Wayne Dorsey moved up and down the eastern states as a child, rarely staying in one place more than 2 years. “It wasn’t a military thing”, Wayne clarified. It was a life thing. Frederick was among those places and his memories of this area and nearby family would ultimately bring him back to launch a non-profit business.
But, first, he attended West Virginia University, where he earned a degree in Computer Engineering. He went to work in the IT troubleshooting department of a law firm and found he had a passion for fixing things. Then a friend in Morgantown for help with a business he started called Dub V Safe Ride. Wayne began giving rides to people who had too much to drink to drive safely and was struck people's appreciation. People would recognize Wayne and thank him for what he did for the community. A year into hearing things like “This guy’s the best”, Wayne quit his IT job and joined the board of Dub V Safe Ride and assumed responsibility for daily operations. He felt a calling to help people on a full time basis. “I’m not done with computers”, Wayne noted, “but, this is what I think is important to do now.”
Soon Wayne was ready to expand Dub V Safe Ride to other locations, but his friend, the founder, was not. So, Wayne began looking into locations to launch his own business. At first he considered larger markets, like Pittsburg, but at the advice of colleagues decided to focus on mid-size cities. As it turns out, Wayne was spending a lot of time in Frederick, socializing and doing stand-up comedy at local bars. Passionate about reducing drunk driving, he often shared his vision. A bartender suggested Frederick. It seems young people here speak of their first (first?!) DUI as if it were a badge of honor. Wayne went home and prayed about it and, after a time, felt called to Frederick.
He began work on S.O.S. Safe Ride almost immediately. From the website Wayne built (along with a mobile phone app), “Safe Ride” is Frederick’s premier designated driver service, working towards one main goal – providing a safe and friendly conclusion to any night out on the town. We drive you AND your vehicle home safely when you’re simply unable to do so — it’s as simple as that."
Wayne formed a board with himself as President. The board has two other members, a Secretary who publishes meeting notes and the reports required for non-profit organizations, and, wisely, a trusted attorney who serves as an interim CFO. Wayne handles all aspects of operations, promotion and fund-raising. “I work about 100 hours a week”, Wayne noted as a testament of his commitment rather than a complaint. He’s also taking no salary the first year so more of the funds raised go to paying drivers and growing Safe Ride. Safe Ride has been in operation for about a month now, after a series of soft launches where they gave free rides to patrons to test their process, gain familiarity with routes, and train employees.
Drivers (there are currently six of them) must pass a background check, must have a clean driving record, and must be courteous. Drivers are paid $4.25 an hour, plus tips. Given the generosity of their customers, Safe Ride has yet to have to make up a gap between earnings and the $8.25 minimum wage in Frederick. Some have suggested drivers should work entirely on a volunteer basis. To that Wayne asks, “Let’s be honest, would YOU volunteer to drive drunk people around at 3 am? We pay a pretty minimal salary to keep our costs low, but even with that drivers make a very reasonable salary after their tips, and all of them are here because they want to help the cause.”
Why target drunk driving? Wayne explains, “I like the feeling of helping people. That could be anything - a shelter, a food bank, etc., but no one else was doing this specifically. My passion when working in IT was helping people – fixing IT problems. Now I’m doing this, trying to fix drunk driving.”
When asked why he formed Safe Ride as a non-profit, Wayne explained, “There are others doing this as a for-profit enterprise, such as Dshofer (the biggest in the country), as well as Steerclear and BeMyDD, which are the Uber/Lyft of the industry. To cover costs, their rates are really high. Overhead is pretty high as you’d imagine – especially insurance. Because S.O.S. Safe Ride is a non-profit that gets much of its funding from sponsors, we can make using us very affordable, which in turn means we can help more people. We want there to be very few barriers to choosing us over driving your own car while drunk.”
Budweiser/Wantz Distributor (money), Mountain Motors (a car), and BACtrack (breathalyzers) are among their first sponsors, along with various foundations and individuals.
When looking for a place to operate his business, Wayne looked at several offices for lease, but didn’t have enough funding – or a need – for an office just yet. He learned about Cowork Frederick from web search, took a tour and joined as a part-time member in March. “I liked what I saw the day I took a tour, but it’s even better than I expected. I love the community. There’s no catch, just people who really support you and are interested in what you’re doing.” Wayne gave an example. Just before our interview, Beth Mende Conny struck up a conversation with him in the break room and offered valuable tips about working with reporters and ways to get media exposure. He also noted he likes that his membership comes with use of conference rooms for meetings and that things like WiFi and office supplies are part of the package. “I can cross those costs off the budget”, he said with a smile.
In his spare time (still trying to figure out when that is), Wayne is a skateboarder, musician, basketball player, and professional stand-up comedian. Stand-up comedian? “I’ve always liked stand-up comedy. After watching so much of it, I decided to give it a try. The first night I killed it, and, as comedians say, I caught the bug.” Wayne now does stand-up at Nola’s, the Owl’s Club, and Guido’s. The appeal? “The creative ethic. You can never steal a joke – you have to come up with something funny on your own. When you do, you know you wrote the joke (which likely didn’t work the first time), you changed it around, cut the fat off, and learned how to serve it up in just the right way to make people laugh.
Wayne’s advice to others? “A long time ago, a wise person said to me: ‘If you ever have to take a vacation from what you do, never come back.’ My personal advice is: Whatever you decide to do in life, especially if it’s business, make sure you’re passionate about it. The rest will come. It’s hard work, lots of paperwork, 100-hour weeks, but if you love it and want it to work, you’ll stick with it. Believe in your idea, because no one else will if you don’t.”
We believe in you and your idea, Wayne, and can’t wait to see where your passion takes you.