Most parents of active youngsters have, at one time or another, experienced the challenge of having to be in two places at once as one child heads to dance class while another is due at the baseball field.
FishHawk Ranch parents Rhonda Wills-Johnson, the mother of four, and Roger Cleworth, father of three, certainly can attest.
"We've all been there, running from place to place like chickens with our heads cut off," said Wills-Johnson.
One day, while sitting at the , watching their kids play soccer, it occurred to longtime friends Cleworth and Wills-Johnson how helpful it would be if there were a taxi service for kids.
"We started talking about it and, the more we discussed it, the more we liked the idea," said Wills-Johnson. "Providing a transportation service for children would be a great way to get kids involved in activities who may not have a chance because their parents have to be somewhere else. And it would also gives busy parents a break from having to drive their kids all over town."
Wills-Johnson, a former Realtor, and Cleworth, a Web designer, liked the idea so much, they decided to start their own service.
"We started doing research and found similar services in Texas, North Carolina and Miami," said Wills-Johnson. "We thought it could be equally successful in a neighborhood like FishHawk Ranch where everything is close by."
The name of their transportation service is based on the old joke about moms running a taxi service for their kids.
"We decided to go with the opposite, Not Your Mother's Taxi," said Wills-Johnson. "It's funny and you get an idea of what we're all about."
Establishing their business in Hillsborough County was no easy feat, however. All taxi services are permitted through the county's Public Transportation Commission, which requires background checks, financial statements, driving records and an explanation of why the service is needed.
"After we provided all of the information, we then had to go to a hearing in Tampa," said Wills-Johnson. "When it was our turn to be approved by the board, they asked us to come up to the podium and tell them more about our service because they thought it was such a unique idea. It was nice to get that kind of reaction."
The duo was fortunate to find two 2009 Mercedes Sprinter vans that they had wrapped with colorful black/white and yellow graphics.
With the 14-passenger vans ready to go, Not Your Mother's Taxi was officially launched April 22.
Not Your Mother's Taxi provides rides from children's homes or schools to sporting events, dance and karate classes, after-school programs and tutoring.
"We'll go any place a child needs a ride to within a six-mile radius of Park Square," said Wills-Johnson. The cost of a single ride is $8. However, parents can purchase $100 packages for 20 rides, which brings the cost down to $5 per ride.
"The packages don't expire," said Wills-Johnson. "Parents can use them any time."
Not Your Mother's Taxi also is available for full-day and half-day rentals for groups up to a 60-mile round trip.
"That way, a sports team can use us to travel to an away game or a group can rent us for the day to go to an attraction," said Wills-Johnson.
Wills-Johnson and Cleworth also are planning to use their vans to shuttle families to big events in Park Square such as the summer concert series.
"They won't have to worry about finding a place to park," said Wills-Johnson.
In addition, the duo are partnering with local summer camps and vacation Bible schools to provide transportation for children.
Families heading on vacation can even use the service for a trip to the airport.
Wills-Johnson said the response from the community has been positive.
"Everyone we've talked to is very excited about it," she said, "especially parents of latchkey kids, age 12-15, who would normally be sitting at home. Now they can sign up for after-school activities, sports and tutoring."
Parents who use the service can be confident that their child is in good hands because they'll receive a text message notifying them that Not Your Mother's Taxi is on the way to pick up the child. They then receive another text message when the child is in the van and a third message when the child has arrived at his destination.
"We also have a website that allows parents to check where the van is at any time," said Wills-Johnson. "As parents ourselves, the safety factor is very big for us. Our whole focus is providing a safe, comfortable way to get kids somewhere."
Reservations for the taxi service are made on the website, although Cleworth is also developing an application parents will be able to use.
Not Your Mother's Taxi can provide service with as little as an hour's advanced notice.
"That makes it ideal for parents who find out at the last minute that they're going to be stuck at work and won't come home in time to take their child to an activity," said Wills-Johnson.
While most of their clients are between age 9 and 14, they'll transport children as young as 6 and as old as 17.