In Silicon Valley, How A Black-Owned Transportation Company Pivoted And Survived During The COVID-19 Pandemic

For nearly two decades, Maurice Brewster turned Mosaic Global Transportation into a multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley-based business, with some of the largest tech companies as clients, then came March 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic. Tech and other big companies sent their workers home. Concerts, weddings, conferences and airport transfers were canceled. Mosaic’s fleet of shuttles, vans and other vehicles, numbering more than 1,000 in its global network, including 97 in Silicon Valley, had nowhere to go.

“When businesses close, our business closes,” said Brewster, CEO of the San Jose, California company.

media-object type-InsetPullQuote inline scope-web|mobileapps article__inset article__inset–type-InsetPullQuote article__inset–inline “>

“Mosaic did everything possible to keep as many workers as possible employed over the past year, but the company still had to lay off or suspend 40% of its 100+ employees. ”

But thanks to the help of different sources, the hard work of Brewster and his wife Rhonda, who is the president of the company, and a pivot or two, Mosaic managed to move on. Now, with some of the company’s business returning and a new venture involving electric vehicles, Brewster said he’s “seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.” Mosaic did its best to keep as many workers as possible employed over the past year, but the company still had to lay off 40% of its more than 100 employees. Ronnie Sánchez was working on the charter side when the pandemic hit, and he was one of the workers laid off in May. But Mosaic brought it back in July as a backup driver for Apple Inc. AAPL, + 1.80%. Now, Sánchez has been promoted to operations manager. Mosaic continued to pay benefits for his family “and he didn’t charge me a penny” while he was fired, Sánchez said. “Mo and Rhonda are always upbeat, they try hard and find ways to keep the business going. I constantly see that. They don’t just do it for themselves. They are also doing it for us ”. Pivoting During the Pandemic So how did they do it? Along with a PPP loan, Mosaic’s relationships with some of its major corporate clients helped keep it afloat. Brewster said some companies paid their contracts through the end of 2020, even though their drivers weren’t taking customers to work. Nondisclosure agreements don’t let you talk too much about that, but MarketWatch previously reported that tech giants like Facebook Inc. FB, + 1.55%, Google GOOGL, + 2.10% GOOG, + 2.09%, and Apple have pledged to keep their service. compensated workers. Accion Opportunity Fund, a community development financial institution, or CDFI, that came to the rescue during the pandemic, helped Brewster start Mosaic many years ago, when it said no traditional bank would lend to a black man building a trucking business. with depreciable assets. as vehicles.

media-object type-InsetPullQuote inline scope-web|mobileapps article__inset article__inset–type-InsetPullQuote article__inset–inline “>

“The company explored package deliveries and also worked with hospitals and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to transport healthcare workers. ”

Early in the pandemic, AOF deferred payments on a loan so that “we could catch our breath and put the income we received toward payroll and ongoing health coverage,” Brewster said. The CDFI also helped Mosaic “share our story as a black-owned company experiencing a global pandemic during a summer of racial reckoning,” which it said helped his company land new business. Mosaic tried other ways to maintain revenue, including exploring package deliveries and working with hospitals and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to transport healthcare workers. While Facebook FB, + 1.55% has not started bringing employees back to work in large numbers, it is offering vaccines at its large campus in Menlo Park, California. Mosaic and its employees volunteer to give people in underserved communities trips to the technology at Giant’s vaccination clinic on Saturdays in April, a project Sánchez was working on. “It makes me feel good, not only did we have the ability to provide those vehicles at no charge, but our employees volunteered,” Brewster said. Facebook, he said, is one of Mosaic’s biggest customers.

“Between transporting San Jose City College athletes to games and wine events and tours, approximately 20% of Mosaic’s business has already returned. ”

Other opportunities were on the horizon: As more people get vaccinated and companies bring their employees to the office, Brewster hopes to be able to rehire many of the employees his company had to lay off or take off work. Between transporting San Jose City College athletes to games and wine events and tours, approximately 20% of Mosaic’s business is back. “There is still a long way to go, but as companies begin opening, we anticipate that number will skyrocket,” said Brewster. Corporate clients, who represent more than 80% of Mosaic’s business, are contacting him to relocate their employees again, he added. Some large tech companies in Silicon Valley and elsewhere that have announced at least a partial return to work in the near future, including Facebook, whose employees can work in some offices in a few weeks, and Google GOOG, + 2.09% GOOGL, +2.10%, who said they planned to bring some employees back this month. Microsoft Corp. MSFT, + 1.55%, Uber Technologies Inc. UBER, + 2.93%, Salesforce.com Inc. CRM, + 0.93% and others have also announced plans for some of their employees to return to the office. In addition to preparing for the recovery of its original business, Mosaic just introduced a new company this week. It is forming Mosaic EV, a partnership with truck dealer Fairway EV and manufacturer Tropos Technologies Inc., to rent or sell customizable low-speed electric vehicles to colleges, universities and other places that are transitioning to more electric vehicles. Stanford University has already rented some of the vehicles for use by its maintenance team, Brewster said. Combining Mosaic’s corporate world connections with startup Tropos’ EV technology makes sense, he said: “We are finding this opportunity to crawl with them. We hope it will bear fruit ”. Related Reading: How Long Will Silicon Valley Employees Who Can’t Work From Home Get Paid For?