When the new bike rental and tour agency Ride Along GY was launched last Saturday, it was the realization of an idea born almost five years ago by its founder, Cherry-Ann Greene, who had to navigate bumpy roads along the way.
Greene told Stabroek News she is grateful for the tremendous support she has already received for the company, which is the first of its kind in Guyana.
Greene was first introduced to the idea of renting bikes almost nine years ago when she traveled to Suriname, where she used the service. Four years ago, she thought about starting her own bike rental business here and how much that could benefit Guyanese and foreigners, but said she was discouraged from pursuing it.
As Greene seemed to have given up on the idea, life stepped in. She lost her job in a media entity in December 2019. At the time, she was pursuing studies in human resources. Being at home gave her time for some soul-searching, and she gave herself three months to figure out what her next move was. Various job offers started pouring in, but she turned them down because they didn’t match what she was looking for. At that time, Guyana had its first confirmed case of COVID-19, which led to a lockdown in April.
Stuck at home longer than she had originally expected, Greene began to keep a journal and eventually came to a resolution. “At that time, I told myself that when I came out of confinement, I was no longer going to work with someone else. That’s when I decided to go back to my original idea of the bike rental and tour company and as the ideas came up I wrote them down, ”she said.
To get a better idea of if the business could thrive, she decided to do a survey. She did not allow family and friends to participate as she feared biased answers as opposed to the simple answers she expected from the general public. Greene said that 70% of all who responded to the survey gave positive feedback to the idea for the company.
In June of last year, she registered the business and a friend who heard about the initiative sent her a link to apply to the Small Business Bureau for a million dollar grant, which she did. “I also had friends in the police and military who I shared my ideas with and who shared their opinions with me on how I could run the business with bicycle safety in mind as well as what to do with it. ‘other stuff. I would also go online and research what other companies in other countries are doing to make their business successful, ”she said.
However, it was not all smooth sailing because prior to a scheduled visit to the United States in November of last year, Greene tested positive for COVID-19. Looking back, Greene said, it seemed like nothing was going his way. Getting COVID was her biggest fear come true and she laughed as she shared how paranoid she was about the virus as she would be home alone while constantly washing her hands. Three days after learning that she had tested positive for the virus, she remembered that she had signed up for the Small Business Bureau grant and decided to call to see what was going on. It was then that she learned that the Bureau had tried to reach her from the start, as she was one of 20 people who won a million dollar grant. She was then given a week and a half to complete the rest of the requirements and be able to get her money back, which she was able to do. The woman noted that if she had left for the United States on time, she would not have been there to take care of the requirements necessary to collect the grant.
While a million dollars was a big help in making her plans come true, it was less than half the amount she needed to get the business up and running. So far, she’s spent $ 2.5 million ahead of launch. The rest of the cost was funded by her savings and with the help of her family and friends. She noted that 14 of her relatives had flown just to attend the launch last Saturday at the Carifesta sports complex, where Tourism Minister Oneidge Walrond took part in the debates.
Greene said she would work closely with the Tourism Ministry to set up a cycling platform on the sea wall and other tourist hot spots in the city from August. Although her focus is on Georgetown for now, she intends to expand these hubs to places like Diamond, Linden, Berbice, and Bartica. In addition, Greene shared his ideas with Minister Walrond for the delineation of dedicated cycle lanes to prevent cyclists from having to ride in traffic.
Besides the ministry, Greene has also already partnered with other companies.
Among them is the Guyana Telephone & Telegraph Company (GTT), which will provide SIM cards loaded with GTT’s 4G LTE service that will be installed on all bikes for better security. The SIM cards come with GPS tracking so the bike rental company knows where their customers are and their bikes are. Customers using the service can also make payments for bicycle rental using GTT’s MMG service.
Another key partner is SQ Apparel, a Miami, Florida-based custom manufacturing company that has entered into a sponsorship deal with Ride Along GY for the next two years. It will provide staff and customers with equipment including t-shirts, shorts, backpacks, raincoats and face masks.
The cost of renting bikes varies depending on the length of the loan. The price starts at $ 1,500 for two hours. Additionally, customers are required to provide a copy of a photo ID along with a $ 10,000 deposit, which will be refunded once the bike is returned in the same condition it was borrowed.
Currently, Greene employs two people: a personal assistant and a tour guide.
The rental company also offers tours around Guyana, another part of the business that started a few weeks ago and has taken several groups to Kaieteur Falls and around Guyana since then. Greene also operates an event management and catering services called “The Wonderland-Events Management and Catering Services” which provides meals to tourists participating in these trips and which will also be available to customers using their bicycle rental services. .
At present, Ride Along GY offers 12 of the 14 tour packages for local and foreign tourists. The packages and their prices are available on the company’s website (http://www.ridealonggy.com/) or on its Facebook page.