where you don’t have that much activity and let us grow with you. When we see the work coming in and we’re able to purchase another vehicle, that’s what we’ll do.’ They opened the door and we pulled through that first year. From there we were promoted to work on the Today Show with Katie Couric and Matt Lauer. Our price was right, the vehicles were brand new and we provided amazing service.
Advice for a new operator. The best advice is to not give up. This business is very difficult, but you have to take it as it comes and do the best that you can. And offer good service. Service is what counts. When we first began, we never said ‘no’ to any client. Tell them you’re able to do everything. That’s why we’re here today, with over 350 accounts.