By Stephanie Eisemann, news staff
A decade ago, on Saint Patrick’s Day 2005, a Northeastern senior launched his own company with the first ride of Boston Pedicab from Solas Irish Pub in Copley Square to Newbury Street. Ben Morris, an owner and entrepreneur before he even moved his tassel, now has a wife, two kids and a pug named Dr. Dre, but his spirit for his ever-growing business remains the same.
“The company has evolved to operate in nine cities around the country, along with serving in several more,” a Boston Pedicab press release said. “Earlier this year, the company also entered into the manufacturing industry with the launch of their own American-made pedicab, The Coaster.”
The Coaster is a product of the offshoot company Coaster Pedicab, Inc., which is the country’s largest owner and operator of pedicabs according to DigitalJournal.
COO Justin Bruce works with Morris daily to oversee management of all pedicab locations, leading the opening of new locations and overseeing the manufacturing and assembly of the Coaster Pedicab.
“I was the fifth pedicabber who leased a pedicab from Ben Morris when he started Boston Pedicab,” Bruce said. “I worked with Ben and an engineering firm to design the new pedicab and then moved to a bicycle manufacturer to spend the last year prototyping our design. We are currently in full production of the new pedicab.”
Morris attended Northeastern from 2000 to 2005 to study finance and marketing and was inspired to start Boston Pedicab by a trip across the country.
“I was on co-op and saw pedicabs during a trip to San Diego. I thought they could be very successful in Boston,” Morris said. “NU really gave me the insight and expertise to get the wheels rolling. If I hadn’t been in San Diego for my co-op, Boston Pedicab would not be here today.”
Even with determination, wisdom and experience from NU, however, starting a business so young was no walk (or ride) in the park for Morris.
“I was only 22 years old and essentially getting a crash-course MBA,” Morris said. “In the beginning, owning your own business requires you to be knowledgeable in all aspects of the company – accounting, HR, legal, finance, insurance, et cetera – until you are able to employ the appropriate individuals. … Much of the leg work was done during my senior year classes.”
From Providence to Washington, from Seattle to Santa Barbara, pedicabs have gained traction and grown tremendously since that stolen study time.
“There were literally two pedicabs when I launched Boston Pedicab 10 years ago, and now the city has more than 40,” Morris said. “In the beginning, I would work pedicab all day, then have dinner with my girlfriend – now wife – and head to a commodities trading job, which I did from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., go home and sleep a little and do it all over again.”
However, the company’s work isn’t limited to building and riding, Morris explained. With his marketing degree from NU, Morris was able to expand his pedicab industry to Pedicab Outdoor, described as “a media management company specializing in pedicab operations, pedicab advertising and marketing” on the company’s website. Morris sees this aspect of the industry as one of the most promising opportunities for growth.
“I tend to gravitate more to the media [Pedicab Outdoor] side of the business,” he said. “Funny enough, [my responsibilities are] very similar to when we started in the beginning. Fortunately, I have a tremendous [staff] with whom I have the pleasure of working. They each have their own area of expertise, and I try to stay involved in all of them.”
Morris’s team loves working with him as well.
“I have had a few college friends laugh at how I am one of the few in the group to have been with the same job for 10 years – I was known in college as routinely trying out a new job and constantly dreaming of a new career or company to start,” Bruce said. “I guess I just found the right job and the right boss. I love that Ben lets me be creative and entrepreneurial on a daily basis. I have so much respect for Ben that makes me love what I do and who I work for.”
Northeastern students have the opportunity to take advantage of pedicabs to explore Boston, too. Third-year English major Lauren Smith talked about her experience atop the wheels.
“I took a pedicab back to campus from Fenway Park my freshman year,” Smith said. “It was getting colder at the end of the [Red] Sox game and we wanted to get home a little bit quicker. The driver was hilariously funny, and it livened up a trip home while showing us nearby parts of the city we hadn’t quite seen yet.”
Boston Pedicab has riders out from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. most days, with late night service until about 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Passengers pick the price, and tours can be booked in advance or on a whim.
“[For the next decade] I foresee a tremendous growth in the manufacturing of our new pedicab both domestically and internationally,” Bruce said. “We are currently prototyping several pedal-powered cargo platforms for our pedicab frames … we have had a great deal of interest from potential customers so that will be exciting to see those production options launch.”
When asked where he sees himself in another decade, Morris said, “Probably still doing this, maybe with a little less hair and my kids helping out in the office.”
Photo courtesy Louis Oliveira, Creative Commons