“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” –Unknown
In 2009 Lacy Starling, president of Legion Logistics, began a one-woman brokering operation in her home. In 2010 she was joined by CEO Tony Coutsoftides, her brother Levi, and two other employees. By 2012 Legion had eight people, and it was time to move to an office. Tony, Lacy, and their employees packed boxes, built office furniture, and moved themselves into an office in Florence, Kentucky. Now in the middle of 2014 Legion Logistics employs 42 people and is projected to do $20 million in sales by the end of the year.
When we think of entrepreneurs, we think of young, innovative people who juggle a thousand things at once; Lacy Starling is no exception. She currently works over 40 hours per week to keep Legion running while balancing being a mother to a three year old. In her interview below she reveals to us that while she would never go back, starting a company is no easy task.
What is a typical day in the life of an entrepreneur?
No such thing. One day, I could be working on marketing, another day I could be writing a sales training and making high-level financial plans, and some days (not very often) I get to sit back and just take it all in.
What was it like having your daughter during Legion’s startup?
Stressful. I gave birth to Catherine on a Friday night, came home on Sunday afternoon and was back at my desk Monday morning. I wouldn’t recommend that! At one point, I was so tired from night feedings and working all day that I was actually hallucinating. After she was born, my role in the company changed – I went from selling AND doing all the operations work to just doing all the operations work. And I always felt like I was short-changing her by not spending more time with her than I did. But I’m hoping to make up for that as I go along.
What is it like having a (now) three year old while running a business?
I’m lucky. Most working parents have to juggle day care hours, what to do with their children during snow days and illnesses and other issues like that. My mom is able to watch Catherine every day, so I never have to worry about that. I’ve really tried to flex my schedule as best I can to spend more time with her, but honestly, it is hard to make that work. I leave in the morning before she gets up because if I don’t I’ll never leave the house – every working parent deals with that heartbreak when their child is crying and they are trying to get out the door. And I try to get home every day by the time she wakes up from her nap. My mom brings her in the office a couple of times a month to have lunch with me, too, which is nice. Now that I’m divorced and only have her half the time, the time I do have with her is even more precious. But I’m also aware of the fact that seeing her mom run a multi-million dollar company every day is pretty powerful.
Did you ever think you would end up running a logistics company? Or any company?
I started my first business when I was still an undergraduate journalism major, so yeah, I always thought I’d have something either on the side or as a full-time profession to run. I did NOT think I’d be running a logistics company. Ever. But no matter what you are doing, the nuts and bolts remain the same. Be profitable, make your customers happy. That’s pretty much it.
What is your favorite thing about being an entrepreneur?
Knowing that at the end of the day, I succeed or fail based on my own effort. Being in control is very liberating. And terrifying.
What is the least glamorous thing about being an entrepreneur?
Everything. Owning a business is about a million times harder than anyone tells you. It’s a lot of long hours for no pay and no recognition. And it’s terrifying in the beginning. And middle. I don’t know about the end yet, but I bet it’s scary, too. The only part people see are the articles in the paper or the awards the company wins, and that’s less than 1% of what I do on a daily basis. Most of the time is spent making difficult decisions between not-great options and trying to keep everyone happy (which never happens.) That being said, I wouldn’t trade it for going back to work for someone else. I’m a terrible employee.
What is the largest challenge you faced (or continue to face)?
Knowing that I’m making the right decisions. Every day, we make dozens of decisions based on the knowledge we have on hand (which is never enough) and just hope that we get the majority of them right.
Are there any obstacles specific to being a female entrepreneur?
You know, I don’t really believe in that – that there are gender-specific obstacles. Being a woman in logistics isn’t always easy – early in the creation of the company, one of our competitors referred to me as an “Avon Lady.” (I’d sold Mary Kay in the past.) They meant it as a really derogatory comment, but if they’d ever tried to sell lipstick out of their trunk, I think they’d respect the profession a little more. And if that was the worst thing anyone ever called me, I’d be in pretty good shape. (It’s not, by the way. I’ve been called way worse.)
If you could go back in time to 2009, what is one thing you would tell yourself before starting Legion?
“Calm down. Just calm down. Everything is going to be okay. Even when it isn’t okay, it will be okay.”
Hell, I still need to tell myself that every day. I should probably get that tattooed somewhere on my body.
What would you say to someone who wanted to start their own business?
Do it. Take the risk.
And never, ever make decisions based on fear. You’ll always make the wrong decision operating that way. Walk into your decisions with your eyes wide open, but operating from the belief that you will succeed will always have better results.
I was too dumb when we started Legion to think that we’d fail. I just honestly believed that we’d pull it together and be successful. And we have.
To read more about Lacy check out her bio on our website!