KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A local entrepreneur plans to debut her exotic transportation idea next week for First Friday in downtown Knoxville.
Rickshaws, those people-powered cabs reminiscent of the far east, are coming here.
It was a chance encounter that gave realtor Joni Ford the idea.
"I'd brought my parents down to show them downtown and they couldn't get around, just not enough stamina to enjoy downtown. We were in an antique store and I saw the antique rickshaw and it just kind of went from there," she explained.
Her plan was approved by the city, and the first rickshaws just arrived.
"The rickshaws do come equipped with seatbelts. They have all the regular features, the turn signals, brake lights, headlights. We follow all of the traffic rules," Ford said.
She wants to hire 12 current military members or veterans to operate the rickshaws. "My concern was having drivers that are very safety-minded. They do background checks. They have to be licensed drivers," she said.
The drivers will rent the rickshaws from the company for $30 for a four-hour shift. Customers pay only in tips, so whatever the drivers make over $30 is their take-home pay.
Ford said she'll will make her money selling ad space. "We have about $5,000 invested in each carriage and the insurance on them is triple that," she explained.
She's hoping it will pay off for all of downtown. "Our seats lift up so the drivers will have access to menus, business cards. So they can actually be reading the Jig and Reel menu while they're on the way, so it's going to be a great service," she said.
Ford plans to have the rickshaws running seven days a week from 11:00 a.m. until midnight, maybe later during special events.
If you're interested in sponsoring a downtown rickshaw, call Joni Ford at 865-455-8889.