Oscar Garcia learned a lot about running a business when he helped his father with his small retail clothing store in Mexico. Once he moved to the United States in 2000, Oscar saw many of the same successful business practices being implemented at the distributorship where he worked. After 15 years at that job, he decided to start his own food distributorship in Lawrenceville, Georgia. Today, Mex-More supplies products to about 1,000 grocery stores and supermarkets in Georgia, North Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and Ohio. Oscar shares some of his insights into starting and building a business, and the rewards of doing it right.
Why did you choose to start a business in food distribution?
I noticed that people, particularly in the Hispanic community, were having trouble getting access to authentic ethnic foods. I decided that with my experience in distribution and my background in business, I could start a company that would help fill this void. I formed Mex-More LLC in 2015 and went into operation in 2016.
What differentiates Mex-More from other food distribution companies?
We are a source of ethnic foods that people might otherwise not be able to buy locally. For example, we import certain sauces for our customers that no other distributor offers. Even more importantly, Mex-More stands out by providing exceptional, personalized service and building long-term relationships with our customers. Whenever they have a complaint or concern, we genuinely listen, talk it over with them and offer a solution. They know that we stand behind our products and service, and that we will always focus on making things right.
How did you begin to build your company?
I started with a very small location and just a few customers, but the business grew quickly, thanks to referrals. Once our customers found out that we offer not just the ethnic food products they wanted but also great service, they started recommending Mex-More to their peers. We moved to a larger facility shortly after opening, and I have continued to scale up in response to business growth. Today we operate from a 70,000-square-foot facility with 24 employees.
What were some of the challenges you faced early on?
Before people knew me, credibility was an issue. We also received a lot of small orders in the beginning, some of them needing to be delivered far from the main office. We have since worked out the logistical challenges, and customers are placing larger orders now that we have established relationships with them. Earning their trust and building my credibility as a reliable business partner was a matter of consistently providing outstanding service — offering next-day availability for their orders, for example — and addressing all of their needs.
Does the process of importing goods present any challenges?
Mexico supplies about 70% of our products; the other 30% come from Central and South America. As you can imagine, delivery times can be lengthy. It generally takes 20 to 30 days after we place an order to receive those products from Mexico. It can take 45 to 60 days for products coming from Central and South America. Working within these time frames requires me to plan precisely in terms of both logistics and inventory so that we can always fulfill customer requests.
Your sales nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020, and Mex-More is on track to hit the $10 million mark in 2021. How have you kept growing — even through the pandemic?
2020 was challenging, but it gave us an opportunity to demonstrate just how committed we are to our customers. Some of my employees became infected with COVID-19 and needed time off to recover, so I did whatever I needed to do, including driving the delivery truck myself, to uphold our commitment to deliver products on time to all of our customers. They saw how dedicated we were, especially when some of their other suppliers had let them down, and they made referrals that gave our business a boost in spite of the pandemic challenges.
What are your plans for the company going forward?
I plan to continue developing relationships and seeking exclusive product lines to delight my customers. We have great potential for ongoing growth.
What advice would you give someone who decides to start a food distribution company?
Always be willing to work and to do whatever needs to be done — whether that’s making tough business decisions or picking up a broom to clean up the place. Also: Don’t take advantage of anyone or of your position, and don’t take advantage of anyone because of your position.
What are you most proud of when it comes to your business or career?
I am proud of my business and my team, especially when customers greet us with smiles. Then we know we’re doing things right and making a positive difference for them and their customers.