Viola and Melvin Tucker have been married for 20 years. In 2013, the one-time high school sweethearts took their life partnership to a new level when they went into business together, opening Tucker’s Truck Driving Academy in Waterloo, WI.
The business leverages the couple’s professional experiences. Melvin drove a tractor-trailer for 18 years, the last decade of which he spent training new drivers. Viola offers more than 25 years of office experience and strong customer skills. But when it came time to apply for a start-up loan, banks—seeing only a weak credit history, not the Tucker’s passion and determination—turned them down.
Luckily, Jefferson County Workforce Development referred Melvin to the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation (WWBIC). The Milwaukee, WI, based CDFI, supports people of lower wealth and incomes, focusing on female entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color underserved by traditional financial institutions. It has loaned $34.4 million to small business owners, such as the Tuckers.
Melvin and Viola can’t say enough about the help, both financial and otherwise, that WWBIC provides. It met them halfway… literally. Melvin wrote up the business plan, but his schedule made it difficult to meet at WWBIC’s office, so the Tuckers’ business consultant, met with Melvin on one of his truck driving routes.
Michelle Anich, the Tuckers’ business consultant, described them as the perfect loan client. “They have a dream, and they’re working as hard as they can to make it a success. The business opened in the winter, so it was hard for them to get students in the door. They picked up the phone for outreach and Viola handed out flyers. They are doing what they can to make the dream come true.”
Tucker’s Truck Driving Academy received two loans: $20,000 in July 2013 for insurance, bonds, licensing, permits, equipment, and rental agreements; and another $5,000 in December 2013 for a deposit on a rental truck. When the deposit was returned, they used it for a major advertising campaign, including development of their web site.
The Tuckers credit WWBIC not just for the loan, but the support—business education, one-on-one meetings, follow ups, and ideas—the CDFI provided to help the couple create a successful business.
We are very fortunate to have been able to start a business. For us to take a leap of faith at our ages, and have Michelle and WWBIC there to catch us, was truly a blessing,” said Viola.
Since Tucker’s Truck Driving Academy opened in November 2013, all five of its students have already graduated and found jobs. Two of them bought their own trucks. And the school has four new students in training, meaning more living-wage jobs for graduates, safer drivers on the road, and a dream being realized by two entrepreneurs who wanted nothing more than a chance to succeed.
“I can’t say enough about WWBIC. It’s nice to know that we have someone we can depend on to walk us through this.”- Viola Tucker
(Date of loans: Jul. and Dec. 2013. Date of story publication: 2014)