As one of the Chamber’s StartUp Worcester companies, pedi-cab business WooRides has officially taken its service to city streets during a significant growth era for the downtown and beyond.
As current owner, long-time Worcester resident Shahbaz Soofi mulled the concept and model for his pedi-cab business shortly after graduating from WPI in 2014. He hopes to provide a sustainable and environmentally friendly way of increasing transportation and accessibility around Worcester. The combination of his mother Imrana’s social advocacy efforts and his studies in sustainability greatly influenced WooRides’ co-op model. Along with the Soofi family, Josh Averett, Valentine Beluchukwu, and Yaovi Tsomana are all partners in the WooRides venture.
“A cooperative business can do a lot for a local economy in terms of equity,” says Shahbaz. “It just seemed like the right time to do it.”
On June 17, WooRides launched its service at the Juneteenth celebration at Institute Park. With a fleet of three brightly colored pedi-cabs, which were painted and restored by Foley’s Collision Center, WooRides turned some heads with its unique mode of transportation. “Some people didn’t know what to make of it at first, but we told them about our model and about the cooperative and people were really stoked to hear about it,” says Ali Soofi, Shahbaz’s brother and co-op partner.
Given the success at the Juneteenth celebration, WooRides took its service to one of Worcester’s most popular events, Taste of Shrewsbury Street. As people flooded Worcester’s restaurant row, WooRides offered pedestrians a more effective way of getting up and down the street.
Following the co-op’s launch and success at Taste of Shrewsbury Street, WooRides is looking forward to expanding its routes and service area. Although the first week of service has been centered on events, the company is currently in the process of obtaining more pedi-cabs, which will inevitably allow the company to expand service.
As new housing developments and parking garages continue to open downtown, the city will experience even more vehicle traffic. Part of the WooRides’ mission is to provide an environmentally friendly and efficient alternative to classic modes of transportation, helping to drive the local economy. “Part of the reason why business groups are so excited about us is because studies have shown that more walkable, bike friendly cities lead to more store fronts as well as brick and mortar shops gaining more business,” says Ali.
As part of the 2017 cohort of StartUp Worcester winners, WooRides gained access to wide variety of benefits from the Chamber, The Venture Forum, and the Worcester Clean Tech Incubator (WCTI), an entrepreneurial workspace designed for startup companies. “Working in this space [WCTI] with other startup companies allows us to cross promote as well as hold meetings,” says Ali. “The Chamber has also been really supportive,” adds Shahbaz.
As residents of Worcester, the Soofi family and the other WooRides partners look forward to being part of its transformation. “This is like our love letter to the city of Worcester,” adds Imrana.
To learn more about the company, visit: https://www.facebook.com/woorides/
StartUp Worcester is an initiative of the Worcester Chamber aimed at incubating new businesses in the area by providing entrepreneurial college students and community members with the resources they need to grow. According to Axios, Worcester has been named as one of the top ten emerging startup hubs in the country. The Chamber is proud to be involved in this growth. To learn more about StartUp Worcester or to apply, visit: https://www.worcesterchamber.org/startup-worcester-2016/
For more information on other StartUp Worcester winners, visit: https://www.worcesterchamber.org/snapshot-2017-2018-startup-worcester-cohort-companies/