Army National Guardsmen Ryan Starkey and Jason Ford returned from a recent tour in Iraq with an entrepreneur’s eye to the future.
“While we were home on leave in 2010, we had tickets for the Rays’ playoff game with the Rangers,” Starkey said. “After the game, we saw so many people who really didn’t need to be driving, and we got the idea to start a shuttle service to get people home safely.”
They saw their idea as a way to provide employment opportunities for veterans and former police officers and a service to the community.
In December, they launched the Man’s Van, billing it as “cheaper than a DUI.” while the target market for their 11-passenger van is men, women are also customers. “Women view us as more of a novelty, something they use for a bachelorette party or special occasion like that,” Starkey said. “For men, it’s more of a practical thing. they see us as a good way to hang out with friends, have a good time and not have to worry about parking, gas or a DUI.”
The Man’s Van is for anyone who wants to spend a worry-free night on the town partying, bar-hopping or attending a concert, sporting event or the like, he said.
“We’re similar to what you’d use a limo for, but we charge by the seat not the hour. Our service is economical, safe and fun.”
Both men are still on active duty and have day jobs. Ford, who lives in Riverview, is a construction supervisor; Starkey, a Clearwater resident, works for the Social Security Administration.
For now the business supplements their incomes, but they hope to add additional vans and a shuttle bus, and later franchise the operation in other cities, such as Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville. For information, call (813) 600-8905.