• Sanna Maknojia '16
    Sanna Maknojia '16
  • TREK

Tell me about your company.

We made Trek keeping in mind the concerns that most people who use rideshares face: safety, cost, and reliability. The main objective of Trek was to alleviate these problems in the Austin community, specifically targeting our peer demographic of young adults and women. Whenever we talked to people who took other rideshares, they voiced how rides were costing too much to go a short distance, and the women, specifically, stated how they felt relieved and safer when they ended up with a woman driver if they were traveling late at night. We wanted to resolve those issues for customers, which led us to set our rates for riding lower than other rideshares and to get rid of surge pricing altogether. Furthermore, we created an optional section in Trek called Trek for Her, which allows people who identify as women to choose only women drivers nearby, in order to feel safer. Ultimately, our goal is the provide a ridesharing company that listens to the concerns that people are voicing.

Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Honestly, I never thought I would be an entrepreneur. My goal was to do something related to psychology and sociology once I graduated, and I considered going to graduate school for social work. But when I came back to Austin, I noticed everyone was really struggling with not having major rideshare companies around anymore when they wanted to go places, and I figured I could do something to change that. I’m not too sure what sparked me to do it, other than the fact that I really wanted to try something new that I hadn’t done before that would be beneficial for a lot of people.

What has surprised you most about starting your business?

How much work it was! I told myself that my goal was never to work a 9 to 5 job, but this was much, much harder. I thought it was going to be easier, but once laws (especially the City of Austin’s stringent TNC rules) and regulations came into play, I realized I had a lot on my plate. There are so many facets to starting a business that I didn’t even realize! I had to start researching information to complete my checklist and move forward.

What has given you the most satisfaction?

Finally being able to see everything come together. I kept telling myself that it would be worth it in the end, and I really believe that will happen.

Funniest experience?

My funniest experience is completely random. For some reason, Siri will turn on randomly and respond to things even when I’m not touching my phone. I was mid-rant, talking about financials, and I kept repeating, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” and of course Siri decided to chime in and respond, “I’m always serious, Sanna.”

In what ways did your SU experience prepare you to start your business? 

My SU experience taught me to communicate effectively with people. If you have a problem or a concern, try to find ways to resolve the issue, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help, regardless of whether or not it’s related to academics.  I believe strongly that you can learn and do whatever you want, and SU definitely promotes that. Nothing comes easy, and SU taught me that you get out whatever effort you put in.

What do you wish you’d learned while in college that maybe you didn’t?

I never thought I’d be starting a company, so looking back at my SU experience, I wish I had taken more business-related classes, or even just one, so I’d be somewhat more familiar with what I jumped into.

What advice would you give other students and graduates about starting a business?

My main piece of advice would be not to second-guess yourself. I knew absolutely nothing about the ridesharing business, but I wanted to do it. If you really want to do something, research it, teach yourself, and then go for it. Never be too afraid to ask for help, and don’t be above listening to other people’s opinions.

Any specific long-term goals?

I’m taking things day-by-day, but I still hope to attend graduate school one day and maybe incorporate Trek with whatever social work I hope to be doing in the community. Everyone needs a ride, and I think it could be useful option for people who are without one.