This is a story of us, it is our story. It chronicles our journey through building a company. This saga is replicated hundreds of times across America every year. People start businesses with high hopes and expectations. Like yours, this is a tale of entrepreneurship.
FundingSage: A journey of entrepreneurship
I am Ken.
I was born in Brooklyn, New York raised by European immigrant parents seeking a better life and the American Dream.
Hard work, dedication, ambition, dreams, frustrations and possibilities were always on display. Early on, I was expected to perform: good grades, cut the grass, cook and feed the animals. I had various odd jobs and paid my way through college. I graduated from Old Dominion University in 1984 with a degree in Economics and accepted a position in Los Angeles with a now defunct Rubber Company.
I was attracted to the opportunity to work on special projects for upper management. One such opportunity would change the trajectory of my life. I was challenged to figure out how to improve warehouse efficiency, and reduce distribution and transportation costs. The project was successful and opened my eyes to the opportunities in Transportation. I took a position in 1986 with Old Dominion Freight Lines in Los Angeles rising to become a top national performer.
With the deregulation of the transportation industry and a shift towards downsizing of transportation departments, I saw an opportunity to provide multimodal transportation services from a single source and implement much needed technology plus offer the option for outsource transportation departments and provide third party services.
I left Old Dominion to start National Freight Systems, Inc., which became one of the early and leading logistics companies on the west coast. Renamed National Logistics Corporation, it became a prominent provider of services to a diverse customer base including several Fortune 500 companies. In 1994, NFS was sold to USXpress Enterprises , a publicly traded transportation company.
Almost simultaneous to the startup of NFS, my wife and I founded, LaCienega Travel Services, Inc. We purchased a fledgling small mom and pop traditional leisure travel service with a few hundred thousand dollars in sales. When the company was sold in 1995, to a private equity buyer, it had been transformed to one of Los Angeles’s premier travel service companies focused in Entertainment, Music, Film, Corporate and Leisure Travel and sales exceeding $10,000,000.
After a sabbatical, I relocated to Kingsport, Tennessee in 1996, a place where my wife’s family was from and co-founded GTS Refreshment Services. It grew to become one of the largest vending and business/industry dining service providers in the regional foot print it serviced. In 2010, the company was sold to the Compass Group, a publically traded, diversified food service provider.
As a co-founder in FundingSage, I aspire and have a passion to share the knowledge that I have gained hoping to shed light on the wins and losses of my career and simplify the process for the new generation of Entrepreneurs so that they can achieve goals higher, faster and greater.
I am Matthew.
Working hard is in my blood; working smart came with time.
My great-grandfather, papaw, father and uncles were all farmers and masons. I do not remember a time in life that I didn’t understand the value of a dollar and what it took to acquire one.
At the age of 12, my work experience moved beyond the home and neighborhood projects to become part of the family construction crew. My summers and many evenings were spent mixing mortar, building scaffolding and carrying block and brick. The days were long, but I was learning many valuable lessons.
At the age of 16, I was given the opportunity to become a masonry apprentice and I loved it. To this day, I enjoy driving through neighborhoods and showing my children homes that I helped to build. The satisfaction of a job well-done was immense.
It was at this point in life that my father decided it was time to have a serious conversation with his 16 year old son.
It went something like this:
Dad: “I can tell you really enjoy what you’re doing, and I do too. It feels great to know you’re good at something and that it provides long-lasting value to others. What we are doing is honorable. However, you see how often I visit the chiropractor and you know how tight things can get through the winter months…”
Me. “Yes, I know.”
Dad: “Here’s the thing, there are only two kinds of jobs in the whole world, and it’s time you made a decision.”
Me: “OK, go on.”
Dad: “There are jobs where you take a shower after work and there are jobs where you take a shower before work. That’s it. It’s really that simple.”
Being a man of few words, my father didn’t feel it was necessary to elaborate any further. He left me to consider this and I knew he would support whatever decision I made. It took quite a while, but the clarity this brought to my life has been invaluable. I am as driven as I ever was. I work as hard now as I did at 16. I also work smarter than my physical abilities would have ever allowed.
Today, I am co-owner of an IT services company, an online classifieds company, and multiple other profitable ventures.
My life experiences have taught me that there is no magic key to starting a successful business. On the other hand, I have learned that the probability of success is greatly increased with a strong mind, a good work ethic, solid business practices and a great team…
FundingSage is the greatest team I have ever been part of.
I am Tony.
Born in the sleepy southern coastal town of Beaufort, SC and growing up in Beaufort and Charleston, I am a product of the South Carolina “low-country”; a third generation American.
I owned a bateau before I owned a car. My early requests to my parents for a car were met with a resounding, NO! No, we won’t give you a car. We will however provide you the opportunity to earn the money to buy one yourself. At the age of 17, I purchased my first new car, after hundreds of hours of work on multiple jobs. It was my second major achievement, my first being earning the rank of Eagle Scout. From an intellectual capital standpoint, the lessons learned in earning my car are clearly the most significant accomplishment of my life, as they taught me how to dream, how to work, how to persevere and ultimately the importance of personal intellectual growth. These lessons formed the foundation for all my future accomplishments.
The step from the family businesses, to a business degree from the University of South Carolina was a big one. The steps away from participation in the family businesses, into corporate America were much more daunting, and were, at a glance, in opposition to my personal entrepreneurial desires. They were however critical in acquiring the required foundation for starting, growing and operating businesses.
My early corporate career was focused on building analysis capabilities, my mid-career in mergers, acquisitions and corporate venture capital were focused on “the deal” and my late career was focused on leading teams to drive organizational success. Each step built upon the entrepreneurial foundation I utilize on a daily basis today. Each step provided critical intellectual capital which I now apply, in pursuit of my entrepreneurial dreams.
We are all products of our pasts, and I am fortunate as my past has been packed with exceptional role models.
From a grandfather who was arguably the friendliest, most likable, pleasant person I have ever known; to another, who as a participant in “man-kinds” greatest technological achievement, the moon missions, they set the bars of measuring success.
From a mother who taught me not only how to dream, but why to do so; to a father who taught me how to work, to execute, who gave me determination, perseverance and grit.
From an early boss from my “professional” years who cared enough to become my mentor and commenced the polishing of the rough edges; to my later career boss who knowing me better then I knew myself, would not accept less than the best I had to offer; to my wife who powers my compass and reinforces my stabilizers; I have been blessed.
The playing and coaching of sports has driven home the value of the “team”, and leading high performance teams has validated the drive. A talented group of people, with “heart”, leveraging their strengths, can make the impossible, possible.
Helping others in building and growing businesses is my passion, success is my “high” and repeating the drill is my drug.
I am Dave.
I was an Army Brat, born in Kansas, never to return.
I graduated from the American High School in Frankfurt, West Germany during the height of the Cold War; it exists no more, given back to a united Germany. By the time I was eighteen, I had lived in twenty-one different places.
Growing up a vagabond shaped my life and my business philosophy. I learned never to rely on other people because they always disappeared from your life. I compartmentalize. Emotions and experiences are packed up in neat containers; put away, influencing but not at hand.
I entered the Army myself. After twelve years, which included teaching strategy at West Point, I left to join a small real estate development firm. I took a fifty percent cut in pay and lost all my benefits to get an equity stake.
Since then, I have been an owner or principal in over a dozen start-up companies. Some were successful; some not. Several are still in active operation. Along the way, I discovered that partnerships inevitably led to conflicts and ultimately break-ups, simply more baggage to pack away. To me, business had become solo combat.
But, those experiences paid my tuition. Today, I am more mature than I was when younger. I am also more seasoned as an entrepreneur.
While self-reliance is a great attribute to have, I have now learned that I simply cannot do everything myself. As Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry once said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” Fighting every battle alone can be exhausting and there can be strength in numbers, particularly a group of “equals.” I now have three other amazing partners. We are the founders of FundingSage: Matthew, Tony, Ken and Dave.