Former Ethiopian refugee and business owner finds opportunity at TPA
(May 11, 2018) When Brook Negusei left his home country of Ethiopia at age 17, he didn’t have much choice of where he landed in the United States. As a refugee fleeing a country under what he felt was a repressive political climate, he felt fortunate to be sponsored by Lutheran Ministries of Florida and placed in Tampa.
There, he immediately found friendly people, a warm climate like the one he had at home and a whole new world of opportunity. Negusei never dreamed, however, that he’d be running a successful taxi service that most recently was awarded a subcontract to serve Tampa International Airport customers along with Yellow Cab and United Cab.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Negusei said. “It’s a wonderful reward to be able to show off my skill and my passion for this industry.”
Shortly after coming to the U.S. as a teen, Negusei studied at Hillsborough Community College and at home, earning an electronics degree and eventually opening an electronics shop that handled 26 employees and millions in revenue each year.
But in traveling to seminars and trying out different taxi and town car services, as well as in talking to some cab-driving friends, Negusei became fascinated with the transportation industry. He saw potential in creating a more upscale car service that focused on pampering passengers and making them feel special.
“I wanted to create a town car service that charged like a cab but used a nicer black-on-black car and a dressed-up driver with a tie,” Negusei said. “I asked my taxi friends, ‘Why not focus on serving people, opening the door for them, and getting better tips?’”
In the late 1990s, Negusei took a chance and started a cab company with a few sedans and some well-dressed drivers. Now, nearly 25 years later, he owns and operates Cab Plus, Tampa Town Car, FLEXSedans and Transafe Transportation, a non-medical ride service for those in wheelchairs or with other special needs. Two years ago, Transafe became certified as an Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (ACDBE) company in Negusei’s hopes to be able to pick up travelers at the airport one day.
In February, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority awarded a new contract to Yellow Cab and United Cab with Transafe Transportation as a 10 percent partner to operate taxi rides dispatched from the Airport.
“Mr. Negusei is an astute and experienced business owner and we are pleased to have him as an ACDBE partner involved with Airport operations ,” TPA Business Diversity Manager Cheryl Hawkins said. “He has been in the business a long time and understands both the taxi cab industry and the fundamentals of operating a business, which are essential components for success at the Airport.”
Negusei said the Hawkins and Business Diversity Specialist Bonnie Yauilla were instrumental in helping him understand the ACDBE certification process and what was involved with doing business with the Airport. He also praised TPA’s ground transportation staff, whom he and his drivers work with closely.
“[TPA Senior Manager of Parking & Ground Transportation] Karl Martin has been tremendous help encouraging me and supporting me all the way,” Negusei said.
He looks forward to what he hopes a long working relationship with TPA and is excited to be a part of Tampa Bay’s growing travel and tourism industry.
“I’m so thankful for the opportunity to greet visitors who are just arriving to Tampa and to treat them with excellent service the moment they set foot in town,” Negusei said. “Right now, it’s only 10 percent of customers, but in the future, who knows? It’s a great place to learn and grow.”