September 27, 2023

uShip leader rose through ranks from unpaid intern to CEO


Heather Hoover-Salomon, CEO of uShip, said an internship she had growing up in her hometown of Pittsburg, Texas, helped introduce her to the global supply chain industry.

Austin, Texas-based uShip helps people and businesses haul items through use of its online marketplace that connects shippers with customer-reviewed carriers.

“How I got into supply chain logistics … was when I got a job at Pilgrim’s Pride, a multinational poultry business based in Pittsburg,” Hoover-Salomon told FreightWaves. “I was fortunate enough to land an internship in the information technology department.”

Pilgrim’s Pride, founded in 1946, is one of the largest poultry producers and distributors in the U.S. and Mexico.

“[Pilgrim’s] helped me understand supply chain logistics,” Hoover-Salomon said. “I got to tour all the different facilities, feed the chickens to produce the eggs, visit the hatcheries, watch how they sell the eggs, see the processing plants, everything about the company. That’s what got me intrigued.”

Later while attending the University of Texas at Austin, Hoover-Salomon secured a position as an unpaid intern at uShip in 2005. The company had been launched a year earlier by Matt Chasen, Jay Manickam and Mickey Millsap.

“I saw an internship posting for uShip and thought, this is interesting — a company aiming to disrupt supply chain logistics,” Hoover-Salomon said. “I honestly saw things I think they didn’t see, because I had had that supply chain experience at Pilgrim’s. At that point in time, uShip’s tagline was “Ride sharing for your stuff.” This was pre-Uber, pre-Lyft, Facebook was just getting going. So it was novel and exciting. And we were aiming to create the eBay of shipping.”

uShip’s online marketplace allows individuals and businesses to post items they need shipped in a variety of categories, including auto transport, boat shipping, home and office moving services, and the transport of heavy industrial equipment.

uShip currently has more than 41,000 active carriers/service providers in its network. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

During the early years at uShip, Hoover-Salomon said the company quickly noticed a lot of repeat customers using the platform.

“I’ll never forget this one time, five of us were in one room, and I was like, ‘Wow, this one eBay furniture seller keeps listing stuff on uShip. This is great,” Hoover-Salomon said. “They solely sold through eBay, and I was thinking we can really power businesses here and help them move goods because they can now expand their marketing reach, they can sell anywhere in the U.S. That’s where we’ve evolved our platform … making it easier, more accessible for business customers to ship multiple items.”

In 2019, uShip teamed up with Etsy (NASDAQ: ETSY), an online marketplace for artists and sellers, by offering Etsy sellers a way to ship large and bulky items.

Once an item is listed on uShip, transportation service providers place competing bids for the right to haul the customer’s shipment. uShip currently has more than 41,000 active carriers/service providers in its network.

From cars to cranes and furniture to freight, the company’s platform has helped 6 million customers with 9 million shipment listings since opening 19 years ago.

Over that time Hoover-Salomon became uShip’s longest-tenured employee, going from unpaid public relations and marketing intern to company associate, then director of customer operations, vice president of operations, executive vice president of operations, COO, interim CEO and finally permanent CEO last May.

“It’s been quite the ride. I never expected to last this long, but in true startup fashion, you’re able to reinvent not only the business and what you’re doing, but also myself,” Hoover-Salomon said.

She said she thought about becoming CEO through her years at uShip.

“It was definitely something that I always had in the back of my mind, especially after our founding CEO [Matt Chasen] stepped away [in 2016],” Hoover-Salomon said. “I said to myself, I know this business inside and out, and I can see the potential, I understand where we are, and I can see a path to get there.”

Through the years, there have been some bumps in the road for uShip. The company laid off 65 employees in 2020 during a period when the pandemic shut down global supply chains.

Now, Hoover-Salomon has taken on the role of CEO at uShip during a challenging time for the overall freight economy. She said she’s focused on maintaining and accelerating the company’s growth and adapting to customers’ needs, while navigating shifting supply chains.

“In 2023, the economy has done us no favors,” Hoover-Salomon said. “At uShip, we have so many different categories that we ship in, but less-than-truckload has definitely been very sluggish. Our business customers, all of their businesses are down, they need less raw goods, they’re selling less. Our larger partner streams, such as Etsy, have been relatively flat.”

She said she hopes to see more freight moving in the first or second quarter of 2024.

“That’s really what we’re gearing up for in terms of our investments, specifically within our sales department, as well as the technology that we’re developing to serve more business customers,” Hoover-Salomon said. “We do believe that more e-commerce customers are coming back They’re going to be ready to spend. … We just need to get inflation in check and everything, but that’s what we’re planning on.”

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The second annual F3: Future of Freight Festival will be held in Chattanooga, “The Scenic City,” this November. F3 combines innovation and entertainment — featuring live demos, industry experts discussing freight market trends for 2024, afternoon networking events, and Grammy Award-winning musicians performing in the evenings amidst the cool Appalachian fall weather.

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