It’s Our Birthday

Its seems a very long time ago that I decided to take the plunge and start my own company, it was actually 2002. At the time I was 23, I had pretty much worked in car rental all of my working life, I had a baby on the way and had just lost my job when the company I worked for made me redundant.

I remember sitting in my Dad’s garden plotting with him my next career move, I had kind of decided to try to join the Police or Fire Service, when out of the blue my old man said “why don’t you start your own car rental company”. At the time I kind of laughed it off, but the more I thought about it the more sense it kind of made.

I knew the industry (well I thought I did); I had the right connections and I kind of knew what the customer wanted. I started checking some domain names usholidaycars, floridarentacar, internetcarhire…. but none of these really did it for me. Then my sister piped up with usrentacar…

I liked the name immediately, not only did it tell the customer exactly what we did but I kind of felt like I’d heard it before. I checked around and the domain was free to purchase, I bought the  for £6.49.  A bargain… I later had to fork out over £5000.00 for the .com version! Grrr…

I made a few phone calls to some people in the industry who I knew and most importantly trusted me, and hey presto I had my first Alamo Rent A Car contract. I didn’t have a website, I didn’t have a way to take payment but I had a product and a name!

The next couple of months were a bit of a whirl wind of meetings with banks, web designers and potential suppliers while at the same time working a full time job at a money counting centre for the Royal Bank of Scotland that started at 4 am and finished at 12:00. Meetings with me at that time always took place at 13:00!!!… I hated this job with a passion but in hindsight it probably spurred me on to make sure I got up and running, I really didn’t want to count money for the rest of my life.

The meetings with Banks were always very interesting, two things that amazed me were firstly, how they really didn’t get my business model and secondly how they couldn’t get their head around the fact that I didn’t want to borrow any money. Straight off the bat they assumed that the nature of the meeting was for me to ask them for some start up money, but this wasn’t the case, I had some savings of my own and my Dad was an early investor, actually his credit card took more of a bashing than it previous ever had. All I wanted from  a bank was a way to take payment from customers and somewhere to put the money.

The banks found this very strange…then when I tried to explain the business concept it really blew their minds…

So you rent cars to people holidaying in America, but you don’t own any cars and you don’t need to be based in the U.S.

I could kind of see their point…

Of course I finally got them to understand the nature of the business and we steam rolled ahead. The next step was to design a website and booking engine.

I wanted something different, that stood out and was cutting edge. I also wanted to do something that wasn’t actually happening at the time but is now common place and that was to offer customers the choice of supplier they wanted, instead of having an opaque price with the customer not knowing if the supplier was Dollar Rent A Car or Dave’s car hire I wanted to give the customer the choice. We still do this today and have been copied by almost every other car hire site since…. I’m told this is a compliment… I’m not so sure. The building of the website pretty much wiped out all my savings and I can assure you I got a really good deal at the time.

So I was pretty much ready to go, I had 3 suppliers on board, Alamo Rent A Car, Budget Rent A Car and U-Save Car rental all who believed in my company and who had given me rates. A few companies did not back my idea which you might think I would take personally but one of the most important things I learnt within the first year of trading was never to burn bridges… Its funny how those same suppliers who doubted usrentacar have complete amnesia about it when I bring it up now :-)

My first office was from my dad’s spare bedroom, we had a dedicated telephone and a fax machine, nowadays we have deep integration in to the suppliers fleet, in 2003 we had to fax booking s and then wait for a return fax!! Compared to now it was like working in the stone age…

U.S. Rent A Car head office

So on the 26 August 2003 nearly 9 months on from when I first decided to give it a go, opened for business… I remember we made 3 bookings that day, I framed the first every booking made by Mr Stephen Doughty and from there on we went from strength to strength and for the sanity of my Dad we moved out of his spare bedroom and paid back his investment within the first year.

I would like to take this moment to thank everybody who has helped make what it is today, we have created a great culture within our team and continue to pave the way in car rental innovation which is still being copied (you know who you are) :-) . A few special mentions, Abigail Shelton who gave me my first supplier contract, Karl Hendrie who has a bigger brain then anyone I know and finally of course my Dad, who not only gave me the idea and believed in me but also stumped up the early cash.

So from me, to… happy birthday, I hope there are many, many more to come.


Founder of

 car hire USA

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