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Everest Transportation holds fast amid Ukrainian chaos

Illinois-based broker says operation in besieged nation continues uninterrupted

Everest holds fast in Ukraine (Photo: Everest Transportation)

Surrounded by extreme turmoil, Everest Transportation Systems continues to slug it out in Ukraine.

The Evanston, Illinois-based truckload broker, which launched operations in Ukraine more than five years ago, remains fully operational, according to Jake Elperin, Everest’s 36-year-old co-founder and CEO. The company has relocated most of its 155 Ukrainian employees to the western part of the country, which has not been affected by the fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Some employees have been moved to neighboring countries, Elperin said. 

The company has rented property in western Ukraine to house people for the duration of the conflict, Elperin said. Everest’s main office in Kyiv remains open but most workers there have left.

The employees continue to operate as they did before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, providing they have reliable internet connections. “We haven’t really skipped a beat,” he said in an interview Thursday.

Ukraine is effectively Everest’s beating heart. The Kyiv office handles the company’s back-office operations, carrier scheduling and booking to support the company’s U.S. network. The 25 employees in the Evanston corporate office oversee customer contacts, sales and marketing, as well as all C-level management responsibilities. Everest only serves the U.S. market.

It may seem unusual for a Ukranian office to provide such integral support to physical distribution operations 6,000 miles away. But it is part of a broad trend of U.S.-based firms, especially startups, turning to foreign markets for labor if there aren’t enough workers in their home markets, or if those workers expect big bucks right off the bat. Qualified and in-demand Chicago-area brokerage professionals, for example, often gravitate to bigger brokers. 

Everest, which was founded in February 2015, had grown rapidly and had built a stable of blue-chip clients like the brewer AB InBev, consumer giant Nestle Waters, and Dollar General Corp. However, it struggled for nearly two years to build a qualified workforce within its budget in the highly competitive Chicago brokerage market, Elperin said. Everest turned to Ukraine because one of the four founders had family connections there and because Elperin is fluent in Russian.

The digital nature of the work makes such a strategy feasible, and Ukrainains are by nature intelligent, hard-working and eager to learn, Elperin said. The main issue becomes training a workforce in the nuance of an industry foreign to them. Once that happens, a virtuous cycle emerges in which those who have been taught are capable of teaching workers who come after them, he said.

Everest, which in 2021 generated about $115 million in gross revenue — revenue before the costs of transportation — was acquired last September by Cambridge Capital, a logistics M&A firm headed by Benjamin Gordon. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Since hostilities began, Gordon has worked nearly around the clock to evacuate employees and keep the operational lights on. Gordon has raised about $1 million for relief efforts. The company has also established a GoFundMe page to raise money for humanitarian relief.

Gordon on Thursday penned an emotional letter on FreightWaves in which he called on his fellow practitioners to leverage all the tools at their disposal to support Ukrainian forces and help the nation’s people. Quoting Gen. Omar Bradley, who said after leading the Allies to victory in World War II that “amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics,” Gordon said that “we in the supply chain world can and should be a part of the solution.”


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Mark Solomon

Formerly the Executive Editor at DC Velocity, Mark Solomon joined FreightWaves as Managing Editor of Freight Markets. Solomon began his journalistic career in 1982 at Traffic World magazine, ran his own public relations firm (Media Based Solutions) from 1994 to 2008, and has been at DC Velocity since then. Over the course of his career, Solomon has covered nearly the whole gamut of the transportation and logistics industry, including trucking, railroads, maritime, 3PLs, and regulatory issues. Solomon witnessed and narrated the rise of Amazon and XPO Logistics and the shift of the U.S. Postal Service from a mail-focused service to parcel, as well as the exponential, e-commerce-driven growth of warehouse square footage and omnichannel fulfillment.