A few weeks ago, I had a chance to chat with two-time Kiva loan recipient, Anita, co-owner of Dragonfly Industries. Anita received her first loan ($5,000) in January 2016 to lease a temporary truck while theirs was being fixed and to put a down payment on pricy truck insurance, allowing Dragonfly Industries to start transporting goods. For her second Kiva loan, Anita borrowed $10,000 to put towards a second truck and to tighten up her pay cycle, so her drivers could continue getting their timely payments. Both loans were endorsed by the McKees Rocks CDC.
Bethany: I’ll be honest, I don’t know that much about trucking. What is your role with the trucks?
Anita: Well, I’m a co-owner of Dragonfly Industries. I have a business partner and significant other, Joe, and he’s been a truck driver for thirty-some years.
[Anita went on to explain that Dragonfly works with two models of trucking: hired drivers and owner-operators. Owner-operators have their own trucks and lease on with companies, like Dragonfly, that have a Department of Transport registration number to get contracts and the insurance to cover their trips. Dragonfly Industries also owns their own truck, “Big Red”, a tri-axle dump truck. In addition to hiring owner-operators, Dragonfly hires independent drivers to drive Big Red.]
Bethany: So how did you get into the field of trucking, was it related to a previous job?
Anita: It actually wasn’t. I still have my day job at a university. My partner and I were looking at different opportunities; he wanted to own his own business for many years and I was looking for my next challenge as my children were growing up, graduating high school and college. With the CSX terminal going into McKees Rocks and PennDOT redoing the turnpike, there was a good opportunity to start a trucking company. We also wanted to be a different kind of trucking company, one that is fair and honest with our drivers, treating them well and ensuring they succeed. They are small business owners, too.
Bethany: I would imagine the learning curve was somewhat steep, if you knew nothing about trucking! (Laughs)
Anita: (laughing) Yes! The learning curve has been huge, not only learning about trucking, but learning about how to run a small business. For trucking I have a lot of personal resources, so the more challenging piece has been learning how to run a small business. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there for small businesses. That was actually how we first learned about Kiva. I attended a seminar at Chatham University’s Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Emily came and talked about Kiva. I’ve also taken classes at the Diversity Business Resource Center at Riverside Center for Innovation, and the Pitt Small Business Development Center and GACO (Government Agency Coordination Office).
Bethany: How was the process for your second Kiva loan compared to your first?
Anita: Once my loan got opened up to the Kiva community, the outpouring of strangers from all over the world was really amazing. During our second loan, as we were getting close to our goal - we just needed a few more people to give - it was like, blink, turn around and “Oh, we’re fully funded! How did that happen?” So, lots of good over all, it’s so encouraging to know this type of organization exists.
Bethany: In your second loan description, you mentioned Dragonfly helped transport outdoor hockey flooring to Heinz Field and materials for the Kennedy Center renovation. Any interesting upcoming contracts?
Anita: You know, 99% of our loads are pretty boring stuff that we all need. I think a lot of people don’t think about how much trucking impacts their lives or the amount of freight that comes into the area on a day-to-day basis. It’s everything from coffee makers and phones to steel pipes & beams. Without trucks and trucking companies the store shelves would be empty. Or they couldn’t get that building built or whatever. It makes me appreciate the truck drivers you see every day on the highways and how the things that they haul are so vital to the economy of the U.S. It’s a little humbling at times.
Be on the lookout next week for our next Summer Business Spotlight: Pete of Pittsburgh Hops!
Written by Bethany Arneson. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.