Matthew Mugar, 36 (left), and Walter Lopes, 33, started a firm in Mugar's old bedroom in his mom's house that helps companies ship freight. Now based in Culver City, California, they were inspired by Brazilian martial arts.

--As told to Noah Davis

When you practice capoeira, you need to read your opponent. Sometimes you must be dominant. Sometimes softer is better.

Walter and I were training partners. He became like my brother. We were top sales reps at the same firm, but decided to pursue the American dream.

Logistics is an old-boys' club. People in their 50s and 60s. When we started, everyone was chopping price. We knew we couldn't compete just being the cheapest.

Then a client called us after hours. He wanted to go to Disneyland, but didn't know how to get there. He didn't use cell phones. So we hand drew a map. Service isn't just stuff during a crisis. It's sending a congratulatory email to a client whose daughter graduated from high school that day.

One of our biggest clients had problems with a material it uses--which costs $40,000 to $100,000 to ship. We worked with the manufacturer. We found a cheaper carrier, too. A couple of phone calls led to the solution. You can't start a business and not be flexible.