Laura Pajestka, Entrepreneur

Know all the Pros & Cons

I was born into the trucking industry because my Dad was a union driver for many years. Before my father passed away 13 years ago, our son had followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by working in the trucking industry. We talked about starting a trucking company of our own. I wanted the business to leave as a legacy for my son, in memory of my Dad.

What made  you decide to finally realize your lifelong dream?

I retired from nursing after almost 30 years. I always wanted to pursue this passion of starting my own company with my family. We started MJP Trucking, LLC in 2015. It is named after my son Matthew, my father Mike and my father-in-law Joe and our last name, Pajestka.

What were the specific obstacles that you faced?

As a new company, everyone would think it was the fact that I’m  a woman. In the banking world, the trucking industry is considered high risk for loans. The banks would not help me. My first year was very difficult. I had clients and work, but I couldn’t get the capital to help me grow the company. It was a difficult year in the sense of being able to grow to where I wanted to be.

What helped you get through them?

I did a lot of networking. I made arrangements and negotiated by working directly with unions and my clients. It helped me get over the hump. If some of my clients paid once a month, I was able to negotiate to get paid more often to keep the money flowing.

After I hit the one year mark, banks started opening up to me. Before then, they wouldn’t even think about helping me. It was disheartening. Banks advertised that they want to help small businesses grow, but when I approached them, they shut me down. It was not a good first year working with the banking industry.

Were there people that tried to discourage you?

No one discouraged me from starting my business. Our family and friends, the unions and the construction industry were very supportive. Indirectly, the only companies or people who were not supportive were the banks.

How did you feel when you finally accomplished your lifelong dream?

It was great. It’s very rewarding and exciting. I immediately started attending networking events, conferences, classes and seminars. I grabbed the baton and ran with it.

What advice would you give to others that are contemplating finally living their dream?

Do your homework. Make sure that you know all the pros and cons of what you’re going to deal with in your industry before you get established. Talk to the people in your industry so you will know the possible hurdles.  Get advice on what you need to do to overcome those hurdles.

Also, make sure that you talk to the financial institutions as well. That was one of my biggest hurdles. You can have all the wonderful ideas and support around you, but if you can’t get the financial backing, then it may be difficult.

Know what you need upfront before you jump into it. You may think you have everything in place, but didn’t think about the fact that you may need working capital, and that’s where you may get challenged. Make sure you get the financial backing to get where you need to go. For me, there’s payroll, insurance and inventory. Insuring trucks is very costly. The bottom line is, you need to know your costs of doing business.

Have a wonderful support system. Reach out for people to help you. If they offer, let them help you. Everyone I reached out to was willing to help me. Ninety-nine percent of the companies and the people I reached out to were very supportive to me get to where I wanted to go. There were a few who may have viewed me as competition.

There are certifications that are available to help small, minority companies. Leverage these opportunities. Check with your industry to see what type of certifications are available to help you. There are many out there for women, disadvantaged, and small businesses.

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