A Truck and a Thousand Bucks
Picture this. Your country is in a recession and you’re an over-the-road truck driver. You have two children to take care of and need to make money. Your boss tells you that you must haul an illegal load for him — no ifs, ands, or buts about it. What do you do? If you are like one local man, you start your own business.
It sounds crazy, but that’s exactly what Max Weigman did when he started up MLJ Trucking LLC. He was tired of driving over the road and being forced to haul what he called “junk equipment.” He wanted to drive locally, but since he had little experience driving locally, no one wanted to hire him. Running out of options, Weigman decided he would start his own business. After about a month of searching for a loan, Weigman finally convinced a loan officer that he had a sound business plan. He now finally had the capital he needed to start his business.
“I was tired of having to run junk equipment and having to do a driving job the way other people wanted it done when I knew a better way,” Weigman says.
On Jan. 6, 2009, Weigman created MLJ Trucking LLC, which stands for Max and his two sons, Lance and Jonathan. Weigman started out with one truck and $1,000 for gas. After working for a while driving his dump truck, Weigman realized that work was really slowing down and his company would never make it with only one truck. He had to diversify, and he had to go back to his roots — over-the-road driving. He bought a road truck, but he hired someone to drive that truck for him. Shortly after buying the road truck, Weigman bought a trailer so that he did not have to rent one.
Four years later, the business has two trucks and one trailer and now runs in 47 states. Weigman hopes that one day he will have a whole fleet of trucks — about 20 trucks and 25 trailers. He also wants to have an office that is not in his home. Eventually, Weigman wants to manage his trucks instead of being a daily driver. He feels like expanding his business will be easier than it was starting his business. Now that he has an established business that is doing well for itself, it will be easier to raise the capital needed to expand.
Looking back on his journey, Weigman says there are some disadvantages and advantages to owning your own business. When starting out, profit is minimal due to covering costs, and most of the profit that is made ends up being reinvested into the company. He says the hours are long, and it can be very stressful at times. When things get bad or something goes wrong, you only have yourself to blame. On the positive side, he can haul what he wants to haul. He knows when his truck gets checked that there is nothing illegal on it and everything will check out. Weigman also likes the fact that he can take off work when he wants. Plus, being in the trucking industry means he really only has to work eight months of the year, but his road truck runs year round.
“It takes a lot of time out of the day,” Weigman says. “It’s no longer an eight-hour day. You get some long days and nights no matter what time.”
Weigman has learned a lot through his experience of starting up MLJ Trucking. As a result, he has some advice for people wanting to start their own business. First and foremost, be patient. It doesn’t just come to you on a silver platter; it takes time to start a business. He also says you have to knock on doors, look around, network, and look around some more. Don’t be too hasty. For people wanting to enter the trucking industry, Weigman says to start small. He also recommends starting with an older truck to keep your payments down. However, he says the key to making it in the trucking industry is to save more money while you’re working. Since you only work eight months out of the year, it is very important to make a budget and save up so you can get through the months that you are not working.
“Take it slow, explore your options, and don’t get in a situation where you’re limited,” Weigman says.
He took a risky path by starting a new business right after the start of a lingering recession. It’s a decision that many people would be afraid to make. Yet he knew this was the only way that he could do what he truly wanted to do with his life, and to do it the way he wanted it to be done.
“It makes it a lot easier knowing when I get in that truck in the morning that it’s right and I don’t really have to worry anymore what’s going to happen, (like) am I going to be able to get the load off, is the equipment going to break down,” says Weigman. “I know the equipment and what kind of shape it’s in.”
— This story was written for an Economics 361 Money and Banking class taught by University of Southern Indiana Assistant Professor Marie Bussing-Burks. Andrea Davis graduated from USI in May. For more information about MLJ Trucking LLC, visit www.mljtruckingllc.com.
Job: New CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana
Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
Her Story: After Christy Gillenwater enrolled at Indiana University, she fell in love with Indiana and never left. She enjoys training for sprint triathlons and hitting the greens with her husband, Brad. She describes their blended family of three kids — Jordan, 19, Blake, 15, and Thomas, 3 — as the lights of her life.
Her Resume: Starting as the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce’s first intern, Gillenwater worked for two more Indiana chambers and SBC (now AT&T) and earned her master’s degree from Ball State University before returning to the award-winning Greater Bloomington Chamber as its president and CEO in 2005. In December 2012, she was announced as Matt Meadors’ successor at the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana.
Perspective: “I hope that readers are inspired to help everyone promote this community. I also hope that they see us as an impactful organization for their business and for the community.”
What do you think of Evansville now that you’ve lived here for several months?
The amount of things to do has been wonderful — the river, walking paths, zoo, the mall, cMoe, great restaurants, the Ford Center, where we’ve already made several great memories. I wish that as a community we could appreciate more who we are so our children will find it an attractive place to settle down and raise their own families. Yes, there are opportunities for constructive thoughts, but there is a difference between collective negativity and, “We can do this better.”
Who were your role models?
Mom and Dad have been strong influences. I loved working with my Dad, watching him (an entrepreneur) interact with co-workers and seeing the positive impact he had on people. Mom stayed at home but then was a social worker with Catholic Social Services and cared deeply for her clients. Also, my grandmother, who was focused on her faith, was always positive. In all my years around her, she never spoke ill about a single person. We owe it to ourselves to be kinder to each other. That’s something I try to remember. I just try to aspire to be the daughter, the wife, and the mother the people I love would want me to be, and again as a person of faith, someone God would want to me to be. I don’t say I get that right every day by any means, but I try to reflect on my interactions with people and think about ways I could say things differently moving forward.
Do you have any advice for people in leadership roles?
Always be confident in who you are and what you stand for. And also appreciate the fact that you bring a different perspective to the table. Your upbringing has shaped who you are. Also, find people whom you admire, forge a relationship, and ask for their guidance. One of the most beautiful forms of flattery is when someone says, “How can I learn from you?” Even if it is the CEO of a thousand-person organization, don’t be shy. You never know when the person might say, “Yes, I see something in you, too, and I’d like to work with you.”
Have you always felt comfortable with public speaking?
I was absolutely terrified of speeches in high school. I still remember I took a speech class in college that totally changed me, and ever since, I’ve felt much more comfortable. It’s just been a part of me — print, radio, TV. My father said I had “a natural knack for gab.” In school, it was the one thing I got in trouble for — talking. And then for me, it’s showing that confidence. It’s OK to say, “I’ll have to get back with you on that” or “I’ll need to check on that,” because it’s impossible to have all the answers to everything. It comes with practice. It’s important to always evaluate and be yourself.
For more information on the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana, visit www.ccswin.com
I Had No Idea...
“I had no idea,” I said to Dr. Dan Schenk for perhaps the third time on a recent Friday morning tour. The morning had started in a conference room, and before the tour began I was completely bowled over (not easy after winter) by what Ivy Tech Community College means to our community and region through a brief PowerPoint presentation.
As we walked the immaculate hallways and ventured into classrooms, two things immediately struck me. The first was that the majority of the students were non-traditional and of all ages. The second was that the vast majority of the coursework was what I would refer to as very hands-on. In academic settings that sometimes teach theory versus reality, the reality here is that students are performing actual world tasks in an academic setting, utilizing the latest state-of-the-art equipment.
In the automotive lab that day, students were gathered around an engine (one of many donated by Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana) working with their instructor. In the welding area, sparks arced as Dr. Schenk explained that as soon as most welders receive certifications, they are recruited by area companies that know Ivy Tech graduates have the necessary skills to help their companies succeed — the need for the workers is immediate. At the This is IT Gala on April 20, culinary arts students will prepare appetizers for the assembled guests. Last year, guests referred to the dishes as “extraordinary.” In our feature “Industrial Strength” (page 30), I think you will be a bit surprised at what is going on out on N. First Avenue. You might even say, “I had no idea.”
Also inside, you will find the 2012 Vectren Foundation Annual Report entitled “Everyday opportunities. Extraordinary outcomes.” The report serves as a reminder of the contributions that Vectren Corporation makes in the communities it serves.
The give back from our local utility is not only impressive but also extremely impactful, especially to our nonprofit corporations. Over the last few years, many of these nonprofits have endured cutbacks and, in some cases, hardship. I know I see Vectren consistently taking a leadership role in many different roles in our region, and it is appreciated by many.
After 30 years of service to WNIN and our community, David Dial is retiring as president and general manager of WNIN Tri-State Public Media Inc. We profile him in “Back Talk” (page 68).
A new successor will be named April 15. What Dial has accomplished is impressive, and he will long be remembered as the face of WNIN. Thanks, David, for your terrific years of service to our community.
As always, I look forward to hearing from you.
Todd A. Tucker
Remembering a Leader
A trailblazer in local health care, a motivated worker, and a caring mentor — these are just a few ways to describe Evansville native Marjorie Soyugenc, former executive director and CEO of the Welborn Baptist Foundation. Soyugenc passed away from an extended illness on Nov. 28, 2012, yet through her dedicated work she has left an important mark on this city and its people.
Evansville Business featured Soyugenc in “Back Talk” in the October/November 2007 issue. When asked how she stays motivated, Soyugenc replied, “I have never experienced lack of motivation for any work I’ve ever done. I simply believe in what I’m doing.”
This tireless work ethic was how Soyugenc brought so much progress to health care in the Tri-State. Among her many accomplishments while she was president and CEO of the old Welborn Baptist Hospital (1986-1999), Soyugenc is credited with introducing LifeFlight helicopter medical services as well as MRI services to Evansville. Through her work with the Welborn Baptist Foundation (which she headed from 1999-2008), more than 400 grants totaling more than $24 million were awarded primarily to nonprofit health care organizations. Soyugenc also helped grow the foundation’s assets from $90 million to $120 million — an increase which made it the largest private foundation in southwestern Indiana.
Soyugenc devoted time to many worthwhile groups and programs throughout her life. In Southwestern Healthcare’s 2012 Annual Report, she was recognized as a longtime board member and advocate. “She was a visionary leader who broke new ground in many areas during her illustrious career,” the opening letter of the report reads. “Her expertise in administration, mental health, and business management was invaluable to our organizations. [She] will be missed both personally and professionally.”
In the “Back Talk” story, Soyugenc revealed how she always felt she was destined to be a leader, even as a child daydreaming of the Lone Ranger. “I was always on the lead horse of a large group of riders out to address truth, justice, and the American way,” she said. In her own way, by providing vital health care resources and sound advice to the people of this community, she achieved her dream.
Going Old School
When Nicholas Goodman moved back to Evansville in 2010, he wanted to accomplish three things: start a family, buy a house, and open a business.
So far, he and his wife, JoAnn, are three for three. Their baby was born in late March, they bought a house, and they started a business on the same property.
Old Town Ladies and Gents opened its doors on Feb. 2 and is situated on the main floor of their 1889 Victorian home at 400 SE Second St.
“The name was chosen out of recognition to the old Downtown Evansville,” Goodman says. “And it just had a nice ring to me.”
Growing up in Evansville, Goodman says he has always loved the Downtown area because of the city’s potential. After graduating from F.J. Reitz High School, he then went on to pursue an art degree from the University of Southern Indiana, graduating in 2005. Goodman then moved to Santa Rosa, Calif., to be a carpenter.
“I couldn’t find work out West, so I came back to Evansville,” he says. “But then I couldn’t find work here, either, so I began thinking about a new profession. I have messed around with hair since back in my middle and high school days, doing fades and cutting a majority of my friends’ hair, and I got into it a lot more in college. So I thought, ‘Why not pursue hair cutting?’” Both Goodman’s grandmothers were professional hairdressers, and his father, Charles Goodman, also cut Goodman’s hair growing up — so you could say it runs in the family.
Goodman then found himself going to school on the East Side at Salon Professional Academy, where he received his license. He moved to Portland, Ore., for 1 ½ years before returning to Evansville. He and JoAnn finally settled on their current location after looking at numerous places around the Downtown area.
“I did a lot of remodeling and restoring to the house to get it back to its Victorian look,” he says. “With a lot of help from family and friends, I was pecking away on an average of about 70 hours a week.”
Meanwhile, Goodman also was hired as an instructor at the Salon Professional Academy, where he found his staff, Anna Iaccarino and Brooke Slaton.
“(They) were both students of mine, and I picked them out of several hundred students because they showed great potential,” he says.
Besides the refinished hardwood floors and the other beautiful renovations, customers will also notice antiques ranging from vintage barber chairs to a chrome hair dryer from the 1950’s. “I’m wanting to help bring back the mom and pop shops that used to bring the Downtown area to life,” he says. “I’m hoping Old Town can generate enough clients to where I can pursue opening a second location.”
Old Town Ladies and Gents can be reached at 812-449-0706. The business also has a Facebook page.
A Taxing Time
It’s that time of year: Bleary-eyed CPAs are racing toward the April 15 tax deadline in hopes of satisfying the IRS, not to mention clients who have dumped a box full of receipts on their desk.
While many local residents have likely already filed their taxes, it never hurts to become more organized. The result will be quicker filings and a lower tax preparation bill, says Leigh Ann Weinzapfel, a certified public accountant with Weinzapfel & Co. LLC in Evansville.
“Most of our clients are great, but sometimes I see too much information,” Weinzapfel says. “It’s important for people to keep their receipts, but I don’t need a shoe box filled up with a year’s worth of receipts. Putting that information on a spreadsheet will save the tax preparer time, and that saves the client money.”
Here are 10 categories of items that Weinzapfel does want to see:
1. Three years’ worth of federal and state returns.
2. Information on dependents, including Social Security numbers and child care expenses.
3. W-2, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, and 1099-B forms. These cover wages, income from interest, dividends, and stock transactions.
4. Business income and expenses, including 1099-MISC for sole proprietors, and Form K-1 for shareholders and partnerships.
5. Retirement plan withdrawals/contributions, plus Social Security benefits (1099-SSA).
6. Income and expenses related to rental properties you own.
7. Itemized deductions. Supporting documents are needed for all charitable contributions, and receipts are required for $250 and above. Don’t forget about unreimbursed business expenses (uniforms, dues, investment expenses, tax preparation fees, safe deposit rentals) in addition to the usual deductions of mortgage interest, medical, state and local income taxes or sales tax, real estate taxes, and personal property taxes.
8. Form HUD-1 if you bought or sold a house, regardless of whether a taxable gain or loss occurred.
9. For those who pay throughout the year, a list of estimated federal and state taxes paid.
10. Copies of any IRS or state revenue department correspondence.
“Probably the most overlooked deduction is excise tax on our vehicles,” according to Weinzapfel. “For the average family, that’s a $200 to $400 deduction — not a lot, but enough that it’s worth noting.”
Unfortunately, April 16 is not a party day in the Weinzapfel offices. Extensions occasionally must be filed with the IRS, and businesses often have later reporting deadlines. “Oct. 15 seems to be the end of tax season,” Weinzapfel says. “If we’re going to take the family on vacation somewhere, that’s usually the earliest we can get away.”
Just in time for it to start all over again.
Leigh Ann Weinzapfel may be reached at 812-474-1015 or www.weinzapfel.com.
Office on Patrol
They lay down the law. And now that the Evansville Police Department has upgraded to 2013 Dodge Charger squad cars, many officers have laid down their pens and papers, too.
The new squad cars replace older models of the Crown Victoria and are outfitted with a variety of new technological perks, according to Paul Gelzleichter, fleet manager for the Evansville Police Department. For instance, officers have ready access to laptops just to the right of the steering wheel. These laptops give officers direct access to central dispatch through an intranet system only accessible to police officers and staff. The laptops contain information about warrants and arrest records, and they allow officers to quickly fill out speeding tickets that are then printed out on a printer underneath the center console.
The new logo consists of a blue stripe through the center of the word “Police” and is intended to relay the idea of the Thin Blue Line, a term for police forces, Gelzleichter says.
Some patrol cars have Digital Ally cameras that run through the rear view mirror in the front of the car. This is a video camera that stores memory on a flash card, which can be loaded onto a computer at the police department.
Additionally, the new Dodge Chargers have rumblers that are hooked up to the vehicle sirens. These rumblers emit sound and vibrate surrounding cars at a very low frequency, alerting drivers who may be distracted by their radios or phones.
“They are a safety issue for the public,” Gelzleichter says.
The new squad cars have a redesigned light bar. Instead of a simple I-shaped bar, the new light bar is in the shape of a V. This new design increases the visibility of the light bar, making it easier for people to see the flashing lights from several different angles.
“That’s the main thing that we shoot for, is to make everything as safe and reliable as we can, for the people and the police department,” Gelzleichter says.
Bruce Flener may have started out as a bus driver for the Metropolitan Evansville Transit System. Yet after 19 years, he’s easily become a tour guide and a conductor, too.
“We all wear a lot of hats,” the 61-year-old says.
These days, Flener drives the vintage trolley, an hour route that connects Downtown Main Street to North Main Street stopping at libraries, museums, and the Ford Center.
“I have driven (all 17 fixed) routes, and driving the vintage trolley is both a privilege and an honor because it is one of the most desirable routes,” he says.
Many may not know, however, that the Downtown vintage trolley is actually not vintage at all. It was made to look antique and was added to the METS department in 2012. The vintage trolley is also wheelchair accessible and can easily be lowered closer to the ground by the push of a button.
The METS department was created in 1971 in order to address the growing need for public transportation, and since that time it has transported more than 45 million passengers. Over the years, buses have been added and routes have been changed to accommodate the needs of passengers, according to Tony Kirkland, METS Director. “We strive at giving passengers the best possible service,” he says.
One of METS’ goals is to ensure that all passengers will get to their destinations safely and in a timely manner.
“I try my hardest to be on time and give passengers good service,” Flener says. “The load fluctuates from hour to hour, and a lot of times people don’t know exactly where they are going, but that’s where I can help.”
He knows what it means to be a bus passenger, too. Growing up in Evansville, Flener said he can remember when he and his mother would take the bus from store to store to shop Downtown.
“You really have to be a people person to do this job,” he adds. “I enjoy waking up everyday knowing I will get to hear passengers’ stories. It’s amazing. I couldn’t ask for a more rewarding career.”
Meet & Greet
Whose Site Is It? There are websites for people who want to find a date. And then there are websites for people who just want to find a new friend.
Meetup.com bills itself as the world’s largest network of local groups, and it’s now here in Evansville. So far, there are groups for women who love to read; men and women in their 20s; people who play video games; parents with small children; political groups; and more.
Meetup.com “makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.”
Here’s how it works: First, you register for free. Then, you fill out your profile based on your interests. There are many categories to choose from, including career and business; education and learning; outdoors and adventure; parents and children; politics and activism; and more.
If there is no group for your particular interest, don’t worry. Meetup.com is becoming more and more popular, which means you may soon find someone who shares your hobby. In fact, new members who ride motorcycles on the weekends, for instance, can request notification when a fellow motorcycle enthusiast starts a group.
Additionally, the site will email you updates of upcoming Meetup.com events you have an interest in. The site doesn’t send out too many emails per month, either. There’s also no pressure to take part in an activity that you may not have time for.
According to its website, Meetup’s mission is to revitalize the local community and to help people around the world self-organize.
“Meetup believes that people can change their personal world, or the whole world, by organizing themselves into groups that are powerful enough to make a difference,” the website says.
Don’t Miss: Meetup is just one way to connect with the world around you, and one of its many advisors is author, teacher, and documentarian Douglas Rushkoff. A technology and media commentator for CNN, he focuses on the ways people, cultures, and institutions create, share, and influence each other’s values.