Teen launches pedicab company
CEDAR CITY, Utah — There’s a new small business owner in town.
Caleb Nelson can’t drive a car just yet, but the 14-yearold is already the owner of Romeo’s Rickshaws, a burgeoning pedicab service. The Cedar High School freshman spent his summer vacation pedaling guests, meeting with advertisers, hiring staff and setting schedules for his eight employees.
“It’s just really fun,” Nelson said excitedly. “Instead of sitting at home playing on my phone or whatever, I get to talk with all of these different people from all over the place and just be in that fun atmosphere.”
What began as a passing conversation quickly turned into a full-time project for Nelson — much to the surprise of his father, Cedar City real estate agent and hotel owner Steve Nelson. The idea for the pedicab first emerged when the elder Nelson was discussing possible downtown projects with his wife and the manager of one of his hotels. As a member of the Historic Downtown Economic Committee, the real estate mogul had been developing strategies to draw more visitors and residents to the downtown area.
He didn’t realize his son had been listening in on the conversation until he came home one day to a PowerPoint presentation pitching the idea of a pedicab business. But he wasn’t entirely convinced, so he proposed a deal — come up with 50 percent of the money needed to purchase two pedicabs for $10,000 and he would partner with his son to get the business going.
“Those things aren’t cheap,” Steve Nelson said. “I figured that would silence him and there was no way he could possible figure out how to do that.”
But his son found a way to raise the money by selling the spaces on the sides of the pedicabs to downtown businesses and restaurants for advertising. In just a few weeks, he had sold $5,000 in advertising, meeting his end of the deal.
So the father and son duo went in as co-owners of the business. They purchased two new pedicabs from a company in Colorado and got the go-ahead from the city. Within a few weeks, Caleb Nelson was ready to go with two brand new rides and a staff of eight employees — who were also his friends.
As a cross country runner and soccer player, he didn’t need much physical training to prepare to pull up to three passengers through the streets of downtown Cedar City. Each cab is outfitted with different gears and cables to make it easier for the pedaler, but it’s still a workout when heading uphill or when traveling long distances.
He did need to learn some basic rules of the road, though, because pedicabs are technically registered as cars. Caleb Nelson’s mom required the young staff go through a basic training so everyone would know how to properly signal and turn.
Romeo’s Rickshaws was ready for business on the opening night of the Utah Shakespeare Festival in June. To capitalize on the Shakespearean theme, Caleb Nelson worked with his grandmother to sew white Elizabethan-style shirts for each of his employees.
“Since I had my shirt, people picked up it is part of Shakespeare pretty quick,” he explained. “So, all of the tourists who come for that were, like, ‘this is so cool.’”
Caleb Nelson, 14, launched a pedicab business this summer ferrying visitors around Cedar City.