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Woman on a Mission To Lyft Up Nolensville

Joni Bicknese may have one of the more attention-grabbing LinkedIn profiles you’ve ever seen, as right at the top and just below her name are seven simple words: Driver, Mentor, Concierge, and Ambassador of Nashville. 

True to form, she’ll be the first to downplay that headline as fancy talk for what she really is — a 66-year-old Lyft driver. But any of the 27,000 people she’s given Lyft rides to over the past 10 years will tell you she’s all that and more.

They call her the Lyft Lady. She was one of the 30 drivers who started the new rideshare company in Nashville at the end of 2013 and has quickly become one of the more recognizable drivers, on and off the Lyft app, with her 16 matching hats and shirts, bubbly personality, and commitment to always being there with the engine running. 

Joni has 1,700 regular passengers around the Nolensville area, from CEOs to well-known musicians, Fire and Police Chiefs, Little League champions, and everyday folks who need a reliable ride to the airport in the early hours, like 2:30 am. They all have her cell phone, by the way. And many have rides booked out as far as June and July.

It started with people asking her, “Is there any way I can request you personally on the app?” She would answer, “Not on the app, but here’s my number, just drop me a text,” Joni continued with a laugh. “Just tell me what time you need me in your driveway!” 

She added, “I didn’t think I’d develop a following. But I put everything I’ve got into everything I do — and I honestly don’t know what I’d do without the town of Nolensville. I’ll bend over backward for anyone there.”

When our Nolensville Town Life Magazine team caught up with Joni, we were bowled over by how exciting and full her life has been. The real story, however, is what brought her to become “the Lyft Lady.” Born in 1957 as an Iowa farm girl, she excelled in academics, sports, 4-H, and pretty much everything else she did. Joni was one of eight children and the first to attend college, which she paid for college by selling books door to door with Nashville-based Southwestern Company. 

After college, she moved to Chicago, where she spent 10 years as a National Training Center Director and Franchise Consultant. In 1998, Southwestern Company recruited her back to Tennessee into executive roles in Executive Search and College Career Counseling. That was until 2012 when she and several others experienced “forced retirement.”  

 “At that point, I’m 55 and overqualified at director level. I’ve lost my home and could not get an interview,” she said.

But along came Lyft. Not only was she one of the first 30 drivers in Nashville, but she was one of 20 drivers chosen (out of 2 million) to “ring the bell” with the founders of Lyft at NASDAQ for the Initial Public Offering opening market in 2019.   

Like anyone else, Joni has had her share of ups and downs over the last 10 years. She’s never been married and has no children, and she’s celebrating 35 years of sobriety. The COVID-19 pandemic destroyed her Lyft income, and in the midst of all that, she had emergency gallbladder surgery. But she continues to look for the silver lining. 

In fact, Joni shared, “If I hadn’t lost my home on Old Hickory Lake, I would have never ended up living in Nolensville. It was the biggest blessing in disguise!”

Since then, it’s as if every door possible has been opened. She was selected to participate in the Nolensville Citizen’s Police Academy and the inaugural Nolensville Fire and Rescue Academy. She’s a volunteer with the local non-profit Round Up for Nolensville and has helped build one of the more successful local Weight Watcher groups.

If that weren’t enough, she spends her downtime working as a General Manager at Brusters Real Ice Cream.  

“I keep telling myself that I need to quit being so darn responsible,” Joni said. “I just can’t tell you how thankful I am. This is a unique place, and so many people have lifted me up, from the police and fire chiefs to everyone in between. I love this community, and I’ll keep being their driver for as long as possible.”

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