Atterio Norman goes on a 5:30 a.m. taxi run from his home to take Jese Cervaneed to his 6 a.m. shift at Beyond Meat on May 1. Norman hopes to grow his service and one day add a shuttle bus so he can serve more clients who can't afford traditional taxi services or live in area with limited public transport.
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Atterio Norman drives on highway 63. "it's not about the money"..."I grew up poor. I never cared about money," said Atterio. He prefers to focus on making businesses which help people in need and provide enough money for him to survive and take care of his family. His shuttle business is one he's been trying to expand for the past year, but "i'm just taking it slow," he said. "There's no rush".
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Atterio Norman laughs as Naia owens and him talk about growing up in a small city, like Columbia, versus a larger city like Minneapolis. Atterio took her and her son, Armoni, 8, to the airport on Thursday, November 28, 2019 in Columbia, MO. She and her son, Armoni, 8, were traveling to Minneapolis to visit family for Thanksgiving. Naia has been in Columbia for almost a year, but didn't feel comfortable asking a friend to take her and her son to the airport that early and instead contacted Atterio, who's business she'd learned about through he newspaper.
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Naia Owens thanks Atterio for the ride and suggests he get into contact with the company she works for, Redi, which has a part in a city grant for business starting out or wanting to expand.
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Atterio closes his eyes for a second at a stoplight. Atterio's Crohn's disease occasionally causes him to pass out, so he never takes fares when he's feeling sick.
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Atterio walks to his van outside his home in north Columbia. His family moved into the low-income housing complex when he was in high school and he's lived there ever since. 'Back then I was the neighborhood ballplayer,' said Atterio, but his disease put a limit on his physical abilty. He also rapped in a local hip-hop collective and almost signed with the Atlanta rapper, T.I.. One of his most loyal clients are a family who runs a taco shop in town that live in the same complex as him; he helps take their kids to school.
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Atterio Norman gets advice from David G. Sartain about marketing programs April 8 at Office Depot. Norman has been trying to learn how to design various pamphlets or signs to market his taxi service. He considered putting up yard signs around Columbia to promote his business, but city regulations prevent him from doing so.
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Atterio Norman prepares to go on a taxi run on May 1 outside his home in Columbia. Norman started his taxi service, America's Best $10 Shuttle, in July of 2018. Since then, he's expanded his business to two drivers and hopes to get an additional vehicle as the business grows. Atterio charges $10 per stop on his discount shuttle service. He wanted to make the service cheap enough that most anyone can use it, "but come in enough to pay the bills" and save for future expansion.
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Atterio Norman jokes around with his mother on his day off in their home at Vandiver Place on Monday, November 18, 2019. Norman has been driving "America's Best $10 Shuttle since last July. On his days off, he makes plans on how to expand his business and start new projects.
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Atterio puts a blanket over his grand-niece, Skylar Fair before he heads out to work. Skylar's mother leaves her daughter at the home of Atterio and his mother while she works. Through two women, Atterio has had multiple children and helps take care of his grandchildren when he's not working.
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Atterio Norman kisses his mother Elsie Norman goodbye before heading to his next fare April 16 at his home in northeast Columbia. Elsie sometimes watches over Atterio's grand-niece, Skylar Fair, while Atterio is out working.
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Atterio Norman walks out his home to his car around 3:30 a.m. to take Naia Owens and her son Armoni, 8 to the airport on Thursday, November 28, 2019, in Columbia, MO. Atterio usually has three to four early fares throughout the week.
“It’s not about the money.”
Atterio Norman started his “America’s Best $10 Shuttle” last July. The name sounded good to Norman; “I just thought about it and it made me laugh”.
Norman has Crohn’s disease- a condition that affects a person's bowels and can sometimes be life-threatening. Medicine is necessary to regulate patients and relieve symptoms. Norman once had a medical emergency due to his disease and needed to go to the hospital. The closest of which, Boone Hospital Center, is about 2.5 miles away from his home in northern Columbia. At that moment, he was unable to drive, which means he needed a ride. An ambulance would have cost him an average of anywhere from $400-1,200, a price he wouldn’t be able to afford. He credits this as one of the inspirations for starting his shuttle business, but he does it for others too.
His mother isn’t able to move around to buy groceries and would need either a bus or a taxi to get around. According to reporting by the Columbia Missourian, bus services in Columbia have been reduced to only six routes in 2019 with buses arriving every 45 minutes. The closest line is about a 10-minute walk. Norman argues that it’s difficult for older people to get around, especially during the colder months. He says people living in the less affluent parts of town can’t always afford the cost of a taxi. “I kinda fill that gap between the buses and taxis”. He discounts his prices to $10 a ride and sometimes reduces the prices for people who he deems to trying to get by.
Norman says it’s because he’s been in that position. “I grew up poor,” he said. Norman grew up in Columbia. He spent his early days playing basketball, starting a rap crew, and almost got signed on a record label with the famous Atlanta rapper, “T.I.” He was later diagnosed with Crohn’s and his world changed.
Before starting his business, he used to clean homes and occasionally drive five hours to unload trucks. He’d make about $120 for working overnight for about eight hours. During that time, he started casually providing shuttle rides and was perplexed by the fact that he could make the same amount of money, or more, working on and off throughout the day driving people in and around Columbia and being close to his family. “I get to drive people around and just talk to them”. They talk to him and tell them about their lives and he gets to give advice while taking them where they need to go. “It’s kinda fun,” he chuckled.
Norman wants to expand his business by buying a used small bus. He wants to gut out the bus and put in a bunch of seats to offer a cheap and more efficient form of transpiration for people in Columbia, but that’s farther down the line. "I'm just taking it slow," he said. "There's no rush”. Norman wants to make sure he can properly serve his clients before he makes the next step.