In 2006, Darnell Lee was sitting in church and heard a message that would forever change his life. That message led the man to start his own transportation company.

“The question was if you were to die today; how would you want to be remembered? What would you like someone to say over you and about you at your eulogy?” Lee recalled about that day. “Leaving your legacy is supposed to be for three generations – down to your great-great grandchildren.”

Lee sat back and thought about it and realized he needed to take action and that led to the creation of W & T Travel Services (WTTS).

The company offers full-service transportation options which range from one person to 57 people. They transfer people to and from airport, corporate meetings, road shows, group events and other special occasions.

Lee’s partner with WTTS is Alverta Lopez who serves as the company’s president. She oversees the business aspect of the company, making sure the day-to-day operations run like a well-oiled machine. “My primary function is to oversee the entire operation,” Lopez said. “Anything from billing, finance, contract management, making sure that everything is in order and that we are focused more on our customer than anything.”

Lopez also mentioned how the company is always looking for ways to growth and WTTS is taking that message seriously. So seriously that Lee has a planned trip to Africa through the African Trade Office of the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (PGCEDC) to explore business opportunities their.

Despite the good things the company is doing, it has faced some challenges. One major challenged came from securing small business loans. The company received a huge contract from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but had the worse time trying to find any banks to provide a loan to get started, despite its 8A status as a disadvantaged minority owned business.

“As a member of the 8A program, the Small Business Administration (SBA) gave us a list of 100 or so banks that it’s affiliated with,” Lee said. “We went to about 30 of those banks with a package deal. The banks looked at the contract and said it was nice contract, but during that time banks weren’t loaning money.”

For the first month of that commitment, WTTS funded the contract itself before it was able to secure a financer. Due to that work, the company was able to turn a $6 million profit in 2010.

Now that WTTS has been successful, the Lopez and Lee recognize they are in a position to begin to leave their legacy.

“This puts us in a position to give back in the community,” Lopez said. “You’re able to help some people out here with transportation services.

“You’re able to give back and it says a lot.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO