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Meet Latoria Harris of Heizwerthy Customs & Freight Solutions

Today we’d like to introduce you to Latoria Harris.

Latoria, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

After being an honor graduate and outstanding athlete in high school (Statesboro High School), I experienced unimaginable setbacks (including finding out I was pregnant) and ended up quitting college (Georgia Southern University) several times.  At 22, I found myself a married college student pregnant with my second son. To help ends meet, I began working for an employment agency. The employment agency placed me with a steamship line (Yang Ming Line) in Savannah, Georgia as a receptionist.  It was then that I was exposed to the world of international ocean shipping. Many of the full-time workers took me under their wings and taught me about ports, containers, and trucking. I had no idea that this type of industry existed and was extremely intrigued.  I quit college again to work full time to provide for my children, now as single mother.

Because of my work ethic, a full-time employee (Lolly Whatley) recommended a position with a customs brokerage firm (UPS Supply Chain Solutions) in Savannah, Georgia.  These were some of the most difficult times in my life, but I am forever grateful to this customs brokerage firm (UPS) and the employees (Corinne McCumber, Tammy Rodriquez, Dorothy Cooper, Kaneeka Thompson, and Melanie Bakayoko to name a few) that loved me out of it.  They prayed with me, for me, fed me, clothed me, and even purchased school supplies for my son. There I learned to accept my gifts and strengths, how to lead, and the duties and responsibilities of a customs broker. I had the opportunity to service one of the top US importers (Lowe’s Home Improvement) for 7 years.  This position was very rewarding as it brought many promotions, top customer service awards, and UPS paid for me to complete an Associate’s Degree.

Fast forward 15 years, I am now happily married to my life and business partner, Mr. Shondai. Harris, Jr., hold an MBA and am a licensed customs broker.  The oldest son recently graduated from Georgia State University with an Associate Degree and will graduate from high school May 26!  The youngest son is an upcoming 9th grader and baseball phenom.  The passing rate for the US Customs Brokerage exam has been as low as 4-14%.  Many people have taken the test and not passed after multiple attempts. By the grace and help of God, I passed on the first attempt.  The passing rate that year was 11%. To understand the victory in this, you must know that at some point, my children and I were homeless and on government assistance.  The strongest person in my life, my mother, was sentenced to 30 years in prison. It was our strong faith in God and our hope that He would not leave us, that we overcame.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?

It has not been a smooth road.    There were many days I wanted to quit.  Many times, I felt I was in over my head and even more times I felt like God chose the wrong person!  

It is often difficult finding the target market for our type of international logistics company.  If the business mix does not fit, we do decline. Our company has grown mainly through word of mouth and social media marketing campaigns.

Because we are so heavily regulated by various government agencies, another challenge is growing a successful business beyond the expectations of the government with little to no funding for expert advice or consulting.  In the midst of being a wife, mother, and graduate student, I spent countless hours doing the work of lawyers and accountants. Managing the compliance piece, as well as managing your home while handling shipments for  other companies can be a challenge. My time and focus must be at 100% to decipher the complexities and regulations encountered daily.  

To help with the stress of it, I pray a simple prayer, “Give me this day, my daily bread”.  This means I trust God to give me what I need for today and not worry about tomorrow as tomorrow will have its own supply of “bread”.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Heizwerthy Customs & Freight Solutions – what should we know?

Heizwerthy has positioned itself as a true contender among customers and peers as a nationally permitted custom broker, international freight forwarder, and NVOCC.  We provide customs clearance, import and export shipping, and delivery solutions.  We essentially perform all of the tasks of the steamship line I initially started out with and the duties of the customs brokerage firm that propelled me.  Heizwerthy is going on 3 years old and is growing steadily.

We are a faith-based company. We use this platform that to serve in His Kingdom. Heizwerthy is a nationally permitted custom broker, international freight forwarder, and NVOCC.  We provide customs clearance, import and export shipping, and delivery solutions.

Our goal is to offer a global service to everyone everywhere for every shipment.  HEIZWERTHY is derived from the phrase “He is worthy” meaning “God is worthy”.  Because of this foundation, we focus on profits with purpose. Our purpose is to touch all nations by offering international trade solutions that streamline supply chains and empower individuals and companies to connect globally.

We partner with local mission outreach programs to ship relief goods domestically and internationally including Dr. Teresa Goggins founder of Teresa’s Girls Support to send feminine hygiene products to school aged girls in Nairobi, Kenya who could not attend school during their monthly cycle due to a lack of supplies.  We have sent Christmas toys, clothing, and school supplies to children in Kenya as a partner of Thy Kingdom Has Come International Ministries where the Pastors are Dr. Thomas Goggins and Dr. Teresa Goggins. We were a part of a joint partnership with Pastor Belinda Thomas of Be Restored Ministries to provide food and supplies to 100 families in St. Thomas after the devastating aftermath of the hurricane season.

We have an online school, Heizwerthy University, although currently for internal training purposes only, it is on schedule to open to the public soon offering compliance training and professional development for disadvantaged individuals.  Through Heizwerthy University, individuals will have the opportunity to become licensed customs brokers.

Our clients include: small businesses, freight forwarders, individuals moving to or returning from abroad, international buyers, food facilities, Hollywood actors, ministries and non-profit organization, and government purchases.

We are EDWOSB certified through the International Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

We are a member of the 3PL worldwide network and have partner offices on every continent in the world.

We are partners of STOP. THINK. CONNECT.™, the global online safety awareness campaign to help all digital citizens stay safer and more secure online.

We are C-TPAT Certified and work with US Customs and Border Protection to strengthen the international supply chain and improve United States border security.

We are most proud that in 2016, we prayed for the ability to be able to ship goods such as food, clothing, and medical supplies to people in need around the world.  In 2017, we executed on that goal. To see the smiles on the individuals faces and to know you had something to do with that is beyond words.

I am a strong believer in the faith and Heizwerthy embodies that.  We take that seriously by working in distinction and making sure His name means something in this industry. We don’t want our brand to simply signify international trade, but integrity and superiority in this industry. To know that what we stand for is getting around the world in a positive light and that every time this name HEIZWERTHY is mentioned, the value in that goes beyond any service or product that we can provide.

We want to be known as a giver.  This platform allows us to connect with people around the world.   Most people will never see the places we have been fortunate enough to ship goods to and from.    Many of these people need help. They need hope. We offer humanitarian logistics. This is our way of ministering and giving back.  

I am also a graphic designer.  Although I closed the business several years ago, visual communications is my first love.  I donate my talent to other small businesses, churches, and other non-profits to help them build an appealing brand including constructing online schools.   With the platform that I have, I can incorporate that with the small businesses sector I intend to serve.  I can help them brand locally and globally.   We are also partnered with DeKalb Works as a worksite to allow disadvantaged young adults ages 18-24 the opportunity to learn graphic design and social media networking.

Ultimately, our mission is to help people in other places and help people here get to other places.

Do you feel like our city is a good place for businesses like yours? If someone was just starting out, would you recommend them starting out here? If not, what can our city do to improve?

We recently expanded and moved our office in the City of Decatur.  We chose Decatur because it offers a small town feel with the same big city opportunities.  If someone was just starting out, I would recommend them starting out in Decatur. Decatur is listed as one of the best cities to start a business in in 2018 (https://www.cubesmart.com/blog/about/moving/best-cities-to-start-a-business-in-2018).  Decatur is well rounded and offers plenty of assistance for newcomers.

In addition to the many benefits of doing business in the city of Decatur, the proximity to the Atlanta International Airport makes it a win situation for us.  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international Airport connects more people than any other airport in the world. It has been named the World’s Busiest Airport (http://www.atl.com/media-center/press-releases/hartsfield-jackson-again-named-worlds-busiest-airport-september-13-2016/) .  This makes our location strategically in great location for a port of entry into the United States.  We are also in close proximity to the government authorities that regulate us.

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