City program increases business for women-owned firms

by Brittany Mollis

Carole Oduyoye shook a lot of hands.

She talked to a lot of people and she attended a lot of meetings. Carole did everything she could to generate interest in her new business. Her persistent efforts, while admirable, were somehow not paying off. As a mother of four, Carole had mouths to feed. They needed her to be successful.

Before moving to Kernersville, Oduyoye lived in Maryland. For 14 years, she split her time being a stay-at-home mom and assistant director for the African Art Museum of Maryland, a museum owned by her parents. It was important to Oduyoye that she was able to attend her kid’s events and functions, and she always made family her first priority.

In 2006, this wife and mother decided to take on a new role: business owner. Starting a new business is always difficult. For a woman starting a new business can be even more difficult, especially when entering a male dominated field.

Oduyoye wasn’t trying to start her own salon or boutique. She wasn’t starting a business to sell arts and crafts. She preferred a more “rugged” path. She was determined to make it in the trucking and hauling industry.

“Of course, when I was a little girl, I never dreamed of dump trucks,” Oduyoye says. “But I have truly learned to love this business.”

That business, F-T Trucking, operates from her residence. The business hauls project materials for secondary roads, highways and bridges. Depending on the project’s needs, they can haul anything from dirt and asphalt to stone and debris. Her husband, a former FedEx employee, knows how to handle the fieldwork. He runs the trucks, and he has more than enough experience and passion for the job. Carole prefers the behind-the scenes work.

Married people may think that working with your spouse could be a challenge, but she describes their situation as “perfect.”

“He handles the equipment and goes on-site to the jobs, and I stay at home and handle the business aspect of it all.”

When she started F-T Trucking, Oduyoye knew that there would be opportunity for growth, but she admits that it was a struggle in the beginning.

“I would call people, go to meetings, introduce myself. I always tried to be out there to make myself known.”

Carole placed bids on whatever subcontracting opportunities F-T Trucking could handle, but the workload remained light. She knew that, if given the chance, her business would shine. She needed more chances.

If a woman-owned business is going to succeed in an industry dominated by men, she has to go the extra mile, and she has to do it with consistency. She has to be more resourceful, and sometimes, she needs help.

In 2008 Carole found the help she needed to even the playing field in the trucking and hauling industry.

“I didn’t understand why we kept getting overlooked for jobs, so I started asking people what I could do differently.

That’s when I learned that getting HUB certified could help.”

Once businesses are HUB (Historically Underutilized Businesses) certified, they are entered into the HUB database. The HUB website will showcase these businesses to get them started, and their certification will be valid for four years. HUB certification is free of charge, and it must be done through the state of North Carolina. In order to qualify for HUB certification, a business must be at least 51-percent owned by a member of a minority or by a woman.

“I am both a minority and a woman, so I represent two important groups of people.”

Oduyoye never claims that her race or gender is a hindrance. Instead, she considers them an advantage. She believes that being “progressively aggressive” is what makes her successful. Oduyoye considers her race and gender more motivation to succeed.

After F-T Trucking was HUB certified, job opportunities for the business increased.

“The opportunities were there almost immediately after being added to the HUB database.”

Carole also got involved with the Winston-Salem Minorities and Women Business Enterprise. According to their website, the M/WBE “actively seeks and identifies qualified minority and women business enterprises and offers them the opportunity to participate as providers of goods and services to the City.”

Through the M/WBE, Oduyoye was introduced to Walter Farabee.

“His position is crucial,” says Oduyoye.

“He is the person that makes sure that HUB businesses are getting jobs.”

Farabee is coordinator of the Winston- Salem M/WBE. He has been helping businesses like Carole’s get to work since 2011. Farabee, a Winston-Salem native, knows the importance of his role to the City and its economy.

“It’s my job to assist minorities and women to get more work with the City,” says Farabee.

The M/WBE offers a ten-week business training program as well as hosts a program called “Let’s Do Business.” The purpose of this program is to inform the public of City work opportunities. They also hold an annual Small Business Plan contest that offers startup capital for the winner. Last year’s winner, Elizabeth Coyne of S2UDIO SUPPLIES, received $10,000 in startup costs for her art supply business.

The most important function of the M/ WBE, according to Farabee, is helping HUB certified businesses find work that otherwise may not have been available to them.

“I admire the entrepreneurs, the people who come into our offices,” he says, “It’s a big risk to take, but they do it.”

The M/WBE’s annual fiscal report shows that both spending and participation increased over the past year.

One of the four main tracks of M/WBE spending is subcontracting activity. This is the track most important to Carole’s business.

F-T Trucking is currently working on the Greensboro Western Urban Loop project.

Subcontracting opportunities for F-T Trucking are more available now than they were in 2006 thanks, in part, to the HUB database and the MWBE. While business may be increasing for her and her husband, Oduyoye never loses motivation.

While a lot of things have changed over the past eight years, she reiterates that “consistency is key.”

She still shakes a lot of hands. She still talks to a lot of people. She still attends a lot of meetings. She is still doing everything she can to generate interest in her business. Her persistent efforts are now paying off. As a mother of four, she has mouths to feed.

Now they get to watch her succeed. !