The taxi business is a profession historically dominated by men, but as a famous Minnesotan named Bob Dylan once sang, “the times they are a-changin’.”
Waleed Sonbol, the owner of Blue & White Taxi in Minneapolis, has seen those changes first-hand. “I have a total of 38 employees,” he says. “32 are women.”
And this number includes drivers. “Today, I have seven, the most in the state,” Sonbol says.
One of those drivers is Bambi Barclay, who has been driving a cab for six years, the last four of those with Blue & White Taxi. Like other drivers, she works as an independent contractor for the company, so she is, essentially, self-employed.
“The most rewarding part of self-employment, is the feeling of control over my own life,” Barclay says. “I have, within certain parameters, control over how much I make, control over how much I work, and control over when I work.”
This allows her time for other, more personal pursuits.
“Part of the reason that cab driving works for me is that it allows me to pursue my real love, which is music,” she says. “I love self-employment status, I have no desire to ever be an employee again!”
She also appreciates the work atmosphere at Blue & White Taxi.
“I like working at Blue and White, in particular, because on a personal level, they have been extremely kind, generous and supportive of me when I was needing to get my own car on the road,” Barclay says. “Although my interactions with Waleed are brief and business-focused, I enjoy that interaction as well. I dislike the cliché of a business being ‘like a family,’ because I have had large corporations try to market that message to me while at the same time showing me, by their actions, that they have complete and utter disregard for their workers. By contrast, the actions of Blue & White make me feel that it is a well-run, ethically-run, compassionate organization with respect for the contractors that it deals with.”
And she encourages other women entrepreneurs to consider the cab industry.
“It is a job for people who have a certain amount of ‘hustle’ and motivation,” Barclay says. “What I can tell other women about the taxi cab industry is that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Customers are 95% good people, just trying to get where they’re going. Some people are fun and enjoyable and some not so much, just like the people you would deal with in any other job. As far as the 5% that are up to no good, that is something that — as women — we always have to be aware of. In any situation, in this job, or any other job, or just walking down the street you have to have your wits about you and read people and situations to the best of your ability. I don’t feel any less safe driving a cab than I did driving a school bus, which I did for many years. As far as entrepreneurialism in general, I say go for it, you only live once!”
With that kind of can-do attitude and progressive business owners like Blue & White Taxi’s Waleed Sonbol, there are sure to be more women joining the cab industry as the times continue to change.
Get To Know the Owner of Blue & White Taxi
Blue & White Taxi is a cab company that caters to all people. It offers traditional taxi services, airport transportation and services for corporate accounts. It’s an established, Minneapolis-based company. In fact, the company predates its current owner, Waleed Sonbol.
“I did not start Blue & White, but I came to work here in 2004,” he says. “Blue & White has its roots as far back as 1926 and my family has been in the cab business since 1980.”
There’s been explosive growth at the company since Sonbol took over. There’s been a 400% increase in fleet size, and the acquisition of ABC Taxi, but that’s not all that makes Blue & White special. In this interview with Sonbol, you’ll learn a little more about him and about what sets Blue & White above the rest in the cab business.
What is your educational background?
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, and an MBA in Operations Management
What is your business background?
During my college years, I was an assistant manager at a local Perkins restaurant. After receiving my MBA, I was a logistics engineer involved in warehousing and transportation for companies such as Ricoh, Slimfast, Nike Golf, Nortel Networks, Imation and FB Fuller.
What is the average number of people you transport daily?
2,300 in the colder months, 1,800 in the warmer.
How many drivers does Blue & White Taxi employ?
Drivers are not employees, but independent contractors. There are 336.
How many cab drivers did you start with in your first year with Blue and White Taxi?
What is the most difficult part about running a cab company?
It is a customer service job, with direct contact with independent owner-operators, independent drivers, customers, health insurance programs, their members and government officials. There is never just a normal day in this industry, since there are so many moving parts. Every day is unique.
What is the most rewarding part?
Being able to help people. For example, in 2004 I had 43 cabs in Blue & White. I was able to use my savings and help drivers buy their own licenses, and thus become independent owner-operators, by giving them $10,000 loans, interest free, for 14 months. We were able to help 29 people start owning their own businesses.
How do you stand out from your competitors?
We have two core business policies that we take very seriously.
The first being that we do not believe that we have any competitors, outside of ourselves being our biggest ones. If we ever stop trying to get better, or stop trying to change our industry, and company, for the better, then we – at that point – allowed others to beat us at what we should be best at.
The second core policy is to build honest and trustworthy relationships with our vendors and customers. We do not sugar coat or lie about a situation, but instead offer the truth. We do not make excuses, but give solutions. Mostly, when we apologize, if that is all that we can offer, then we have failed miserably.
We carry this to our drivers and owners. We do not change policy without discussing it with everyone. We do not hide what we are paid from our accounts. Unlike our competition, any driver, and any owner can walk into my office and we would have a conversation and address whatever their concerns are right there.
We’ve upgraded our Text-2-Order service to provide more reliability for you all. There has been some spottiness in the past, but all those issues should be resolved!
Thank you all for riding with us, and we’ll continue working to bring you the best in taxi tech!
Blue & White Taxi is looking for an evening manager. Someone who can multi-task, and lead the evening team to deliver excellence in the call center. Someone who can step in at any time and do the task that is needed, but more importantly, can work with the team on developing their skill set through training and coaching.
First, minimum requirements are:
1) Must have managed or supervised staff before.
2) Must have the ability to use Microsoft office, and has a great understanding of computers.
3) Must have strong communication skills, both written and spoken.
4) Must be a team player.
5) Must be able to multi task. Those that buckle under pressure easy need not apply.
Ideally, the candidate will also have the following traits:
1) Well organized
2) Consistently willing to learn, and educate those around them.
3) Have had volunteer experience.
4) Result driven
5) Goal oriented
Blue & White has experience tremendous growth since 2004, and is still looking on improvement. This is a new position, with new goals involved. The candidate will be required to work every other Saturday evening. The job includes handing customer service issues, monitoring staff breaks, and filling in on calls when needed. Supervision and conflict resolution are part of this position, as well as office organization skills. There will be reporting and filing. This position will grow with the right candidate.
You must submit a resume. Please be advised that resumes must be submitted in Work or PDF format only. Resumes sent in the body of an email will be discarded.
With all the pandemonium of New Year’s Eve (I don’t think you’ve really lived in the Twin Cities until you’ve been stranded in the downtown chaos of Jan 1st at 2am), we unfortunately have to disable a couple of our ordering systems.
The Standard Prepay Online booking is disabled. You can still book for the Airport.
The Taxi Magic text-messaging will be disabled as well.
Our phones will of course be open, but please expect delays.
We apologize for the inconvenience these lack of services will cause tonight, but we will bring the systems back up first thing on January 1st. We thank you all for your patience, and your continued business.
Also, be sure to check out our very own Jeremy Kramer on the Channel 5 News @ 6 tonight!
We hope everyone has a safe and Happy New Year. There are many exciting things ahead in 2013, and we look forward to getting you there.
Here’s a quick update of what’s been added:
Newly designed layout that will scale with your computer monitor’s resolution (though if you’re rocking an old IMB mainframe with 640×480 you might see some weird stuff).
Ordering System Updated. We will be rolling out more updates to the cart for faster service.
We’re sure you’re all aware of the disastrous flooding that has occurred in Duluth and the Superior area. The American Red Cross Minnesota Chapter has volunteer and donation information available on their website.
Any one interested in offering assistance as volunteers to help Duluth 211 or 800-543-7709 to register.
Donations can be directed to: Donations are being accepted through the Red Cross Northland. If you would like to help, please consider making a donation today by visitingwww.redcrossmn.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to your local Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross chapter at 2524 Maple Grove Road, Duluth, MN 55811 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.
Thank you all!
Also if anybody has the story on the lone man with the Target shopping cart, let us know!
(photo from Rachel Agurkis)
Happy Spring, everyone! We hope you’ve all had a wonderful hibernation. Now that the snow (what little we’ve had) is gone, and summer is around the corner, it’s time to get out and enjoy the city again!
We’re looking to establish a new service for those who would like a little more comfort and luxury to help make their trip extra special. We’ve been working with the fine people at Minneapolis 5 Star Limo to help promote their wonderful service.
They provide a multitude of transportation vehicles for any occasion, at rates that won’t make your head spin. Plus, with their dedication to quality service, you can rest assured that you will have a great experience.
The official 1st Annual Twin Cities Urban Music Awards is tonight at the Epic Lounge in Minneapolis. Doors open at 9.
Blue&White’s own Donald Adams is up for both producer of the year and graphic artist of the year, as the mastermind behind Midwest Meltdown Products. You can check out MMDP’s music on their official site..
Come on out and show your support tonight at Epic. We’ll see you there!