Former Tennessee basketball fan favorite Dane Bradshaw believes he's on the road to success with his new business venture.
Bradshaw is president and part-owner of Taxi On Demand, a new service that provides prepaid Discover Network Cards that can only be used for taxi rides.
The concept, aimed at parents interested in ensuring their young drivers' safety away from home, was developed by John Thornton Jr.
Thornton is a former University of Tennessee tennis player who now is head tennis coach at Tennessee Wesleyan College. He is the son of John "Thunder" Thornton, a well-known UT booster who once served on the university's board of trustees.
It was Thornton who sought out Bradshaw after the crowd-pleasing basketball player spent his first year out of Tennessee playing professionally in Holland.
"Mr. Thornton has been a coach for me in the business world, and a great friend and mentor," said Bradshaw, who has a bachelor's degree in communication and information and a master's in sport management from UT.
"I was fortunate after my senior year to have nice job offers on the table, but they were things that could wait until I was finished playing basketball," said Bradshaw, who continues to play pickup games with current Vols and participates in the summertime Rocky Top League at Bearden High School. "When I was approached with this offer, this was a company that was going to go on with or without me.
"It was such a unique opportunity and a great cause; that's what intrigues me the most."
Bradshaw was hired by Thornton last July and has spent the past year setting up the company.
The Taxi cards, which are sold with values of $35, $50, $100 and $200, are run on the Discover Network and can be used in any cab in the country that accepts Discover.
"Discover has been tremendous partners, as they have allowed us to trim down the code so the card can only be used for taxis," Bradshaw said. "If you try to use the card for anything else, it will get declined."
Taxi On Demand has created a data base that consumers can reach by calling 888-4TODTAXI (888-486-3829) to find taxis in their area.
"You call the number, enter the area code, and an automated voice will prompt you to connect to various taxi companies," Bradshaw said. "People don't think Knoxville has any taxis, but there are over 20 companies in the area."
Bradshaw said Taxi On Demand already has gained interest from his meetings with insurance company State Farm and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Some test cards were put out into the market, and Bradshaw said the results have been encouraging.
"The fun is just beginning now that we have a product we can put out to the public that can save some lives," Bradshaw, 25, said. "We gave some test cards out to (college) kids, and they've said they would have ridden with a drunk driver or maybe even drove themselves without it. Kids aren't willing to spend an extra 10 bucks for a safe ride.
I enjoy doing public speaking engagements here and there, and putting on basketball camps. But politics have never been something I've looked at; those guys have a tough job.
"But it's not just for drinking and driving, it's for college girls who carry a can of mace at night to walk back to their dorms from the library. This is a safety card that provides parents a certain peace of mind."
The 20company is based in Chattanooga, but Bradshaw works out of Knoxville. He expects the company to expand as the business grows.
Many have suggested that the ever-popular Bradshaw - who already has authored a book titled "Vertical Leap" - consider a future in politics.
"I enjoy doing public speaking engagements here and there, and putting on basketball camps," Bradshaw said. "But politics have never been something I've looked at; those guys have a tough job.
"I've also been asked about coaching or broadcasting, and those are things I might do in the future."
For now, Bradshaw has his hands full as the driving force behind Taxi On Demand.
"It's taken us a long time to get everything together for this,'' Bradshaw said. "You have your ups and downs, like with anything, but you keep on going and we finally have the Taxi On Demand cards available.''
Bradshaw and other Taxi On Demand associates will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Monday at the Chattanoogan Hotel in Chattanooga to formally launch the operation.
Mike Griffith may be reached at 865-342-6289.