Written by Jessy Howe
March is Women’s History Month, so we’d like to take some time to celebrate our leading ladies: TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®/International, Inc. Founder Mary Ellen Sheets and Chair Melanie Bergeron.
Mary Ellen Sheets
Brothers Brig Sorber and Jon Sorber began moving people in the Lansing, Mich., area using an old pickup truck as a way to make extra money. Their mom, Mary Ellen Sheets, drew up a logo for them and put an ad in the weekly community newspaper to help with their new found venture. The stickmen logo still rests on every truck, sign, and advertisement to this day.
Once the Sorber brothers left for college, Sheets found herself taking calls for moving services. She decided to continue booking local moves while working as a full-time data processor for the State of Michigan. In 1985, she decided to make things official and purchased a 14-foot truck for $350 and hiring a pair of movers to assist in the boys’ absence. This is the only capital Sheets has ever invested in the company.
After her first profitable year, Sheets generously donated her $1,000 profit to 10 different charities. It is this spirit that gives meaning to the company’s motto “Movers Who Care®” and led to the core value of “Giving Back to the Community.”
When a friend who shared a spot with Mary Ellen on the 1988 graduate business panel at Michigan State University recommend she franchise the business, she consulted with an attorney on the idea.
In 1989, Sheets awarded the first location outside of Michigan to her daughter, Melanie Bergeron, in Atlanta, Ga.
Melanie was living and working in Atlanta as a pharmaceutical sales representative before deciding to take on a franchise. She ran the business out of her apartment and as it turned out, the service was in demand and the company began to grow! In 1991 she became the vice president TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® and in 1994, she was named president of the company. She now serves as chair of the board and has been a member on the Board of Directors since 1996.
Among the set of company’s core values is The Grandma Rule®, in honor of Mary Ellen’s mother Helen Eberly, or more commonly known as Grandma Eb. In the early years of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® when Mary Ellen was in need of a space to keep her trucks, Grandma Eb welcomed her to park the trucks in her backyard. She played an important role helping with various business duties and handling the move sheets and money movers would leave in a box on her back porch. Before long she was referred to as the “Yard Boss.”
As each of these amazing women has been honored with numerous awards and recognition through the years, they have never stopped learning and growing as individuals and businesswomen. We caught up with them in a Q&A interview!
How has working alongside one another strengthened your relationship? What have you learned from one another?
Mary Ellen: Melanie and I have almost been Velcroed together, not only as mother-daughter, but because of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. We traveled together non-stop, visiting franchisees, conferences, and speaking engagements and have many, many shared memories … touching and hilarious. I had the determination to develop TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® in the beginning, but Mel had the drive that took it to a higher level. She is the ultimate professional.
Melanie: We did a lot with pure passion and survival instincts. We didn’t have money then for outside resources. My mom taught me to work hard, wear lots of hats, be optimistic and have fun in the process. She led me by example.
Have you ever faced any gender-related roadblocks in your career?
Mary Ellen: The first gender related roadblock was more like the Alps! Moving was a man’s business, from beginning to end. None of the “good old boys” wanted some upstart women coming in and meddling in their field. They did everything they could to stop us – some very dirty tricks. We inched a long, chin held high, and never gave up. I decided early on it was more important to focus on our customers and put worries about the competition and what they were doing on a back burner.
Melanie: My mom never let the gender thing get to her. Focus on the customer. I have been exposed to many male business groups. I have learned so much by listening and learning from their best and worst practices. The key for all business people is to not just listen and learn but implement. I see a lot of analysis paralysis.
What advice would you share with young women preparing to begin their career?
Mary Ellen: I’ll leave this question to Mel. It was easier for me, I was 46 when TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® first began, single and my kids were grown and out of the nest. I didn’t have to contend with all of the young family issues.
Melanie: Get in the habit of taking care of yourself now. Chances are if you want that career you will work hard for it and get it. So … career will be time consuming, marriage, kids, life. It will be very important for you to find balance to have energy in all areas. For me, I got up very early to work out, pray, and have peaceful reflective time. It made be a better person all day.
What are your favorite things to do?
Mary Ellen: I’ll be 77 this year, so my entertainment is simple. I have always loved to read, watch movies, and boating (as a passenger!). My husband and I spend the winter in Florida. We enjoy visiting with friends and family.
Melanie: I find joy in my quiet morning time, praying and reflecting – everyday. I love to cook! I can’t think of anything more relaxing than chopping vegetables. I love to be with family. I love animals and little kids. I love to be active and doing anything outside. I’m pretty simple!
Mary Ellen: I am beyond blessed. I thank God every day for our success and am proud we have provided good jobs for so many, and of course, good moving services for our customers. I wish my parents could see. I loved them so much.
Melanie: God has blessed my family and TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. I’m so thankful. I’m thankful that God is the center of TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® and it continues to bless others in quality service, job creation, career opportunity, and relationships.
Thank you to our leading ladies for your dedication and leadership! Without the determination and hard work of Mary Ellen and Melanie, and all those who have played a part in TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®’s growth, we would not be where we are today.
TWO MEN AND A TRUCK® is the first and largest franchised moving company in the United States. Let us help move you forward!