How I Did It: Became an Entrepreneur

TruCab of Phoenix, Ariz., Puts a New Spin on Taxi Service

The true story about how to become an entrepreneur

The scenario is all-too common: It’s Saturday night, and the taxi scheduled to arrive 30 minutes ago still hasn’t materialized. Like many twenty-somethings, Eric Mulvin and business partner Larry Loe of Phoenix, Ariz., couldn’t grasp the habitual delays and no-shows, so in 2011 at the age of 26, they started their own cab company.

Combining Loe’s Universal Technical Institute degree and experience as a weekend cab driver with Mulvin’s Arizona State University WP Carey School of Business degree, the two mapped out a plan for TruCab, a taxi service dedicated to punctuality.

In early 2011, they registered as a limited liability company (LLC)—which, among other perks, protects owners’ personal assets in the event of debt or lawsuits—and secured a loan from a local credit union for the company’s first cab by the end of the year. The following February, the two-man company sent its first cherry-red cab out for a pickup. Area customers started to take notice and, today, TruCab is the highest-rated taxi company in the Phoenix area.

“We wanted to address all the things people complain about with cabs, like late drivers, or estimated times for pickups—especially on weekends,” says Mulvin. “Every day, there’s another story of a customer who started using us because the cab they called never showed up. There’s a big need for what we have.”

TruCab ensures punctuality with attentive drivers, who are required to call scheduled pickups 30 minutes before arrival. Dispatchers also give honest estimates for weekend warriors looking for a safe ride home—no matter how long the actual wait.

From the outset, TruCab set itself apart from area taxi companies with unique offerings. They offered app-based scheduling from smartphones, free coffee and donuts with airport runs before 9 a.m., and $5 cab rides within the local nightlife district. But a willingness to adapt to new opportunities and minor setbacks has set the company up for even bigger, unpredicted success.

“You might find out that this little bit of your business will make up to 50 or 80 percent of your revenue,” he explains. “You’ve got to stop and focus on that, because that’s what will make your business successful.”

With that in mind, Mulvin keeps an eye on new business ideas that have growth potential. He recently introduced golf carts to his fleet, a novelty party-oriented form of quick transportation available in the nightlife district, which now outperforms his $5 cab specials.

He’s also added a limo service, which gives the company access to airport delivery without the need of a pricey taxi contract. But, most importantly, he’s worked with his local chamber of commerce, which led to new partnerships with area hotels, as well as an inclusion in an annual visitors’ guide with a readership of up to 400,000 tourists.

Although some initial ideas have been postponed for reconsideration—Android tablets in the back of each taxi, which incurred an unpredicted $1,600 data charge in one month—Mulvin and Loe continue to mold and grow their young company with each opportunity and misstep they encounter. By early 2013, the once-two-man company will employ more than 20 drivers and three full-time dispatchers, operating a fleet of 11 vehicles.

“One disadvantage is that we don’t have as much experience in the cab industry,” says Mulvin. “But one huge advantage is that we’re not tied down to what a traditional cab experience should be.”

[Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by the National Endowment for Financial Education.]