The freight industry is probably the last place Jy’Juan Maze thought she would end up building a career.
But once she got her foot in the door, she brought fresh perspective to an industry heavily dominated by white men.
After graduating from North American University with a business degree in 2008, Maze took her first job out of college at Freightquote. In 2017, she founded Maze Freight Solutions.
“I had friend who worked [at Freightquote] and said it was a great company and they were very family oriented, do a lot of fun things and take care of their employees,” Maze said. “So I applied for a sales position, but they didn’t have a position open right then. They had an opening in customer service, and I just said I’d take the open position. I’m glad I did. It enabled me to take all the steps to see everything that happens inside a corporation. I was fortunate enough to work closely with CEO Tim Barton, and I learned a lot of things from him.”
The lessons revealed to Maze that the freight industry offered a huge opening for a female- and minority-led company. Many railroad companies have government projects, and they need subcontractors that can fulfill mandates for minority-owned and women-owned set-asides in those contracts.
But the industry suffered from a serious shortage of those qualified companies.
‘No one is blocking me’
Maze decided to become an entrepreneur.
“This really is a white male industry,” Maze said. “But what I’m seeing is they’ve paved the way for me to succeed. No one is blocking me.”
Maze immediately immersed herself in Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, taking full advantage of all the resources available. She connected with a mentor from SCORE. She tapped services at KCSourceLink and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She talked to owners of trucking companies.
“Everyone was so helpful,” Maze said. “I’m someone who always wants to seek counsel. I never just go it alone.”
Paving the way for others
Now that she’s got her own company, Maze said she loves that she’s opening doors for other women to enter the industry. She wants to be an example, showing that if she can succeed in the freight industry, other women can, too.
“Women are nurturers, and we have a lot of companies who love working with us because we understand them, understand the bottom line and get things done,” Maze said. “We don’t procrastinate. We pick up the phone, whether it’s good or bad. When it’s time to nurture, you nurture. When it’s time to chastise, you chastise. We teach respect to our employees, and because of that we’re never really disrespected. Those are the same techniques we bring to raising children. We’re just bringing it to the business realm.”
Maze Freight Solutions is a full-service freight broker. Customers call and say they need 30 loads sent from A to Z, and they don’t have time to figure it out. Maze handles it, getting the freight where it needs to be in a cost-effective manner. The company has connections to ship over air, sea or land.
It can be a stressful job, especially in these days of the coronavirus, when the freight industry is needed more than ever to deliver supplies in heavy demand to where they need to be as quickly as possible. The company is busy hiring people now to meet the growing demand, adding salespeople, customer service, account managers and other positions.
“We keep the culture at the office fun because if you can’t have fun it will be dull. You’ll hate it and want to go home,” Maze said. “So we keep jokes in the office. We keep music in the office because it keeps your heart happy. We keep jokes alive in the office. You have to get things done and be focused on business, but you need to have fun, too. Life is over in a flash, so laugh and smile as much as you can.”
About the Connecting KC series: This ongoing project aims to assist efforts to make businesses, institutions and civic organizations — and opportunity — more diverse and inclusive.