Tiffany Brown and her husband Andre are the force behind Express Virtue Operation – EVO Delivery, a transportation company based in Chicago.
Tiffany, a native of the Auburn-Gresham community on Chicago’s South Side, came into transportation after working at a job that she hated. At the time a family member who was in the transportation industry also thought that it might be a good fit for her. In 2012, Tiffany and Andre bought a used van and started working as independent contractors with a delivery company. “We took the seats out and started delivering pharmaceuticals,” Tiffany said. “This was a passenger van like you see people using for road trips,” Andre added, laughing.
Tiffany soon felt that her work was being undervalued and that she wasn’t being paid fairly. “I was tired of it,” Tiffany sighed. “I thought that there’s got to be something better.” She began researching other companies and talking to fellow drivers, leading her to realize that she could be successful on her own. Soon she started to get her own contracts. “I received a lot of no’s but once I got that one yes, it made all the difference,” Tiffany said. “That’s how we got started.”
Founded in 2014, Express Virtue Operation – EVO Delivery now has two trucks and two cargo vans, employs five people, and works with a team of independent contractors. The company’s delivery footprint includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Kentucky.
Tiffany and Andre pride themselves on high quality customer service and fair treatment of workers and clients. After her negative experiences as a driver for other companies, Tiffany finds it important to work closely with her staff and contractors to ensure everyone is happy. “I treat my drivers the way that I would want to be treated,” Tiffany said. “I give them a fair percentage because I know what it takes to be an independent contractor.”
In 2019, EVO was growing and the couple was in need of capital to support this expansion. Andre started to look for loan options and was referred to Accion by Bank of America. Soon after, EVO received a $10,000 loan from Accion to support this growth and help them build their credit. “Building our business credit was one of the main things that we needed to do and this really helped” Tiffany said. “Accion took a chance on us,” Andre added. “This was our first business loan.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit and business slowed, Tiffany and Andre were in need of additional capital to continue business operations. Tiffany and Andre returned to Accion and secured an expedited line of credit in late March. In addition, they pursued an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan through their bank but did not receive the help they needed. “At that point, I just wanted to give up,” Tiffany said. She returned to Accion and was able to get PPP funding quickly through Accion’s partnership with Community Reinvestment Fund. “Accion is a big part of why I am still able to operate,” Tiffany said.
Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tiffany and Andre do not plan to slow down their future growth plans. They want to expand into work with semis, which would require partnering with new contractors and finding bigger customers. Tiffany remains committed to her business and employees. “I can’t lose hope,” she said.