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From Driver to Driving Force

How a Local Business Owner Keeps Business Moving Forward Despite the Pandemic

Article by Kelsey Huber

Photography by John Burns and Ken Doll

Originally published in Topeka City Lifestyle

Growing up in a big family taught Carlos Cortez, owner of Cortez Transportation, the art of relationship building. Born the 5th child of 13, Carlos learned that everybody has a different personality and that there was an art to understanding people and forming bonds. That art, which Carlos has turned into a skill, has served him well in the business world. 

Born in California, but raised in Topeka, Carlos graduated from Shawnee Heights High School. “I love living in Topeka. It’s a great town,” he shared. “It’s laid back enough, but there’s plenty to do if you know what you’re looking for and Lawrence and Kansas City are close by too.” 

Carlos got into the limousine business when a co-worker who managed Crescent Limousine asked if he’d like to fill in as a part-time weekend driver. He worked part-time for three or four years and enjoyed it so much he eventually started his own limo business. That was in 2004. Today, Cortez Transportation boasts an impressive fleet including sedans, SUVs, transit vans, limousines, limo busses, and executive coach shuttles. 

“What I love about the limo business is the variety,” Carlos said, “You meet so many different people and each one has a story. One day I may be taking a grandma and grandpa on an anniversary date. The next customer may be bringing their baby home for the first time from the hospital. I’ve driven for Christmas light tours, divorce parties, girls’ nights out,  and big groups going to the Chiefs game who want to drink and not worry about driving home. It’s always something different.”

COVID also forced some customers to be creative. “We were happy to be part of a progressive birthday party where we picked up the birthday girl at her house and stopped at friends’ and relatives’ houses where each was able to come out to the limo, visit and give her gifts individually,” Carlos shared. “I get to be a part of their stories even if it’s just for a little bit of time. I love seeing their reactions and helping to make their day special.”

Cortez Transportation has developed some ongoing relationships with local businesses over the years. AIM Strategies pays Cortez Transportation a fee for providing restaurant delivery services using their fleet. They drive Prairie Band Casino entertainers to and from the airport as well as provide shuttle service for special events like New Years Eve. They also provide group transportation services for Hill’s Pet Nutrition and a few other local corporations.

Carlos said they have provided transportation for organ transplant teams for years. “We pick them up, usually late at night (when the hospitals have OR space available), drop them off at the hospital, wait while they harvest the organ(s), then drive them back to the airport in the early morning hours.” He added, “It is a very sobering experience, always a reminder that life is short, but it feels great knowing you were a small part of a life-saving endeavor.”  

Another opportunity COVID provided was some unexpected downtime. Cortez had wanted to become a certified minority business but hadn’t taken the time to fill out all of the proper paperwork. Minority businesses must be at least 51% minority-owned operated and controlled. He was able to accomplish that task and is now proud to be a certified MBE (Minority  Business Enterprise). 

Like so many other small business owners, Carlos has found ways to survive a tough year. He is thankful that the Topeka community has been supportive and is looking forward to a more prosperous 2021. For safe, discreet, first-class transportation, you can’t beat Cortez Transportation. Call them today and tell them what you need. Carlos and his team will be more than happy to personalize it and make it special for you. Call 785 233-5466 or email them at Cortez@corteztc.com.