Updated: Oct 20
“There's nothing that humbles you like running a company,” Gazelle Mechanical and Logistics Proprietor Trey Ellington said. Although Ellington is far too humble to say so, his story makes a great lesson in how to take risks and pivot a small business.
He got his start in high school working at his mother's office supply company. "I worked there for ten years with large office suppliers such as Office Depot and Staples,” he said. They used third-party carriers and logistics companies for deliveries and it caused a lot of headaches. He knew he could do better, so he founded Gazelle Logistics to handle the deliveries and improve customer experience.
Ellington credits his mother for much of his good business sense and confidence. "She instilled this mindset that I can work for myself and control my life and future. She created a balance between her work and family, so I had a role model to look to. I've got four daughters and a son. I can spend time with my kids and build something I can pass down to them one day. She really prepared me for owning my own business. I would not have felt equipped or prepared to run my own if I didn’t have the experience at such a young age and that level of growth through running her company and managing her employees. She gave me confidence and showed me I could build my own dream and not just work towards someone else's dream,” he said.
Ellington founded the company in February 2020, one month before the lockdowns. “We haven't had linear upward growth to show us we're on the right path. It's been rocky, with peaks and valleys, and I had to figure it out as I went,” he said.
He took advantage of the market by finding a great deal on a larger site for his business.
“Warehouse space is a precious resource in the Cincinnati area,” Ellington said. “If not for the uncertainty in the market from COVID, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the warehouse we have." Through his new space, he secured a library subcontract, and it worked out wonderfully for a year or so. Unfortunately, the main contractor lost the bid to continue. "So, even though we did a great job, we lost the work," Ellington said. "Things got really tense, and I needed to find something very quickly to pivot towards because we had enormous overhead leftover from this job."
Needing to find something quick to cover expenses, Ellington was inspired by his mother-in-law’s HVAC company to expand their offerings and Gazelle Logistics became Gazelle
Mechanical and Logistics. "It breathed new life into the business, and helped the logistics side survive. Without the logistics work, I wouldn't have had the resources and space to do the mechanical. It was a challenge, but we're stronger because of it. We're now able to diversify our customer base and not just have one large customer that's the foundation of the company. Each step of the way, something has come along that's kept us going. It's been amazing to watch," Ellington said. Now Gazelle is working with construction-industry giants such as Messer.
“I knew we had maybe three months left, but I was able to buy time and equipment with loans I got through ECDI. We were able to get funding so quickly."
Between losing the State contract and pivoting towards HVAC, Gazelle needed funding. "I discovered ECDI when we were two steps from closing our doors. I knew we had maybe three months left, but I was able to buy time and equipment with loans I got through ECDI. We were able to get funding so quickly. There are so many scams out there, and I'm the kind of guy that needs to read every word of a contract, but my loan officer was very thorough and gave me the peace of mind I needed. I got a second loan when we needed racking and pallet jacks, and that process went even quicker," he said.
After some ups and downs, Ellington feels optimistic about the future of Gazelle Mechanical and Logistics. “You have to believe in yourself, but being the new guy in this industry is hard. We get rejected by potential clients I know I could give better service to than their current providers," he said. "You would think I was crazy for getting a warehouse space and having no background in logistics and running a logistics company. Then to jump into HVAC and have success so quickly. I’m learning more about that industry every day. Sometimes this has been frustrating and chaotic, but seeing my vision and dream come to life, take on a different shape than I could ever imagine, and grow beyond anything that I would have ever thought in such a short time — It’s awesome.”