From an early age, Trey Bowmar, Founder and CEO of Express Freight, always had the desire to be his own boss. He knew that as a business owner, his output was directly based on his own effort and that his potential was unlimited. As someone who routinely worked two to three jobs at a time, hard work was never an issue for Bowmar. According to Bowmar, an article in the Orlando Sentinel is what really set the wheels of his entrepreneurial journey in motion.
“It was an article advertising an opportunity to be your own boss,” he said. “The opportunity was to buy a truck and work as an independent contractor delivering furniture for Macy’s. I signed up and before long; one truck became three and then five. Over time, I became a national trainer and taught other people how to start their own business delivering furniture. I did that for about three years before moving to air freight. I worked for Eagle Global Logistics, now called Crane Worldwide Logistics, for a couple years before realizing I could do it on my own.”
Express Freight is Born
Express Freight, a full-service freight brokerage and logistics company, was launched in July 2012. Even though Bowmar had extensive experience in freight, supply chains and logistics, starting a new business in such a capital intensive industry was a challenging endeavor.
“Being new and having to establish a line of credit was challenging,” Bowmar said. “Even if you have great credit, it’s hard. Working through that and making sure we set ourselves up to have a positive cash flow was very important. I didn’t want to stress the company with financial obligations we didn’t need. The carriers all see how you pay. It’s important to have a good image and a good payment history. They need to know we’re a viable company.”
From Startup to Second Stage
Over the last seven years, Express Freight has become much more than just a viable company. In fact, they’ve doubled in revenue nearly every year since 2012 and are on track to do over $20 million in sales this year alone. According to Bowmar, much of the success can be attributed to a strategy to grow the business by focusing on communication, partnerships and by developing genuine relationships with clients.
“From the experience I gained, I realized that surrounding myself with smarter and more qualified people than the last company would help Express Freight get to the next level,” Bowmar said. “Also, in today’s point and click world, delivering exceptional service and engaging in real people to people communication is key. We truly communicate with our clients like they’re family and we treat them as more than just someone on the phone.”
Bowmar continued, “I say to everyone that works here, if there’s a mistake in the past, I’ve done it. When you’ve grown organically for the last seven years like we have, things don’t always go as planned. However, because of our experience, we’re more equipped to advise clients based on what we’ve been through. Ultimately, our world comes down to ensuring our clients don’t have to worry about getting freight from point A to point B. That’s our job. It’s also our job to find the most efficient and cost effective way to do that. When it comes to competitive advantage, everyone says it’s all about the people and the process and in this case, it is.”
Through hard work and making the right connections, Express Freight has landed some pretty high profile clients. They’ve transported equipment for the Oscars, Grammys, various musical tours, AAU volleyball teams and 10 different Super Bowl half time shows. They’ll move any freight, but their primary focus is trade shows and specialty events. According to Bowmar, the pay is excellent, but the expectations are high for these jobs.
“We’ll ship stuff all around the country for these events,” he said. “For volleyball season, we’ll handle 50 truckloads a week. Some events require three trailers and others require 20. For Super Bowls, we’ll have 100 people waiting on the trucks to show up. There’s a lot of stress that comes with making sure 10 trucks all show up at a certain time, but that’s what we do best. Over the years, we’ve developed a good name with some of the major Audio/Video and Lighting companies.”
Bowmar candidly shared that Express Freight’s marketing efforts are very much a work in progress. In the beginning, the sales team consisted of just Bowmar. Today, they have seven highly-trained reps working throughout the country. They attend trade shows, utilize their 70+ trailers for advertising and are in the process of reinforcing their marketing budget to increase exposure and gain additional visibility.
The workforce at Express Freight consists of approximately 46 full-time employees. Company culture is defined by compassion, as evident in the generous benefits package and Bowmar’s commitment to educate employees on the benefits of saving for retirement, and by an environment where employees are challenged in a positive way. Bowmar often leads by example. He’s not afraid to drive a truck or to do something outside of his “box”. In fact, he often tells his employees to, “dump the box out.”
In terms of community involvement and philanthropic activities, much of Express Freight’s participation is centered around golf. Bowmar, who enjoys the game, is friends with several pros that support various charities that donate to the Boys and Girls Club. Bowmar actively supports these charities along with a local Boy Scout troop. In support of the Boy Scouts, Express Freight donates a truck to bring down Christmas trees from North Carolina. They also support local initiatives in Bowmar’s hometown of Oviedo. They’ve helped at soup kitchens, homeless drives and, for the holidays, the put together 200 packages of soaps and detergents for a homeless shelter.
According to Bowmar, operating in Florida is beneficial for a number of reasons. “The fact that Florida does not have a state income tax is a big deal,” he said. “Also, being a broker in the freight market in Florida is very beneficial. The majority of the trucks that come into Florida leave empty. Operating in the state of Florida has allowed us to address this issue and become the go to company to ensure that trucks aren’t leaving empty. Other than those two things, the weather is also fantastic.”
What it Means to be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
“Honestly, I shed a few tears,” Bowmar said. “It means a lot. It’s important to me and our team to be recognized for our hard work. We’re having a big party and we’re bringing about 20 people to the awards ceremony.”
Bowmar continued, “In terms of why we were selected, I think it has a lot to do with what we’ve accomplished in the last three years. We’ve worked hard and, as a result, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of growth. It’s certainly been a team effort.”
Looking ahead, Bowmar’s very much focused on continuing to grow. He believes that if you’re not growing, you’re dying. There’s been talk of exit strategies, but according to Bowmar, he’s invested so much into Express Freight that he’s not ready to step aside yet. In fact, within five years, he wants to expand into 10 to 15 more states.
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“You have to believe in yourself,” Bowmar said. “I have no shortage of believing in myself. Give me an opportunity to do something and I take it. Tell me no and that motivates me more. Also, if you want to be successful in life, you have to take risks. Develop a plan that includes a pro and con list. Ultimately, you just have to be willing to take a risk, believe in yourself and remain optimistic. My dad still gives me advice and words of encouragement. One of his favorites is, ‘The best is yet to come’.”