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UI student starts brightly colored taxi company

BY BRIANNA JETT | NOVEMBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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Zooming around Iowa City are four unique, bright purple and green taxis —thanks to one University of Iowa student.

Lorelei Coffin, who has attended the UI for three years, and business partner Aric Hopkins successfully started a small taxi company this fall, named Old Capitol Independent Taxi.

“I found someone who was very proud of his experience, expertise, knowledge, and skills as a cab driver,” Coffin said about Hopkins. “For whatever reason, I decided to give him the opportunity to start his own company.”

This opportunity came in the form of a very important contact.

“She put the investor and me together,” Hopkins said.

Coffin knew someone willing to finance the business to the tune of $35,000. The venture began in June, and the company opened in September. So far they have four cars and five full-time drivers.

“When you only have so much to start with, you start small,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins calls himself the chief of operations and Coffin handles all of the finances of the company.

“I try to make sure the cab company’s bills get paid,” Coffin said.

She said it has been difficult to balance school and the company, especially in the beginning.

“When I was starting the company, I was working all the time,” Coffin said. “For the first couple of months I would mess up all the time and have to fix things, and that would take a lot of time.”

Business has been slow to start, but Coffin said is growing.

“In theory, a slow start is a solid start,” she said.

And the growth is apparent for those working in the company.

“The business is steadily growing,” Sterling Strang, the day-shift supervisor, said. “I’m experiencing the growth firsthand.”

On busy nights, including the weekends and major holidays, their drivers can give roughly 40 rides.

However, even as the company she had a major hand in starting continues to grow, Coffin does not see it in her future.

“I have a different dream for myself,” she said.

This dream takes the form of a math professor and researcher.

“I’d like to learn about how people learn math,” she said. “I really believe that more people can feel more comfortable with math and more people can excel at it than do now. And that makes for a better world. It’s all in the way we teach them.”

Not many can say they helped start a small business, and even fewer students in college have done the same.

“What’s the difference between being a young person in college and starting a business and being an adult starting a business?” Coffin said. “It means I am learning a lot.”

Even though Old Capitol Independent Taxi is a short-term venture, she said her work now is strengthening the skills she’ll need later on.

“In my dream job, I will have to relate to people,” she said. “I like learning stuff, and anything you know that someone else knows will help you relate to them.”


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