EDA Support Helps Florida Relocation Company Move in a New Direction
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 220,000 Americans moved to Florida in 2021, making it the nation’s top destination for domestic migration. With support from the Economic Development Administration, a Florida-based company is helping many Americans move to the Sunshine State.
AMWAT Moving Warehousing Storage was founded in 1997 in Tallahassee. It was the brainchild of Dean and Gloria Pugh, both employed while still in school. As the owners of a pick-up truck, the Pughs often found themselves helping friends and family move from one home to the next. Realizing they had a knack for it, Gloria suggested they take it to the next level.
“Instead of doing it for pizza and beer, let’s do it for money,” Gloria told her husband. At the time, she was serving in the Florida Attorney General’s Office as a criminal investigator. Although gainfully employed, she believed in her husband and in the business, and was willing to take a leap of faith.
Old habits die hard, and as the couple began their new careers as professional movers, Gloria studied the business with the eye of an investigator, sizing up the market, identifying threats and hiring additional staff.
She also developed a business plan, realizing that the only way to become the best was to learn from the best. They did just that, forging a professional relationship with the owner of Gabriel’s Moving, a Florida-based moving company with a 20-year record of success. After more than a year of mentoring and friendship, the Pughs offered to buy the business.
Still just a small operator, AMWAT would require considerable funding to move their company forward. In 2008, they acquired their first loan to purchase company assets. Later that year, the nation experienced an economic recession. Although the effects were hard felt in Tallahassee, AMWAT defied all expectations and grew during this time. This continued for the next three years, as they developed new relationships and continued generating significant cash flow.
By 2011, they had more than proven the success of their venture. As their business continued to expand, the Pughs received an SBA 504 loan to purchase the property. For the next ten years, they continued to prosper, so much so that by 2021, it was time to replace their fleet of moving vehicles. It was at this point that they first met with representatives from Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (Florida First).
“We called Florida First and asked if there were any programs we could take advantage of to replace our fleet,” Gloria recalls. “That’s when they told us about The Rebuild Florida Business Loan Fund.”
This funding program, administered by Florida First, is a partnership between the Economic Development Administration and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. It provides small businesses with easy access to available and affordable working capital at reasonable interest rates and terms, in order to help them grow and expand.
Through the program, AMWAT received a $450,000 loan to purchase three moving trucks and a new service vehicle. They were also able to re-finance the property at a reduced interest rate.
“We’re very grateful to our federal and local partners for access to these programs, which have helped our business to expand.”
And expand it has. Today, AMWAT has more than 20 employees. Where they once were a small, local operation, they now travel the interstates as an agent for Wheaton Worldwide Moving. In collaboration with a network of agencies, AMWAT is now able to provide long-distance moving services for those interested in moving in or out of the state.
Much of that success can be attributed to Gloria’s never-die attitude and her intense work ethic. She was recently named President of the Professional Movers Association of Florida, elected into office by her male colleagues. It has given her a platform to be a community activist, and to give voice to those issues impacting the moving industry throughout the state. She also serves as a role model for women entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
“Now is the perfect time for women to take on leadership roles and to impact policy. For too long, we were hesitant to pursue the things we strongly believed in. Now, we live in an environment where women are leading conversations and making a difference. I am very optimistic about the future of women in this or any other industry.”