Houstonian Ashley Williams-Booker honed multiple jobs before she switched career paths and hit the jackpot.
Booker is the founder of Complete Logistics Service, a multi-million dollar asset-based company that supplies intermodal drayage services in Texas. She is responsible for transporting over 2,500 containers per year, and according to information provided to AfroTech, Booker leads one of the top 25 small business drayage companies in Houston, TX.
Before reaching her stature in the business world, Booker had received a degree in accounting from Texas Southern University. She went on to become a geometry teacher and financial advisor simultaneously in different districts.
Her pivot toward trucking happened after her friend introduced her, then taught her to dispatch.
Within her first week, Booker successfully organized a group of carriers and helped them grow their fleet. She also says earned $8,000 that week alone (ten times her income as a teacher).
Once the check cleared, Booker knew there was no going back.
She later applied her new-found knowledge and immersed herself fully into the venture launching her own company in 2014. Four years later, she shifted to a specific niche.
“I am in the intermodal industry, meaning that I assist with the drayage, which is the truck we pick up from the port. We deliver to the receiver or the shipper and we bring it back to the port or I pick it up from rail and sea. I deal with the part of intermodal that basically is needed for every human to survive from tissue paper to what you order on Amazon, all that comes through sea and through rail. So, my niche is mastering the port and the railroads and making sure that everyone receives their product in bulk,” Booker told AfroTech.
The pivot allowed her to make what she says is around three times her earnings. Yet, it wasn’t necessarily the money that was the draw for Booker. Instead, she grew frustrated with the restrictions of the partial loads from box trucks.
“The box truck industry is very hard to survive because you’re limited on the amount of space and weight that you can put on your truck. So, for a load that will go for $1,500 in an 18-wheeler with a full 53-foot trailer, I would only be able to get $300 or $400 of that because I had a smaller truck that could only limit a certain amount of freight on it. So, it wasn’t really the money, it was just the frustration of getting partial loads. I didn’t like it. So, I failed,” Booker explained.
Launching her business was a personal milestone for Booker, but her venture did hit some potholes, causing her to halt her authority for a year.
When Booker returned, she secured two semi-trucks and then dispatched for a few months. Booker reveals that she profited $50,000 and invested it to purchase two trucks that would support full loads. It was the revenue from this investment that helped her find security in the industry in 2018.
“I launched my business actually in 2014, but I had to put it on pause because it wasn’t going right. So, I switched up my business plan. I did more research and made sure the next time I came back — which was 2018 — I was in a better mind frame and I knew the direction that I wanted to go in,” Booker said.
Booker is now uniquely positioned and does not rely on her hard cash to purchase trucks. Now, she finances her trucks, some valued at $60,000. Within 90 days, the truck pays itself off at little cost to her capital, which is made possible through an early payoff program.
“What I would do is — they were only charging me probably about $2,700 down. So, that’s the only capital that I would have to come in, with and I would run the truck approximately a week or two after I got it from the auction, and once the truck has made the money to pay itself off, I would pay it off within 120 days. I never used my capital or my business funds or my personal funds to purchase a truck. I would buy the truck and it will pay itself off,” Booker told AfroTech.
Now, Booker tells us that Complete Logistics Service is worth $3.5 million.
Yet, that may not be what she considers her biggest accomplishment.
“That was a big accomplishment for me because I’ve always been in paid parking where I had to pay $200 per parking spot for my trucks to be safe in house. But when my business began to grow, I was literally triple parking in one parking spot because I had so many containers that didn’t kick me out. So, I was able to purchase a 10-acre lot in what we call the mecca of trucking in Houston in the prime real estate area for trucking. That’s when I knew, I made it,” Booker said.
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Alongside running her business, Booker is working to ensure she creates a pathway for others to follow through her Surviving Intermodal course.
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“My personal mission is to just spread awareness and let people know that anybody can do this. It doesn’t matter your color,” Booker said. “If you’re a woman, if you’re a man, anyone can do it.”
She continued: “I am not different from my next-door neighbor or from anybody that I’m approached by. I’m just some regular person. I just took time out to invest in myself and invest in my family and you shouldn’t be afraid to do that either.”