MOUNT PLEASANT Mich.
When Central Michigan University student LeRoy Eifler got sick of waiting for taxis, he decided to do something about it.
Instead of complaining to the local taxi companies, he thought it would just be better to start his own. And we’re not talking about your average taxi cab either.
Not unless you call an average taxi cab one that you can write graffiti all over, or one that offers a “chuck-it-bucket” for a dollar.
“Everything I do is geared toward fun,” Eifler said.
“When people have a fun ride, they are less likely to jump in (another) car with a drunk friend.”
Eifler’s business is named Hoop-T LLC. and caters mostly to college aged students.
“They call me Hooptie,” he said of his nickname among his loyal customers.
Eifler, 26, is a marketing and logistics major at Central Michigan who is scheduled to graduate May. He is originally from Battle Creek.
Eifler also carts his customers around in a replica of the famous A-team van, the Mystery Machine, which he refers to as the Mystery Mobile, and the original “Hooptie,” which is a 1988 white limousine.
He has a total of seven vehicles.
“They all have unique interiors,” he said.
When Eifler started his taxi business in April 2006, he was the only driver. Now he has a total of eight, including himself.
About a month after opening, Eifler became fast aware that he would need more drivers.
“I wasn’t big enough to handle all of this business,” he said. “We can handle it now.”
Before coming to Mount Pleasant in 2005, Eifler worked for a marketing company in Atlanta. He made the decision to leave the company when he was not promoted. Eifler had three years of college under his belt already, so he decided to go back to school to get his degree.
Eifler needed a way to move his belongings from Georgia to Mount Pleasant. That’s when he set eyes on the white limousine.
“I thought how cool would it be to come back to school in a limo?'” he said.
He eventually decided to turn the eclectic looking limo into a taxi after he determined he could offer a quality service to the area.
Eifler strives to make his vehicles fun with fancy designs and themes. His crew mostly works nights, taking customers to and from local bars. In order to protect the interior of his vehicles from the unpleasant side effect of overdrinking, Eifler offers his customers a “chuck-it-bucket.”
“We give you a bucket. You bought it you take it home with you,” he said.
If a “chuck-it-bucket” is not purchased and a customer gets sick in one of the vehicles, he or she is charged a $100 fine.
Customers who do buy the bucket can also purchase a keepsake T-shirt that says “I bought the bucket” on the back of it.
When Eifler first started brainstorming ideas for his business, he went to the Central Michigan University LaBelle Entrepreneurial Center director, Charles Fitzpatrick, for advice.
“Even though I am not an entrepreneurial major he spent endless time with me,” Eifler said of Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick told Eifler that his idea for a taxi cab business was a good one. However, he would have to deal with competition from the other taxi companies in Mount Pleasant and should try to find an area of the market that he could excel in.
Eifler followed through on the advice and found his niche in the market. “He is such a dynamic person,” Fitzpatrick said.
“He has an innovative mind and is very thorough in his research.” Lauren Kauppi has been using Hoop-T since it first started. A co-worker of hers called a cab for her one night and the original “Hooptie” limousine pulled up.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” Kauppi said of the limo.
“I like it because he (Eifler) is very personal,” she said. “He is very considerate of his customers.”
Kauppi’s favorite vehicle is still the original “Hooptie.”
Information from: Morning Sun, http://www.themorningsun.com/
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