As a second-generation business leader and female business owner in a predominantly male-dominated industry, LaShelle Birch knows a thing or two about “proving it.”
“At first, vendors and clients that don’t know me are skeptical,” says LaShelle, president of Birch’s Communications, a complete vehicle upfitting services firm in Dorothy, New Jersey. “What they don’t realize is that I’ve been in this business since I was in high school. I know my stuff. When they see my work and get to know me, they know they can trust me.”
Larry Birch, Jr., LaShelle’s father, founded Birch’s Communications in 1972 and grew the business from selling CB radios and police scanners to installing two-way radios and CBs in casino busses and first responder vehicles.
“We’d have 30-40 vehicles lined up down the street,” says Larry. “We’d just move down the line, performing installs.”
In 1997, LaShelle became Larry’s business partner and they moved the business to a larger facility to accommodate indoor installations. By this time, they had almost all the casinos’ and police departments’ contracts for vehicle communications, installing everything from radios and sirens to ventilation systems for K-9 units.
As we expanded our services to provide our customers with the technology and devices they needed in their vehicles, our need for more space was becoming more critical.
By 2020, LaShelle found herself having to “prove it” again. The business needed to expand to meet customers’ increasing needs to have fleets of vehicles upfitted.
“I was frustrated, having tried multiple times to get the financing we needed for physical expansion,” says LaShelle. “My leadership and customer service style is based on building relationships, and we just weren’t getting anywhere with our existing lending relationships. Fortunately, we connected with WSFS.”
When Darren Mitchell, SBA Relationship Manager for WSFS Bank, met LaShelle and Larry, he immediately sensed their frustration.
“They were done wasting time,” says Mitchell. “They needed to grow their business, their business was in a strong position, and they were ready to move forward. Within a week, we had everything we needed to get an SBA loan approval.”
“Working with Darren was a wonderful experience,” says LaShelle. “We felt from the beginning that he was invested in our success.”
In October 2020, led by LaShelle’s determination to continue expanding Birch’s Communications, a new facility opened down the road from their headquarters of over 27 years.
“I like to lead by example, rolling my sleeves up, being in the shop and doing the work, learning the new technologies,” says LaShelle. “Our customers not only know they can trust that I know my stuff, but with our continued growth they also see me as an industry leader, advancing our company to be there for them for years to come.”
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