After serving eight years in the Army, including a tour in the Gulf War as a transportation and fuel specialist, Frederick Dunn was ready to transition back into civilian life. Home from Desert Storm in 1999, the decorated soldier found himself without employment prospects. He couldn’t afford his own apartment, and didn’t even have a car.
After a suggestion from a friend, Dunn began work as a limousine driver and within six months was chauffeuring entertainers such as Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro. When he began working at US Limousine in 2001, he found the drive and opportunity to start his own company.
“I had an auto industry heiress who always requested for me to drive her when she called up the limo company, but one day the company said I wasn’t available,” Dunn says. “Well, when she finally did reach me, she told me that if I had my own car that she would call me directly. That’s when the light bulb went on … so I set out to save my money to get my own car and start my own business,” he says.
With a 7-year-old Mercedes Benz and the auto heiress as his customer, Dunn launched Dunn Rite Limousine Service, a high-end limousine company that chauffeurs celebrities and wealthy non-celebs in 2003. Charging $45 an hour, Dunn’s company earned $75,000 the first year in business. With a $20,000 loan from Bank of America, he soon acquired a second Mercedes and using word-of-mouth advertising he grew his list of customers.
To set himself apart from the other limousine companies in the city, Dunn has now opted to use a mix of luxury and environmentally-friendly vehicles. He traded in his second Mercedes last year and made a $24,000 down payment toward the purchase of a Mercedes X550, a Cadillac Escalade ESV, and a Lexus 400H Hybrid. The
the four-employee, home-based business has three luxury cars and 15 clients, including actress Angela Bassett, actor Denzel Washington, and hip hop star Bow Wow. The company has $250,000 in revenue and projects to double its earnings in 2009.
Dunn says “going green” has made it easier to deal with the challenge of operating a car service in a down economy with escalating gas prices. But it has also helped to widen his pool of potential customers, most of which he obtains through referral and some who will only ride in energy efficient cars.
Dunn is now eyeing the 2009 Cadillac Escalade Hybrid and the 2009 Toyota Prius Hybrid to add to his convoy. He says he eventually plans to rotate all his vehicles to hybrids. In the meantime, adjusting prices that will win new customers while keeping the old has become a delicate balance that Dunn says he must achieve in order to keep his company on the road to success.
“I have to distinguish myself from the dozens of companies that are in the city, so I set out to