Many small businesses, even “essential” ones, are on the brink of closing their doors due to the lack of business since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
One such business is Mercury Transportation, located in Dallas, which is part of a local ride share fleet under the Uber platform, helping the Dallas economy by transporting essential workers during COVID pandemic. For example, Mercury has provided rides for traveling nurses and doctors who are here to help in Texas with the Pandemic Crisis.
“Many of our patrons use the same drivers that they have bonded with previously. Trust is very important,” said Managing Partner and CEO Rafael Aguilar. “We have also helped church volunteers deliver food to their elderly members of their church, since the elderly are more prone to the coronavirus. Our Executive Drivers have helped many Texans who lost their jobs and cars get to where they desperately needed to go for a fresh start or a temporary solution. In these difficult times, our company is making a difference.”
Mercury started off in 2019 with two cars, but quickly became one of the largest Uber fleets in Dallas in less than a year. They were aiming to start expanding to other cities when the pandemic struck. Once the initial shock wore off, Mercury’s ownership and management began researching and calling different potential sources that would lead to a solution. They found a few ways to be one of the few transportation fleets to remain in operation.
They applied for a government Small Business Loan, via a Payment Protection Program (PPP), about a month ago. Unfortunately, the government recently announced that funding for the PPP has run out.
“Faith, unity and resiliency are the three things I am holding onto, so I strongly encourage you all do the same in this crisis,” Aguilar said. “It is very easy to have faith when things are working for you, but when things appear to work against you, it is more important to hold on to your faith. We are all in this together.”
Fortunately, Mercury’s landlord, Nadim Ahmed, who owns Venture X, which is a co-working space near the Galleria, has waived the rent for a number of businesses that have leased from him (if they qualify) until they can get back on their feet. This was a major contributor to Mercury and others to being able to keep their doors open.
“Mercury Transportation offices at a beautiful co-working space at Venture X, located right next to the Galleria,” said Ahmed. He is an entrepreneur himself, and understands the pain and hurdles businesses are currently going through and has worked closely with his members, like Mercury Transportation, to provide resources, flexibility, and rent deferrals to ensure these businesses not only survive, but are able to come out the other side stronger.
“My members aren’t just customers; they are the lifeline and core foundation of my co-working space,” Ahmed said. “Even with the social distancing, we are still a community that help and support each other. Making money in your business is always great, but as it is clear during these times, if others around you aren’t making money, the whole community will slowly fade. Co-working spaces seem like the place to stay away from during these times, but as we get back to ‘living,’ we will need these entrepreneurial communities to work together to make the economy strong again,” Ahmed explained.
“We thank our local nurses, doctors, police officers, retail workers and those who are out there, continuing to work like our executive drivers do, helping the community function. We usually work six days a week and have one day off, but last week, many of our drivers worked seven days because they understand that, in order for our Mercury community to get through this, we all must play our part. Our drivers are doing a fine job seeing the bigger picture. I ask for prayers for our drivers and want to give them personal recognition.Thank you to Kejuan Holmes, Shannon Garner, Josie Cain, Lynn Sullivan, Rodrick Lynn, Damon Avery, Pamela Tyler, Jose Carbajal, Matthew Holiwell, Obaidul Arnob, Paul Binion and Dylan Davis. Also thank you to the administrative team: Rodney Middleton, Mark Priddy and Britt Lloyd.
Rodney Middleton, General Manager of Mercury, says that, “The biggest changes I’ve experienced before COVID-19 was adjusting to the many different variables that come with working in the transportation industry. For example, no two days are the same. On some weekends, I’ve earned over $500 in a single shift, but there have been some weekends where rides were scarce, and it didn’t feel like a Friday or Saturday. After the quarantine started, the biggest change I’ve experienced is how more strategic I’ve had to be in the areas I venture into. This is to ensure that I receive trips, because rides are mainly limited to essential workers and I’m aware that they work designated shifts, so I have to be in the right place at the right time throughout the day.”
Middleton also said that this quarantine has caused him a pay cut “because of the limited amount of ride requests through the Uber app, but luckily being part of the Mercury Transportation Fleet, I have a true, reliable support system and an ownership team that’s doing everything in their power to make sure all drivers are being taken care of, and we continue progressing forward to weather this storm, because the potential for success will be endless after COVID-19 is resolved.”
Mercury is following the quarantine guidelines for essential businesses.
“To protect myself and my clients during this pandemic, I wear a mask, take my vehicle to the car wash daily before I start my shift and I frequently spray Lysol and wipe down the seats and doors in between clients. All items and resources are provided to drivers by Mercury to invest in our health and to keep both drivers and clients safe,” Middleton added.
“Before COVID-19, my clients were mainly an assortment of folks from young adults just entering the workforce to those who’ve worked and retired, but even though they were all different, they all had one thing in common: They enjoyed being in an environment that felt isolated from the issues of world and could experience a genuine laugh and relax during their ride. I try to provide this experience to all clients, which has been a true comfort to my patrons during this pandemic because the world is in a state of panic, and as a driver, I try to bring a bit of positivity to each person I have the pleasure of meeting,” Middleton concluded.
Several of the Mercury fleet drivers had a perspective to add.
Executive Driver Obaidul Arnob said, “We have transport people who work in various fields, from retail, to manufacturing to medical. Mercury stands proud as a surviving small business during this pandemic that can keep the manpower and economy moving, no matter the circumstance.”
“We have been able to help our drivers for the most part, maintain their commission, while also assisting our local economy during this crisis by pivoting our services where it is most needed. Rather than focusing on the nightlife scene that no longer exists, our time is currently spent transporting essential workers,” said Managing Partner John Holt.
“I hear it day in and day out: Thank you, thank you, thank you! Whether the patron’s vehicle has broken down, has been in a wreck or if it’s in the shop, we provide the transportation they need to get to work. We even take truck drivers home after they have made a trip around the country, delivering essential products to us all,” said Shift Supervisor Lyn Sullivan.
“People tell me every day how thankful they are that Mercury is here for them. Many are grateful that we are available after midnight for rides, being that many drivers are not on the road to take a ride. I’m thankful that we offer a service to people who need help just getting from point A to B,” said Executive Driver Paul Binion.
“I am blessed to work for an essential company like Mercury Transportation,” said Executive Driver Matthew Holiwell. “They give us the opportunity and tools that we need day in and day out, not only for our paychecks, but to serve and help the DFW community to keep thriving. I am thankful and so is Dallas for Mercury Transportation.”
“Managing our finance department behind the scenes has been extremely difficult during this time of crisis, due to our revenue being cut almost 60%,” said CFO Perla Morales-Aguilar. “I prioritize our drivers being taken care of before anything else because they are such an essential component of our company and our economy. I am so grateful for their courage and loyalty. That is why, as a minority owner, I am also here in my office doing everything possible to ensure Mercury remains open, and our drivers do not join the many Americans left without a job.”
If you need a ride, make sure to call Uber Fleet Members Mercury Transportation at 888.914.6372 or book a ride in advance HERE.