OKEECHOBEE — Norma and James Goodrich both have (or had) their own separate professions, like most couples. But while working they became aware of a particular need that, in putting their heads and skills together as business partners, they might be able to solve.
Then some of the pieces began to line up in place to help make their plan happen, as though it was meant to be that they’d go off in a new direction where they could travel together toward a common goal.
The pair moved from Lake Worth Beach after purchasing property in the area and have lived in Okeechobee for a few years now. “We live out on the Viking Prairie on about 10 acres, becoming part-time farmers. It’s very nice having all the animals. We wanted a little bit slower pace of life from the city, and are very, very happy here,” Mrs. Goodrich said.
Recently when they were fortunate enough to have James’ 91-year-old grandmother give him a big luxury car, she said, their plan started coming together. Their idea was to start a transportation service, with the emphasis on service, for people needing non-emergency rides for a variety of purposes.
Norma Goodrich, a registered nurse for over 20 years, has spent her career “in the home health setting, in a long-term respiratory hospital. Also, now I’m in the process of becoming a nurse practitioner so I’m just climbing up the ladder in the medical field,” she said.
“James by trade has always been working in the auto industry. He does auto parts, worked for Sears, and has worked for O’Reilly’s now for the past five years. He stepped down from his management position there to start our own business,” Mrs. Goodrich explained.
“We kind of took a leap of faith,” she said, and their planning and good fortune came together to pay off for them after they established RoGo Transportation Solutions LLC last January.
Norma became aware of the transportation needed among disabled, elderly and infirm individuals, not just for getting to medical appointments and the like, through her job.
“Being a nurse, I go out to a lot of … patients’ homes, and a lot of times they are not able to follow up with their doctor’s visits because they have no transportation.” Many are disabled, elderly, living alone, and have no means to get to the doctor’s office, to testing appointments, or for X-rays or lab work. “And that’s more of the medical side.
Meeting clients’ needs
“I definitely became aware of the need through my job. A lot of my patients would have exacerbations of their illnesses because they’re not being controlled because the doctor’s not monitoring them in the way they’re supposed to be,” Mrs. Goodrich continued.
“Also, not just the medical part, we also see the same type of people can’t even get to the grocery store, to the bank, to the pharmacy to get their prescriptions, the barber or the salon to get their hair cut — so we also offer those services.” They’ll also take folks out for social occasions or ferry them for trips. “We’ve taken people to the Orlando airport. We’ll take you out of state if needed. Whatever the need is, we will provide,” she said.
They assembled a small fleet of vehicles starting with their personal car and the big car James’ grandmother gave him. She said, “We’re like, ‘Why do we need this car?’ So that became RoGo One. ‘Can we do this?’” she said they asked themselves. “Now we have four, and each is numbered.”
Seeing the potential, they went for it. Right now they’re serving only ambulatory patients, including those in wheelchairs or who use a cane or walker. RoGo has four vehicles, including a van that can take seven passengers.
“The van that we have does have a lift, so we’re able to take patients in wheelchairs. We have two SUVs and the Town Car. And when needed I’ll use my car as well,” said Mrs. Goodrich. (Her maiden name is Rodriguez, so they took the first two letters of it, put it with the “Go” from Goodrich, and off they went.)
They’ve been steadily busy since April and even busier as time has gone on (especially after they won Business of the Year from the Okeechobee Chamber of Commerce).
They’ve added staff, too.
“Right now our main driver is James, I help in between when I can, and today (Friday, Dec. 6) we were so busy, we had my father on standby. He’s ready to give up his job, because he still commutes from West Palm … to come help us.”
Her dad’s name is Moises, and brother Rolando is already on board.
They average three or four trips a day, and have done at most six in a day, but more days are becoming booked.
“We’re actually training another driver, but we don’t want to just hire anybody. We want our patrons to feel like they’re family,” she said.
Since they’re a family business already, that’s half the battle. James Goodrich said, “I love working with people, being face-to-face with everybody and being hands-on. It’s fun!”
His phone kept ringing during our interview at the Lake Okeechobee News office, then they had to go. “We’re getting our float ready for the Christmas parade,” Mrs. Goodrich said.
“We live in the community, we want to help give back to the community,” Mr. Goodrich said.