A successful entrepreneur far, far from home.

Posted: April 12, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Culture, Leadership, People, Startup

jerry-malsh-2015It’s 6:00 AM and 7 below zero as my wife and I get into a cab headed for CVG on our way to some Southern warmth.   At least once every winter we stay at a Northern Kentucky hotel to avoid the ‘wintry mix’ of chaos guaranteed to occur the night before and the morning we’re scheduled to leave.

Our cab is a late-model Audi. Since we’ve both owned Audis for years, I’m already feeling comfortable as our driver asks us which airline we’re flying.

I notice his accent but can’t quite place it and ask him where he’s from.

Serbia.

Serbia. That bombshell of a word explodes in my mind, spewing out its shrapnel of hellacious images: Civil war, ethnic cleansing, mass graves and countless other unspeakable atrocities committed by man against his fellow man.

Obrad Millisic was 23 when he came to Northern Kentucky in 1999 with his brother and parents in search of a better, safer, longer life. None of them spoke any English. Obrad’s aunt already lived in this area and sponsored the family through the Catholic Charities Refugee Program.

Obrad was unable to find work in Serbia since his native country was still in the throes of its turmoil and, other than the black market, its economy was nonexistent.

His first American job was as a metal worker at Eastern Sheet Metal in Blue Ash. From there he went to Overhead Door Company of Greater Cincinnati where he became a team leader (an intrapreneur), supervising a group of employees on a variety of different assignments.

 While at Overhead Door, Obrad decided he wanted to do something else and work for himself. So in 2006 he and his brother purchased two 26- ft. moving trucks and offered their delivery services as contractors for a logistics company. Obrad was now an entrepreneur in the transportation business and his business was doing well.

Then came the recession. And with it came a tremendous loss of business for the logistics company he served, which in turn had its negative impact on his own business. Yet while the logistics company never really recovered from its setback, Obrad kept himself busy seeking out other business opportunities. He decided on the taxi business by reasoning that if he ever decided to quit working he would always be able to lease his taxi licenses to other people. He also decided to initially focus his business on providing transportation to and from CVG.

To research his new concept, Obrad would sit next to I-275 for ten-minute intervals and count the number of cabs that would pass to and from the airport. His findings convinced him he was on the right track.

CVG Taxi started business in July of 2013 with two Kentucky taxi licenses, two drivers (Obrad and his brother) and two cars. In 2014, Obrad was granted four Ohio taxi licenses and now had a fleet of six cabs. Shortly thereafter, he received a letter from the airport’s attorney telling him to change his business name. Since his cabs were all top quality vehicles, brand new and immaculately clean, he chose Luxury Cab as the new name. Today, Luxury Cab’s contractors are Americans, Africans and, of course, Serbians.

Yet every time Obrad has tried to purchase more taxi licenses in Northern Kentucky, one of his competitors has protested, claiming that Luxury Cab would take away their business!

When we returned from our trip, another Luxury Cab driver picked us up in a Nissan Altima, welcomed us home and took us back to our car … a short, smooth and uneventful trip.

Obrad’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs:

Go for it. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.

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