Could email help one of America’s great cities get back on its feet? That might sound crazy—until you hear what Andy Didorosi is up to with The Detroit Bus Company.
So far, the 21st century has not been too kind to Detroit. The city’s already-declining population was decimated by the 2008 financial crisis, leading to widespread unemployment and urban decay. For a while, it seemed like a proposed light rail system would revive the city by connecting its blighted downtown and more populous outskirts. But those plans stalled out just as budget cuts hit the existing transit system. That’s when Didorosi, a local entrepreneur and transportation enthusiast, took one of the Motor City’s problems into his own hands.
In 2012, The Detroit Bus Company launched a fleet of 4 wildly painted, biofuel-powered buses that Detroiters can charter for company outings, wedding parties, nights on the town, and more. The DBC also offers guided tours of the city—some focused on history, others on booze. And beginning with the 2013-14 school year, they’re contributing to the community through their Youth Transit Alliance, which gives kids in underserved neighborhoods free rides to after-school programs.
“We’re a social enterprise that provides free or low-cost rides to folks in the city of Detroit and we make that happen by offering bus rentals and great tours,” Andy says. “It’s a little bit like TOMS, but with buses.”
As the self-described “low-profit” DBC has grown, it’s become more and more important for the company to stay in touch with its riders, drivers, and supporters. And Didorosi—who handles all of the company’s email marketing and social media himself—has found Mailchimp to be just the ticket.
“Email is totally the underdog right now. Everybody is focusing on Facebook while email is this quiet little monster of marketing,” he says. “We send our thoughtful letters to our fans and supporters, and a good majority of them respond in-kind with their own thoughts.”
In recent campaigns, The Detroit Bus Company has shared its year-end report, launched a transit survey, and kicked off a major fundraiser. Recently, Didorosi also began experimenting with Mailchimp Snap to send on-the-go, photo-based updates—a perfect fit for a guy who’s literally on-the-go.