SAN ANTONIO -- Arthur Simanovsky, 23, is living proof that in the United States, a good idea and some hard work can pay off.
Simanovsky, along with his business partner Alexa Milkovich, 23, identified one of the main reasons many people drive drunk and recognized a business opportunity.
He theorized that people drink and drive because they do not want to leave their vehicles at establishments, like bars or night clubs, after a night of having one too many.
Part of the American way of life is having a car. To a certain extent it represents freedom, but it is also the inspiration for Be My Designated Driver, or BeMyDD.
This unique car service seeks to help those who want to enjoy a night out of drinking and still be able to get themselves and their vehicles back home safely.
The other upside with this business model is the creation of jobs for the local economy.
BeMyDD has designated drivers lined up ready to take you in your own car for a night out on the town with the promise of a safe return home.
In just one year, this Cleveland-based company has morphed into a nationwide hit. BeMyDD has launched in more than 20 major cities, including here in San Antonio just last month.
Simanovsky and Milkovich are experiencing the American dream of owning a thriving business -- all while keeping the roads a little safer.
Through a Q&A session, we recently asked Simanovsky to walk us through how BeMyDD works and how it could help the economy here in San Antonio.
Q&A with Arthur Simanovsky
Q: Tell us about BeMyDD
A: It’s a twist on a transportation service. We’re providing the services of a chauffeur at a discounted rate because we are utilizing our customer’s automobiles.
Q: What are your services?
A: We have two services. Our first service is our personal driver service. You could reserve a driver ahead of time. They’ll come usually to the customer’s home. They come in shirt and tie and they’re all personal chauffeur/limousine drivers. They’ll drive you in your car wherever you like to go, wait for you, and then take you back home. In Texas, it’s $14.50 an hour. For $25 plus mileage, we also have a pick-up service where if you have already driven somewhere, a team of two drivers come and take you and your car back home.
Q: What sparked the idea?
A: My partner and I, we both live in the suburbs of Ohio and it’s definitely a driving city. There’s not really that much public transportation, and a taxi one-way into the downtown area is about $60. So both ways you’re talking about $120, quite expensive. It’s always nice to utilize a designated driver, but the problem is no one ever wants to take that role so it’s usually a rock, scissors, and paper game or the least drunk person drives, which is a little sad. So we thought: Why not be able to hire a driver, especially a professional driver, to operate your automobile?
Q: in San Antonio, we’ve seen an increased number of DWI incidents through the years. How do you respond to this disturbing trend?
A: It’s really sad. The people that are actually under arrest, there’s so many more people driving around than just the people that are getting arrested. Texas has such a high mortality rate with DWIs. It’s really a shame. We thought Texas would be a great market for us. The level of .08 is not very much. It depends on your weight, especially a female who drinks a glass of wine or two... It definitely puts them over the limit.
Q: So I guess there is definitely a market for this service?
A: This is something you can use every weekend and the drivers are extremely professional, such as wearing a shirt and tie and they’ll open doors for you.
Q: What about those who feel you may be encouraging drivers to drink more?
A: No way are we promoting drinking. Rather we’re trying to help people who are going to be drinking just do it safely and responsibly, and with an alternative that is a lot easier than what is currently being offered.
Q: How is this helping the local economy? Are there also employment opportunities?
A: We like to go into a city and we usually try to take on 50 drivers to start. That’s what we’ve done in San Antonio and across other cities in Texas. We’ve taken on 50 drivers. We’ve had about 350 applicants in each one of the cities and these are all CDL drivers. So we found the best of the best.
Q: What is the reaction from businesses in our area? Are they eager to jump on board?
A: Establishments really like to promote the service. For them, we decrease the liability by offering this alternative to their client base. We usually do about 100 businesses over the first two weeks when we start.
Q: How is this service a positive solution for those of us who want to enjoy ourselves without getting hurt or worse?
A: Realistically when you’re looking for an alternative, taxis are okay. They’re a little unreliable and the problem with the taxi is you could only go to one place. Here you have a driver for the evening. It’s peace of mind for you to go from your home to a single home to a different location and there’s no additional price. It’s strictly by the hour.
Q: Do the hired drivers undergo extensive background checks?
A: The process is quite rigorous. They have to initially register on our website, and then we do a phone interview followed by a face-to-face interview. After that we do a full background screening that retails at $100. We actually have people that go into every single county they’ve ever lived to make sure they don’t have a criminal record and we do a full DMV screening as well. All of our drivers are at least 28 years of age and do not have any criminal history. We also have a very large auto policy, it’s a $6 million auto policy. All of our drivers also have their own insurance so we also want to make sure that our customers are covered even when their drivers are operating their automobile.
Q: How does someone make a reservation or learn more about employment?
A: To make a reservation, we have a single toll-free number for the entire country. It’s 1-877-U-BeMyDD (877-823-6933). We also have a website where you can make a reservation. It’s www.bemydd.com