Logistics and trucking have been traditionally male-dominated industries. Maricela Navarro is an exception — a female founder of a trucking company.
Oxfox Carriers is based in South Bend. The small transportation company runs freight across the Midwest and South, using a team of 53-foot drive-in trucks. They mostly handle general freight.
Maricela’s father inspired her to start the company. He had worked as a truck driver for years and encouraged his children to get into the business. But once her brother entered the field, she began to take notice of things about the day-to-day work that bothered them.
“I think it’s just the fact that I saw how unjust the system was,” Maricela said. “How low they were getting paid compared to the work they did, the time they spent away from home. And this way they’re able to decide more. They have more autonomy.”
Marcela’s father is her primary driver. He drives 400 to 600 miles a day, mostly in the Midwest.
She founded the business in 2019. As the owner of Oxfox, Maricela handles filing with the Department of Transportation and insurance. She leases owner operators under the company and then dispatches them to their assignments. To make things simpler for her drivers, she also handles all the administrative work.
She finds one of her biggest challenges has been finding the right companies to work with.
“I think that really the networking piece is really tough for me — making those connections of who I can contact to see where their freight is going and how we can help,” Navarro said. “We do over the road. It’s mostly 400 to 600 miles a day. If everything is a short haul within a 200-hundred-mile radius, then maybe I need to switch my business model a little bit, and I can accommodate those in a different way.”
Navarro is a graduate of HustleSBE. The business bootcamp was developed for minority and women business owners who are focused on exploring new solutions for their customers, generating new ideas and shoring up current business practices to create a solid foundation upon which to grow.
“I think everything in Hustle — everything! — has been so valuable,” she said. “Time goes by so fast. The networking was really big and having the lawyers come in was huge. All that was very, very useful. They have all been wonderful speakers.”
She has found communication skills are key to what she does. She acts as the primary contact for both the drivers and the companies. Trucking is a well-regulated industry, so Navarro feels that attention to detail is another important trait in her entrepreneurial toolbox.
“You have to be a good rule follower,” she said. “Compliance is huge.”
Born and raised in South Bend, Navarro is encouraged by the entrepreneur ecosystem in the South Bend-Elkhart region and feels there are resources to help her build her business. In addition to HustleSBE, she has also participated in the SPARK Business Accelerator for women at Saint Mary’s College.
“I think that it has been really wonderful, because I have family in other states, and they don’t have as much support as we do,” she said. “I’m actually really thankful that I am in an environment where I feel supported and the city — the Region — has all of these initiatives going on. I know there’s a lot going on out there too that I haven’t been able to join, but I think we’re in a great area, and I’m convincing people to come move here if they want to start their own business.”
Her ultimate goal for Oxfox is to develop technology — automation.
“I want to really get into the autonomous industry,” she said. “I would like to establish our own facility here with autonomous trucks with charging stations and everything. The semi self-autonomous trucks where we can still have a driver in there. That’s where I want to be in the future.
For more information on HustleSBE, visit www.southbendelkhart.org/hustlesbe.
Caption: Maricela Navarro started Oxfox Carriers in South Bend. The small transportation company runs freight across the Midwest and South, using a team of 53-foot drive-in trucks. They mostly handle general freight. (Provided by the South Bend — Elkhart Regional Partnership)
The South Bend — Elkhart Regional Partnership serves as a single point of contact for regional communication and seeks to advance economic opportunities for all partner members through collaborative promotion, marketing and capacity building efforts.