Have a shipment that needs to go to a nearby state, or to a remote emerging market? Need to ship everyday products, or dangerous goods that require special handling? No matter what the destination or the requirements, MELLOHAWK Logistics has likely been there and done that.
From its home base in Toronto, MELLOHAWK ships cargo of every size and kind by air, ocean and land, as well as provides supporting services such as logistics consulting, customs brokerage, and documentation. It’s a busy industry, but for co-owner Arnon Melo, a Brazilian immigrant who built the company from the ground up, MELLOHAWK is his Canadian dream come true.
“I believe you can do anything you want in this country, as long as you put your heart into it,” Melo says.
A career in international shipping came naturally to Melo. Upon graduating from Seneca College in international business, he immediately landed an internship working for a German international freight-forwarding company. He stayed there for 10 years and worked his way up to manager of the Airfreight Department. When Melo finally decided it was time for something new, however, the call to form his own company was more his clients’ idea than his.
“I had two job offers and hadn’t decided which one to take,” Melo says. “But when I told my clients I was leaving, so many of them wanted to follow me that I decided to strike out on my own.”
The day after his going-away party, Melo started his own company working out of his house. Business was brisk, and he soon obtained a partner, Peter Hawkins, and an office downtown. A year later, when they were ready to hire their first employee, Melo went back to Seneca College to give another student the same opportunity he had been given.
Today, MELLOHAWK has 11 staff members, many of whom came from Seneca, and many of whom, like Melo, are immigrants. “We have a small United Nations on staff, some who speak two or three languages. That really helps with a global business.”
Risk grows along with the business
During MELLOHAWK’s early days, Melo was working with clients that he’d known—and trusted—for years through his former employer. But as his client base grew to more than 150 agents, Melo began to have reservations about the risks he was taking.
“As a freight-forwarder, you’re financing an operation on behalf of someone else, so ensuring you get paid, and thus in turn can pay your suppliers, is critical,” Melo explains. “Even for smaller shipments, at the back of my mind, I was always thinking about payment.”
The crux came when a new agent required a last-minute, airfreight shipment involving $35,000. “We had never done anything with this customer before, so I asked for 50 per cent upfront,” says Melo. “But of course they couldn’t do that, because the wired money wouldn’t arrive in time before the shipment had to take off. We were about to lose the deal.”
Trade Protect protects even small transactions
Although Melo had heard of Export Development Canada (EDC), he was under the impression that its services were for long-term contracts or much larger transactions. Still, with a $35,000 deal on the line, he decided to call them to see if there was anything they could do to help—fast.
“I called the representative for our region and explained the situation. She told me I could go on the EDC website and get Trade Protect to insure as little as $5,000 for less than $30, and it could be done in about ten minutes. I was skeptical, but she walked me through it and sure enough, in less than 10 minutes, I had created an account, entered the agent’s information and had the approval for insurance. Then we could breathe, because we had that guarantee we would be paid.”
Melo says Trade Protect is now enabling MELLOHAWK to be more aggressive about taking on new deals, and will help them to expand. “Recently we had a $50,000 shipment to Pakistan with an agent I don’t know well, and I told them without hesitation we could do it, no problem. I simply insured the shipment through Trade Protect on the EDC website without the customer even knowing.”