MSU entrepreneur’s SKOOP pedicabs offer free rides, high-visibility advertising.
Josh Cooper } jewish@edu writer
Photos courtesy SKOOP Inc.
A week into my freshman year, I, like many other students at Michigan State University, quickly had to deal with the pains of “micro-mobility.” With no car and classes more than a mile away, transportation in the bone-chilling Michigan winter was tough. This inconvenience is what led me to spot an opportunity for change.
I spent many nights first semester researching efficient, low-cost forms of transportation. I stumbled upon something called the “tuk-tuk,” a three-wheeled trike designed to move people and cargo that originated decades ago in Asia. Once I found this vehicle, my efforts turned to figuring out ways to reinvent the tuk-tuk. I mocked up dozens of blueprints and sketches of what this new vehicle would look like.
Next, I utilized my entrepreneurship skills and started creating my own business that would work to solve this micro-mobility problem while also helping to grow local and national businesses. This is when I decided not to just create vehicles that move people, but also to create vehicles that drive business and spread important branding messages around town. I decided I was going to build a vehicle that doubles as a mobile billboard via a mounted digital TV screen on the back of each pedicab.
Last January, I incorporated SKOOP. In short, there are two divisions of SKOOP Inc. First, there is the transportation company that deals with moving passengers from point A to point B. Second, there is the division called SKOOP Media Co. Our media division works closely with local and national businesses to strategically create comprehensive marketing and advertising campaigns.
One of our most valuable assets at SKOOP Media is access to our mobile billboard fleets. The media representatives think of innovative ways for local and national businesses to use our vehicles as mobile electronic billboards that attract attention while driving through the hottest spots in town.These efforts on the media end fuel SKOOP’s social mission — free rides for everyone.
After placing our first fleet in East Lansing this past June, we have moved more than 10,000 passengers and displaced more than $30,000 from other forms of transportation by providing these free rides. Almost a year later, we stand strong with 13 direct employees and 100+ media partners. Our team is focused and excited to expand.
Our drivers are diverse. They come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the drivers in our East Lansing fleet are students at Michigan State University. All drivers are paid, and they are brand ambassador drivers. The vehicles they drive promote brands and businesses on digital players. Drivers also have talking points provided by our media partners and educates passengers with their news or sales information.
We operate all times of the day, usually with two SKOOPS, but we can expand, especially during football Saturdays. You can expect to see us out early for class shifts between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Our evening shift begins at 6 p.m. and our nightlife shift ends at 2 a.m.
We are looking forward to our one-year anniversary and exiting the “startup” phase by placing fleets in new cities. And, early in 2019, we will announce where a dozen new model SKOOP 2s will be placed.
Recently, we shifted from outdoors to indoors. We have some exclusive partnerships with convention centers in the greater Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids areas where we will continue operations until the spring. We will move passengers from parking lots to exhibit halls or from hall to hall, etc. Our Michigan fleets are seasonal fleets.
I’m super proud to report we have been cash flow positive for nearly half a year now. Our most recent third-party assessment valued SKOOP Inc. at more than $4 million. If growth continues as it should, that valuation will be north of $10 million by the end of the second quarter of 2019.
Although it is nearly impossible to connect the dots looking forward, it is important to occasionally look back on all the different steps in life that got you to where you are today.
When I was young, I used to play in Toyology, a small toy store in the Orchard Mall right down the street from my former middle school. Months of frequent visits to the store ultimately linked me up with the cashier and owner working the register.
During my middle school years, this cashier and I would spend hours talking innovation and entrepreneurship. Aric Klar was that cashier behind the counter nearly 10 years ago. To this day, he remains a mentor and business partner of mine. The most critical thing Aric has taught me is the importance of turning the visions and dreams in your head into directions others can follow and turn into reality.
When reflecting, I also credit many things that influenced my love of business. I credit my Jewish roots. My first leadership opportunities in BBYO provided me with great learning experiences. I credit a mental health awareness and peer-to-peer support organization I co-founded called UMatter at Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield and our Jewish partners who helped grow that organization into the powerhouse it is today. I credit my support system at Michigan State and my partnership and involvement with Hillel there.
We have big goals and dreams at SKOOP Inc. and are confident that with our strategic partnerships we will attain them all. @
Josh Cooper of West Bloomfield is CEO of SKOOP Inc. and a sophomore studying advertising management at Michigan State University.