Thinking about starting your own business? Great! Despite what many people think about corporate behemoths like Amazon and Walmart ruling the world, the truth is the majority of jobs and economic activity doesn’t come from super-large corporations, but from millions of small “Main Street” businesses of every category.
According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 99.9% of businesses are defined as small businesses. Of the 30.2 million businesses in this category, 22 million are run by the owner and founder; the rest have less than 500 employees each. And a huge percentage of all small businesses are owned by women, with a growing percentage owned by women of color.
Helping women — and especially women of color — get their wheels rolling in the transportation and logistics field is the goal of a new organization, Leading Ladies of Logistix (lead
ingladiesoflogistix.com), founded by four female entrepreneurs who have been through the ups and down of the industry.
“Leading Ladies of Logistix was an idea to put together a group of women that would help each other grow their businesses, sharing resources,” said Tristen Simmons, CEO and founder of South Carolina-based Lady Logistix LLC. “That’s exactly what Leading Ladies is. It’s an organization that helps women who are coming into the industry.”
When Simmons met fellow Leading Ladies founders — freight broker Samantha Smith and freight corporate executive Vanessa Gant — at a brunch in Atlanta, the three were instantly of one mind when discussing the need for such an organization. They decided to join forces and lead seminars to teach other women the ins and outs of making it in the business. The fourth Leading Lady, Tawana Randall, joined the team after attending one of the seminars.
Three of the four women have one vital thing in common: They all failed at their first run at the trucking business. They aren’t unique in this respect, as government statistics show almost one in four transportations ventures fail in their first year, and less than 70% survive to see Year 3. But in Simmons’ and Smith’s cases, their setbacks only motivated them to learn more in order to achieve success in the future. In addition, they are committed to the idea of helping other women who are enduring similar struggles.
“In 2009, I started a trucking company with my husband and my father-in-law. We knew nothing about trucking,” said Simmons. “After about two and a half years, we started failing. So, I had to switch gears. I ran a courier service. I got into brokering as a freight agent and thought the entire time that if I could’ve connected with other women, they could’ve probably helped me, and I probably wouldn’t have failed the first time around.”
Smith’s first business venture ran into regulation issues.
“When we first got married, my husband was in the trucking industry with one of his friends,” Smith said. “The guy wanted to get out of the business and my husband was like, ‘Hey, would you be interested in buying the truck from him and staying in the business?’ I knew nothing about (the trucking industry) but I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure. Let’s do it.’
“We failed as well; we were put out of service because we didn’t understand the regulations and the requirements of a new trucking company,” she continued. “So that made me basically create my own standards, procedures, my own back office. I’m self-taught with everything.”
Randall said she not only experienced the same problems as her co-founders, but was also frustrated by how hard it was to find help. She knew she was starting from nothing in terms of industry knowledge and entrepreneurial skills, and at one point tried to access college courses to fill the void — all for naught. Because of this, she sees a little bit of herself in the myriad women who attend her seminars and make up Leading Ladies’ enrollment.
“We get women of all ages, and with COVID it shifted because people are looking for new careers,” Randall said. “I’ve had school teachers that went from teaching to freight dispatching; truck drivers that want to get out of the truck and get into something within the office. We have a different array of people that are looking for assistance and how to get into this industry the correct way.
“Everyone is looking for something different to do, something else they can do,” she explained. “They’re looking to be entrepreneurs and change their career in their life at the moment. So, it definitely ranges in age and definitely ranges in experience.”
After forming Leading Ladies in 2017, the foursome has grown the membership ranks to more than 4,500 women and has trained 20 mentors to reach even more, locally. The fact that they live in three separate locations — Simmons and Gant in South Carolina, Randall in Atlanta and Smith in Ohio — helped them quickly spread their group’s message across multiple markets.
All Leading Ladies of Logistix services, including the seminars, are offered for free.
“I definitely see the organization going into a direction of becoming a nonprofit,” Gant said. “I see it becoming a place for women to be educated on different areas of the industry where they can fit in and learn how they can make it profitable and also be able to give back to everyone.”
Gant hopes to empower women in a male-dominated industry, and provide them with the safety and resources needed to succeed.
“I see us being bigger than what we are now by having partnerships with some of the major brands in the industry,” she said. “Whether it’s the people who are providing services, the people who are providing equipment or the actual carriers, I see us eventually matching people together to help provide services.”
Dwain Hebda is a freelance journalist, author, editor and storyteller in Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to The Trucker, his work appears in more than 35 publications across multiple states each year. Hebda’s writing has been awarded by the Society of Professional Journalists and a Finalist in Best Of Arkansas rankings by AY Magazine. He is president of Ya!Mule Wordsmiths, which provides editorial services to publications and companies.