Briana O’Brien And The Green Hopper
Story and photography by Jenny Acheson
“Cheap, easy, fun and friendly” is how Briana O’Brien describes her transport service, the Green Hopper. A self-proclaimed dreamer from New Jersey, it was her ideas and aspirations that brought her to Sarasota where, with partner and friend Kevin Watts, she set up the company.
With a fleet of four 100% electric zero emission 6 seated vehicles, she totes people around 3 locations, including downtown Sarasota. It had been working at Daiquiri Deck on Siesta Key where she noticed people’s frustration – at the lack of public transport (and disdain of it), slow and pricey taxi service, little and inconvenient parking for all – and saw something the area needed.
After a lot of research and development she bought the company and name – the previous owner operating in Fort Lauderdale didn’t fancy the hard graft involved – and closed the transaction. Free (with tips) in Siesta Key, $3 a ride elsewhere, she is the first person to secure a ‘for hire’ vehicle permit for her hoppers. She “found a niche, got lucky…” with the chance to support Sarasota’s economy by serving tourists and locals alike. The Green Hoppers moved 250 people at Siesta Fiesta, was involved with the boat show, the proceeds of which went to a children’s charity, and worked several other festivals – Take Over Music, Harvey Milk and the Shrimp and Lobster Festival.
After a thrilling tour gliding gently through Sarasota’s elegant downtown, waving at admirers and enjoying the open-air appeal of the ride, we sit in Briana’s office surrounded by stuffed frogs and green walls. She admits how satisfying it is to be getting noticed, in the press and on the street where people are always curious and love to take photos of her bright green and yellow carts.
Her shy, striking blue eyes and long blonde looks belie the tough attitude, strong opinions and ideals developed by an upbringing in the ‘rat race’. She does not support corporations, wants to be part of a national association of micro transit vehicles to secure safety standards and operating procedures, and hopes to join the City Council. “It’s about making an honest living helping to generate more income by moving people around while keeping the environment clean,” she says.
The lights seem stuck on green for this bright young spark.
The Green Hopper
Copyright © 2012 REAL Magazine
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