By Bridgett Weaver
Greeley Tribune, Colo.
After more than a year of owning a taxi business, Nicole Watkins really has heard it all.
Two days after she started Smart Rides Transportation in Greeley, Watkins hailed a cab to take her home, only to find footprints on the ceiling. When she asked the driver what happened, he said she probably didn’t want to know.
She laughed and said, “Yes, I probably don’t.”
A few footprints on the ceiling seem like a minor consequence of the three businesses Watkins runs, all while taking care of her two daughters.
Watkins’ busy schedule, along with her determination to be a prominent Greeley businesswoman, has landed her on the Greeley Chamber of Commerce’s list of honorees this year for its annual awards dinner. Watkins will be recognized as Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
She was raised in Greeley, and she graduated from UNC with a degree in accounting.
After working for a few years in Denver, Watkins and her husband moved back to Greeley, and that’s when the businesses started.
While Watkins likes her other businesses, she refers to Smart Rides as her “baby.”
What started as a hobby project quickly turned into a full-grown company.
“We kind of had the thoughts that people call in for a ride and someone goes and gets them in a car, but it’s very regulated,” Watkins said. “Unlike Uber, all of our drivers have to be background-checked, finger-printed, and we drug test so that you know whoever is getting in the car is safe. We need to prove to the community why we should be their No. 1 choice.”
Smart Rides has seen the most growth of any of her businesses since it opened in August 2014.