Powell’s Pedicabs has turned traveling around Mount Pleasant into a source of entertainment for students and residents.
Renaldo Powell began his business with a trip to New York over the summer to purchase a cab, which can run more than $2,000. The Wayne senior did this without a car of his own and an extremely tight budget.
Starting the business wasn’t easy. Powell had to sell many of his personal belongings in order to afford the cab.
“I had to sell a lot of stuff,” Powell said. “I sold my laptop, I sold my music equipment.”
After just one month in the business, Powell has already paid for the cost of his bike and trip by charging people to ride in his pedicab– $1 per minute.
Powell, a born entrepreneur, had already started two other businesses – one website and one mobile app – before arriving at his current venture.
As a hurdler for the Central Michigan men’s track and field team, Powell uses his business as a way to strengthen his legs during the offseason. Once track resumes in Winter, Powell plans on taking a break with his mobile business.
Fellow teammate and Grand Rapids senior Andrew Barrett described Powell as sociable, entertaining and funny – attributes that help him make his pedicab business successful.
“I think it’s a great idea, and it’ll be a great business,” Barrett said. “You’re getting an experience going with him.”
Powell’s Pedicabs runs from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. every Thursday through Saturday night, and Powell generally takes people wherever they need to go in the Mount Pleasant area.
Usually, his customers go from the Wayside down to the nearby McDonald’s restaurant or to an ATM, but if someone were to request a ride to the casino, Powell said it would cost about $100.
Most nights don’t get busy for the pedicab until around midnight, but when they do, Powell meets all kinds of interesting people.
“People just keep giving me cans of beer all the time,” Powell said. “I don’t drink, so I just put them in my backpack. I don’t know what to do with them.”
Powell has also been paid in sandwiches, candy and even gym memberships when patrons don’t have the available cash on hand.
Powell’s Pedicabs has become a popular part of weekend travel for many students, and most are excited to see Powell pedaling through the streets of Mount Pleasant with his cab lit with music blaring from the speakers in his backpack.
Grand Rapids senior Krista Parks, Powell’s girlfriend, said most people find the pedicab unique, making it more popular than the average taxi.
“People might find it exciting and new,” Parks said. “He makes the experience for other people with his personality.”
To Powell, the best part about his business is the challenge it brings.
“I like challenging myself,” Powell said. “A lot of people, they’re on the fence about getting in the cab, so (I like) challenging myself to get people in the pedicab.”
Barrett attributed Powell’s success to the runner’s never-ending supply of determination.
“He saw something that a lot of people probably would have turned away from,” Barrett said. “But he’s just determined to such an extent.”
After graduation, Powell plans to take the pedicab with him or pass it on to someone else to continue the business.
“It was just me deciding that I wanted something and then I went out and I got it,” Powell said. “I just hope that this inspires somebody who’s thinking about doing something that they see a positive benefit to just go do it.”