POSTED ON JANUARY 26, 2011:
Business owners like Justin and Lauren Orcutt have the wheel and steer Tulsa's economy
Traci Bailey's training began when she was a little girl.
Her dad was a boat salesman, and long before she was licensed for city streets she was a well-practiced driver adept in pulling, parking and backing-up trailers.
Tulsa traffic is a cinch; parking lots are a bitch.
Bailey's workday begins and ends somewhat randomly. There's a steady beat but no real rhythm. For 12 hours -- generally from 8am to 8pm -- she could be dispatched anywhere in the metro.
Her Wednesday last week began about 10:30am at Lambrusco'z To Go, 1344 E. 41st St., where multiple trips and armloads filled her trunk with boxes and bags.
Bailey's office is a white Chevrolet Malibu. A smirking Buddha bobblehead bounces on her dash as she accelerates onto the highway. First stop: a city-owned office building, where a vendor pitching his wares is picking up the tab for a conference room of hungry public employees. Then it's off to Regier Carr & Monroe, an accounting firm near Jenks with a smaller appetite.
Bailey is just one of the dozen or so drivers contracted by You Buy We Fly, a small Tulsa company owned by Justin and Lauren Orcutt. Delivering meals puts most of the food on the Orcutt family table, but they're in business to bring you anything -- anytime.
"We want to bring the best of Tulsa to the masses," Justin said.
The Orcutt's idea began in mid-2010 and was spurred on by a little spousal envy. Working for years at rent-to-own companies and later managing a financial office, Justin, now 28, was tired of 70-hour workweeks and "horrible, tedious and boring work." His wife, a self-employed hairdresser with a booth at Art-N-Style, 1334 E. 41st St., set her own hours and booked her own schedule.
"I was really unhappy," Justin said. "I had to get out of corporate America."
The Monday-Friday grind made Justin anxious and unsatisfied, but mostly tired, a feeling unlikely to inspire other entrepreneurs. As offbeat as the Orcutt's appear -- red hair, retro-styled eyeglasses, lumberjack beards and tattooed arms -- they're typical and relatable.
"We're the hardest working lazy people you'll ever meet," Justin said. "We'll come home after working crazy hours, crash on the couch and just wish that someone would bring us Taco Bell."
Taco Bell doesn't deliver, but the Orcutts do.
The business model is pretty simple, Justin says: it's whatever, whenever. You Buy We Fly is open 24/7 and a driver is always on-call to bring customers whatever they want. Restaurant orders are the bulk of business, Justin said, but drivers are regularly dispatched on runs to the grocery store, coffee shop and dry cleaner. You Buy We Fly brings gifts to baby showers, 50-pound sacks of dog food and anything else imaginable and locally purchasable.
Small companies like the Orcutt's -- those with fewer than 10 employees -- are the backbone of Tulsa's economy, said Warren Unsicker, small business program manager at the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
Oklahoma has more than 303,000 small businesses, according to the most recent data collected by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Statistics from the Tulsa Metro Chamber shows that 82 percent -- more than 29,000 total -- of businesses in the Tulsa metro area have fewer than 10 employees.
Bunch of Lunch. Driver Traci Bailey sets her own schedule and typically works a 12-hour shift that includes deliveries throughout the Tulsa Metro.
Beyond their direct impact on the economy, small business owners are often active in the community and municipal-level politics, and network to support and develop other small, local businesses, Unsicker said. The vast majority -- 85 to 90 percent -- of the Chamber's 3,000 or so members have fewer than 10 employees, he said.
The impressive financial numbers posted by large corporations attract a lot of statewide headlines, but the aggregate effect of smaller businesses drives the economy in Tulsa and around the state, Unsicker said.
"It's easier for big companies to get on the board because of those large numbers, but they're in the minority when it comes to business," he said, adding that on their own, small business owners often have a hard time being noticed.
"They don't have the high concentration of jobs that garner attention," Unsicker said.
All of You Drive We Fly's drivers are contract employees, which means the Orcutt's company is among the smallest of the small.
Three drivers staff the overnight operation, which is sparse until the bars start emptying on Friday and Saturday.
"It's people who don't need to be out driving through drive-thrus," Justin said. "We do a lot of Whataburger and Taco Bell runs around 2:30am."
Hungry stoners, too, Bailey admitted with a laugh, waving her smartphone over her head, cursing as the metallic purple device failed to map her route.
"You now have a GPS signal," a tinny female voice announced from her hand.
Net and Networking
You Buy We Fly opened in October 2010, but the Orcutts first hit the streets on the Fourth of July for on-the-ground advertising. Dipping into their savings, the couple printed 5,000 flyers, screened four t-shirts and designed a handful of large magnets to stick to the sides of their cars. Hitting up ballparks, picnics and everyone they encountered, the Orcutts and their friends told everyone about the business.
Social media and the Internet are a big part of the business, too, Justin said. In fact, Bailey was following You Buy We Fly on Facebook long before she became one of their drivers.
"I don't have much family around, so I thought, 'If I ever get sick or stranded at home, so one day I might really need to call them,'" she said.
Later, when the company posted about its search for local drivers, Bailey messaged the Orcutts and e-mailed her resume. She's been one of their contract delivery drivers since November, she said.
Like the Orcutts, Bailey was sick of holding down a buttoned-down job in accounting and insurance offices. With her lip-ring, bright pink coat and impossibly tight, denim-colored leggings, Bailey enjoys the business's relaxed culture and flexible work schedule.
"You can work when you want and when you need to," she said, noting that her hours allow her to take her 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, to and from school in Broken Arrow. "I'm just not really the corporate type anymore. I was destined for other things, not selling insurance to gripey people."
Customers can call You Buy We Fly directly for any type of delivery, but Justin said the company has become the go-to local delivery service for a host of Tulsa businesses, including the aforementioned Lambrusco'z, as well as Dwelling Spaces, Mod's Coffee & Crepes and Joe Momma's Pizza. Justin doesn't do many of the deliveries himself anymore, he said, and spends most of his workday taking orders, dispatching drivers and taking meetings to secure more contracts to deliver for local businesses.
But, like his drivers, Justin offices in his car. His entire business is portable -- organized and controlled with an iPad and off-the-shelf software.
The company more than doubled its daily deliveries in December, Justin said, to 50-60 from the two-dozen or so it averages in a typical day.
Routine deliveries come with a $10 delivery fee, most of which is passed on to drivers, Justin said, so You Buy We Fly's growth is tied to volume.
A tipping point is on the horizon, when Justin said call volume and logistics will outpace the couple's ability to efficiently dispatch drivers and assure timely deliveries.
"I'm fully confident we can't sustain this infrastructure," he said, adding that the company is considering a call center to take orders and dispatch drivers.
For now, You Buy We Fly is operated out of the Orcutt's Tulsa home, but business has been so good -- turning a profit in half the time their accountant projected -- that Justin and Lauren are eying office space near the Pearl District.
Beyond making money on their schedule and terms, Justin said he and his wife are excited about their company, both in its role connecting Tulsans and independent local shops and restaurants and their place among other eager, up-and-coming business owners.
"There's this whole vibe in Tulsa of these young entrepreneurs trying to reshape the city," he said. "We are in a unique position to embrace it from all sides."
At the Wheel. A dozen contract drivers are on-call around the clock and routinely deliver food and groceries and pick up dry cleaning.
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