Angelica Garcia-Dunn – AIM Global Logistics Built on a Leap of Faith and a Butterfly Wing and a Prayer

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When Angelica Garcia-Dunn was a young girl, her Pastor told her, “Pick something in nature that you love and then every time that you see it, it is the Lord’s way of telling you that he loves you.” Angelica always loved yellow butterflies so she picked them. Since that time, whenever she sees them, she considers them as a sign from heaven. Butterflies to her are also about transformation, transition, and resurrection. So in 2009, as a divorcée raising two children without any additional means of support, Angelica took a leap of faith after seeing a yellow butterfly and started AIM Global Logistics with a $500 credit card, a meager savings, and built her dynamic company on a wing and a prayer.

Growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas as the oldest of four children to first generation, U.S. born parents, Angelica learned at an early age about the spirit of entrepreneurship through the example of her parents, grandfather, and uncle who all had various business endeavors. Angelica’s parents worked very hard to care for their four children. Angelica’s father, Aristeo “Cookie” Garcia, was a service advisor at an auto dealership and her mother, Elsa Garcia Davila, was a stay-at-home-mom. When Angelica was just five years old, she would help her father sell watermelons and also fireworks in his stand! To help make ends meet, her mother would make and sell tamales and tacos. By the time Angelica was nine years old, she would help her mother by selling the tamales and tacos to her school’s principal, teachers, and other staff. The tamales were only sold during Christmas but the tacos were sold year round.

At the age of eleven, Angelica began helping her grandfather with his painting business by painting houses on the weekends and in the summer. Even though she was only paid $20 to $40 for the entire weekend, she always had lots of fun helping. By the time Angelica was 14, she was working as a waitress to help out her family. In spite of her working after school, Angelica still managed to be a straight “A” student and a member of the National Honor Society. In addition, she was President of her Class, President of the Art Club, President of the Spanish Club, and she was also on the drill team. Although math and sciences were her favorite subjects, she took honors classes in everything. She was such a high achiever and so involved in school that everyone at Angelica’s school would tell her that one day she was going to be the President of the United States!

From a young age, Angelica had a yearning to travel even though her parents didn’t have the means. In her sophomore year, she was delighted to be one of only eight students selected to participate in an exchange program called the “Sister City Program”. Out of hundreds of applications submitted and after going through an interview process, Angelica won! Her parents were so very proud and supportive of her and embraced the opportunity for her to participate. Angelica recalled, “I was sixteen and I got to go to Veracruz, Mexico or Yokosuka, Japan, the sister cities of Corpus Christi.” Through the program, Angelica spent two weeks in each city and stayed with a host family. Angelica added, “Even to this day, I love Veracruz more. I still stay in touch with the family I stayed with there and also visit them. My best friend, David Beristain, is from Veracruz because of that trip my sophomore year.”

In 1992, graduating in the top 10 percent of her class of about 400 students, Angelica had quite the well-rounded resume when she went off to college at the University of Dallas, a private Catholic university in Irving, Texas. One of the first in her family to attend college, Angelica’s parents really didn’t want her leaving the state. She chose to attend college in Dallas because she had a paternal uncle, Lupe Garcia, who lived there. Angelica admired him a great deal and was very close with him. He treated her like he was her father because he never had children of his own. He would proudly tell people that she was wearing his “genes” ! “I always say that I was blessed with two dads,” expressed Angelica.

Angelica’s uncle owned funeral homes and was the first person she knew who was an outright entrepreneur who owned his own businesses. When she went to college, not only did she live in the funeral home to save money on college expenses, she actually helped her uncle in the funeral home business in preparing the bodies, putting makeup on them, and helping with the funeral services. Now, whenever Angelica does an icebreaker and is asked to tell something about herself that no one knows about her, she says, “I used to put makeup on dead people!” Angelica’s uncle is a huge inspiration in her life and a great role model. Currently, her uncle owns the Calvario Funeral Home, the Calvary Memorial Funeral Home, and the Calvary Funeral Home that are all located in the Dallas area. He is very active in his community, and formerly was President of the National Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. In addition, he is always giving back to the community. Angelica learned a lot from him in how to be a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist.

Majoring in both Economics and Spanish in a five year combination Bachelor’s/Master’s program at the University of Dallas, Angelica was fortunate enough to study abroad in Italy as part of the program. Even though she lived and studied in Italy, she would spend time traveling around Europe on a Eurail Pass on the weekends and on breaks. No matter if it was Germany, Greece, Austria, or France, she would try to learn the basic words like “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. Angelica explained, “Anytime I travel, I just want to learn as much as I can about the language and the people. I always do a little bit of research before I travel.” Angelica considered it a great opportunity to travel and learn about other cultures but it made her appreciate even more about living in the United States.

After graduating from college in 1996, Angelica wanted to move back to Houston where most of her family lived. She had been working for a Bank of America in Dallas and was trying to get transferred to one in Houston. In addition, she was looking into completing her Masters in Finance and Business Management Program at Rice and St. Thomas Universities. As things happen, life sometimes gets in the way. While on a bus traveling to Houston from Dallas, Angelica met the man whom she would later marry. After she wed, she had two children and became a stay-at-home mom. After five years of marriage, Angelica became a divorcée.

With a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son to support, Angelica found work in banking and financial services but she was on 100 percent commission. It was one of the most challenging and difficult times in her life. It became so bad that at one point that she couldn’t even afford Ramen noodles, let alone groceries. Angelica recalled leaving empty-handed at the grocery store when her payment wouldn’t go through. Her four-year-old daughter asked her, “Why aren’t we bringing our food home?” Angelica replied, “It’s alright baby, I forgot my money at the house. That was my lowest point and I said to myself never again.” One of her clients, Sandra Bravo who owned ABA Express, a freight forwarding company, knew what Angelica was going through and offered her a job in sales and marketing of transportation logistics. Angelica immediately accepted the offer.

Initially working two days a week, Angelica didn’t know a thing about the transportation industry or any of the terms. Sandra taught her and she learned quickly. Two days turned into three which eventually led to full time. Sandra would always tell Angelica, “Don’t say no, always say yes, and bring in the business.” Sandra’s niche had been ocean and air to and from South America and she did a lot to and from Venezuela. As Angelica would make sales calls, she would never say no regardless of where the clients needed transportation. As a result, she started bringing in a lot of trucking business. Sandra really didn’t like the trucking side and dealing with drivers but Angelica really did have a passion for it. Inevitably, Angelica and Sandra parted ways but on good terms. To this day, they are still friends and still work together.

It was 2006 and Trans-System Logistics, a company based in Spokane, Washington and one of the largest flatbed carriers in the U.S., wanted to open up a logistics office in Houston. Angelica had a friend that introduced her because they needed sales people and he thought she would be great for the position. Her friend was applying for the general manager position. The two of them went to interview in Spokane and meet with the owners. Two days after they interviewed, Angelica received a call from the president of the company and said, “I have good news and bad news.” Angelica responded, “Okay, what is the bad news?” He replied, “You didn’t get the sales position.” She then asked, “What is the good news?” He answered, “You’re the general manager!”

Angelica had mixed emotions because her friend didn’t get the job. Then she found out why. Both she and her friend had been asked to go out with the owners the evening after their interview but Angelica had declined. She wanted to go back to her hotel room early so she could call her children. Her friend did go out with them and then supposedly drank too much. The next morning when both Angelica and her friend were supposed to attend a meeting with the owners set for 7 AM, Angelica was on time and her friend didn’t show up until 9 AM. Apparently, it had been a test and he had failed. The owners had wanted to make sure they were hiring someone who didn’t go too extreme in their off time.

All of this was quite unexpected by Angelica. She had some doubts in being able to handle the position of general manager but was reassured that they would teach her what she needed to know. They told her they would be by her side. In addition, they were paying her more than she had asked for. So, starting from scratch, Angelica handled everything needed to start a company including the purchasing of office supplies, computers, printers, and all of the office furniture. It was a little scary for her but she managed so well with the task at hand that she ended up having the number one producing office in the whole U.S. for the company. Not only did Angelica start bringing in some really big accounts, she started bringing in business to and from Mexico which was a first for the company. She had started focusing on that area after the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) program was established. NAFTA had actually been one of the Angelica’s concentrations when she was studying for her Masters which helped her a great deal in opening the doors to her business.

Angelica started networking up a storm and attended all of the oil and gas conferences which helped her grow her Houston-based office to have over 30 employees. Recognizing her success, she became the V.P. of National Sales for the company. In 2009, something unforgettable happened when she attended a petrochemical conference. She met a woman from Exxon who gave her advice that changed her life. She confided, “Do you know how many of you try to come in and work with Exxon? What is going to set yourself aside from the rest is that you’re Hispanic and you’re a woman. You need to become a certified minority woman-owned business. There are billions set aside for minority businesses and a certain percentage of their business has to go to suppliers who are certified minority-owned businesses. You need to open up your own company and become certified because there are a lot of people who are certified but they are really figure heads. You know your stuff and there are many organizations and companies that are willing to help you get to the next step.”

After leaving the conference, the seed was firmly planted in Angelica’s head. She knew that she was capable of running her own business; she just needed to do it. Always being a spiritual person, Angelica prayed about the opportunity. Since her divorce she had been taking care of her two children without any outside financial support. Every time she had prayed to Jesus, she believed he answered her prayers by providing for her and putting her in front of the right people. Once again she prayed to Jesus. This time she asked for a sign and soon after she saw a yellow butterfly, her reminder that the Lord loved her and would be guiding her along the way.

So taking a leap of faith with a $500 credit card and a meager savings, in May of 2009, Angelica left her secure position and started her own company, AIM Global Logistics. One of the first things she did was to put a constant reminder of her faith on all of her signs and the company letterhead, the AIM logo of a blue globe with a yellow butterfly flying across it. A year after she began, the company built on a butterfly wing and a prayer had nearly $300,000 in revenues! By the end of 2012, AIM had done nearly $3 million in sales. All of Angelica’s hard work in providing the best possible service to her clients and also avidly attending networking events had really paid off. At the end of 2013, her company’s sales had nearly doubled to $6 million and by the end of the 2014 first quarter, her sales had reached $8 million!

Since beginning AIM Global Logistics, which is now the ocean and air division that has a freight forwarding and NVOCC license, Angelica has started three other operating divisions in the AIM Family of Companies, LLC. AIM Over-The-Road, LLC is a non-asset based, multi-transportation brokerage that covers 48 states, Canada, and Mexico providing cost-effective, customized transportation solutions and logistical services ranging from the local domestic load to specialized projects and super loads. AIM Transportation, LLC, their asset-based division, utilizes their own fleet of trucks including goose necks, flat beds, step decks, and stake beds to transport loads in an efficient, timely manner while maintaining superior customer service. They specialize in flat bed services and are rapidly growing their fleet. Their services include but are not limited to courier, hot shot, partials, and “LTL” (less than a truck load). The fourth division is AIM Global Logistics México S. de R.L. de C.V. which is their Mexico division based in Monterey, Mexico. They also have a satellite office in Mexico City and agents in Veracruz and Dos Bocas.

In addition to the four operating divisions, AIM has two other divisions. AIM Global Financial, LLC does factoring for companies and capital leasing. Last but not least, AIM Family Ministry is a nonprofit division. Ten percent of all the company’s net profits are put back into the community. Every year since 2004, Angelica has done mission work. Not only is it something that fulfills her, it is a passion of hers. She makes a point to include her children in her mission work that includes giving back on a local, national, and global level. Two weeks each year, Angelica totally disconnects and goes out working on projects ranging from medical missions, water wells, orphanages, human trafficking, and child abuse. Angelica also encourages her employees to go on missions if they so desire and gives them time off. “I want AIM Ministries to be able to help and give back to the community. My daily prayer is to be blessed to be a blessing,” expressed Angelica.

Angelica is so very appreciative of the supportive team she has working with her. She recognizes that she would not be where she is today without them. Angelica stated, “There’s no ‘I’ in team. Our motto is we ‘AIM’ to deliver on our commitments so you can deliver on yours. We all work together as a team; we all back each other up. I just feel that it is a loving, supportive environment conducive for kids and family.” Fostering such a strong, family environment, Angelica enjoys cooking for them, celebrating special events together, and she is working on a family trip incentive program. In spite of being a small company, AIM provides dental, medical, and vision benefits and also offers pensions, profit sharing, and 401(k) plans. In addition, Angelica has a financial advisor who provides advice on life insurance. Having 100 percent company ownership, Angelica has made certain to be well-insured in case anything were ever to happen to her so that her employees are well-taken care of.

Always striving to stay on top of her game, Angelica makes sure that AIM is continually evolving with the changes in the industry. Soon, they will be completing the process in becoming ISO certified which will definitely be the icing on the cake in setting them apart from the rest. Another way Angelica keeps up with current trends is by being involved in a variety of organizations. C12 is an organization of CEOs and presidents of companies that get together once a month. They discuss how to make business decisions with integrity in order to build a great business for a greater purpose. Graduating from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program in August of 2014 in the Cohort 10 class, Angelica learned a lot about how to work on her business instead of always working in her business. She also learned the value of knowing her numbers, having the right people, being bankable, having a growth plan, and having an exit plan. She is a board member of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Houston Minority Supplier Development Council (HMSDC) and the Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA).

Angelica holds many certifications including an MBE and a WBE. With those two certifications, she was able to get certified by HUD, Section 8A, the State of Texas, the City of Houston, and the Port of Houston. It’s amazing how humble Angelica is when one considers how much recognition she has received. Recently, she received the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) 2015 Women’s Business Enterprise Star Award and was just selected to be a Distinguished Advisory Board Member for the University of Houston’s Center for Logistics and Transportation Policy. In 2012, she received the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Emerging Business of the Year Award. She’s also been spotlighted in International Transportation and Logistics, Construction, and Forbes magazines.

As hard working as Angelica is, she still maintains a healthy work-life balance. Her children are everything to her and she loves to cook for them. She is very proud that 16-year-old daughter Isabel was just approved for the Ambassador Program which involves traveling. Angelica wants both of her children to have the same opportunities to travel like she had growing up. Isabel wants to be an attorney when she grows up and son Mathis Hamilton who is 14 wants to be a pediatrician when he grows up. Isabel recently started working part time at AIM to help pay for her car. Angelica would love for her children to work at AIM but only if they want to do it. Whatever they decide, she wants them to be happy and passionate in what they do.

With a leap of faith, Angelica has built her successful business on a butterfly wing and a prayer. One of the greatest testaments to her success was being able to give back to her parents. Last December, she surprised them with a new home just a mile away from hers. No longer wanting for anything, Angelica appreciates everything she now has…wonderful children, caring parents, good friends, supportive employees, a thriving business, and the love of the Lord. She is truly blessed!

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