A1 Worldwide Logistics connects the dots with help from the Florida SBDC at FIU.

Robert-Simmons of `A1 Worldwide Logistics connects the dots with help from the Florida SBDC at FIU.

Robert-Simmons of `A1 Worldwide Logistics connects the dots with help from the Florida SBDC at FIU.

Let’s say you need to move a helicopter from the Midwest to Brazil without flying it. Or say you need to shrink-wrap a new ship to bring it to the U.S. from New Zealand. Or perhaps you need to import pistachios from Iran, while following strict new regulations, without letting the nuts spoil.

What could possibly go wrong?

That question and the challenges above are just some of the many interesting cases that Robert Simmons of A1 Worldwide Logistics in North Miami has answered successfully.

“We assist our clients with end-to-end logistics; so we help them with everything involved in getting their cargo from point A to B internationally,” said Simmons of his customs brokerage and freight-forwarding company.

Bringing in bananas from Colombia or limes from Mexico safely and timely comes easily for Simmons. However, when it comes to overcoming the challenges of growing a business, Simmons has found that everyone could use a bit of help.

He turned to the Florida SBDC at FIU, the small business development center at Florida International University’s College of Business, which provides no-cost business consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.

“I was at a loss to figure out marketing and how to get our company in front of our potential clients,” Simmons said.

A Florida SBDC at FIU marketing expert began working with Simmons at no charge, helping him create a marketing plan and understand the process – from the research to the marketing mix.

“We put together a strategy on how to get in front of our clients through trade shows, digital marketing, door-to-door sales; just the whole marketing aspect,” Simmons said.

Marketing remains an ongoing process, he said, adding that his team creates a marketing plan toward the end of the year for the following year, and then work the plan throughout the year. Simmons is already seeing the rewards.

“We started with zero, zero, zero and last year we did $600,000 in sales,” he said.

When it comes to his own success, Simmons’ route has not been a direct one. He dropped out of school as a teenager, he said, and began a part of his life that included odd jobs and even homelessness. A friend’s father was in the logistics business. When Simmons found himself unemployed yet again, the friend’s father recommended Simmons to work for someone else in the industry.

Simmons found his calling, excelling and finding interest in the industry’s many challenges, including keeping up with the ever-changing world of trade and regulations. The awakened ambition prompted Simmons to earn his high school degree, customs broker license and other related certifications.

He always knew he’d be an entrepreneur one day, Simmons said, and thanks his Florida SBDC at FIU consultants with helping further that goal.

“The consultants are really well-versed, really experienced,” he said.

Not one who is easily deterred by hard knocks, Simmons encourages people who want to start a business to take the chance: “It’s better to take it and struggle than not take it and wonder for the rest of your life.”

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