There’s a saying that goes, “If you bought it, a truck brought it.” That may only be true 73.7% of the time, but either way, there are a lot of truckers out there in the U.S. delivering the things that we use and rely on every day. Over a million, in fact.
Marley Transport & Trucking is one of those trucking companies. Yet, when we interviewed founder Shavon Marley, we found the incredible story behind this company that makes it stand out from the crowd.
A family-operated business
True to its name, Marley is largely a family-operated business. Shavon Marley started the company. Later, her husband took the primary role as head of operations and dispatch. Her dad was the first driver they hired, bringing decades of experience and industry connections to the table. Her uncle, who had gotten involved in trucking through her dad, is their second driver; and their third and most recent, added due to a higher volume of work, is a friend of a friend.
Marley may be one trucking company out of millions, but it’s more than a business, it’s a family, both literally and figuratively. Needless to say, this small company, which continues to grow, is not only having a significant impact on Shavon’s family but her community as well.
For Shavon and her husband, it was a dream long in the making. Originally Shavon worked full time in sales, and her husband in cable and satellite installation, a demanding job that required him to work six days a week outdoors. “My husband and I were high school sweethearts also,” she told us. “…We always had this thing where one day we would figure out how to have our own business and set our own schedules, and be able to travel and be able to work from wherever we travel.”
That was the dream. But it was not until the onset of some difficult and unexpected circumstances that Shavon began to take action, turning her dream into a reality.
Tenacity in the face of pressure and adversity
The above image is of a therapy session occurring in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. In 2016 Shavon would find herself spending a lot of time in these tanks: she was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of that year.
Others may have balked in the face of such hardships, but Shavon made the most of it. Her treatment allowed her “a lot of time away from work, and also a lot of time to think,” she told us with a laugh. Therapy sessions would last 7 hours each and occur 2-3 times a week — all without the distraction of electronics. She used the time to ruminate at length about the business she and her husband had always wanted to start.
“I’m picking up on inspiration everywhere.” -Shavon Marley
But she didn’t only think. She found herself engaging in conversation with some other patients. “I’m in this tank with all old people — but a really good group of old people.” This included business owners, people experienced in the trucking industry, and even a woman who had started a welding business and could provide advice in thriving in a male-dominated industry. “I’m picking up on inspiration everywhere,” Shavon told us. “So I’m going into this tank with my pen and paper, and I’m getting my questions answered.”
For some specific concerns, however, the people she was close to didn’t have all the resources she needed. “I didn’t really have immediate people within my trust circle I could go to and say, ‘How do I do this? What do I need to know? Does the loan make sense?’…I just didn’t know what to do.” Meanwhile, there was an increasing source of pressure in her ever-growing absence away from work, and her husband’s own job whose hours were long and kept them apart at such a challenging time.
But her father, a seasoned trucker, always believed in her. “He’d always tell me, ‘You’re a big girl, you’re smart, you can figure it out, you can figure anything out…’ — Okay, well, if I figure it out,” Shavon recounted, “then I solve all these problems.” With some help, she did.
One big part of the equation was assistance from Carolina Small Business.
Figuring it out with Carolina Small Business
When Shavon first connected with Scott Wolford of Carolina Small Business Development Fund, the business she had in mind was a dump truck business. Eventually, this would evolve into the transport and trucking business of today. Needless to say, there was extensive thinking, collaboration, and planning along the way, but Scott’s guidance helped see her through.
Scott found a driven, hardworking client in Shavon. “I think he could tell I’d never written a business plan before,” Shavon recounted. “But I think he picked up on the fact that I’ll research any and everything until I figure it out.” He directed her energies by coaching her on writing the business plan, providing tools and resources, and bringing certain costs and considerations to her attention — “all the things that you really have to kind of put some time into forecasting when you’re starting a business.”
In April of 2018, all of the hard work came to fruition. Shavon received a loan which was able to support her new business and fund insurance for the trucks in her growing enterprise. On April 30, 2018, Marley Transport & Trucking pulled its first load. Since then Marley Trucking has continued to grow and establish itself as a reliable transportation option across North Carolina.
There were still challenges after launch, such as finding brokers, meeting a high volume of work, and navigating the logistics of intermodal hauling. But Shavon used her trademark grit and research abilities to pull through. Now Marley Trucking has three drivers and does intermodal hauling from the Port of Wilmington.
Recently, Shavon and her husband took a trip to Mexico. Her husband would check his laptop in the mornings, but the afternoons would be devoted to hitting the beach. Working from wherever and whenever they want — their dream had finally come true.
“I don’t think we could’ve done any of that…without the funding,” Shavon told us. “We certainly wouldn’t have been able to grow.”
Marley Trucking is based out of Raleigh, NC. If have transport needs in North Carolina, they can be reached at 919-757-5425.
Carolina Small Business fosters economic development in underserved communities through access to capital, business services, and policy research. Since 2010, the non-profit community development financial institution has invested more than $50.7 million through 661 loans to small businesses across North Carolina helping to create or retain more than 2,267 jobs.