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First Hawaii-based rideshare company hits the open road

Holoholo debuts on Maui, Lanai amid busy transportation market

Holoholo driver Corinna Payne pulls away from the curb after her drop-off at the airport Thursday. Holoholo CEO Cecil Morton, the longtime owner of SpeediShuttle, launched the Hawaii-based, locally owned rideshare company on May 24 on Maui, Lanai, Oahu, Hawaii island and Kauai. Affordable transportation options are in high demand with a rise in visitors and a shortage of rental cars on Maui. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Cecil Morton was sitting down for a meal in Kahului with his family earlier this year when he told them about his idea for a Hawaii-based rideshare company.

“I said, ‘This is what I want to do, guys. What do you think I should name it?'” Morton recalled.

His daughter, Danielle Morton, immediately said “holoholo,” meaning “let’s go cruising.”

“I just fell in love with the name,” said Cecil Morton, who has been in the transportation business in Hawaii for 20 years as owner of SpeediShuttle. “And because we’re all about the community as well as welcoming visitors, I want them to love to use a local brand and support the community in that fashion because there is, of course, a movement these days to support local.”

Holoholo is now the only Hawaii-based, locally owned rideshare company in the state. The company began looking for drivers in April and officially launched services on May 24 on Maui, Lanai, Oahu, Hawaii island and Kauai. Cecil Morton is the CEO and Danielle Morton, who thought up the company’s name, now helps oversee the Maui chapter.

Holoholo driver Corinna Payne (left) helps Kihei’s Jan Dunn with her luggage while dropping her off at Kahului Airport Thursday morning. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The car transportation service operates across the island, including Kapalua, Hana, Upcountry, Kihei, Lahaina and other locations, and also offers rides to and from the Kahului and Kapalua airports.

Holoholo includes a community of drivers and vehicles that riders can request from their smartphone, view the potential costs upfront and pay online, helping riders have access to “reliable and safe transportation.”

“Safety is also very important to us,” Cecil Morton said. “Women as drivers and as riders, we want them to feel comfortable. We’ve built the technology to promote safety, and again, just trying to create an ohana team of drivers that really understand what SpeediShuttle has represented over the years, which is to make it easy to do business with us and to be an exceptional service, sprinkled with ho’okipa.”

Affordable transportation options are in high demand on Maui with tourism numbers on the rise and many rental car companies with limited inventory after shipping vehicles off island during the pandemic.

Similar to taxis, car rentals, Uber and Lyft, Morton said that holoholo is just another option for transportation, except it’s less expensive and has a mission to connect communities to local businesses in Hawaii, promote the island culture and offer HoloGreen services (eco-friendly vehicles).

Going up against established rideshare companies like Uber has its challenges, but Morton said “they are overcome by our drive and our mission to succeed.”

There has already been a growing demand for holoholo among drivers and riders since the launch two weeks ago. The company did not disclose the number of drivers on Maui and Lanai.

“We’re building our company one driver and one customer at a time,” he said. “I know that from our 20 years of experience from operating on four islands — Lanai is new to us — but Maui requires a good roster of drivers, a big roster, in order to supply the demands, which pre-pandemic there were 200,000 visitors a month.”

Amid the pandemic, businesses still face challenges with trying to bring their employees back to work, but “we have a great team that we put together for holoholo,” he said.

He added that he wanted to offer a “great opportunity for drivers to earn a living.”

One South Maui resident who relies on ridesharing as her main source of income is already hoping to make holoholo her full-time gig. Corinna Payne has been a driver for Lyft and Uber for the past three years, but is looking to support and work for local businesses.

“It’s awesome to be able to work for a local business because I feel like I’ll get more support from them as well,” she said via phone Wednesday morning. “Uber and Lyft are so big, you don’t really get to talk to anyone if you have an issue — you’re just a blip on the map of the world. Working for a local company is going to keep the money locally, plus it just makes it safer for everybody because you’ll be actually working with real people.”

Customer service is going to be “so much better for riders and drivers alike and I think people are going to really enjoy that,” she added.

While the majority of customers are residents right now, she anticipates that more visitors will begin using holoholo once the company becomes more well known in the industry.

“It’s a slow start, you know, not many people know about them yet, but I’m excited for them to get busy,” Payne said. “I have the sticker in my car now, so people in my car are asking about it and I’m educating people about holoholo, which is kind of cool.”

On the side, Payne runs an online shop called Da Maui Drift, selling sea-inspired artwork made from reused, recycled and repurposed materials and items like driftwood and shells found on the beach.

Holoholo staff “have a really great attitude and it’s always easier to work for someone local, and I always try to support local as well,” Payne said. “I think a lot of people have that mindset.”

Users can request rides and check pricing online at rideholoholo.com/book-online or through the holoholo mobility app.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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