This Black Woman Turned A Delivery Business Into A Million-Dollar Brand By Partnering With Amazon
Learning 2 Exhale Industries (L2E) founder Sophia Strother turned her delivery business into a multimillion-dollar brand in just 18 months after partnering with Amazon.
Taking the online retail giant up on its pledge to partner with small businesses, Strother invested $10,000 into her dreams in 2020; in three years, her company has cleared over $3 million.
But it almost didn’t happen, Business Insider reports.
Strother was asked to meet with Amazon partners in Seattle in 2019. As a single mother, the 43-year-old founder didn’t have the funds to travel from Austin, Texas, to the Pacific Northwest, so “with only one week to accept the interview, I turned it down,” she said.
Amazon came knocking again a day after Christmas.
“This time, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t let things play out. I went to Las Vegas for the Amazon event and there were over 200 people in the room,” Strother said. “Each candidate had to be interviewed by an Amazon executive.”
Despite having operated her own consulting business for over 15 years, Strother had no transportation experience. Instead, in her application she “talked about initiatives I’ve led and how passionate I was for serving people and families in my community,” she said.
L2E is now responsible for providing service to communities in a large portion of Central Texas. The business employs nearly 80 associates and a fleet of 38 vans.
“We’re given 25 to 35 daily routes, and I have to make sure the vans are in place and my staff is dressed and ready to go,” Strother said. “On the backend, I lead the operational duties for my company and plan ahead for the various routes my associates need to take—whether the route is rural, urban, or underdeveloped.”
While she enjoyed relatively quick success in her partnership with Amazon, the founder has also experienced the pains that come with a growing business.
In February 2021, an unprecedented winter storm hit Texas, causing L2E to shut down for a week and resulting in a significant decrease in deliveries and earnings. That tough quarter led Strother to empty her retirement and savings accounts to continue paying her employees and keep the business afloat. She also stopped paying her own salary. After meeting with a temporary business coach from Amazon, Strother got the wheels moving once again.
“Since then, I haven’t missed a payroll check, and I’ve been able to start paying myself again,” she said.