“Big business starts small” is an aphorism taken to heart by many when launching a new venture. As aspiring entrepreneurs grapple with the challenges and risks of starting a new business, starting strong with as much information and support as possible is always a critical best practice.
That is why, in 2018, Erik Sharpee first connected with the Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of Central Florida (FSBDC at UCF) for assistance with opening his new business, Freeway International Logistics LLC, a third-party transportation logistics provider that helps move products around the country and around the globe.
Sharpee is not a novice in the third-party logistics arena; he had been doing it for 25 years while working for world-class companies. He learned that there is only one thing that’s important in the world of transportation logistics: everything. Because the industry is dependent on both shippers and carriers, Sharpee knew there was opportunity in building a business focused on being fair to both and “trying to do the right thing,” as he likes to say, in all aspects of a transaction.
“What are the steps to starting a business?” he asked himself. That is when he turned to the FSBDC at UCF and its consultant Chuck Wheeler. “I’ve been doing this business my whole life,” Sharpee recalls. “But I didn’t have any experience getting into business, any knowledge about the state requirements, the taxes and fees, the right steps to take. It all seemed overwhelming. So, I got in with the FSBDC and Chuck was super helpful.”
Taking advantage of the FSBDC’s no-cost, expert consulting services, business training, and seminars, Sharpee moved ahead with launching his venture. “It turns out it’s not as scary if you know what you’re doing,” he continued. “Sometimes the best thing you can do, if you’re not sure about what you’re doing, is to find someone who does. And Chuck was that man for us.”
“I would absolutely advise an entrepreneur or small business owner to go to the FSBDC,” Sharpee says now. “The truth is: you don’t know what you don’t know. The FSBDC has been a valuable resource in answering all our questions and helping us understand the pitfalls of our starting a business.”
“I don’t think we’re inventing anything unique at our company. But what we do have is a group of good people who care about what they do, who have relationships with our customers, and we share a commitment to always try to do the right thing,” Sharpee says.
And doing the “right thing” seems to be working for Freeway International Logistics. They have grown from two employees and $25,000 in monthly revenues at the start to 19 employees and $13 million in annual revenue today.
“If I had to use one word to describe the FSBDC and what it does for you, it would be ‘empowering’ because they empowered me to have the belief that I could start something and get it on the right path while having someone to turn to if I had questions,” concluded Sharpee. “Going from $25,000 to $13 million in 2 years is pretty good.”
For more information about Freeway International Logistics, please visit https://www.freewaylogs.com.