Operator Builds Business On Economy Fleet

Tim Crowley
Posted on September 8, 2015
Rhyde operates a fleet of nine Kia vehicles, the economy sedan The Soul (center), and the Sedona model mini-vans (L/R).

Rhyde operates a fleet of nine Kia vehicles, the economy sedan The Soul (center), and the Sedona model mini-vans (L/R).

What makes Rhyde unique: “We’re a private car service, but we don’t do luxury, we do economy,” says founder and CEO Shawn Fago. “We’re like an UberX but with standard licensing and permits.” Fago owns all the vehicles at Rhyde, which are new Kia Souls and Sedonas, and the drivers are employees. “We’re a TCP-licensed company and have commercial insurance,” he says.

Startup motivations: Fago was a TNC user in San Diego, preferring it over taxis, which were expensive, and parking can be limited in the area. Fago says he noticed flaws in TNC services that left him dissatisfied, such as surge pricing and the lack of prescheduled trips, and felt like he could provide a better service. “Aside from TNCs, you’re left with taxis, which are unreliable and not typically enjoyable experiences, and luxury limo services which are expensive. I felt I could fill a need for a service in-between.”

Shawn Fago started Rhyde after seeing a demand for car service that was a step above TNCs, but less-expensive than a typical luxury sedan ride from a limousine company.

Shawn Fago started Rhyde after seeing a demand for car service that was a step above TNCs, but less-expensive than a typical luxury sedan ride from a limousine company.

Customer service strategies: Rhyde allows customers to pay with cash and credit card, and customers can book online, call-in, or book with a new mobile app. “We’re more casual,” says Fago of his chauffeurs’ demeanor. “We’re not going to show up in a suit. We show up in a clean car, on-time with a friendly driver with water and that’s about it.”

Client types: “It runs the gamut,” says Fago of his typical clientele. “It never surprises me who we’ll pick up next. We’ve become really popular with the airport transportation crowd, and we get random requests for rides to church, or the drugstore, or some retail nights on the town. We have people who for whatever reason aren’t allowed to use TNCs anymore and they come to us. We also have a lot of baby boomers and people not adapted to the smart phone technology yet, who just want to talk to somebody on the phone.”

Marketing strategies: Rhyde garners much of its clients through organic Google searches and its Yelp page. “People rave about us on Yelp right now. They’re excited they found something new and that it works,” Fago says.

Start-up costs and methods: Fago was brand new to the transportation industry when he started. He says he went off intuition and common sense to hone the essential skills needed for good chauffeur service. “I started with one car and I was the driver and also chief car washer. But the system worked and I got another car quickly and added drivers.”

Hiring strategies: “I hire them all myself,” says Fago of his new chauffeurs. He finds applicants through online job boards where he requests resumes, then filters through them until he finds candidates he likes and calls them for an interview. “I typically don’t pick people with industry experience,” Fago says. “I hire new people interested in my business and excited to get into something different and new. I explain to them the way I want them to interact with the client and drive the vehicle, and I think that’s why we’re doing things well. We’re not copying what other people are doing, and we’re not trying to compete. We’re doing it our own way.”
Trade shows: Fago attended his first industry trade show at the International LCT Show in Las Vegas in March. “My main objective was to meet vendors and I found a couple good ones. I had no expectations going in. Business has been doing well, and it’s just me and my drivers, but the phone won’t stop ringing. I’m looking into an answering service and also tinkering with different management software.”

Previous experience: Fago was in software and advertising sales before starting Rhyde. “I’ve always been in sales and understand advertising and digital marketing.”

Business loves: “This industry provides a lot of opportunities to fail,” Fago says. “You can have a driver oversleep and miss a pickup, a car can get a flat tire, or the software can go down. There are so many opportunities to screw up, and as far as I know we haven’t missed one yet. I watch the schedule and GPS like a hawk, and logistically making it happen every day is satisfying. Hearing back from customers that they enjoy the service is really fulfilling.”

Location: San Diego, Calif.
Founded: 2014
Owner: Shawn Fago
Service region: Greater San Diego area
Fleet size: 9
Vehicle types: Kia Soul economy sedans and Kia Sedona minivans
Employees: 19
Website: myrhyde.com
Contact: (619) 341-0042

Related Topics: cost savings, New Operator, operating expenses, operator profiles, San Diego operators, small-fleet operators, TNCs, vehicle costs

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