Henry Ford: A Man & Car That Changed the World

henry ford
Henry Ford

Last night I watched a really fascinating PBS special on Henry Ford.  I learned a lot about Henry Ford and how he basically modernized the way we travel today with the Model T, built Ford, and become one of the greatest entrepreneurs and American industrialists the world has ever seen.

An absorbing life story of a farm boy who rose from obscurity to become the most influential American innovator of the 20th century, Henry Fordoffers an incisive look at the birth of the American auto industry with its long history of struggles between labor and management, and a thought-provoking reminder of how Ford's automobile forever changed the way we work, where we live, and our ideas about individuality, freedom, and possibility.

This is what the description on the ‘American Experience' special on the PBS website reads.

Somehow those words couldn't ring more true.  Imagine trying to get around nowadays without your car?  Even if you are reading this and don't own a car, I am sure you ride in cars all the time.

While a fascinating individual Henry Ford was far from perfect.  For instance he distributed papers that were meant to spread his ideals about Antisemitism.  As well he apparently bought land in Brazil to try to create a “Utopia.”  He was quite brutal to his son.  I guess a genius needs to be a bit eccentric to change the world though.

What I found most interesting about Ford was that he sounded a lot like Steve Jobs.  Very smart and changing the world but difficult to work with and he would sometimes fire people for seemingly odd reasons.  Steve Jobs was the same way, only he was working on changing the world through computers and Henry Ford changed it through making cars available to everyone.

A family member I was watching the American Experience PBS special actually said before I was going to, “He was the Steve Jobs of cars!”  After the show ended I checked various Twitter hashtags and noticed that it seemed others were making the same comparisons.

Not surprisingly the American Experience team on Twitter weighed in on the discussion too and plugged next week's on Silicon Valley episode.

I highly recommend you catch the Henry Ford ‘American Experience' special on your local PBS station next time it is on.  If you would rather you can also watch it on your computer.  (I prefer watching shows over-the-air with an Antenna since the quality is better.)

I learned a lot about Henry Ford and I write about cars for a living.  In my opinion another great reason to support your PBS and the great programming they produce! 🙂

*Join Adam’s Auto Advice on Facebook and Twitter.

Charm City Pedal Mill: “You Drink, You Pedal, We Drive!”

Charm City Pedal Mill!

Looking for something unique and fun to do on a weekend night, or any time in Baltimore? Look no further than the Charm City Pedal Mill.

You are probably wondering, ‘What is a Pedal Mill?' Basically, a Pedal Mill is a cycle with pedals and gears, 4-wheels, disc brakes, and a steering wheel like a car. It is powered by people, outfitted with 16 seats for adventurous riders to get it moving. It's a Rolling Bar. A ride on the Pedal Mill is a great way to spend a night out with friends in Fells Point and Canton.

Pedal Mills are inspired by similar machines in Germany and the Netherlands called Fietcafes. Amanda Linden, the owner and entrepreneur behind Charm City Pedal Mill, first encountered Fietcafes when she was living in Germany, spending time abroad.

Later in her hometown of Milwaukee, Amanda saw some people she had known in high school. Funny thing was, they were going by on one of these crazy Fietcafe contraptions. She started talking with them, and it turned out they had started running pub crawls around Milwaukee with it. “That's where I got the idea.” said Amanda.

So in August, 2011 she launched Charm City Pedal Mill. She runs the company along with help from a great group of dedicated friends. “Couldn't do it without them all,” says Amanda.

Using social media and a go-getter attitude, Amanda dove head first into getting the company started. After purchasing a vehicle, she went around to all the bars in Fells Point and Canton, told them about her Pedal Mill, and gave them her business card. “Some people were like this is the coolest thing ever!” However, there were bars that she never heard back from. Now with the success of the company and pub crawls, “Those bars are now calling me saying. ‘We really want to be on your tour!” says Amanda.

The Pedal Mill stops at about 10 bars on any given night. Tours will vary depending upon the time and day. Special requests are welcome.

Amanda is no stranger to the food and restaurant business, having worked in the industry for about 13 years. However, she longed for something more. “I didn't want to bartend, and didn't want to manage a restaurant. I had done that before!” she lamented. With Charm City Pedal Mill she has found her true calling, running pub tours in Baltimore. “It doesn't feel like work at all” Amanda said enthusiastically.

Amanda estimates that there are about 10 other cities that have Pedal Mills running tours, like her high school friends in Milwaukee. She emphasized that this is the, “First one in the Mid-Atlantic, which is kind of cool.”

For those interested in trying out this awesome contraption, it is $25 Mondays-Thursdays to rent out a seat. “You make that up with specials at the bar,” says Amanda. As part of being a rider on the Pedal Mill you will get a special wristband that lets bars know you are a Pedal Mill passenger, and that entitles you to specials. Each bar is different but you typically save 10%-15% on drinks and get shot specials. Tours are generally two miles long, which is great for working off all that beer and food during the night. (When else are you gonna do that, huh?)

You can also rent out the entire Pedal Mill per hour for $155. (Prices are a bit higher on the weekend.) The price goes down per hour the longer you rent it. People rent it out for birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, corporate events, and other special events. “The groups coming out are usually celebrating something.” said Amanda.

The Pedal Mill is equipped with a sound system, so you can bring CDs or an MP3 player and listen to your favorite tunes through the night.

You can celebrate all you want on the Pedal Mill. Lots of people dress up in crazy costumes, “We had a whole crew of pirates last week,” Amanda told me.

One key person who helps run Charm City Pedal Mill is Jason. He fills a number of roles, acting as the main entertainer, head driver, and oversees operations and maintenance. You can see him on board the Pedal Mill most nights. He emphasized that the drivers stay sober, like all drivers should. “You drink, You pedal, We drive!” is the Charm City Pedal Mill slogan. “Never had a bad experience on here.” said Jason when talking about what it is like when they take the Pedal Mill out with customers. Jason fixes the Pedal Mill often, and was doing an alignment when I went to check it out. “He is good with the mechanics of it,” Amanda commented.

The drivers consist of a fun group of people, who all add their special skills to the business. Kevin is an electrical whiz helping fix any issues with the lights or sound system. Jeff is very good with bicycle mechanics. Sarah is the only girl driver, “She's great, really really good” says Amanda.

You might think getting this Pedal Mill business started and getting the permits would be difficult. Amanda told me that generally the city has been receptive because Baltimore is supporting bike initiatives. She also mentioned that businesses are particularly generous in helping each other out. The company partnered with Wedding411 and some hotels to be featured in Where magazine (that magazine that is always in hotel rooms). In addition, Drink Baltimore will run specials for them.

Sounds and looks awesome, right? What are you waiting for? Go get a group of friends together and rent it! Then come back and leave a comment and tell everyone about your fun experience on the Charm City Pedal Mill.

Let the Good Times Roll!

Call (#443-956-6455) for booking a tour or seat. You can also email: charmcitypedalmill@gmail.com.  For additional info visit:  http://www.charmcitypedalmill.com/

Interview with Nick Miller Co-Founder & CEO of ParkingPanda – Part 1

Here is an interview I did with Nick Miller, Co-Founder and CEO of ParkingPanda.com on October 4th, 2011.  This will give you an inside perspective on an internet startup and what it takes to get it started.  This is Part 1 of the interview, stay tuned for Part 2 and Part 3.  I thought it would make it easier to read and be more fun to post the interview in parts.  If you haven't already check out my article on ParkingPanda.

Nick Miller, Co-Founder & CEO

Nick Miller: We just got back from NY, we were in a tech accelerator up there. Now we are located right down the street here. (Canton in Starbucks).

Adam: Cool. How many employees do you have?

NM: It's just the two of us now. Two of us run it full time, myself and Adam [Zilberbaum]. We have contract help that is helping us and an intern that is helping us as well.

A: What was the flash of genius? Where did the idea come from?

NM: I have sort of experienced both sides of the problem. I went to Georgetown. When I was living in DC I actually at one point had a townhouse with a driveway.  So I was sitting there with an empty driveway and I wasn't doing anything with it. After I had moved out I was up here [Baltimore] at a Raven's game and there was a guy standing there with a cardboard sign, “Park Here $15 bucks” over at Federal Hill, way cheaper and way faster to do that, so I parked in the driveway. Having experienced both sides of the inefficiencies of parking, “There has got to be a better way to do exactly this!” Why can't I just put this guy's driveway online, and not drive around and hand this guy some cash! So it was actually having experienced both sides of it. It made it apparent this needed to be done.

A: Yeah I actually live right near the Hopkins campus, pretty close to the stadium. People park all up and down our street. A few years ago I actually kind of had the same idea. You should be able to just put this online or something. Hey, we do have spaces here!

NM: Once in awhile sometimes people post on Craigslist and it is so inefficient. You gotta sit around your house waiting for the guy to come with $10 dollars, so is it really worth it?  [With ParkingPanda] People don't even have to be there, you can set it up once and never do anything again.

A: What is your main market for the website? Who is using it?

NM: We are starting out targeting people going to events. Ravens football games.  We launched at the Grand Prix here in Baltimore. That was our first big event. Just because the demand around events is larger. It is really apparent really big. People see the value immediately around events. Ultimately we want to grow it away from events to people going to dinner in the city, or going shopping, and also long term for commuters as well. If you are gone from your space everyday, you're right by Hopkins, from work and you know there is an Hopkins employee that could pay you $50 or $75 a month instead $150 for a garage. They could just come rent the same space everyday.

A: Really ultimately anytime you need parking in a high-density area, this should be an option?

NM: Not that everyone is going to use it as opposed to a garage, but it should be an option. Hopefully a lower cost more efficient option.

A: So I am renting out my space and let's say I need it. How do you work out those types of issues?

NM: So there is a really easy calendar on the site. You can actually set when it's available and the amount of time. So if you know you are gone every Tuesday and it's free, you can make it available every Tuesday. You are home every Wednesday and Thursday you don't have to make it available. If you want to set it, as long as nobody has booked, you can change it at any point in time. You are going out of town for a month, you can make it available for a whole month or if you are sick and going to be home for the whole week you can take it off the market.

A: Is it a Google Calendar?

NM: We have our own calendar built in. Basically you can click or drag over dates. You can set when it's available and when it is not. It is one of the reasons we started off launching around events around daily parking, you rent it for the whole day. Basically what you need for the event, even if you are not there for the whole day. We reduce a lot of the complexities around “I get home around 5, what if someone is still in my driveway at 5:15?” Obviously we can deal with that, but it creates more and more complexities the more you do that. So we are starting off with dailies, but we will do monthly and hourly as well.

A: How many people are on the site currently?

NM: The first weekend at the Grand Prix we booked about 117 spaces over the course of the weekend. I think it was 117, it was just over 115. Now what we have been focusing on is we want to have a large inventory of spaces before we have tons of people who try to book spaces. If they come to book spaces and they aren't any there, it's useless! So we have close to 40 spaces in our inventory now. In any given time, not all those are available. In the middle of the week on Tuesday, you might only have 4-5. On a game day, for a Ravens Game, there will probably be 20. Some people list once a month, some people list their spaces every day. It really varies. We are really focused on filling up our inventory more and more. Once we have 100 spaces in our inventory, every day there will be a lot of value in different neighborhoods and different parts of the city.  Once we have that inventory it will be useful.

A: Do you see expanding to parking buses, rvs, or other vehicles?

NM: We think that the community model is lot more compelling than a lot of the other models. We have talked to parking garages before and ultimately we may do some work with parking garages and help people make relations with parking garages, but really that takes care of the issue of whether parking is available before you leave home. It doesn't help you avoid the traffic of the garage and it doesn't necessarily save you as much money. Plus you are not helping out your community making a little extra money as well. From a parking space owners side, in a bad economy it's a little more. Why not make a little extra cash?

A: Do you have a expected growth rate? Currently you are just in Baltimore, right? You want to move into other cities?

NM: We will be in DC soon. DC is the next city. We will probably roll out to DC in 2 months or less. In Baltimore we launched first we only have a certain number of inventory. In DC we won't launch until we have say 50 parking spaces there. That way as soon as we go live, we will launch around an event down there, as soon as we go live there will already by a lot inventory and spaces. We are already building the inventory in DC, so that when we go live there will be a lot of parking space available. After DC we will go to Philadelphia. We will focus on those close markets first, because it is a great way optimize what works, what doesn't. We can refine what we are doing. Once we really have if figured out in Baltimore, DC, and Philly. Then we will expand more Boston, Chicago, San Francisco. Start moving North, start moving West. Baltimore and DC and great markets. We really want to figure out that best way to do it and it's a great place to figure that out.

 

Click here for Part 2 and Part 3 of the interview