Student Entrepreneurs Bringing Rickshaws to Downtown Windsor

Thursday, June 26, 2014

OurWindsor.ca/Shelby Wye

Two University of Windsor students, deciding to forego typical summer jobs, instead took matters into their own hands by investing in their own business, DT Rickshaws.

Rickshaws are similar to chariots, but instead of horses, Luke Andary, 21, and Tyler Oke, 23, will be pulling the cart. The pair was part of a Windsor rickshaw company last summer, but the owner retired from the business with no one set to take over.

“We thought it was a great idea for Windsor, and it adds to the spirit of the Windsor’s downtown scene," said Andary. "We really wanted to start the business back up.”

“We improved the business model from the previous company, and now we’re using the profits towards paying off our school tuition,” said Oke.

They are both mechanical engineering students, with a flair for entrepreneurship, a mind for business and legs of steel, considering that they both can run up to 15 kilometres in a single night when they’re on the job. The company have three rickshaws available, each equipped with storage compartments and a canopy.

Andary and Oke both had to apply for livery licenses and plates - the same plates that taxi drivers have - which allow them to carry passengers for a fee. The city has set some restrictions on the two, including banning them from traveling on sidewalks, on University Street, Wyandotte Street, Goyeau Street, and Riverside Drive.

“Fortunately, the restrictions won’t stop us from traveling along the bar scene,” said Oke.

The pair is planning on focusing on the nightlife on the weekends, along with festivals.

“The concept isn’t new - Toronto and Ottawa have rickshaws - but it’s nice to have a small fleet for a smaller city," said Oke. "So, when people want it, it’s there, but there’s not so many that they feel harassed.”

Oke and Andary also note the monetary and safety benefits of their rickshaws, compared to other forms of nightlife travel. Their rickshaws can travel from bar to bar, which eliminates any need for walking through crowds. The two say they aren't limited to the bar crawl either: going home via rickshaw is also an option. Since it's all by their own man-power, Oke says the rickshaws also get another point for being eco-friendly.

They also have a unique way of charging people, which is by setting no fare at all.

“What we learned quickly was that we get more people on that cart if we don’t throw numbers around," said Oke. "We just say hop on, have a good time, and we work off tips.”

“People get caught up in the fun of it. They have such a unique experience that when they get off, they’re handing us tens or twenties. Sometimes we get fives, but that’s okay. It’s not about how hard we work or how much money we make, it’s about how much fun we can get these people to have, so they do it again and, hopefully, spread the word.”

“Every time I go out for a run, I would come home with money, and I would have met people and made friends," said Andary. "It’s pretty cool, you make your own night good, and other’s nights as well.”

They have already been thinking ahead for the future of their company by leaving parts of their rickshaws blank for advertisements.

“It’s a unique way to get the word out on a business," said Andary. "People get really excited about seeing a rickshaw, so any advertisements that are on them will get more eyes than some signs or billboards.”

The pair will officially be on the Windsor roads and available for rides on Sunday, June 29.

Shelby Wye is journalist that lives and breathes the city of Windsor. Give her a shout on Twitter @shelbywye