Black-owned family trucking business puts community first
Pastor W. Aaron Robbins Sr. and his wife, Laci, take great pride in offering family-supporting jobs to members of Milwaukee’s Black community and others.
“We’re able to offer job sustainability for anyone,” Aaron Robbins said. His family business, A&A Services and Transportation, is always looking for folks who may have struggled in other career paths. “Just because a person does not have a four-year degree doesn’t mean they’re not a quality person.”
The trucking business, which operates as a FedEx subcontractor, was created for and named after Aaron and Laci Robbins’s two teenage children, Ariana and A.J.
“It was about creating a legacy for our children and jobs for our community,” Laci Robbins said.
But before the Robbinses could provide jobs or help the Black community build generational wealth, they had to navigate the world of transportation subcontracting and access capital to build their business.
Local financial resource helps fuel the business
As Aaron and Laci began their business, they relied on help from Milwaukee’s Northwest Side Community Development Corporation (CDC). The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) provided the Northwest Side CDC with a $500,000 Capacity Building Grant in 2019 to help build a revolving loan fund; WEDC also assisted with a $60,000 Entrepreneurship Support Grant in 2021.
Northwest Side CDC staff worked with the family to develop a business plan and budget projections.
“It does not intimidate them to go after new business ideas because they understand the financial benefits are not just personal enrichment but more jobs and higher quality of life in the African American community,” said Renata Bunger, the Northwest Side CDC’s business development director, who worked with the couple.
The young company was offered a FedEx route in the West Allis area requiring three Sprinter vans.
“Many times, in the African American community, we’re told opportunity is available. But it’s not opportunity if I don’t have the resources.”
WEDC’s contribution goes far for securing contract
The fledgling business owners found themselves in a tough spot: To get the contract, the company had to have its vans secured and ready to go. But to get financing from the Northwest Side CDC to obtain the vehicles, the company had to have a contract.
So, the couple took $10,000 from their savings account to lease the vans, get the contract and then secure financing. The Northwest Side CDC provided a $56,000 loan.
Their experience highlights the challenges many entry-level entrepreneurs face, especially people of color.
“There’s a barrier of entry because of cash flow,” Laci Robbins said. “Not everybody is able to do that. If we couldn’t take the money out of savings, we would have lost the contract.”
The Northwest Side CDC’s revolving loan fund, started with WEDC grant funding, is designed to help businesses that might not be able to get traditional bank financing.
“The Northwest Side CDC loan was critical to their securing of the FedEx contract,” Bunger said. “There are few opportunities for a startup to secure a loan to win a large company contract.”
On Dec. 5, 2020, A&A’s vans hit the road.
“It was the best feeling to have our guys in the trucks,” Laci Robbins said.