How to start a party bus service

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A party bus business is based on a simple concept -- driving people around from place to place as they celebrate in pubs, bars, nightclubs, convention centres or any other kind of public or private venue.

The real service delivered is the peace of mind customers have in knowing they won't have to drive and stay off the booze or worry about finding a taxi home at the end of the night. Like any business, the start-up of a successful party bus service requires attention to the fundamentals, including all the legal and licensing requirements.

Do your homework. Make sure the community you're targeting really needs a party bus service. If one already exists, do research to determine whether there's room for another one. Determine your business model. For example, will you cater primarily for corporate and special events or conventions? Or will you drive from pub to pub at weekends, picking up revellers as you go? They are different market niches that require different tactics for success.

Ensure you have a public service vehicle (PSV) licence. These licences are required for all vehicles available for hire by nine or more passengers. PSV licences are also required for small vehicles that carry only a few passengers but charge a fare.

Register your business with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs to ensure your tax affairs are in order. You can register the business a sole trader, partnership or a limited liability company. Depending on the expected size of the turnover, you may also need to register for VAT with HMRC.

Get insured. Assume the worst. Do not limit yourself to the statutory minimum coverage required. Consult a business insurance expert to analyse the risks in your market and your overall financial exposure in the event of disaster.

Buy your first bus or buses. Because of the size of the transportation industry, a plentiful inventory of new and used vehicles is available, from shuttle buses to full-size buses. Online resources abound, and you should also check local vehicle wholesalers. It's simply a matter of finding the right vehicle for your business model at the right price. Ideally, you have the financial capacity to start with a small bus and a big bus. That gives you maximum flexibility for the types of groups or events you can handle.

Decide who will drive. Will it be you or will you hire a driver? If you hire a driver, check references and be sure to comply with all employment and tax regulations. Your driver will also need a PSV licence.

Market yourself aggressively. It's not enough that you're open for business. In addition to your operational responsibilities, you'll need to spend time every day targeting potential sources of business, such as local hotels, incoming convention groups and upcoming events. Advertise the party bus service in the local media. If you can afford it, hire a local PR firm to get you a wave of start-up publicity. Get listed on major review sites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor, and build a loyal following.