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Young Entrepreneur's Designated Driver Business Flourishes

Whether you're Irish or just a wanna-be for the day, you may choose to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day with a few Guinness or some "green" beers tonight. WOSU profiles an Ohio company with a unique way to get you home safely after you've had a few drinks. Posted on a wall in the women's restroom of a Grandview bar is a sign that says "BeMyDD." It's an ad for a designated driver - someone who can drive for you when you want to enjoy some drinks on a night out with friends, or someone to take you home after you've already had a little too much fun. But BeMyDD is not a cab company. President and CEO Arthur Simanovsky explains how his company is different. "We have a personal driver service. You can reserve a driver ahead of time. They'll usually come to your home, and they'll chauffeur you around in your own automobile. They'll take you wherever you want to go, wait for you in the car, just like a limousine would, and then they take you back when ready," he said. Or if you're already out and need a ride home someone will drive you and your car home. Simanovsky is 23 years old. A 2009 graduate of Miami University, he finished college in the midst of the recession where jobs for finance majors were difficult to come by. So Simanovsky decided to become his own boss. And with some financial help from his parents, he launched BeMyDD a year ago today. Simanovsky said going out to downtown bars can be difficult, risky and expensive. "When we were here even in Westerville, for us to go to the Arena District, you know, pretty difficult to even get out there, taxi ride was about $50 each way. So it was always nice to designate a driver. The problem is no one wants to take that role. It's a rock, paper, scissors game, or unfortunately the least-drunk person drives home. So, I thought, hey, why not be able to hire a professional designated driver to take you out for the evening," Simanovsky said. Simanovsky started his company in Cleveland, near his home. Not long after it expanded to Columbus and Cincinnati. And a year later BeMyDD is in eight states. "Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Florida and I just got back from Texas." Simanovsky has roughly 2,500 drivers. He said they all receive extensive background checks including criminal history and departments of motor vehicle screenings. Many of them have been chauffeurs, and they're all required to have a commercial driver license. "All of our drivers are independent contractors so they have their own insurance. So on top of that we have a very large auto policy to cover them, and we also have a comprehensive policy for the business as a whole," Simanovsky said. "I guess you could think of it as a little bit strange because some stranger is driving your car," said 23-year-old Matt Kossoff who lives on the north end of Columbus. He used the service when he took his girlfriend out for her birthday. "The guy was nice. I mean I didn't really feel uncomfortable at all. Maybe it was just because I was just a little intoxicated, but, you know, I don't think it was any more awkward than sitting in a cab really," he said. Kossoff, who learned of the service from a flier, said called for a ride home from downtown Columbus after he and his girlfriend had a few after-dinner drinks. "Two people met us in the parking lot basically, you know. And then one drove their car and followed us. And another one drove my car back to where I live in Westerville," Kossoff said. Kossoff remembers the service costing about $60. It's the more expensive of the company's two services. To have someone pick you up in Columbus and drive you home is $25 plus 2.95 per mile. The per mile rate reduces after ten miles. So, if you live in, say, Hilliard, a ride home from the Arena District will cost about $60. Taking Yellow Cab home would cost half that. But Simanovsky said there's a downside to taking a cab home you gotta find a way back to your car in the morning. "You'd have to take a taxi both ways, and possibly the inconvenience of taking a taxi," he said. Simanovsky said the better deal is to reserve a driver for the night. In Columbus, a driver for the evening - from say, 10 to 2 a.m. - would be $50. Slightly cheaper than a round-trip cab ride from Hilliard. And Simanovsky thinks his service is nicer. "These are all professional drivers. They all come in a shirt and tie. We like to keep it a little classier. Sometimes you know taxis, you get in there, a little questionable sometimes unfortunately," he said. "The comfort of your own car which is pretty nice. You've got your own music. If you've ever been in a limo and forgot to being the right CD, could be a killer there." Simanovsky said the company is turning a profit. He's now attracting private investors. And the company is not ignoring the popularity of social media. A mobile application will be available next week.