Featured Founder: Troy Bravenboer of Brave Freight
Welcome to our Featured Founder series, where you’ll meet startup founders from Tampa-St. Petersburg who are building and scaling their ventures to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. We interviewed Troy Bravenboer, President of Brave Freight, a data-driven trucking company that provides gamified income opportunity for owner operators.
What were you doing previously and what inspired you to launch your company?
While launching Brave Freight I was actually in full-time ministry in Fort Worth, Texas. We were pumping out huge block parties for the inner city, doing big giveaways, preaching Jesus, finding the pulse of the people, and stepping in where the need was. A few months prior, I had retired from several successful summers of door-to-door sales with a great home automation company, Vivint. So there was this massive desire to help people, make money, and help people make money. I knew I wanted to do something that would give me the freedom to travel but also build something meaningful to provide opportunities.
What pain point is your company solving? What gets you excited to go to work every day?
The carrier side of the freight industry is hand-to-mouth. Predatory carrier companies abuse truck drivers, bad. Thousands of owner-operators live hand to mouth because they are classed as independent contractors but don’t have the tools or information to thrive within that structure. These drivers have massive responsibilities (monthly/quarterly/annual government regulation reporting, calculating & forecasting income/expenses, planning vehicle maintenance, accurately managing their books, etc.) - it’s nuts. That's all on top of their day to day responsibilities of finding loads, updating customers, invoicing, managing accounts receivable, managing fuel cards, etc. It’s wild. So Brave Freight handle's ALL of that for them. With us, all they have to do is drive. Initially, just knowing that we were an honest company that really cared about people gave us a huge competitive advantage and motivated me to grow. Well, that and needing money. Now, with the help of the Embarc Collective team, my mind has been blown with how we can simply create some tech solutions that will help us “lean our growth” and provide some serious value to serve the gaps in this industry.
Name the biggest challenge you faced in the process of launching the company. How did you overcome it?
Cash flow management, for sure. I did sales and thought I was a “business owner” because I had an LLC. I found out quickly it's not the same... at all. I had like $40k or $50k saved from sales when I started the company, and also a really great friend who let me copy his business model. The problem was that I would make $5k in a week, pay my driver, pay my fuel card, and because I had a little chunk left over thinking it was profit. I had no clue how to anticipate vehicle repairs, IFTA tax, fines, etc. I slowly dwindled my reserves down and prayed… “God, there has to be a better way.” Shortly after, I was introduced to someone I have come to highly respect. He owns several successful companies with thousands of employees. He donates 50% of his income, reinvests 33%, and lives WELL off of 17%. He challenged me that more money was not the answer. He advised me to not take loans but to find a way within my own business to meet the need. About a year and a half later I met another person who has become one of my best friends, and he showed me an excel spreadsheet he called his “cash flow budget." It’s a tool I still use - a yearly projection of week over week income and expense. That tool gave me a crystal ball and helped us to properly manage our cash flow. I was able to leave my part-time job in 6 months and then hire my first dispatcher in 9 months.
Where do you see your company headed next?
When people ask me about how I see autonomous vehicles changing the industry I always chuckle…most of that is just hype. The idea of 80,000 lb unmanned vehicles swarming the highways with hazardous material probably isn’t going to pass regulation until after we see that en masse with personal vehicles. However, there’s a lot of opportunity for automation in this industry beyond 18 wheeled cyber trucks. Embarc knew that, specifically my coach Fabio. He saw potential in me, my business, and this industry, long before I did. So now we are taking on our first developer and building out a SaaS platform that’s going to aggregate and augment actionable data to create massive efficiencies and workflow automation. The best part is that thousands of other carriers and owner-operators will benefit from it. I’m beyond grateful for Fabio and the entire Embarc team.
Give us a tactical piece of advice that you'd share with another founder just starting out.
Learn to sell! Not just a course or book, but sell your own product/service. Generate your own revenue ASAP. Find some way to provide value to your market and monetize NOW. Build from there. Revenue is the life-blood of a business. If my arm is chopped off but I can produce more blood than I lose, I’ll stay alive (I think). Don’t rely on investors and OPM. Often times, the abundance of money will create inefficiency blind spots and hinder the best growth. Plus, if those sources dry up, you are sunk. If you can generate your own revenue, when you do raise money, you'll take on boatloads. Investors will see you already have a lean, profitable, proven model whose founder is a gritty, make-it-happen, CEO beast!
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