MOORHEAD – Need a ride? Renee Ellis wants to drive.
Ellis, the solopreneur behind Ellis Driving Services, started her small business in May. Also an Uber driver, Ellis Driving Services is a business she’s wanted to start “for quite a while,” she told the Forum.
Ellis was prompted to fend for herself when she realized she had many routine passengers while driving for Uber. Even riders have suggested that Ellis go his own way, with some asking for his personal phone number to book future rides.
Since then, there has been “only positive” customer feedback over the past three months. “I feel like the more I publicize myself, the more I let people know that this service is available to them, the more receptive they are,” Ellis said.
Arelle Kaufman unfortunately needed Ellis’ services a few months ago.
Kaufman, who works early in the morning in a warehouse, had his car stolen. The theft left her family and children with only one vehicle, and her schedule meant leaving the car at home.
Like most others, Kaufman turned to ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. The results were mixed, however, and she often struggled to consistently find a ride. That was, until she was paired up for a ride with Ellis. “I had to try to find a way to work,” Kaufman recounted. “I work very early in the morning and honestly, even with Uber, she was one of the few available.”
At first, Ellis didn’t mention that she started her own business. Eventually, however, Kaufman got his card, ending the wait of up to an hour for his ride requests to be handled by Uber and Lyft drivers.
In total, Kaufman rode with Ellis for two months before his car was replaced. She was able to schedule rides on a weekly basis, another option ridesharing apps didn’t have. Ellis was even attentive to minor details, like always opening the door or setting the car’s temperature in the right place. “She made a colossal difference,” Kaufman said. “I don’t think I could have done such a good job if I hadn’t been able to get to work on time.”
Ellis is “extremely reliable” as well as a “professional above the board,” Kaufman said, adding that Ellis also prioritizes safety. That’s why she always recommends Ellis Driving Services on a daily basis to her colleagues and anyone else who needs a lift. “She was definitely a saving grace,” Kaufman said.
From airport shopping to wine tours
An appropriate slogan for Ellis Driving Services might be “Have a car, you’ll travel”. Indeed, wherever you want to go, Ellis will be happy to take you there.
His daily bread includes commuting like the ones Kaufman made to and from work. Kaufman’s experience with ride-hailing apps in the metro area isn’t out of the ordinary, Ellis said, and that’s where she comes in to them,” Ellis said.
Ellis also offers rides to and from Hector International Airport. These routes are particularly advantageous in winter when passengers can leave cars in heated garages at home rather than in uncovered airport parking lots. She’ll even schedule extra time for trips home for forgotten passports, headphones, or neck pillows.
For concert-goers traveling to venues near or far, Ellis Driving Services also offers an alternative transportation option. Instead of packing into buses, Ellis will comfortably drive up to seven people to and from a gig.
Ellis also offers tours of area breweries, distilleries and wineries. She based her tours on the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Crafts and Drafts pass and the Red River Wine Trek. “While you are doing this you are also safe because we are leading you,” she said. “You can still have fun with your friends.”
The bottom line, however, is that Ellis is ready to go wherever someone needs her, having been as far as Grand Forks and the Twin Cities for past rides. “We just try to be available for people’s transportation needs,” she remarked.
For rides around town, Ellis said she tries to keep her prices as competitive as possible with ridesharing platforms. Quotes for out-of-town trips vary by distance.
Ellis grew up in northern Arizona on land owned by the Navajo Nation. Growing up on the nation’s largest reserve, driving wasn’t just a fun activity, it was a necessity.
Everything was “remote” from where she lived, Ellis said. A convenience store, gas station, laundromat and post office? 15 miles further. A trip to the small local grocery store took 45 minutes one way. Going to a big box retailer like Walmart took two hours. “You had to want to drive to these places and I always liked driving,” she recalls.
Having nurtured her love of driving, Ellis takes a new route each time she visits Arizona in the summer. “For me, driving has always been fun and I really enjoy driving,” she commented. “I would much rather drive anywhere than fly.”
This passion is especially evident when she meets people who are new to the Fargo area. She relishes her role as a sort of local ambassador, answering questions from bikers like Is it really that apartment? Where How cold is it here?
“It’s always really surprising when I bring them information that they had no idea about, which is always a lot of fun for me,” Ellis said. “I love meeting people who are new to Fargo. It’s always fun to tell them about all the cool things Fargo has to offer, all the cool things in Moorhead and all the little surrounding areas.
Ellis knows firsthand how bad ridesharing services can be. For this reason, she sought to provide a friendly environment for riders. “My service is I’m more customer service oriented, whereas Uber, taxis and Lyft are faster,” she explained.
It is a comfort for the passengers. Since 2017, Uber and Lyft have reported more than 7,000 sexual assault complaints, making carpooling a dangerous proposition for female drivers and passengers.
Ellis herself recalled several occasions where her female passengers were relieved to find they had been matched with another woman. This is another reason why establishing an ongoing driver-passenger relationship is important. “I really think there is a need to meet the needs of women who want to feel safe and be able to use the service that they know won’t be harassed or feel unsafe,” she said. declared.
Additionally, Ellis Driving Services hopes to become a greener company with the purchase of a hybrid or electric vehicle. As a woman-owned and minority-owned business, it also seeks grants, loans, investments, and scholarships available to it.
She still has a lot of hurdles to overcome. Until then, she will continue to ride and learn new things every day. “I’m going to keep rolling,” she said.