Penn State Law education helps Trolly Pub hit the road

Visitors to Tuscan, Ariz., have a unique opportunity to belly on up to the bar while taking in the sights and sounds of the city. Trolley Pub, the brainchild of Penn State Law student Kai Kaapro and his business partner Andrew Cole, uses the patrons' own pedal power to propel the open-air floating bar.

As a result of this new business venture, Kaapro is now experienced in real-world negotiation, regulatory law and business management. Kaapro and Cole launched Trolley Pub this year. The duo raised $100,000 in venture funds, and Kaapro obtained insurance and applied for a business license all before finishing his final exams in the spring. Trolley Pub welcomed its first riders on June 25.

After just one month of operation Trolley Pub was officially in the black, thanks to local buzz and a Groupon promotion that increased their reservations six-fold in a few short days.

The trolley holds up to 14 people, with 10 spots for pedaling. Patrons climb aboard and pedal the route they choose, including stops at local taverns or sightseeing destinations. A professional driver, affectionately known as a "Trolley Conductor," handles the steering and navigates traffic. With a top speed of 7 MPH, the pedal pub has a redundant braking system and complies with all rules of the road.

It wasn’t a smooth ride at first. The partners encountered a construction delay on the custom built trolley. When it became clear that they couldn’t immediately get a license to serve food or drinks on the trolley, they adjusted the business model to focus on sightseeing.

“My legal education has been very helpful in starting a new business. It’s amazing how much I can do for myself. I deal with contracting, insurance, suppliers, and business licenses. I definitely have an edge from just two years of law school,” he said. Before starting his business, Kaapro also worked as a judicial extern for Judge Stephen M. McNamee in the U.S. Court for the District of Arizona.

The entrepreneur calls his summer a success. “Running my own business is more work than I ever imagined,” he said. “But this successful startup experience is our proof of concept. This idea really works.”

Innoblue

When he’s not studying law or taking care of his business, Kaapro helps aspiring entrepreneurs test and market their ideas. He is a founding member of Innoblue, where he serves as the chief strategy officer and sits on the board. Founded in August 2010, Innoblue strives to further the ideas and businesses of Penn State students and local members of the Happy Valley community. The nonprofit organization provides mentoring, networking, educational events, and resources for entrepreneurs, including a thousand-square-foot collaborative office space in downtown State College the call "the Garage". They also host “demo days” in which entrepreneurs can pitch their ideas to investors, peers, and media.

“We have so much in State College -- so many great ideas and talented people. Before Innoblue there wasn’t much there to foster the elements necessary to incubate startup businesses,” said Kaapro, who is a graduate of the University of Arizona.

After graduation Kaapro plans to head back to Arizona to practice law and continue his journey as an entrepreneur.

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Last Updated February 22, 2016