When I started a financial services company more than three decades ago, I encountered some of the same obstacles that all new businesses must overcome if they are to succeed. With luck and effort my company grew from three employees to hundreds of employees, from one client to thousands, and from a single office in my parents’ living room to multiple offices across the nation and abroad. But when I look back, I’m astonished at how few hardships I faced compared with the ordeal confronting Hector Ricketts. I had no city council to appease, no state‐conferred monopoly to dislodge, no bare‐knuckled political battles to win if I wanted to operate, no labor unions dedicated to putting me out of business, no operating restrictions that made it impossible to compete.
The essential task I shared with Queens Van Plans was to build a client base eager to purchase the service I offered. But while my clients were sophisticated investors with lots of capital, Hector’s clients are working class immigrants suffering the daily privations of city life. One rider, an elderly man, asked and received change for a ten dollar bill to pay his dollar fare (the buses don’t make change). A second rider, a mom returning early from school with a sick child, asked to be let off close to her home (you don’t ask the buses; they tell you where to get off). There were others: all happy to be on clean, safe vans; all thrilled to save fifty cents each trip; all would have been amazed if they knew the lengths to which their government was willing to go in order to shut down their indispensable transportation.