In February, we interviewed Shay L. Dixon, co-founder of SCALE Logistics, as part of our blog series celebrating Black History Month. When we spoke with Dixon, she told us about her career in logistics, including how she first got started in the industry working for a manufacturer followed by a stint with a cold chain 3PL to becoming the CEO of Allegiant Logistics in 2020 and then founding SCALE Logistics this year. In our conversation with Dixon, she spoke at length about the value of relationships in her career, as well as her mentorship of others in the industry through the Leading Ladies of Logistix, whose mission it is to empower and unite women in the transportation industry.
Learning on the Job from Day One
“I actually started my career in logistics working for a polyethylene foam company that made polyethylene foam inserts for guns and specialized products,” said Dixon. “It was a family-owned manufacturing warehouse and there were only four women that worked there — the owner’s wife, his daughter, my mentor January Frisby and me. At that time, logistics was different. We were still writing shipping documents by hand and typing BOLs. Technology wasn’t being used as much as it is now. At the time, a lot of manufacturers and smaller companies relied on manpower, intelligence and calculators and not systems to do the work. So I actually had to do the work to understand measurements on loads and things like that. It was my first real job in the industry and I just got thrown in right away and was able to learn the ropes early on.”
Dixon said that she tells everyone that relationships are so important because people move around and go to different companies, but those relationships definitely propel you forward in your career. Dixon spent seven years with the foam manufacturer, building her logistics knowledge base. After a brief stint working outside the transportation sector, Dixon realized she missed working in logistics. Over the next several years, she added to her transportation experience by working for a wholesale food manufacturer and then a third-party logistics provider. According to Dixon, each job that she had laid the foundation for her to start her own business, though she didn’t realize it at the time.
Mentorship in Dixon’s Career
“Mentorship is something that’s so underrated,” Dixon said. “I literally had a cheat code in my business because I had mentors and I picked people who were successful and down to earth. I picked a variety of different women. I have about five people who I consider mentors and they all do different things, but they’re all powerful women. You don’t have to recreate the wheel. There are other women that have forged the path — you just have to ask. Most people are willing to share that information. In my experience, if you come with an open mind and an eagerness to learn, you’re going to get opportunities from women who’ve already been in the industry for years.”
Dixon shared that Kristy Knichel, Knichel Logistics’ CEO/President, and Nicole Glenn, Candor Expedite’s Founder and CEO, have been mentors to her throughout her career. Dixon met both women on LinkedIn and says that both have encouraged and motivated her from the very beginning. She credits both leaders with helping her gain visibility in the industry and giving her brand credibility. Dixon has relied on her peers Jamira Williams of JLUL Logistics, Milissa Nwolko of Logistics Sales Corridor, Tawana Randall of Goldstar Logistics, Shaquana Teasley of Agate Solutions, and the women of the Leading Ladies of Logistix as her accountability partners who act as her sounding board, which she says has been instrumental to her success.
Mentoring Other Women Through the Leading Ladies of Logistix
“Over the course of the last two years, I’ve realized that I have mentored a lot of women in this industry,” Dixon said. “I’m a part of a group called the Leading Ladies of Logistix. We have an active group of women here in Atlanta and in surrounding states, including South Carolina. We help other women get into logistics, whether you want to drive, broker freight, do compliance or dispatch. Sometimes people just need an encouraging word, other times they need strategy and education. Our industry is always evolving and changing and that’s something I realized while I was running Allegiant Logistics. When women in the industry ask me for advice, I always tell them they need to find at least two or three peers to hold them accountable and then at least two people who are where you want to be. Emulation is a beautiful thing in this industry and mentorship facilitates that process.”
Founded by Tristen Simmons, Samantha Smith, Tawana Randall and Vanessa Gant, the Leading Ladies of Logistix partners with both women and men to provide women with the knowledge, education and connections to succeed in transportation. The group holds networking conferences to share information and lessons learned through experience. Currently, the group has 22 transportation professionals in its mentor network, including Dixon. Current mentors include logistics company owners, dispatch trainers, transportation consultants, freight brokers, fleet owners, owner operators and other female leaders in the transportation industry.
Dixon’s Advice to New Freight Brokers/Logistics Companies
Dixon attributes some of her success to specializing in white glove service with high-value freight and being transparent with her customers.
“It also was a numbers game for me,” Dixon shared. “You have to work smarter and not harder sometimes, which is why I chose commodities such as steel or manufactured goods that are found in my state of Georgia. That was a really good starting place for me. I also found that because I focus specifically on aerospace, when I’m talking to customers I can speak their language. I can speak specifically to the part, to the size and how many crates I can fit, so the conversation goes a little bit differently. I also understand that if I have a flatbed load with $1.2 million worth of airplane parts, I am not going to LTL it out and take 10 days to get where it needs to go. I know it needs to be picked up and transported immediately every time. Expedited services, high visibility and vetted carriers are non-negotiables for my clients. A lot of freight brokers are unable to provide those tailored services consistently. I get opportunities and business referrals all the time that are outside my area of specialization and I refer them to my colleagues because that’s not my area of expertise. I’ve quickly built a solid book of business because I’ve stayed in my area of expertise.”
Dixon closed the conversation by saying how important it is for women in transportation to be visible and to share their stories, which can inspire other women (and men).
“I used to be nervous about telling my story or telling people I was new in the industry, but these are the things that I’m going to look back on five or 10 years from now when I have the largest Black woman owned freight brokerage in the globe and I’m going to remember how I started,” Dixon said.
For more of our conversation with Dixon, read “Celebrating Black History Month: Shay L. Dixon, Co-Founder of SCALE Logistics.”