Grant Rosenblatt is the managing partner for Joyride Knoxville, a low-speed cart shuttle and tour service started in Nashville and expanded to Knoxville recently. It does not charge fares—riders pay Joyride in tips only.
How has Joyride done in Nashville?
We are wildly successful there. In two years, we have 31 carts with another 52 on order. Our expansion [into Knoxville] will operate just like our Nashville location, just on a smaller scale.
When did you decide to expand to Knoxville?
A year ago. Knoxville was always going to be the next expansion city due to its location, size, and of course football game weekends. Also, Joyride Knoxville will be the first service of its kind to come to a college university campus, so it’s a really great experiment to see if we can expand to other colleges. But a big reason for expanding here: I am an alumnus of UTK. I wanted to bring Joyride to Knoxville almost like my gift or a “thank you” to UT for giving me a lot of opportunities in life as well as really great friendships.
Did you test the market here?
We did a trial run at last year’s Boomsday, showing up with no advertising, no word of mouth, and no expectations. We brought one cart and started giving rides. We lost count around 218 rides and knew Knoxville would be successful. It’s important to know our carts are street-legal and insured. We have been approved by the city and the university. Each cart is maintained weekly and all our drivers pass background checks and must obtain an “F” endorsement.
Is this a unique business model—tips only, no fares—or did it originate with someone else?
There are other companies that attempt to do what we do but they are mainly advertising companies pretending to be transportation companies. We always will be a transportation company first and advertising company second—the ads do generate some revenue, but having great service and great drivers pays a lot of the bills.
What is your golf-cart background?
Funny thing, I have never played a round of golf in my entire life. Joyride is only a 2-year-old company and most all of us who work here started driving golf carts two years ago. It isn’t much different than driving a car. We just can’t go on roads posted 35 mph or higher.
What traits does a good Joyride driver have?
They’d be outgoing, motivated, and hungry. We are hiring 30 or more drivers currently and will have eight carts running seven days a week, and up to 15 carts for game-day weekends. Hopefully you will see a cart on every corner on game days.
Do your drivers have good celebrity stories from Nashville?
My favorite has to be last Halloween, our driver recognized the drummer from Foo Fighters walking down the street in Nashville. Our driver pulled over and asked Taylor Hawkins if he needed a ride. After giving him a tour of Nashville, Taylor said he didn’t have any cash but asked for our driver’s name and number. Two hours later, the Foo Fighters’ manager called our driver to inform him he had backstage passes to the sold-out Foo Fighters show at Ryman Auditorium. We have driven a lot celebrities, the most famous would have be Steven Tyler from Aerosmith.
Would a good football season help you get off to a great start?
Of course! The first home game will be our coming-out party, so to speak. The city, students, and fans will see how we will forever change how people get around in Knoxville. We anticipate a great year for the team, too.
Who would you most like to give a ride to in a Joyride cart?
The man, himself, Butch Jones! Seems like everything he touches is turning into gold these days.
Who would you prefer not to have to give a ride to?
Derek Dooley. I think we all know why.
Can people tip you with credit cards?
We accept credit cards and will have an app out that will be attached to your credit card. We are actively pursuing being able to accept the Vol Card, as well.
Do riders ever just neglect to tip?
Yes, we have a few “No Tippers.” While this is a risk we assume as a business, these people are only hurting themselves. Tips are the only way our drivers get paid and the only way we can expand as a service. So, Knoxville, if you want us here, let your driver know with tips!
Are your parents alumni too? Are they proud of your business?
My parents are not. They are very proud of what we are creating, though when they explain to their friends they get a lot of weird looks. “My son drives golf carts for a living?”
To ride a Joyride cart downtown or on campus–seven days a week, 8 a.m.-3 a.m.—call dispatch at 865-333-4569 or hail a passing cart. For more info, see the Joyride Knoxville Facebook page.
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