This story is part of our 1,000+ Stories campaign. What’s your story?

Name: NaJeebah Shareef

Business: ILF Transportation, LLC 

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.

Industry: Transportation & Auto 

Reason for starting? My 2012 chance encounter with a hungry homeless vet, positioned me to inquire as to how he ended up in a homeless situation — especially after sharing with me that he had completed four tours of the Middle East defending America (two in Afghanistan and two in Iraq to be exact), yet now he was living on the streets homeless with little or no resources to help lift him up out of his situation.

My entire world spiraled into a position of servitude. I decided to help this man (and many like him) who had given their lives to protect and serve, now living abandoned by the very ones whose way of life they fought to preserve. In 2013, ILF Transportation was started to meet the needs of people. ILF provides, first and foremost, reliable transportation to the disabled and disadvantaged of communities in ALL 50 states. ILF Transportation now operates in trucking and freight services, including HAZMAT in all industries.

Related: This Former Military Officer is Teaching Young Girls to be Confident 

How do you define success? Success is defined by us here at ILF Transportation as meeting the needs of others. People are out here hurting, and we as as human beings cannot afford to turn our backs on the problems that exist amongst our citizens. Success is, upon first encounter, to not judge, but to get to know who people are, so you will know how to meet their needs right where they are. Success is understanding that there is more to life than “ourselves.” Success is being brave enough to take that step forward to do what’s needed to be done. Success is kicking open those doors that some say you do not belong in. I belong wherever I choose to step into. Success is knowing I am certain of and powerful enough to walk in my own purpose on this earth.

Biggest success: ILF Transportation’s biggest success to date is threefold, with first being able to move the business forward into a successful state by expanding from just non-emergency transportation services, but also into delivery/courier services and logistics management. This allows us to maintain our foundation of serving others. Second biggest success to date is the furthering our “ILF Business Forward” initiative by securing our new state-of-the-art headquarters and facility, complete with executive offices and garage space to house our growing fleet. And third, our ability to grow by obtaining our certifications (such our recently acquired HAZMAT) and move into different industries for serving corporate, and local, state and federal government agencies.

What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? Working with suppliers can be a bit of a challenge simply because researching who we can/should partner with and who we need to seek in the chain of command for supply chains is time consuming. We don’t mind the research, but networking is a whole other world. We have a tight, diverse group that we work with here in regards to R&R (Research and Reach-out), and we will continue to research and reach out to make the connections, inspire them to work with us and just basically to keep moving our company in the right direction.

Sales and marketing is challenging because of the type of business we are and how we flow. We realize we cannot be a part of every advertising initiative that is thrown at us. We are selective about how we market and whom we do sales with. We desire to work with those who can help us create a solid portfolio when it comes to sales and marketing.

I found it a challenge to get through certain doors because of what I chose to further pursue and becoming a fully operational transportation and logistics company. Apparently not too many women work at this level in this field. And if they do, most are relegated to staying simply in the courier/delivery service end of it. Fortunately I could see the purpose and value of going way past that and made it my business to kick in some doors that shut because I was a triple threat: Black, Woman and running a transportation company with FULL certifications, credentials and accreditations. It didn’t bother me. I knew there would be challenges, but I refused to let it stop me. Personally I had to remind myself of why I needed to move forward and who I could help or inspire by doing so.

Related: Women at Work in Mostly Male Dominated Fields

Who is your most important role model? That would be my dad, James Thaxson, who taught me excellent business principles. See, he grew up in the deep south and because of his skin color he obviously dealt with a lot racism and segregation issues. But he operated with such honor, finesse, respect and excellence that the other races down in the Ol’ South could not help but to see him as a honorable man. My dad spoke his mind regardless of who was in the room. The business principles he imparted were to operate — no matter what — in good merit. My father was himself inspired by the men in his community who became his brothers, for it was them who imparted to him the true position of a man, which is: Be helpful and protect your community, take care of the women and children, care of our seniors, value education,  and be apart of the solution not the problem. That was his foundation, and he gave that to me and my siblings. These principles coupled with a heart to serve are things that I will always be grateful for…always!

Twitter   @ILFTransport22[/box_light]

Tell us your story!
Read about another entrepreneur here

Edited by The Story Exchange