The road to success often includes unforeseen detours and bumps along the way, and such was certainly the case for one Island entrepreneur starting up a limousine service from ground zero.
“There certainly were… but it’s all about the journey, right?,” says a perceptive Selena VanApeldoorn, owner/operator of Vancouver Island Limousine.
Established in 2011, V.I. Limo has become a front runner for those looking for a taste of the high life here on the rock.
“I kind of stumbled into it,” Selena, 33, explains when asked why a limousine service. “I was in a car accident — a drunk driver hit me.”
Born and raised in Port Alberni and a member of the Hupacasath band, Selena was working as a professional vehicle detailer for G.M. at the time. The accident left her unable to return to her job — unable to continue pushing herself physically.
“My body just wasn’t able to do it any more, so I got to the stage where ‘ok I have to get on with my life now. Am I going to go back to school? Am I going to find something where I can be my own boss? It was a great chance for me to change careers.”
That accident, she says, opened the door to a business idea her husband Chris had come up with years prior but never acted on.
“I was tired of hearing about these drunk drivers hitting people, so I picked up on his idea that this would be a great way to promote not drinking and driving. To promote people getting home safely and also protecting those pedestrians and other people out on the road, so I ran with the idea.”
Fast forward to today, and V.I. Limo is a lot more than a shuttle. It’s an experience that can turn a girls’ (or guys) night out, a wedding, a birthday, a sporting event or any other special event, into something special.
She says she’d already started researching the limo business when an acquaintance told her about NEDC “and about how great it is, how they help establish new businesses… they were amazing.”
Selena ended up taking NEDC’s intense two week bootcamp for new businesses, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“There was like 12 of us,” she says proudly. “I had the hardest business plan out of the group because of all the licensing requirements, and I was the only one that started a business.”
Understandably, she says it was a big learning curve, both for her, and for NEDC.
Everything from where one gets limousines, to knowing the competition, to tapping into different markets. From securing a vehicle, to attaining her chauffeur’s licence, to learning what’s expected of a limousine driver.
With business plan in hand and investment capital ready she set out.
There was a long running limousine service in Port Alberni that happened to be closing at that time, but the vehicles were outdated and tired, and so, after more research, she made the decision to hit the ground running with a brand new custom-ordered SUV limo out of the states.
“It was quite a process,” she said, adding “there were some bumps on the road.”
In designing the interior of her limo — a 30 foot stretched Ford Expedition — she says “It was all about what does the customer want, not what do I want.”
The end result is a sweet one-of-a-kind SUV limo designed with the Island views in mind. A masterpiece on wheels — a rolling escape from every day life that brings a smile to the face of everyone who experiences it.
And it’s all those happy customers, that fuels Selena.
“Absolutely,’ she says. “I’m the type of person that loves to make people happy, I love to brighten their day up. And that’s kind of what I do. I make their day memorable, and make them happy and excited, which makes me happy what I do. I love it.”
Last month she added a second limousine to her stable.
For complete details on Vancouver Island Limousine go to http://vancouverislandlimo.comShare