Detroit Native Returns to the City to Launch Pedicab Startup
Gabby Bryant, 23, is exactly the kind of person Detroit needs to help execute its comeback. She was born and raised in Detroit, but eventually left to study economics and African American studies at Harvard. She thought she’d go on to Washington, DC, after she graduated, but instead she found herself thinking more and more about returning to Detroit.
In 2011, she was in the inaugural class of Venture for America, a program that sent some of the nation’s best and brightest to work for startups in various U.S. cities, and it was in that capacity that she finally came home.
Now in a full-time community relations position at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Bryant has also set her sights on getting her startup called Reddicabs off the ground. With that goal in mind, she started a RocketHub campaign to help raise money.
Reddicabs is a pedicab service that will work with Delphia Simmons and the Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to train drivers through the Thrive Detroit program. The trained drivers will then be able to rent the pedicabs for a few hours and keep all the commissions they make pedaling people around downtown and midtown. Ultimately, Bryant wants the drivers to be able to buy their own pedicabs.
“Reddicabs is a resource for those looking to do their own microenterprise,” Bryant says. Reddicabs will also help pay for drivers to get licensed by the city, as well as give them a secure place to store the pedicabs.
With a downtown area packed with sports and theater venues, Bryant envisions a model where Reddicabs contracts with parking lots to shuttle customers from the lot to their destination and back again. In that case, the Reddicabs ride would be included in the parking fee and drivers would keep all their tips. Bryant says this will help make the parking lots that are farther out from the city’s core competitive.
Bryant also points out that there aren’t currently any big, public parking lots in Midtown to support visitors, and she’s also anticipating a greater need for pedicab rides once the M-1 rail project is built.
But say there aren’t any parking lots signed up on a particular night and Reddicabs drivers still want to get out and try to find customers. In that case, they’ll rent the pedicabs for a small fee and post the rates they want to charge in the pedicab window. Bryant says they’ll be able to keep all the money they make.
“People who want to be entrepreneurs will get that experience without having to worry about capital costs,” Bryant says. “And anything we can do to help move people toward different non-car modes of travel will help with M-1 rail [adoption].”
Right now, city licensing restrictions forbid pedicabs anywhere outside of Detroit’s downtown and midtown areas, but Bryant hopes one day to station Reddicabs at bus stops to help connect people to different routes or their jobs if the city busses, which are notoriously late, don’t show up.
But in the meantime, Bryant is focused on raising money to get Reddicabs off the ground. Venture for America was the RocketHub campaign’s first donor, and she says she only needs $10,000 total to officially launch her startup. Even if it takes a while to raise that money, she’s not going anywhere.
“I’m committed to staying in Detroit for the near term—it’s my home, and my family is here,” she says. “One of the main reasons I decided to come back is because I knew Detroit would also be part of my personal story, and I wanted to impact my personal story. I didn’t think it was a good idea to sit by idly.”