July 12--The brightly colored, converted school bus is easy to spot on Knoxville roads with its hand-painted hippie design, bringing smiles to onlookers and honks from passing cars.
It's the sort of attention Renee Sprouse is hoping for as she launches a new event transportation company, the Big Love Bus.
"I really wanted it to appeal to everyone, kids and adults," Sprouse said. "We just want people to have fun and to get to their destination safely."
The stay-at-home mother started the business last fall with her stepmother-in-law, Missy Sprouse, a photographer in Dallas who focuses on high school seniors. The idea originated after a photo shoot in Texas, where Sprouse said there are endless transportation options, including some with fur seats.
"I thought we don't have anything like this back home," said Sprouse, who was ready to get back to work as her kids were getting older.
The Sprouse family bought two school buses and over Christmas enlisted the help of University of Tennessee students and others to help paint the designs by 19-year-old local artist Caden Montgomery.
Precision Rod and Customs in Sevierville gutted and restored the interiors, taking out the original seating and putting in new sectional booths. New air conditioning units, a stereo, custom lighting and a GoPro camera to capture special moments were installed. There's a place to store drinks and snacks, and the ceiling is painted with chalkboard paint.
Sprouse said most of the ideas came from the image-based social platform Pinterest.
The company has three buses, with one based in Knoxville and one in Nashville through a sister company. A third bus will float back and forth depending on need.
Dee Dee Brownlee, who rode in the bus for a wedding last month near Townsend, said her first impression was "wow."
"It had everything we needed," she said. "We didn't care if they drove us around all night."
The company provides a licensed driver for every rental, which has a $200 per hour rate. The bus can travel anywhere in the state and is available for overnight trips. It delivers Mobile Meals monthly and is working with schools to transport students for service projects.
"I just feel really lucky to have been given this opportunity," Sprouse said.
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