Johnstown transport company quickly running in fast lane
(Originally published in the Tribune-Democrat on December 2, 2018 by Ronald Fisher)
Johnstown resident Vinzeal Wolf is capitalizing on a local demand while providing the area with a unique service.
Wolf’s company, ETAL Transfer Authority, launched in July and is already creating a lane of its own.
“There is no one else locally that offers a black-car service,” Wolf said. “Now, you can always call a cab or an Uber. But we’re not on call. We’re a scheduled reserved service. So you have to book ahead, you have to plan.
“So if you have a plan and you have to be somewhere at a specific time on a specific date, you can book us for that transportation need. And you can count on us to be there on time, get you where you need to be, and have a sufficient vehicle for your comfort and needs.”
Wolf has more than 25 years of experience with transportation and logistics.
The Virginia Beach native’s road to his own business began when he was a company adviser and contractor with an operation based in Manassas, Virginia.
“I was doing new startups for that company all over the country,” Wolf said. “I was bouncing around between San Diego and Pittsburgh from 2001 to 2002.”
In 2003, Wolf was offered a permanent deal in Pittsburgh and decided to relocate to that area. It wasn’t long before he moved a little farther east.
“The job had me in Johnstown like every day – and once I started finding out about the cost of living here and property values, it was a no-brainer,” Wolf said. “It was either get up in the morning in Johnstown and drive to Pittsburgh and finish in Johnstown or get up in the morning in Pittsburgh go to Johnstown and have to fight the traffic back into Pittsburgh in the evening.”
“I made the transition here in 2005 and saved myself about $40,000 a year in just the cost of living.”
Filling ‘a big gap’
Wolf said once he settled in Johnstown, he noticed a void in the area’s transportation infrastructure, especially in routes from Johnstown to metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh.
“I thought there has to be something that we can do in Johnstown,” he said. “I just saw solutions. To me, Johnstown was a blank page waiting for me to write on it.
“There’s a big gap in transportation here. A big gap in connectivity,” Wolf said. “Everyone knows it, but no one’s had a solution to fix it. I think I’m the guy to fix it, because I know logistics and getting from Johnstown to Pittsburgh should be much easier. It shouldn’t be such a task.”
Wolf said that many businesses focus their efforts on three major attributes: being fast, cheap and good.
However, he said a majority of those businesses fall short and only capitalize on one or two of the three characteristics.
“There’s a big gap in transportation here. A big gap in connectivity. Everyone knows it, but no one’s had a solution to fix it. I think I’m the guy to fix it, because I know logistics and getting from Johnstown to Pittsburgh should be much easier. It shouldn’t be such a task.”
“Me, I’m trying to provide all three,” Wolf said. “I’m trying to give it to you fast, I’m trying to give you the best service, and I’m trying to give you the best price. This has been my goal for the last 25 years. To make everybody happy, that has to happen. This is what I see as an opportunity to do here in Johnstown.”
ETAL Transfer Authority provides transportation between Pittsburgh and Johnstown, a service based solely on the needs of its clients.
“We have a black-car service, a term we use when we provide drivers wearing a shirt and tie, (and) typically a black sedan with black interior,” Wolf said. “We also go beyond that. If 10 people need transported, we provide that transportation also. We provide a solution.”
“Different vehicles, same drivers. It could be a sprinter van, it could be a handicap-enabled vehicle,” he said. “The vehicle may change, but the drivers and the service are always the same.”
Edward Sheehan Jr., president and CEO of Concurrent Technologies Corp., utilizes Wolf’s transportation services and encourages other to consider using them as well.
“I’ve used the services of ETAL, Vinzeal Wolf, several times and have always been very professional,” Sheehan said. “The vehicles are always nicely maintained and it’s been very efficient and effective. I tend to use it for day trips to Washington, D.C. It allows me to get down there for meetings and then come back in the same day as opposed to having to stay overnight and incur a hotel expense.”
“It’s easier to get down and back and have someone drive while I can work in the car and not have to worry about having a late dinner and then having to drive,” he said. “He’s done a great job. His business service is a great job addition to the community.”
Wolf said he prides himself on customer service – also something that he really enjoys.
“I try to challenge myself to impress the client with the level of service that we do provide,” he said. “I have some repeat clients that I have to challenge myself to impress them again. It’s my job to impress them all over again to keep their business.”
‘This has to happen’
Wolf is an Army veteran, and said his military experience has played a role in shaping his company.
“Not only do I credit my service for my drive, tenacity and discipline, but it also shaped who I am today,” he said. “I learned there are only three roles to play in life: You lead, you follow or you get out of the way.”
“Working with Vinzeal has been the complete process. It’s been interesting to see his idea, his skill sets, transfer over to what he is doing right now. From his military background to his logistical transportation of goods all comes in to play, which was an interesting shift.”
While Wolf credits his military experience for providing the foundation for his company, he thanks José Otero, Johnstown Area Regional Industries’ entrepreneurial and procurement specialist, and director of Entrepreneurial Alchemy and Startup Alleghenies partner Donald Bonk with helping him to build his business.
Otero said: “Working with Vinzeal has been the complete process. It’s been interesting to see his idea, his skill sets, transfer over to what he is doing right now. From his military background to his logistical transportation of goods all comes in to play, which was an interesting shift.”
Otero said he watched Wolf’s personal growth begin to elevate during a Ben Franklin Technology Partners TechCelerator program. The eight-week training provides emerging entrepreneurs with startup support, which allows for those who have considered starting a business to explore the likelihood of success with the benefit of professional guidance.
Successful participants receive stipends to assist with initial prototyping and customer discovery expenses as well as initial legal and accounting advice. Participants also have the opportunity to pitch their business concepts to a panel of local professionals with the possibility of winning prizes totaling $10,000.
Just one week after he completed the TechCelerator training, Wolf’s company had wheels on the ground. The Johnstown entrepreneur said the leap of faith that he took prior to opening his own business was more of a leap “in” faith.
“It’s scary for a reason, but I’m a risk-taker by nature and this is not a big leap for me by faith,” Wolf said. “There’s a difference between a good idea and a God idea. A good idea is an idea that should work. A God idea is an idea that has to work because God says it has to work. So there’s no doubt in my mind that this has to happen.”
“In 2017, I was in my office in Pittsburgh dreaming up what I could be doing in Johnstown, and in 2018, I met a whole group of people that would make that possible.”
Questions and answers with Johnstown resident Vinzeal Wolf, owner of ETAL Transfer Authority
Q: Why did you choose to become an entrepreneur?
The entrepreneur spirit is what I have. The idea that it takes someone to get something started.
It takes someone to make the first step in creating a business, providing a service for the community, someone has to do it and I feel like I have that entrepreneur spirit that says “If someone has to do it, why not me?”
Q: To what do you credit your business success?
The support of the community.
Q: What advice would you give to new or burgeoning entrepreneurs?
Persistence is the most important quality before you even get started.
If you don’t plan to keep going at all costs, then don’t even start. If you have an exit strategy when you start, don’t start.
Q: How do you define success?
My faith is so strong that success has nothing to do with this. Success to me has nothing to do with business, it has nothing to do with what I do for a living.
Success to me at the end of the day is “Did I please God today?” If I can go to sleep tonight with a clear conscience about the decisions that I made all day, today was a successful day. And if I can build that up over my lifetime then I’ve had a successful life.
Q: What was the most significant turning point in the success of your business?
Signing my first big client.
When you connect yourself with people who are already successful and they’ve been around for 20 to 30 years and you’re confident that they’re not going anywhere, if you can make those people happy and stay connected with those people, then you’re not going anywhere either.
Q: Which individuals were the most influential in your success and why?
José Otero. José helped me write my plan. He helped me to submit to the (Small Business Administration). Signed me up with Startup Alleghenies and taught me how to network.
Brian Subich. Brian is the one who introduced me to José and he also helped to educate me on networking.
Q: What is the legacy that you want to leave behind?
I want to make an impact in my community that can’t be erased.
I want to make a permanent impact on my community.