Clean Air Cabs

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Steve Lopez, the founder of Clean Air Cabs discusses the unique business model for his company that combines philanthropy with sustainability.

Ted Simons: > An increasing number of companies are looking A to become more eco-friendly in their day-to-day operations. One valley entrepreneur is using sustainable technology as the cornerstone of his business. With the motto "go green and save some green," Clean Air Cab wants to prove that doing good for the environment and for the community can be good for the bottom line. In our continuing coverage of high tech issues in Arizona, I'll talk to the founder of Clean Air Cab, but first, here is more on the company.

Steve Lopez: I was looking at how I can do something in Phoenix that impacts the city as well as its citizens and wanted to develop a company plan where everybody could win. I felt it was time to be aggressive. I felt it was time to turn an old industry on its ear and say, hey, it can be done a different way and business from here on out. Our concept is people, planet, profit, in that order.

David Majure: When Steve López opened Clean Air Cab in 2009, he'd never operate a business but was passionate about his concept. A philanthropic cab company, that is also environmentally friendly. His fleet of fuel efficient taxies is made up of Toyota Priuses which gets significantly better mileage and produce less CO2 than more traditional cabs and it's a approach that has decreased expenses and increased customer loyalty.

Lori Harrison: I need a taxicab and called the service, they came and it was a very clean vehicle and the taxi driver was really nice. Then I come to find out so much more about them, that they are carbon neutral vehicles and stand for the same values I do. And that is exciting to me. And so now, not only do I take them, but I take them exclusively if I'm taking a taxi.

David Majure: In addition to advocating an environmentally friendly approach to business, López is committed to giving back to the community. The son and grandson of cancer survivors who himself had health issues as a child, he's an enthusiastic supporter of organizations such as Susan G. Komen for the cure and Mesa United Way and Phoenix Children's Hospital.

Will Mandeville: Clean air cab was kind enough to actually cover or wrap one of their cabs with messaging and basically drive that around town with our message on it, but the other piece is that they're donating a dollar from every cab ride and which is great for us. We really could not do the things we do at PCH without the generosity of corporate sponsors who reach out to us and decide our nonprofit, our charity is one they would like to give back to. That really for me is -- every single day, my passion, developing the relationships so we can all give back every single day.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk more about clean air cab is the company's founder, Steve López. Thanks for joining us,

Steve Lopez: thank you very much.

Ted Simons: Where did the idea come from? The idea of using the Priuses, the ecofriendly cabs and combining with charitable work?

Ted Simons: I wanted to make an impact on the city of Phoenix. Knowing that the cab industry works 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, churning and burning CO2 into the air, I thought it would be a great platform to test the reality of bringing the vehicles in and creating an uniform concept of how we can bring down emissions and create an avenue so I can have an outlet for my passion.

Ted Simons: You did try to focus on business in a different way. Talk about that.

Steve Lopez: Yeah, I really did. I looked out in the environment and I said, you know the capitalist system is fine. The way it's set up is great and how we set out to do business is great, but I think it's lost heart along the way and where I grew up, there was a lot of sharing and a lot of compassion and understanding civically and I might have learned that along the way and I thought why can't I put that passion of who I am into this company? Why can't I start to create relationships and do the things I do best and create an avenue where everybody wins?

Ted Simons: What were the early challenges?
Steve Lopez: Just the concept alone was hard enough. The technology is new, there's good and bad with new technology, as we all know. Being we're on the forefront of using technology to make a difference, it was exciting for me to say, I would love to find a hybrid technology that brings down emissions and particulates so much, not only for myself but my drivers so when they go through daily operations they can spend much less money on fueling their efficient cars. So the model for me fell into place, I thought, wow, that's awesome. My team came together and we thought about it, crunched it. Yeah, cabs. Let's go this way. But do it your way, Steve, with a heart. I think that's so different.

Ted Simons: How long did it take to get traction on this?

Steve Lopez: Oh, man, about nine months, to really get traction. After nine months, we had a growth spurt into our first year after that we had another growth spurt so it started to catch on about nine months to a year and then sailing into 18 months, we knew we had something.

Ted Simons: When the business model was formed and the challenges still there and the traction trying to be found, did you think that people would -- you would have a small by loyal base of customers? Did you think it would be a cab company that would cover the streets and you would win by way of volume?

Steve Lopez: I look at advancement of fleet, but in a smart way, lean and make decisions accordingly. When I look at, yeah, being able to grow quickly, I would like to fit that need but I find, yeah, a lot of loyal customers are coming our way, a lot of loyal patrons are using us. But word of mouth and individuals seeing not just the way we're running the cabs out the door, but also the business model, starting to get excited about what we're doing.

Ted Simons: How many, 42, 44?

Steve Lopez: 42 cabs.

Ted Simons: Talk about the donation cabs, what they do.

Steve Lopez: This is my favorite part of the whole thing. I love that I can take my passion and put it into a profession, if you will. Having these relationships, I think looking at them, if you see the structure of them, PCH, children, needing help for diseases, childhood diseases, then as the children grow up, become adults and have challenges as adults and some may find in the female sector and male sector, breast cancer and we have that awareness for them as well and training and health and education and, you know, funding for Susan G. so they can get better and have goals and hope. I think as you progress from that, you can see the Mesa United Way which encompasses corporations and the ideas around our community and we have boys and girls club and they like to shape and help the way people understand the connection between corporations.

Ted Simons: Is it a donation from every ride. Do you get to choose. I want a Susan G. Komen car?

Steve Lopez: You can and we would love you to do that and we get that a lot. And we understand that we can't bring the Susan G. Komen to everybody all the time but we try our best. But if you're not getting the Susan G. Komen or call up for the Phoenix Children's, or any of the cabs, the end result just taking the cab company allows you to be a part of the solution even if your dollar doesn't go directly to the Susan G. Komen cab, it will go towards the environment or, it will go to charities in one way or the other.

Ted Simons: 42 Priuses. What happens if the Leaf or the Volt catches on? Is that going to be a different business model?

Steve Lopez: That's an interesting question to me. I have a good fit where I'm heading right now. The mileage marker I'm using with the hybrid, able to get very good mileage and I do -- it's interesting to think about those, but for a cab company, 100 miles, 150 miles half a day so the burden of trying to replenish those wonderful new items is going to be hard on the cab come. Having something we can flex with is easier.

Ted Simons: And speaking of flexing, is this the kind of thing -- how many -- are you only company using Prius hybrids for cabs?

Steve Lopez: Solely and exclusively, I think in the southwest, I am, and I think there may be another company in the east. But I know that I'm the only one with the unique model that tries to create the win-win scenario between the corporations and community and Susan G. and everybody.

Ted Simons: Former professional race car driver.

Steve Lopez: Yeah.

Ted Simons: What happened. How come you're not zooming around the track anymore?

Steve Lopez: Sometimes I do for pleasure. Sometimes I go on a track, I know people around town that I'm able to get on tracks once in a while but other than that, I don't have aspirations of driving professionally today, but in the future, of course, this remains successful.

Ted Simons: Good to have you in the program and continued success.

Steve Lopez: I Appreciate it. Thank you very much.
Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of "Arizona Artbeat" takes us to Avondale where, earlier this month, a local charity launched a musical instrument drive. It's just one way Ear Candy Charity is giving kids greater access to a music education.

David Majure: Students from Avondale Lattie Coor and Michael Anderson elementary schools in Avondale are ready to strike up the band.

Joel Hillius: We have 75 in our band right now and 90% of them haven't played an instrument before so we're just getting started.

David Majure: Some kids never get the chance to start a music education because of financial barriers.

Joel Hillius: There was like 40 students that couldn't be in band this year that really wanted to be in band and, anyway, they didn't have the funding for it and neither did our school. So music Ear Candy Charity has been -- has helped us make our band a major success.

David Majure: Ear Candy Charity sponsored the little performance in the park to launch an instrument drive in the west valley. For the first time, the non-profit is teaming up with fire departments in Glendale and Avondale.

Art Snapp: We're very happy to be partnering with Ear Candy charities, to be collection points at our fire stations to allow people to bring musical instruments they want to donate and drop them off and they'll be turned over to Ear Candy charities and rehabbed and brought back into the school system for the use of Avondale and the surrounding communities to benefit from.

Lori Goslar: It means that they have an opportunity and a means to have a tangible instrument they can learn on, build self-esteem on and feel good about themselves and participate at events like this and they may not have the monetary way to get the instrument in their hands. Ear candy provides us another venue of a way we can do that.

Ted Simons: For more information about donating a musical instrument, visit ear candy's website at

Steve Lopez: Clean cabs founder;

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