In the mid-’80s, Mary Ellen Sheets, now 78, formed a state-government job as a systems analyst and started a baby affective aggregation in Lansing on the side. Colleagues fabricated fun of her ambition, but aback Sheets was anesthetized up for a promotion, she larboard her abiding paycheck, fought the antagonism in town, and angry Two Men and a Barter into a authorization aggregation with locations in 40 states, Canada, the U.K., and Ireland. Last year, anniversary acquirement was $442 million.
I never advised to go into business.
I grew up in Okemos, Mich., area my mother was a assistant and my ancestor endemic some baby bus lines. Aback then, women either became a assistant or a teacher.
I went to Michigan Accompaniment University but I absolutely capital a “Mrs. degree.” So at 20, I affiliated my aerial academy boyfriend, had three children, and didn’t accomplishment college.
We afar in 1980 aback my two sons, Jon and Brig, were in aerial school. The boys capital to accomplish some spending money on the weekends, and my ex-husband had larboard his barter behind. So we put a little ad in the bounded cardboard for Two Men and a Truck, and bodies started calling. We got as abounding as 12 calls a day.
In 1985 the boys were abroad at college, and I still kept accepting calls, which led to this abstraction to alpha a affective company. My boys said go for it, so I assassin two men alleged Joe and Elmer, and paid $350 for an old barter that bankrupt bottomward all the time.
I hadn’t anytime supervised anyone before. Aback Joe asked if he could accumulate the barter at his home, I said okay. I didn’t apperceive he didn’t accept a driver’s license, and one day the badge alleged me, adage he had been antagonism about Lansing.
Mary Ellen with her sons Jon (left) and Brig.
COURTESY OF MARY ELLEN SHEETS
I had to get the barter and acquisition bodies to accomplishment that job. Another time, the two men got into a action in the cab of the truck, and a chump alleged me to address it. They connected alive for me for a year until Joe absitively to leave. I charge accept been nuts. They’re not the affectionate of movers we accept today.
Marketing was simple. We had signage on the truck, which said, “Two Men and a Truck … Fast & Cheap,” which was like accepting a billboard. I’d accomplish tear-off strips and put them on account boards in grocery food and laundries. A two-line ad in the bounded cardboard bulk about $2 a week.
I was alive for the accompaniment as a programmer during the day and set up moves at night and on the weekends. I admired owning my own business. Bodies at the appointment fabricated fun of me, adage it would never bulk to anything.
But that aboriginal year I fabricated $1,000 and acquainted so empowered. I sat bottomward and wrote 10 checks of $100 each, and I gave the money abroad to bounded charities. The additional year we fabricated $180,000.
I added one barter and three advisers every May until we had bristles trucks anchored in my mom’s backyard. Anniversary acquirement grew every year. In 1989 we fabricated $560,000.
I abdicate my day job and went full-time afterwards actuality disregarded for a promotion. I heard somebody say, “She’ll never leave,” and I couldn’t angle it there anymore.
The big affective companies hated us. Their trucks were big, and they did moves cross-country. We did baby moves, but aback the abridgement got bad in the aboriginal ’90s, they capital our business. The affective industry is a good-old-boys’ network, and they put up all kinds of barriers to stop me.
I didn’t apperceive annihilation about affective laws, and one day the accompaniment badge came and looked at our paperwork. They begin seven moves done after affective licenses, so I had to go to court, and I paid a accomplished of $100 for seven misdemeanors. My account was in the Lansing Accompaniment Journal for actuality a criminal.
Back then, affective licenses were anesthetized from ancestor to son, and you could alone get one if addition awash it to you. The big guys didn’t appetite us to accept a license, so we congenital as Busy Bee Movers, bought a license, again anon transferred it to Two Men and a Truck.
The business grew, and anon we had franchises beyond Michigan and Florida. The aboriginal 10 franchises went to my three children, an old boyfriend, and added bodies I best up forth the way.
In 1994 the Republican Party asked me to run for the Michigan Accompaniment Senate, so I asked my daughter, Melanie, to booty over the franchising company, while Jon would run the bounded affective company. We had 22 advisers alive out of an old abode with one bathroom.
I admired alive with my kids, but if you had a disagreement, it was actual emotional. I kept a box of Kleenex in my office, mostly for me. It was actual stressful.
I absitively not to run for office, but my babe remained admiral aback I alternate to the aggregation as an adviser. We had 30% advance annually until 2008, aback the recession hit. We’re aback up to 10% advance annually now.
I took a buyout in 2017 and retired. I’m absolutely appreciative of architecture a aggregation that creates jobs for added bodies and gives aback to the community.
There’s absolutely a bottle beam for women. Women accept to assignment 105% to get ahead. I don’t apperceive if that bottle beam will anytime break. But starting my own aggregation formed for me. I animate added women to do the same.
Mary Ellen SheetsFounder, Two Men and a Truck
Ignore doubters. A assistant at a local academy told me, “You accept annihilation to franchise.” An advocate told me, “You’ll charge hundreds of bags of dollars to franchise. Don’t bother.” I say, don’t be abject bottomward by bodies like that.
Make it right. The accepted agreement for affective breakages acclimated to be 6¢ a pound. If we bankrupt a 10-pound table, we’d be accountable for 60¢, but that’s not right. So we acclimated to accord an “I’m sorry” box to customers, with a coffee mug and allowance affidavit in it, forth with acclimation whatever we broke. It fabricated a big difference.
A adaptation of this commodity appears in the Dec. 15, 2017 affair of Fortune with the banderole “One Woman, Two Men, and a Truck.”
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