Why they got into the business: “We [were] looking for an industry to get involved in that we thought we could add some value to,” says Ed Stapleton Sr., co-owner of DrivenEco. Although they first looked into acquiring a limousine company, Stapleton and son Ed Stapleton Jr. realized that buying on the previous year’s numbers wasn’t a smart investment and decided to start from scratch. “We saw the green side of the business as a real opportunity in the market,” says Stapleton Jr. of the company’s green fleet.
What they did before: Stapleton Sr. was a retired banker with 35 years of experience and now handles the financial and strategic side of the business. Stapleton Jr., previously in corporate sales, focuses on sales and marketing.
Start-up costs and methods: Expecting a high demand for green vehicles, the Stapletons decided to start with four hybrids, buying them with personal funds and guarantees. They advertised with a few local papers and exhibited at the Go Green Expo. With a small fleet established, they grew their business to full usage and bought two more vehicles as demand increased. “We’ve been very successful with word of mouth,” Stapleton Sr. says.
Best market segments: Corporate executives make up 60% of the business, and consist of finance and tech firms, public relations and advertising firms, and clients in the entertainment business.
Biggest challenge: Stapleton Jr. says the challenge in owning a green chauffeured transportation company is the stereotype held by fellow operators. “It’s initially overcoming the hurdle of them thinking…that they couldn’t come to us because we’d automatically stick them in a Prius,” he says. Stapleton Sr. adds that they didn’t own any Priuses until demand dictated that they purchase one.
Biggest success: Just 20 months in business, DrivenEco already has hit the half-million-dollar revenue mark.
Advice to operators: A large part of cost management is fleet management and usage, the Stapletons say. Stapleton Sr. adds that operators should maintain good relations with affiliates to farm out work until vehicles can be added.
Future plans: DrivenEco is making an acquisition that was planned for January 2010. The acquisition will include six Lincoln Town Cars, two limousines, and two vans, which will serve non-hybrid demand. However, the Stapletons plan on eventually replacing the acquired black gasoline vehicles with green ones.