By Keith Griffin
Ever sat in a restaurant or bar and come up with a great idea for a new business? Ever start that business? Cuban-born Rene Rodriguez did and that’s how AmRide was born.
AmRide is a driver-for-hire business that Rodriguez (who describes himself as a “serial entrepreneur”) along with a silent partner started one night after the two shared drinks at Trumbull Kitchen in Hartford and thought it would be great to be driven home. AmRide provides a designated driver when needed or a preplanned chauffeur for trips out of town.
What sets the business apart from taxicabs and limousine companies is you supply the vehicle. You’re hiring a driver to bring you home in your own car to avoid the hassles of leaving it behind for retrieval in the morning.
The designated driver service costs $34.95 to be picked up and $2.50 per mile. Hiring a personal driver, which is planned in advance, is $36.95 per hour without a mileage charge. (With the designated driver service, a second driver picks up the driver who brings the customer home.) AAA members get discounts on both services.
Taxi rates in Connecticut are $3 for the first 1/9th of a mile and 30 cents for each ninth of a mile after that. A taxi ride from Hartford to Simsbury would cost approximately $30, according to a fare estimator at the Yellow Cab website. The comparable service with AmRide would be $59.95.
“I’m hoping my business does well while encouraging safe driving,” said Rodriguez, who relocated to Connecticut from Cuba (via Miami) when he was a young child more than 40 years ago. “Pessimists may say we’re encouraging people to drink. Optimists say it’s about being smart.”
The enterprise, which is short for American Ride, started on New Year’s Eve in West Hartford Center. It serves the entire state, including New Haven and Fairfield County, as well as Providence, R.I. Drivers undergo four hours of internal training before receiving an additional six hours of driver refreshing instruction from AAA, one of AmRide’s partners.
Growth has come swiftly for the business, Rodriguez claims, but he won’t release specific numbers on start up costs or rider volume. “Suffice to say that every day we are driving customers to meetings, to the airport, on a night out and picking up smart/safe drivers at restaurants,” Rodriguez said in a follow-up email after an interview at his Rocky Hill office.
The start-up has five employees, including Rodriguez’ sister Mari. He is currently hiring more drivers.
For more information, call 855-4-AmRide (426-7433) or logo onto www.amride.com.