Jy'Juan Maze's personality has always been more attuned to an entrepreneurial nature, and it wasn't uncommon to hear others say, "You act like you own something."
"I've always had the entrepreneur bug in me. It just did not come out until now," Maze told the Kansas City Business Journal. "It finally hit when I found an industry that I loved."
In June 2017, Maze and her husband launched logistics company Maze Freight Solutions and later added another business partner: COO Wachinda Harrell. During the first year, the Kansas City transportation broker reached six-figure revenue and then grew to $500,000 in 2018.
One of its differentiators is transparency and a drive to help clients identify opportunities to save money and boost their bottom line.
"Customers don't have time to shop their rates, and some of them don't want to deal with it," Maze said. "Logistics is hard – it's not the easiest industry."
Often, companies that need shipping are grandfathered into rate programs, and they get too comfortable — they don't continue to research whether they're still getting the best deal, Harrell said.
So Maze Freight Solutions analyzes customers' freight spend and needs and also provides quarterly analysis. It keeps the industry accountable and ensures that customers aren't being taken advantage of, Maze and Harrell said.
The company also is adept at handling emergency situations, such as new customers calling because their carrier backed out and they need product shipped tomorrow.
The two business partners previously worked at Freightquote for nearly a decade in sales roles, learning the ins and outs of the industry. Having that foundation gave them the courage to launch Maze Freight Solutions.
One of their takeaways from the C.H. Robinson company is "Win the day." It's a mindset that aims to move the needle each day, whether it's landing a new customer, boosting spend with an existing customer or tackling a project. Or it could be as simple as getting enough information to conduct a freight spend analysis for a prospective customer.
"It's always 'Be doing something positive,'" Harrell said. "You may not necessarily get what we call in the sales world a sale, but you may win the day. You may make more calls than you did the day before."
Maze echoed that sentiment: "Be productive all day. We don't let the day sleep."
That mindset is evidenced in how Maze Freight Solutions has built its customer base and relationships with vetted carriers. It started with "old-fashioned" sales and a lot of cold calling.
"We go after it; we don't let it come to us," Maze said.
Their focus on integrity is paying off and has led to a number of customer referrals. Plus, instead of persuading carriers to work with them, carriers are now approaching Maze Freight Solutions because they've heard positive comments from other carriers.
As new entrepreneurs, Maze and Harrell have had to tweak their mindset from being sales reps to business owners. Early on, it was a tough lesson. In the corporate world, they'd become accustomed to giving customers big flexibility with payment plans. So they automatically offered customers 30- to 45-day billing terms.
"I think we lost a lot of money not knowing how to leverage our cash flow," Harrell said.
They didn't have late fee terms or a time frame for when customers needed to pay off their account. Coupled with the lengthy billing terms, it was creating tight cash flow.
"We were concerned that all this work we put into our vision was going to fail," Harrell said. "And it definitely wasn't because we didn't have customers."
A mentor, however, helped them turn the business around and create a solid financial plan for customers. Having mentors who aren't afraid to be blunt has been key, Harrell said. Plus, the partners embrace a willingness to continue learning, whether that's through mentors or reading books and articles.
"We don't ever get too comfortable," Maze said. "We're always innovative, always looking for new ideas that work best for the company."
Maze Freight Solutions has three partners and one employee and plans to add two more employees in the first quarter in sales and customer service. It specializes in full truckload services and serves customers in a variety of industries, including manufacturing, retail and construction. Some of its marquee clients are Feeding America, Miller Zell and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service.
Their vision, Maze said, can be summed up in one sentence: "To make a difference."