Learn how Michelle DeFronzo found lasting success as a woman business owner and read her tips for overcoming adversity and taking your business to new heights.

As a woman business owner in the male-dominated cargo logistics industry, Michelle DeFronzo is no stranger to adversity. Throughout her career, she has faced challenges that have forced her to adapt and find new ways to move her business forward.

Michelle DeFronzo

In her very first business venture, Michelle was defrauded by her partners, derailing years of hard work and threatening her dream of owning her own business. Betrayed by people she trusted and put into an enormous financial hole, it would have been understandable for Michelle to decide that running a business was not for her. But that’s not what she did. Instead, she bounced back, derailed but not defeated, and founded ImEx Cargo, a logistics company that works with clients nationwide to coordinate domestic and international transport of goods and materials.

Over the course of her career, Michelle has overcome more obstacles than she can count. She has been lied to by colleagues and clients, left unable to fill critical vacancies with qualified employees, passed over for business opportunities that she felt she deserved, and affected by a host of other difficulties familiar to anyone who tries to make their mark in the business world.

Yet in the face of these challenges, Michelle has always demonstrated an ability to adjust and persevere. Over the course of the past two decades, Michelle has successfully built ImEx Cargo into a leading cargo logistics service provider in the New England region. In 2021, she just experienced her best year yet, doubling her business growth despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Moving into the new year and looking towards the future, Michelle expects continued success and sees exciting opportunities for business expansion.

With ImEx Cargo poised for a new chapter in its growth, Michelle took time to reflect on her business journey and identify the key elements that have enabled her to beat the odds and find lasting success as a woman small-business owner. Here are the tips and strategies that Michelle has used to overcome barriers and take her business to new heights.

Tip #1: Maintain Your Resilience During Challenging Times

When Michelle looks back on the persistent challenges of her career, she credits her spirit of resilience above all else for her continued success. For Michelle, resilience and self-belief have kept her business moving forward during the most difficult of times.

Michelle’s emphasis on resilience came from her early recognition that as a woman in cargo logistics, dwelling on failures would only leave her company further behind. She consistently found that bouncing back quickly from her business setbacks allowed her to maximize her next opportunity and accelerate her recovery. With this in mind, Michelle adopted a simple mantra that has informed her business philosophy ever since: “you have to be thick-skinned, you have to be resilient, and you have to be passionate.”

Tip #2: Grow Your Professional Network to Expand Opportunities

Sometimes the sheer effort of business ownership can be overwhelming—no matter how resilient you are. As Michelle discovered early on, “if you want to be successful in any kind of small business, there are so many aspects outside of your original plan and there are so many things that you have to learn.” When her business commitments have piled up over the years, she found that turning to her network and leaning into her professional relationships helped to ease the burden, inspire new ideas, and relate to others who have dealt with similar obstacles.

For Michelle, networking has multiple benefits that have contributed to her success. By connecting with business owners outside of her industry, she has been able to broaden her business knowledge and develop the range of skills necessary to run her company. She has also found that cultivating relationships with other woman business owners has allowed her to feel that she is not alone in her business journey—”my professional network is just as happy for my successes as I am. Sometimes you need that.” Through sharing her successes and her failures with other women across different industries, Michelle has consistently gained the support and inspiration she needs to overcome her business challenges.

Michelle recommends taking advantage of the virtual networking opportunities that emerged from the pandemic and joining a business group, both in-person and online, to create and foster business relationships. Organizations like the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) are particularly effective at connecting women across industries and keeping business owners engaged and accountable to their networks.

Tip #3: Pursue Certifications as a Woman-Owned Business

While networking will certainly open doors to new business opportunities, woman-owned business certifications have transformed Michelle’s company and catalyzed its growth over the past 18-months. Since certifying ImEx Cargo as a woman-owned business, Michelle has been contacted by new clients across the country who are increasingly seeking to diversify their contracts and collaborate with women in the business world. “I have people calling all the time that I never would have imagined would ever call me directly,” she explained.

By pursuing public and private-sector certifications and placing their businesses in a national directory of woman-owned businesses, women can increase their visibility and connect with the companies across the country that are looking specifically for their business and services. Michelle is certified both locally through the State of Massachusetts and nationally through certifying agencies like the WBENC. She encourages others to embrace their woman-owned designation and capitalize on the emerging opportunities for women in the business world.

Tip #4: Find a Reliable Banking Partner that Supports Your Business Goals

As Michelle takes stock of her current success and looks back on the lessons from her career, her final piece of advice for women business owners is to seek out a banking relationship that truly works for them. For Michelle, this has meant finding a bank that commits fully to her business mission and provides her with the personal and professional support she needs to grow, in the good times and through the challenges.

As she moves into 2022 and looks towards the next big thing for ImEx Cargo, Michelle continues to keep the lessons that she has learned throughout her career at the top of her mind. Despite her recent successes, she knows that many obstacles remain and recognizes that small-business ownership is a constant process of growth and evolution. Equipped with the strategies she developed from twenty years of business triumphs and setbacks, Michelle is prepared for the challenges ahead and urges other women business owners to consider her advice as they continue to move their businesses forward.

Santander is committed to serving as the banking partner that stands behind you as you strive to reach your business goals. For more information about how we can support your success and help your business prosper, get in touch with us today.

Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.

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