Former WMU football player launches scooter rental business in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo
| Odell Miller
His physical strength and determination earned the 2014 Gull Lake High School graduate an opportunity as a walk-on for the Western Michigan University football team, where he eventually became the Broncos' starting tight end and earned the nickname "The Great Wall of Odell."
Now, after a shot in the NFL, the Battle Creek native is trying to move people by way of his startup electric scooter rental company, Fly Rentals.
"Micro-mobility sharing is the future," Miller said. "It's good for the environment, good for the economy. It's economically friendly. It's a great way for students to get around campus... My goal is to grow bigger, but I want to grow slowly. I want to focus on mid-sized college campuses. I want to start in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and slowly grow out."
Miller is the sole proprietor and founder of Fly Rentals. He personally designed the electric scooters, which can travel up to speeds of 16 mph. With a headlight, bell, turn signal and brake lights, they are street legal in Michigan.
The Fly scooters are equipped to operate in all weather and seasons and feature a 600-watt motor. The scooters take between three and five hours to charge, and a single charge can offer up to 35 miles of travel, depending on the conditions.
What makes his scooter rental sharing service different from others, Miller says, is the company's leasing model. Scooters can be leased weekly for $60, monthly for $40 a week or by the semester for $30 a week. Maintenance, a charger, GPS and lock are included in the subscription. The scooters can only be unlocked by the customer, who uses the Fly Rentals app to turn the vehicle on and off.
Miller said Fly Rentals will officially be available in the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo area by early November.
The idea for the venture came to Miller when he was in Boise, Idaho, for WMU's 2019 Potato Bowl contest against BYU. He thought the electric scooters he used to get around town in the days leading up to the game would work in southwest Michigan. He invested money from his DJ business, OD Entertainment, to launch Fly Rentals, which has been in development for more than a year.Miller said he had intended to offer a rental service similar to other ride-sharing electric scooter services that have gained popularity in Michigan since 2018 but that the COVID-19 pandemic caused him to pause and reassess his business model.
"I always look for the positives of everything. And the positives of COVID was me being able to shift," he said. "What can I take positively out of this? So I started to crunch numbers and see what the future will look like and was like, 'Wow, this leasing model makes more sense'... I decided to pivot and not do the traditional ride sharing like other companies you might see in other cities where scooters are lying all over the streets and it's crowding the city."Are you registered to vote?Take the first step to making sure your vote counts.
While Battle Creek currently has no ordinances specific to electric scooters, it does restrict people from riding a bicycle, scooter, skateboard, roller skates or inline skates on any sidewalk in the Central Business District downtown.
Michigan doesn't have a definition for electric scooters, which falls under "electric skateboards." Using scooters on sidewalks is legal, so long as riders yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and give an audible signal before passing. Scooters are only allowed on streets with speed limits of less than 25 mph, except when crossing, and must be ridden as near to the right side of the roadway as possible. Helmets are required for riders 18-and-under.
Miller said his days of wearing a football helmet are behind him after NFL tryouts with the Cleveland Browns and the Washington football team. After graduating from WMU with honors, he is now attending Midwestern University Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine, where he is working toward a doctorate in physical therapy.
Only 1.6% of college football players reach the NFL according to a 2017 NCAA study, and Miller said defying those odds and earning a brief stint in professional football "taught me a ton."
"It taught me I could do whatever I put my mind to," he said. "Although some people looking in might see that it was unsuccessful, I see it as successful if they realize that I came from being a walk-on and a nobody and a no-name."
"All the behind the scenes stuff is pretty incredible, because his mind just works differently," she said. "I have never seen somebody's mind tell them out loud that, 'I can do this,' and they do it to the best of their ability. Everything he touches turns to gold. I'm just excited to see it grow from the very bottom."
Nick Buckley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-966-0652. Follow him on Twitter:@NickJBuckley