We caught up with entrepreneur Carla Stephens, 45, of Stephens Transportation Services, Inc. in Locust Grove, Georgia and Bravo TV’s new hot show Mother Funders, to find out about her multi-million dollar freight expedition company, how she got started and what her journey has been like as an entrepreneur.
Lioness Magazine (LM): Tell us a little about your background in business?
Carla Stephens (CS): I started my first business back in 2003 as a mortgage broker and have started and operated three other businesses since that time in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. I have an Associate’s Degree in Fashion Marketing and a Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Management.
LM: What makes your company unique?
CS: Stephens Transportation is unique because of its strong commitment in word and deed to keep the roads safe while expediting freight. We focus on timely delivery, but in a safe and courteous manner. We are a small fleet, with a large fleet mentality.
LM: Tell us about some of your specialties?
CS: We specialize in long-haul with team drivers.
LM: As a woman, did you encounter any unique experiences in establishing your business because of your gender?
CS: I am in a male-dominated field and I have had good and bad experiences because of my gender. There have been those who helped eagerly and those who believed I lacked the credentials to succeed in this field.
LM: What made you decide to open your own business rather than work for someone else?
CS: I started my first business because I wanted to stay at home with my first born son. I wanted the flexibility to hang out with him or to work all day.
LM: With so many companies doing more things digitally, how do you stay relevant?
CS: Staying relevant in the transportation industry is all about safety, technology and environmental consciousness. We work to maintain the best and safest equipment. We provide continuous training and access to safety training to our employees. Relevancy is a never ending cycle and is often subject to specific audiences or times.
LM: If you could give advice to readers who want to break into your industry, what would it be?
CS: Freight Expediting is a great opportunity for anyone looking for a manageable start up. I suggest that they research the industry and determine what lane or type of expediting they are interested in and look for someone who is doing it as a guide. They could also look for franchise or owner operator opportunities.
LM: What was one of your biggest challenges when launching your company?
CS: The biggest challenge was working capital! We were faced with an opportunity, but our finances were not all in place.
LM: What revenue sources did you use early on to get going?
CS: We actually took a loan out on our 401K and asked friends to invest.
LM: What are some things you do to stay motivated?
CS: I am motivated every day to always challenge myself to be better than I was the day before. I made an agreement with myself to not leave me in average.
LM: Tell us about your work on Mother Funders?
CS: Mother Funders is another amazing business opportunity for me to do what I love. I am not only talent on the show, but I am the consulting producer. I have been a part of the Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) at my son’s school since 2008 and it’s just been something that I’ve done for many years. I am a businesswoman and this is what my background is so naturally when I became President I set things up and operated according to what I was accustomed to. The network heard about what I was doing as a PTO mom and as the President and they loved the idea! I think it was a mutual agreement that this would be amazing for people to be able to see that there are moms that exist that are participating in the school with their children that are businesswomen, that are wives and that are friends. This is what we were doing before the cameras came around so that was my motivation.
LM: Many entrepreneurs struggle with fundraising? What would you say are the top things women need to keep in mind when trying to raise funds?
CS: First and foremost you must have a realistic fundraising goal! So many people seek funds without first knowing what they actually need or they set themselves up for failure by chasing unrealistic financial goals. Secondly, women need to be more willing to take risk in business. Women can sometimes be more cautionary than their counterparts which can cause them to miss out on money that is available because they fear the unknown. Thirdly, women are great story tellers, people are more socially conscientious today in ways they have not been before. Women should use their ability to be compassionate and tell stories when planning fundraising events. Today donors want to be compelled to give to whom or what they believe in. It can be socially, emotionally, financially or environmentally find a story and tell the story in the best way possible to get donors to engage.
LM: How do you juggle spending time with your family and pursuing your passions?
CS: My family is my passion and everything that I do flows through them. Balance to me is when my heart and mind are in sync. I never want to be in a place wishing I was somewhere else. I think that is where the guilt comes in as a wife and a mom, when my heart and mind do not reconcile. I make it my purpose to weigh what is most important in my life on the scales of my life and not someone else’s. What works for me may not work for another wife or mother. I believe when we use someone else’s scale unbalance is inevitable.
LM: What do you see as the next logical phase in your entrepreneur journey?
CS: My next logical phase in my journey is to secure my legacy for the generations to come, to pass on what I have learned. I also believe it is important for me to make sure my businesses are viable and saleable on the market just in case my heirs have other plans.
Check out Carla on Bravo’s Mother Funders