STATE COLLEGE — If youve spent any time in downtown State College in the past month, youve probably seen Todd Miner as hes zipped by on his pedicab.
Miner started Vamos! Lion Chariot, one of Centre Countys newest and least traditional businesses in April. Since then, hes been pedaling a three-wheeled, human-powered pedicab through the streets of State College. Hes found himself so busy he can barely catch his breath.
The reception has just been amazing, Miner said. Ive had people tell me its the most fun theyve had all year.
He found his calling two years ago in San Diego, where pedicabs are a common sight on the citys long beachfront streets.
Theyre really popular there, Miner said. I thought to myself, this would be great in State College.
After some initial hesitation, finding himself out of work recently proved to be the spark for his entrepreneurial side.
I said to myself, you do this now or youll never do it, he said.
Miner took the plunge, meeting with professionals from the Penn State Small Business Development Center to develop a business plan. He invested in a bicycle from a manufacturer in Arizona, which arrived fully assembled in mid-April.
As part of his plan, Miner has been giving out free rides to any pedestrian-in-waiting lucky enough to flag him down.
Its been an easy way to promote the business and try it out, he said. Im trying to get a gauge for what a fair price would be.
Day or night, Miners chariot is hard to miss.
Its equipped with an iPod dock that serenades riders with songs by Frank Sinatra and Simon and Garfunkel. At night, flashing LED lights attract the attention of even the most distracted late-night revelers.
I have yet to have someone who didnt really enjoy the experience, Miner said. Its got the practical component of getting people from point A to point B, but it also has great entertainment value. For the riders, youre on display. For a short time, youre the prince or the princess of State College.
Right now, Miner said hes limiting his rides to downtown, Penn States campus and nearby residential areas. But his coverage area may expand with his business, he said.
It would be fun to bring people from the parking lot to the stadium at sporting events theres no shortage of ideas, he said. Just harnessing it all is the challenge for me. Vamos isnt trying to compete with existing transportation businesses like CATA or taxis, Miner said.
Its meant to be a complement, not competition, he said. Im not going to be taking people to the mall or Wegmans. Its just for really short commutes on campus or around downtown.
Miner said hes planning to start charging for his rides soon, and if his business takes off, hes going to hit the gas on expansion plans. He eventually hopes to be the captain of a fleet of pedicabs.
I think this can be more than just carting students around, he said. I definitely want to integrate more community aspects to it. It could be great for dates, weddings, prom, picnics ... Little kids just love it. Its like an amusement park ride for them.
Miner encourages anyone who wants a ride to visit www.vamos-lionchariot.com, or just to call out Vamos! when you see him riding with an empty cart. He eventually hopes to connect with potential riders via social media like Twitter or by using an online GPS tracker.
If I didnt have to pay bills, I would do this for free, he said. Its a nice thing to provide a service people really enjoy. Carrying someone to where they go and putting a smile on their face, it just makes you feel good.