Rapidly growing Chattanooga-based truckload carrier BWY, owned by Bryan Meeks and Matthew Schaw, specializes in expedited and international shipments and is an authorized agent of Celadon Trucking Services, Inc. In this Q&A, this Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) client and INCubator tenant talks about the BWY business story.
What inspired you to start this business?
“I saw an opportunity to continue something I helped start over a decade ago. It was an opportunity to build on a previous business model,” Bryan Meeks says.
Previously an employee in the heavy automotive industry working with moving time-critical plant parts, Meeks jumped at a chance to partner with Celadon and take business into his own hands.
Describe the mission of your business.
Meeks emphasizes, “It’s all about the people. Our mission is to provide quality service and quality jobs for people in the Chattanooga area.” Meeks also references a sign hanging on the wall of his office that reads: “The Lord demands fairness in every business deal.” BWY abides by this statement by being honest and fair with employees, clients and partners. “We are not going to lie. Bad news is bad news.”
Is that what “fueled your drive” for Hurricane Harvey relief?
“Once word got out about Hurricane Harvey, I called the president of Celadon and asked what he had done with FEMA.
He said ‘Nothing, we’ve never tapped into that, do you have any contacts?’
I said, 'Oh yeah.'”
Within 72 hours, BWY had 121 tractor trailers carrying water, food and supplies.
“That’s a big undertaking if you think about it,” Meeks says. “It’s disruptive to a company, to pull out those trucks and do that, there’s some sacrifice there with other customers and things like that.”
One truck was lost in the dangerous flood waters around Houston, but no drivers were harmed.
Did you previously have the background/skills necessary to run this type of business?
“I’ve never been a truck driver, just an owner and operator. My job is juggling 27 balls at once—it’s like multitasking on steroids.”
How has new technology impacted how you conduct business?
“Well it’s helped tremendously…The technology we have with our partners, Celadon, we’ve got satellite communication within the trucks so we can communicate with that driver, even when cell towers are down. We can track them, literally map them with Google and zoom down and see exactly where that truck is sitting in a parking lot. Technology like that is hard to beat.”
Describe your typical client.
Typical BWY clients are companies such as Ford and General Motors.
What challenges brought you to the TSBDC?
“We were brand new, so putting everything together, staffing was a big challenge…From a business perspective, business license, handling growth, operations and loan packaging… it's great to have a resource that you can make a phone call or walk downstairs (in the INCubator) and get an answer. Boom, it’s done. The TSBDC has been a tremendous asset to allow us to not have to be drawn away or distracted from our goal by helping us handle tedious tasks of resources for taxes and business necessities…it’s great to have a resource that can make a solution to a problem only 10 minutes rather than a one-week process on our own. It’s a huge difference. It allows us to focus; I’m very appreciative of that.”
What are some unexpected benefits to owning a business within the INCubator?
“A great recent example, we just expanded into another suite…with that we needed insurance, more communication and more phones.”
Meeks says he was able to walk down the hall to an insurance company and sign his policy there, then walk next door to a small business phone service and get new phone systems.
How are you celebrating the first anniversary of your company besides your recent ribbon cutting hosted by the Chattanooga Chamber?
“Honestly we’ve been so busy with the growth, the ribbon cutting was a big celebration…but now it’s back to work. We’ve all gotten back to work, especially on staffing. We are already double the staff count we had during Harvey.”
Your company is growing rapidly – where do you see BWY in the coming year? Five years?
“Our goal is to double, from Jan. 1, 2018 to Jan. 1, 2019, and we have already grown in this first quarter 25 percent, so we are right on pace. I think we will blow past our goal if we keep doing what we are doing.”
Meeks says BWY is planning a purchase of 25 new trucks for more long-term trips.
“Bryan and April came with some general ‘how-to’ questions, but once we were past that, we dove straight into the identification of appropriate loan products. We then offered introductions to community banking professionals in order for BWY to gain access to a loan which suited them,” says Managing TSBDC Director Lynn Chesnutt on the rapid growth.
Previously, BWY had been an owner-operated structure. Demand for their services is rising, and they are working to meet those whether it's freight, carriers or a job.
BWY recently added an office location, and the story won’t stop here. Find out more about BWY here.