Female Founders: Nancy Korayim of MetroSpeedy On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
… Avoid taking on debt early on. Until you establish proof of concept and revenue traction, I suggest staying away from debt financing.
As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Korayim.
Nancy Korayim is the founder and CEO of MetroSpeedy and has 20+ years of experience in management, financial advisory, insurance, sales and development. She has leveraged her sales and operational skills to drive the company’s vision, strategy and growth while focusing on providing sustainable and efficient last mile solutions. In addition to running one of the fastest growing logistics companies in NYC, Nancy offers her time to serve on advisory boards. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of MECD, a non-profit organization committed to empowering women and children to be agents of transformative change. In her free time, Nancy loves spending time with her daughter and husband, playing tennis and is an avid follower of F1 racing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
After spending years in corporate America and working for Fortune 500 companies, I left my lucrative job to create MetroSpeedy. I developed the idea after watching dry cleaning couriers carry 30 to 50 lbs. of deliveries. It was very laborious and inefficient. I just knew there was a better way to streamline deliveries for businesses. My first thought was that three-wheeled cargo cycles could get the job done better. They were ideal for getting through Manhattan traffic and allowing delivery drivers the ability to take bigger loads. They are also eco-friendly. I found a manufacturer and launched MetroSpeedy, to focus on efficient same day delivery of small to medium-sized packages, and now we have Speedy’s across New York City helping businesses across all industries.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
We had a team member go overseas to speak with one of our manufacturers who we were severing ties with. They had the normal level of courtesy upon picking up our team member, however, there was a complete 180-degree switch once this company was informed that we would no longer be doing business with them. They left our team member stranded with no food or a way to get back to the train, which was an hour away from their remote facility. As soon as I found out about this, I tried to find a car service or some other form of transportation to get him out of there. He was thankfully able to hitchhike his way back to the train. He was on a tight deadline as that was the last train that would take him back into the city. Lesson learned — if you’re going to break up with someone, pick a place where you have an easy exit.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In the beginning I was doing just about everything myself — sales, operations, marketing and even deliveries. I was, and still am, fast with getting deliveries done even during the times when I had to lug a 50lbs bag up a walkup. There was one day, we were a little short on drivers and I figured I could take on some extra deliveries and hustle. What I wasn’t aware of was that the UN General Assembly was happening, and it caused major gridlock in the city. I ended up being stuck for three hours. Thankfully, we were able to switch to using our fleet of Speedy’s, our electric cargo bikes, and still get everything delivered on time. It’s easy to look back and laugh at it now but there was pressure in that moment. The lesson learned was to stay on top of major events happening in the areas where we operate in addition to watching for weather alerts. Now we can update our customers well in advance and plan around these situations.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Many people helped me along the way, particularly my husband, who became my greatest mentor as I built my business. My husband is a successful serial entrepreneur himself and I was able to leverage his knowledge and expertise while avoiding his pitfalls. My husband’s company (Bynext.co) was our first client and strategic partner that helped us validate our proof of concept, quality test our tech and gain revenue traction.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?
I think one major piece is whether female founders will be able to get funding to grow. Entrepreneurship is already very hard for anyone, but the numbers don’t lie in terms of how little VC funding goes to women. Imagine putting in so much work to build a business but not having the capital to grow it and take it to the next level. Some women might be thinking what’s the point of putting in all that work to then have your business growth stunted. Female founders grapple with the concept of being viewed as an underrepresented, impact investment by most VC’s. Women-led startups received just 2.3% of VC funding in 2020 (that’s $3.7 billion for women vs $160 billion received by male founders). While some VC firms have made strides, it’s an archaic phenomenon that still exists. There is a certain level of validity to the uncertainty and doubt felt by female founders which is holding them back.
Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?
We need more females sitting at the decision-making tables at VC firms. Also, as individuals or a society, I would say it depends on the business. Something I saw a lot more of during the pandemic was that people were buying gift cards to support restaurants and basically give a cash infusion. This would work for individuals to support a consumer facing women owned business. My business is in the B2B space so when I think of support there, those who work at corporations could encourage their company to have a supplier diversity program like what’s seen in government. Walmart has one as well. While there are government agencies that have these programs, I think more awareness could be generated about their existence and how to better participate in them.
This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?
A difference in perspective around what they can bring to an industry should not be underestimated. Everyone is unique but, in our society, there will be commonalities in terms of some of the things we are exposed to as women. It contributes to the way we think, and problem solve and can be quite the differentiator in how we run a business. Another reason why more women should become founders is that they may be the ones who care most about women-specific issues. I have personally seen an increase in femtech startups, and I think it’s great.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?
Many have called this out, but these days it feels like it’s made to be some sort of glamorous lifestyle or people focus on being your own boss. However, you still have customers, shareholders and/or investors you need to answer to and serve, and it’s truly a lot of work. Unless you have some sort of passive income stream going, running a business is a very active endeavor and you have to put in real time and money to create a business that will last.
Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?
Being a startup founder is not for the faint of heart. Failure and rejection are almost an innate part of the journey. Success begins within, believing in yourself, believing in your vision, and believing in your team. Successful founders create a cohesive unit across their organization by being persistent, communicative, and exercising a collaborative management style — passion ties it all together. Compassion is a significant trait which addresses the human factor in what we do and it’s critical to any company’s growth to be connected to everyone in your organization. Successful founders focus on people over process. Unless you’re someone that has high risk tolerance, access to capital and willing to work 24/7 to grow your startup, then my advice is to pursue a regular job which provides a level of job security and predictable income flow.
Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Get a great team of advisers to ensure you’re starting off on the right foot with a healthy work life balance, as it is essential for a healthy business.
- Consider a co-founder to help alleviate the pressure and stress of startup life.
- Be creative and resourceful. I had to find many clever ways to get free stuff to build a strong foundation. (My favorite word is FREE).
- Consult professionals early on to ensure your business is set up properly and that your business risks are protected (finance, insurance, legal etc).
- Avoid taking on debt early on. Until you establish proof of concept and revenue traction, I suggest staying away from debt financing.
How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
We started MetroSpeedy with a focus on creating a sustainable and carbon neutral initiative. Our fleet of electric cargo bikes (we call Speedy’s) cut carbon emissions by 90% compared with diesel vans, and by a third compared with electric vans. We are focused on becoming carbon neutral by 2030, and with our cargo bikes, air pollution, which is still at illegal levels in many urban areas, is also significantly reduced. We are doing our part.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
I think one movement that could have a significant impact would be to invest more in the MENA region. As someone whose family emigrated from the Middle East, I’ve seen first-hand there is a significant opportunity to create and invest in start-ups there. The untapped market potential is huge if we approach it through the lens of the leapfrog strategy. Recreating existing business models and modifying them to be regionally specific would have a profound positive impact on their economy, job market and hopefully the quality of life for the people of that region.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, is someone I would love to meet. I’ve been watching how Walmart has been innovating and am excited about the things they are doing. There is a lot of overlap between how they operate compared to how MetroSpeedy operates. Doug has spoken on the evolution of Walmart in regard to the supply chain, sustainability, and technology. These are all areas where my company is focused, and it would be great to sit down with him and hear more about the parallels around these initiatives.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this