“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there.”
This past New Year’s Eve, revelers in downtown Fayetteville greeted 2012 with a new taxi cab service available – one with a minimal carbon footprint. Green Cab Co. made its debut by offering safe rides for those who had a little too much fun or simply wanted a safe ride home.
Several months later, the black hybrid automobiles can be seen all over Northwest Arkansas, and the company’s co-owner, Brad Audrain, says he is already making plans to expand.
“We try to use every new innovation and less energy than any other cab companies here or anywhere else in the country,” he says.
But driving cars with a lesser carbon footprint isn’t all the company does to stay green, Audrain says. It uses iPhone card swipe devices for credit transactions and offers electronic receipts via email, though drivers will provide paper receipts when asked, he says. Passengers are also not allowed to smoke in the vehicles.
A graduate of the Sam M. Walton College of Business in 2006, Audrain says he still refers to his textbooks when it comes to managing the dozen or so dispatchers and drivers who make up the business. They also come in handy when working with independent contractors, he says.
Though he grew up in Memphis, Audrain says one of the primary reasons he chose to attend the University of Arkansas was because it was his family’s alma mater.
“With parents, grandparents and great-grandparents on both sides of my family having attended the U of A before me, it was the obvious choice,” he says. “I was a huge Razorback fan since the day I was born.”
He says he selected a business management major because it is a broad field that can be applied to any facet of his professional life. He wouldn’t know, until years later, how he would apply that knowledge, he says.
“I had great experiences with Walton College, and I’m proud I was able to graduate there,” he says.
He confesses, however, that he wishes he had paid more attention to his studies as an undergraduate and advises new and prospective businesses to not dismiss any subjects being taught in the classroom.
“The stuff you don’t think matters, it’s there for a reason,” he says. “The professors and administrators know what they are doing, and you’re there for a reason.”
Following graduation, Audrain enrolled in law school with plans to become a lawyer. He earned a law degree, and even practiced for a year. But, he says, the legal profession was never for him.
A new career opportunity came through a conversation he had with Sarah Sparks Diebold, whom he shares Green Cab Co.’s co-owner title, along with Matt Powell. He says Diebold was looking at some ideas for a niche business in Northwest Arkansas, and the two explored ways to make a difference in the community. When they discovered an environmentally friendly cab company in Madison, Wisc., Audrain researched the idea and Powell joined forces. After “five or six” months of planning, Green Cab Co. secured an office in downtown Fayetteville in November with a fleet of four Toyota Priuses in place New Year’s Eve, Audrain says.
Now, the cabs run routes all over the area, including to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport in Highfill. He says his customers are of all ages, whether it be professionals doing business in the area, people stranded due to auto troubles and, of course, the late-night visitors on Dickson Street. “It’s everyone from across the board,” he says.
As for Green Cab Co.’s future, Audrain says he would like to increase his fleet and, perhaps, expand into other college towns in the mid-South. He says Green Cab will continue to use either hybrid autos, like the Prius, or electric cars once they become more mainstream. He says this fits in with Fayetteville’s personality.
“They like to keep things funky around here, and so do we,” he says.