By Andrea V. Watson
There’s a new party bus coming to town. The Shagg Wagg Inc., a tinted window Volkswagen bus, brings riders a unique experience, all in style. The new business launches Friday, Jan. 4.
For a flat group rate of $75 an hour, with a two hour minimum, groups can choose from the party bus option or pop-up karaoke (also available on the bus). They pick their own route.
There’s even a three-hour city tour for $300 that will start at the Wrigley Building, taking passengers along Michigan Ave. and passing by the John Hancock Center. The route also includes historic buildings along the way, such as the Civic Opera House and the Willis Tower.
During the city tour, The Shagg Wagg Inc. will also show riders neighborhoods like Pilsen, Wicker Park and Chinatown. There will be some South Side sights along the route, before the bus heads north on Lakeshore Drive, ending at Navy Pier. Lunch is included with this package. Visit www.theShaggWagg.com for more.
The bus has a 4-by-8-foot sunroof, a fog machine and it’s equipped with two television screens, two microphones, one 12-inch subwoofer and four six-inch speakers. Oh, and did we mention it’s BYOB?
Alton Hagins, the CEO and founder of The Shagg Wagg Inc., will be the driver until he hires others. He said that because the bus only holds up to eight people, it creates an “intimate” feel, offering something unique.
But first, why this kind of bus?
“I loved the Ninja Turtles growing up and I always wanted one of those buses personally because they drove it in their first movie,” he said after a laugh.
The Shagg Wagg Inc. concept was first created in 2016.
“One of my buddies from college gave me the name, the Shagwagg, like Shaggy and the Scooby-Doo bus, but we called it [The Shagg Wagg Inc.],” he said.
Hagins, a St. Louis native graduated from Tuskegee University’s Construction Management program in 2009. He said the market was “horrible” when he finished college. He found himself driving a taxi to keep his bills paid. While doing that, he met the senior vice president of a concrete testing firm. He was offered a position there, which he accepted. A few months later, he landed a high paying job with a construction management company, where he stayed for three years. He said that job allowed him to save up for The Shagg Wagg Inc.
He was ready to turn his business idea into an official business plan.
“I don’t like working for other people,” he said. “You can never get your full potential working for someone else.”
While working on his dream, he continued to work his day job. One day an old college friend informed him about a job opportunity in Chicago.
“I applied, they flew me out, they loved me, and that’s how I got here,” Hagins said. “I will have been in Chicago for four years in April.”
After one year on the new job, he said that he began to feel restless and unenthused. He also sensed that his days there were numbered, he said.
“God spoke to me and said, ‘It’s time now,’ so that’s when I registered my business. A week later they laid me off and said, ‘I didn’t fit well with the team.’”
Hagins said he saw the layoff as an opportunity to focus more on networking and getting the business started, but it was far from an easy process. He had been saving money over the years so was ready to make the financial sacrifice. Besides raising $200 through a GoFundMe page, everything else came out of pocket.
“My bus [has been to three] custom shops,” he said. “With the first shop, the guy did the body work and painted it. I gave him $14,000 [overtime] and I lost like $5,000 with him. He did the bodywork, but didn’t have a concept on what to do with the interior so my bus sat in his shop for a year.”
At the second shop, he was promised everything would be completed under his budget, but in the end, the owner raised the total cost by thousands, Hagins said.
“He did the framework for like $1,700 so I paid him for that, but everything else was too much,” Hagins said.
The entrepreneurial journey has consisted of delays, betrayal and frustration, Hagins described, but he never once thought to quit. He just took the lessons and kept pushing forward.
“I learned a lot of patience because I’m very impatient, and when I want it done, I want it done,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy. It has not been easy. I almost moved back to St. Louis because things were not going the way I wanted them to go, but you can’t rush it.”
He said he’s not a quitter and is happy he didn’t stop trying. The first three concepts will kick off the business, but there will be even more options in the future.
“Further down the line, I plan on having at least 100 buses in Chicago,” Hagins said. “There will be a hookah bus, a mobile dog grooming bus, sports themed buses, children’s birthday party buses and more.”
His long term goal is to help others, which is why Hagins said he will eventually employ the formerly incarcerated to wash and prepare the bus for the next party. He also wants to start a scholarship program for high school seniors and turn an abandoned building into a homeless shelter.