We had the good fortune of connecting with Chris Coady and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chris, are you self-funded or investor funded? If you could start over, would you make the same choice?
Self Funded: ELI was funded in part by three sources – none of them traditional loans with a bank. Once source was via consulting income which allowed us to buy our first vehicle. The second was “0% credit card” deals with multiple cards. The third was personal savings/family loans. It was very difficult and stressful to fund the business this way. The original $5k we made via consulting helped to give me the confidence to move forward and use my credit and savings to grow the business. The credit card deals worked out great, we never missed a payment and utilized the deals to help get through the hardest of times. It was sad to see my savings decrease month after month, then selling the stocks was even harder. Eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that I was not going to keep my retirement fund that I built up in my 20’s. By the time my credit was fully utilized, stocks sold, and savings nearly depleted we had just entered our fifth year of business and finally started to become cash flow positive. It took years but we did it. I’m not certain if an investor would have continued to believe in the idea, banks would not like our negative cash flow and lack of assets but family did help us. There were times where we had to take small loans from our parents which have all been paid back. Those loans at those times really helped give us the confidence to keep moving forward. I had leveraged everything I had and now we had to ask for help. When starting a small business it is very hard to ask for help. You are trying to prove you can do it but sometimes you need money to make payroll, taxes, or the lease. As our business grew so did the expenses and responsibilities. If I was to do it differently I would have saved more of the funds I had to start with for later on, I lost hope a few times and used money to go after new ventures that were risky and expensive. If I would have just kept focus on the original business model(shipping) we would have saved a lot of time and money but who knows if we would be where we are today. All I know is we did it differently and after five years we have no loans or investors.
What should our readers know about your business?
Our shipping store in Mesa has truly evolved over the years into being a retail fulfillment house/post office. Recently we have created a program that actually provides faster services than the USPS for a lower cost! A few years back we started to take drop off orders from customers. They drop off a few items, we pack them, ship them, charge their card and send their tracking information. By not charging customer for a piece of tape or saving them $10 by rate shopping services we have built up a trusted brand in Mesa. We continue to try and offer new services such as using our website to ship and then dropping off at our store. If you need help with a pickup and have more than 5 boxes we will pick up with our truck for free! We have really developed the business into something special but it was not easy. We lost money for years at the store by offering matched postal rates, lower cost UPS/FedEx, and boxes for half the price. Eventually our customer base built up, supported us and now it is working. We can offer great deals to the public while paying our vendors too. Win-win. Challenges along the way seemed to always be about cash-flow. Trying to make more money than you spend each month is difficult. Summers are especially difficult. We work hard to build up reserves in the winter to help cope with the summer. The lesson we have learned about the summer is that it is slower and to be financially prepared for it. Our brand represents honesty and a fight against greed. At ELI we say “In good we trust”.. we want to make sure at the end of each day we can know we did right by our customers and vendors. We are a private business so we believe we can always “make it right’. Service is what we sell and we will always do it with a smile if we know we can do good for our customers while saving them money.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
Mesa – Jalapeno Bucks (BBQ) + Oranges (Dec-March) Gilbert – Culinary Dropout (Lunch) Chandler – Blue 32 (Ribs/Dinner/Wifi) Tortilla Flat – Food, scenery, hiking If I had a visitor I would take them up to Tortilla Flat to see how beautiful Arizona is. Not very far from Phoenix and the food is great. Plus you can see the lake. In Mesa I would take them over to Jalapeno Bucks for their BBQ and possibly a burrito. Very good and family owned. In Gilbert we could have lunch and do work at Culinary Dropout. Great wifi and a large bar. Great for doing laptop work. In Chandler Blue 32 has the best ribs and great wifi. Always good service too. After all that golf is always fun. In the valley or even up in Sedona. Can’t miss a chance to golf with a guest.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Over the past few years I have read a lot of auto biographies about business leaders. A few that come to mind are the people behind companies such as Ford, McDonalds, Starbucks, Home Depot, Nike, Walmart, etc.. all very good stories. Each book has helped me learn about the perseverance needed to succeed in the business. I recommend reading books to not only learn more about business but to also learn about the people building them. There are five of us who work at ELI. Each person has their own specialty while being able to work/cover for others. Credit goes to the other four people who have helped build this business. We pride ourselves in helping each other – not only at work but in life. We work together and build each other up. They have been an essential part to our reaching profitability. The four other people who work at ELI are considered founders to me. If we grow our company to more than five of us in the future that is great but if not than I’m happy to give recognition to our team for success. It takes a lot for people to keep the “faith” when it comes to working for a small business. I’m very thankful that they all believed in the vision and supported our ever changing business model. Pioneers certainly. Lastly if it were not for our customers we would be nothing. Our customers truly support and appreciate our shipping store in Mesa. While our business to business customers who have been shipping with us for years continue to ship and support ELI. Together we are all lowering the cost of shipping.
Linkedin: Evolved Logistics International
Will email better photos..