Madison McCann, TSBDC
Each year, the Tennessee Small Business Development Center (TSBDC) recognizes one company as their Rising Star client. This is a company that not only exemplifies business success, but also an outstanding working relationship with the TSBDC. This year, BWY Transport received the Rising Star award.
How did BWY Transport get its start?
BWY Transport is a Chattanooga-based truckload carrier specializing in expedited and international automotive shipments as authorized agents. The owners, Bryan Meeks and Matthew Schaw, had previously worked together for nearly a decade at another large trucking company moving time-critical automotive production parts. They brought their talents together in March 2017 to form BWY Transport Inc.
They started with four office employees managing operations of 12 trucks. Within one year, BWY had opened a second office in Michigan to accommodate a customer service division of five employees, which Schaw now operates. Currently, between their two offices, they have 18 office employees and 63 trucks, with plans to purchase an additional 24 trucks by the end of the year.
How has BWY grown in the past year?
Despite industry decline, BWY has grown at a surprising rate. April Meeks, BWY’s Director of Business Development, credits their staff.
“Our core staff has over 100 years of trucking experience. We wouldn’t be where we are now without them,” she says. Bryan agrees and also credits their success to their ability to advertise and recruit drivers.
“In 2018, we spent a lot of our time and energy recruiting drivers and when the industry started declining earlier this year, it wasn’t something we had to worry about. We leaned more on our contractors and owner-operators while other companies couldn’t, and added people specifically to build the brokerage which has been a key part of our continued growth in 2019,” he says.
While other companies shifted their focus to hiring, BWY was able to expand on their number of authorized agent agreements from one to three. Earlier this year, BWY became an authorized agent with Dart, where their primary focus is on transporting Ford, GM, Volkswagen and Chrysler vehicles. Most recently they became an authorized agent with CRST Malone (a flatbed division).
Being an authorized agent means they have autonomy with dispatching, operate under the safety procedures of the transport company and keep liability at arm’s length. The contracts with Dar and CRST are non-exclusive, which has been instrumental in BWY's growth.
Outlook for 2020
Bryan noted that his goal for the company in 2020 is to diversify their options.
“Hope is not a good business plan,” he says. “This industry is survival of the fittest and we always plan for 2-3 years in the future. Right now we are booming, but there’s no guarantee it will stay that way. We’re looking at opportunities in which we can continue to grow.”
At the end of 2018, BWY expected to make a major purchase of 25 trucks. They put that transaction on hold, but will purchase 24 trucks by the end of 2019 and those trucks will be in operation in the first quarter of 2020.
“We’re also looking at storage trailer rentals and road service trucking for 2020,” Bryan says. This would mean that BWY would not have to outsource services anymore, and it would ultimately mean higher profit margins for the company.
How did the TSBDC help BWY Transport?
Bryan and April met the TSBDC team in May 2017. They visited the Hamilton County Business Development Center and were interested in the INCubator program. That’s when they attended the TSBDC’s Small Business Orientation, a class specifically designed for new entrepreneurs looking for information on business entity options, taxes, business planning, financing and more.
Bryan and April began meeting with counselors soon after the class, and continued to do so throughout 2017, 2018 and 2019. BWY credits the TSBDC with introducing them to local banks which helped them secure funding for the purchase of trucks, teaching April how to use QuickBooks, conducting market research for a brokerage base and providing valuable business classes.
In mid-2017, BWY opened their Chattanooga office in the INCubator, and has moved three times in the building. Each move has been to a larger space to accommodate the growing staff. Because of the INCubator, they've built relationships with other small businesses, such as Chattanooga Web Design and Crump National Insurance.
What is the TSBDC?
The Small Business Development Center is part of a network of 14 offices in Tennessee, and nearly 1,000 locations across the United States. The TSBDC provides services to help for-profit businesses succeed by offering one-on-one counseling, seminars on a variety of business topics, market research tools, loan packaging assistance and more. The TSBDC is located inside the Hamilton County Business Development Center at 100 Cherokee Blvd., Suite 202. Find more information on the local TSBDC office here.