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MJP Trucking owner Laura Pajestka relishes a significant career change after her 60th birthday

By Mary Malik    |    Photo by Jean Schnell

Laura Pajestka, the owner of MJP Trucking, has spent more than half of her life taking care of people. Retired from a 30-year nursing career, Pajestka found herself … well … bored.

“I traveled for a year or so after I retired, and that was fun,” Pajestka says. “But I felt that I wasn’t finished yet. I always loved the idea of being an entrepreneur — of leaving a legacy.”

In July of 2015 Pajestka started her own trucking business. Makes perfect sense, right? A 5-foot-2, 60-year-old woman venturing into a male-driven industry, with no trucking experience beyond fond memories of her late father who had a career in truck driving, and a son who followed in his grandfather’s footsteps.

“It was certainly a leap of faith,” Pajestka says. “I started out with just one truck and one driver who just happened to be my son.”

Today MJP Trucking provides dump truck services and bulk hauling while transporting demolition, construction, and heavy highway debris for a variety of clients throughout Ohio.

Pajestka definitely had her share of challenges when starting the business. Her first obstacle was obtaining capital for the purchase of the first truck and for all of the other expenses related to getting a business off the ground.

“I got a lot of no’s from the banks because it was an unproven business,” Pajestka says. “I had good personal credit but no business credit to prove my new company was a good risk. It’s that Catch-22 situation. Banks want to see business experience but you can’t get business experience without the capital to start the business. It was an uphill battle to get them to listen. But when I did, I was off and running.”

The first piece of advice Pajestka would give a new entrepreneur is to do your homework. This means understanding exactly what your capabilities are by creating a capabilities statement.

“I can’t stress enough how important this is,” Pajestka says. “This statement is always evolving, but it keeps you on track as far as gauging progress, planning for the future, and seeing what is working and what isn’t. I revisit this statement every few months and it has been invaluable to me.”

Through her capabilities statement, Pajestka understood that the worst thing a new business owner can do is not have the ability to meet a client’s needs. Pajestka researched her industry and knew her market before that first truck ever began rolling.

“You need to be able to present your services to the right market,” Pajestka says. “This is critical. I was fortunate to have resources that were invaluable to me when I started this business and remain so today.”

Pajestka relied on several agencies, including the Urban League of Greater Cleveland, Women’s Business Center, the Construction Employers Association, Ohio Dept. of Transportation, and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. These agencies helped Pajestka not only learn about her industry but also taught her how to build a business, and the importance of taking advantage of resources available to help small businesses succeed.

“These agencies have been so supportive of me and my employees,” Pajestka says. “They provided the tools to help me create a strong business and offered workshops on various business topics and networking opportunities to make connections that grow the business.”

Through networking, Pajestka was able to partner with companies like Great Lakes Construction and RAR Contracting, both of which have been vital to the success of MJP Trucking.

Pajestka’s Hispanic heritage and the fact that she is female allowed her to obtain State of Ohio Minority and Federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise certifications. The MBE and DBE are designed to help small, minority owned companies compete in the marketplace.

“Businesses like construction companies and others who need my services are required to fill certain goals in terms of hiring minority subcontractors,” Pajestka says. “We get the work, and they fulfill their goals with a dependable, reliable company like MJP Trucking. It’s a win-win.”

The networking opportunities many of these agencies provide is something Pajestka recommends all small business owners take advantage of.

“I go to all of them,” Pajestka says. “You never know who you will meet. Don’t restrict yourself to events in your specific field. I have been to events completely unrelated to the trucking industry and met people planning construction projects and in need of debris hauling.”

Pajestka has certainly not restricted herself. In just over a year and a half, MJP Trucking is up to three trucks and four drivers, all members of Teamsters Local 436.

“Things have really opened up for my business,” Pajestka says. “But I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of all of the agencies that have helped along the way. Their support has allowed me to expand to where I am now, and hopefully even more in the future.”

As far as the future is concerned, Pajestka plans to continue to grow, but she won’t get ahead of herself. Even though she has a different kind of client now, she’s still taking care of people.

“Overextending is a recipe for disaster for a business,” Pajestka says. “Expansion is nice, but it won’t come at the expense of my clients and their needs. Everything in good time.” 

For more info: mjptrucking.com

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