How One Life-Saving Business is Keeping The Party Going
North Dakota received a DUI severity score of 92.1 out of 100, making it the worst state in the nation according to findings from the FBI and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Buzi Bus is looking to change that, one safe ride home at a time.
Buzi Bus is a rideshare service, in the FMWF and DL areas, that aims to combine the efficiency of a taxi service with the feel of a party bus. I sat down with Xavier Bonner, founder of the Buzi Bus, to discuss the details of the rideshare business, along with what he’s learned from single-handedly launching a business while pursuing a college degree. Learn more about Buzi Bus’ new app, how much they’ve grown since launching nearly two years ago and more.
Buzi Bus’ Beginnings
It’s no secret that college students like to go out, have fun and make the most of their first years of freedom. Bonner was no different. During his time in college, he realized that there was a gap in the transportation market that could be fulfilled. “Based on my personal experiences, there’s the pregame, and then there’s the house party or the bars. And from the pregame to the party or bars, you have to get a ride,” Bonner said. “There’s a point where you’re having a good time, then there’s a time where you’re not having as good of a time or bored. We want to change that period right there, so riders can continue to have fun throughout the night.”
The Buzi Bus first launched on August 19, 2020. “It had started really slow. On the first day, we had zero riders. On the second day, we had four riders, which were some of my friends. Then that Saturday, it kicked off through word of mouth, with a total of roughly 65 riders. From there, we’ve just kept on growing,” Bonner said.
Today, there’s a consistent average of 100-150 riders per night during the summer season. When school was in session this past spring, with more college-aged riders in the area, the rider average was roughly 200-250 riders per night. As Buzi Bus grows in locations and capacity, they’re confident that reliance on them will as well. While gaining word-of-mouth and growing to become wildly popular amongst the college demographic was a struggle at first, it wasn’t the only challenge that Bonner faced when beginning the business.
Xavier Bonner, Founder of Buzi Bus
Balancing College and Business
Starting a business can be challenging enough in the perfect conditions and setting, but Bonner has endured an experience more unique than most. Not only did he pursue his Buzi Bus vision during an ongoing pandemic, but he did so while pursuing a bachelor’s degree simultaneously. When asked about what challenges he faced along the way, he didn’t shy away from discussing the obstacles that were thrown in front of him.
“It was hell. It definitely builds up in your head and can be overwhelming at times, but it’s all worth it. One of our biggest challenges has been vehicle maintenance since everything costs money. People say that it costs money to make money, which is true. I mean, you can do things that are low cost and high reward. But when you’re trying to really build something, there’s always going to be costs,” Bonner said.
In 2018, North Dakota was ranked the “drunkest state” by USA Today, which measured the statistic by most gallons of alcohol drank per capita.
Even though we’re college-aged, we don’t just cater to college people. We’re focused on safety for everyone and we’ll pick anyone up in need of a ride.-Xavier Bonner
Despite these obstacles, Bonner was able to find balance, with the future looking bright for the Buzi Bus. Bonner recently earned his bachelor’s degree from NDSU, a goal that he was determined to accomplish. “I’m happy that I have my degree. I wouldn’t force it on anybody to push through if they don’t want to, but it was a goal for me to finish school, and I really wanted to accomplish that. I view a lot of goals as tests in my life, to keep me motivated and keep on pushing.”
While Bonner is running what may still be a young and growing company, he’s already picked up on some entrepreneurial tips and advice along the way. “My biggest piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to just stick with it. Doubts can creep into your mind from time to time. You just have to stay positive, know what your goals are and keep on pushing. Also, building connections with people is huge. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’re all on your own. You have to learn things, piece by piece, from each person that you meet,” Bonner said.
“Keeping good relationships with people is also huge for any type of growth. When people ask about your business, one of the most important things is how it reflects on you as a business owner. That’s why it’s super important for me to always keep those positive connections with people and just be a good person. We let bar managers know that if somebody had too much to drink, they can always give us a call, and it’s great to have those relationships with them.”
Buzi Bus Today
Since launching, Buzi Bus has grown in inventory, staff and location covered, all while remaining true to the original mission. The business first began with one van to support the FMWF area, before recently expanding to Detroit Lakes, MN. As the company nears two years of service, the team behind Buzi Bus has hit their stride and found an ideal balance.
“We’re going on year three this school year. We’ve expanded to DL this summer, and we’re hoping to be in Grand Forks for this coming school year as well. Maybe not at the very beginning of the school year, but hopefully this fall, we’ll be in Grand Forks,” Bonner said.
With the recent expansion to Detroit Lakes, comes the need to have a steady inventory on hand. “We have two vans in Fargo and one in Detroit Lakes, but some weekends in DL have been really busy, so we may bounce our second van back and forth, based on how busy it is,” Bonner said.
“If there are upcoming events where I know that DL will be busier, such as the 4th of July or WE Fest, we’ll be sure to have two vans out there.” Currently, they have five drivers available in Fargo and three available in Detroit Lakes, able and ready to drive if needed.
As they’ve grown and become known for their efficient transportation services from pregame to party, they’ve begun advertising another form of party transportation: event package shuttling. “We do a lot of birthdays, weddings, bachelorette and bachelor parties. We’ll also have groups that want to go to the bars all night, so we’ll shuttle them and be there for them the whole time,” Bonner said.
When they want to go from one bar to the next, we’re sitting out front on time ready for them. At weddings, we’ll be there at the ceremony when they need rides to the hotel, and we’ll bring them back and forth. In terms of price, our event rates are much cheaper than a lot of other places, as we only charge $100 an hour. That covers our gas costs and payment for our drivers.”
With so many moving parts in launching, and running, the Buzi Bus business, prioritizing goals and tasks within the company can make a significant difference in success. Lately, Bonner and his team have been hard at work on developing their mobile application.
All of our rides are individual payments, so it’s only gonna hit your account for $5, rather than our competitors that could charge up to $35.We’re more so worries about getting people home safe, rather than how much our drivers are raking in every ride.-Xavier Bonner
The Buzi Bus App
Earlier this year, Buzi Bus launched a mobile application for riders to get in touch with the rideshare service. The idea to have an app available for riders has been in mind since the beginning. While the app is a success amongst riders today, the journey to launching it was both daunting and testing.
“You would think that making the app is super simple; just click and drag, right? But no, there was definitely a learning curve to begin with. I’m blessed to have the friends I do. People tell you that it’s all about who you know. I stumbled upon a few friends that were coders, Mitchell Knox and Christian Koski, that wanted to help out. They’re sticking around to continue furthering the app and pushing new updates to get new features out there, bug fixes and more,” Bonner said.
While the app has proven to be successful and efficient for riders to operate, the team is looking into implementing more features in the near future. “We’re going to be adding notifications, which will help with driver-rider communication, like knowing when the driver got the request, and when they’re on their way. We’d also like to add a feature where riders can select their favorite drivers,” Bonner said.
“If the driver is active, the rider can message them and say ‘Hey, we’re looking to go out tonight, and we’ll be scheduling a ride with you.’ That way, that driver has rides at that time, and they can pick up rides as the night goes. We’ll also be adding our location services through GPS mapping, so the rider will be able to see where we are. We’re hoping to add that feature within the next year or two, tops.”
“We want to get it out to people because they’re supporting us and want to see new features, but everything just takes time. We take everything into consideration and work on everything that people send us, so we appreciate the feedback.-Xavier Bonner
Here are some of the newest features included in Buzi Bus’ latest app update!
- Added support for Apple Pay and Google Pay for iPhone and Android.
- Added full riding history for customers.
- Added ability to share ride links with friends for multiple riders.
- Ability to track the number of rides a driver has given.
What’s Next for Buzi Bus?
It’s safe to say that Buzi Bus has come a long way in the short time that the business has been in operation. However, Bonner and his team have many goals, both short and long-term, that will keep them determined and focused on the business’s future. “We’re here to have a good time, get our riders from point A to point B and have an impact on people’s nights,” Bonner said.
Between the increase in vans and employees, a recent expansion to Detroit Lakes (and upcoming to Grand Forks), as well as ambitious plans for their always-improving mobile app, Bonner has his eyes on the prize: saving lives. Whether it be a wedding, birthday party or a simple ride downtown with friends, Buzi Bus offers a safe ride to your destination, and a party while doing it.
Their active hours may be on weekends, but they can’t stress enough that they’re open for events any time of day!