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Cougar Interview - Luke Kupersmith ’02

by University Relations

As co-founder and CEO of Source Consulting, Luke Kupersmith ’02 leads one of the nation’s top logistics and transportation companies. The Irvine-based firm helps companies with high shipping volumes reduce costs and operate more efficiently. In the process, Source Consulting earned a place on Inc. Magazine’s 2011 list of the “500 Fastest Growing Companies” after a period of staggering growth—743 percent—from 2007 to 2010. No stranger to prestigious lists himself, Kupersmith, an Oregon native who studied international business at APU, recently landed the cover of OC Metro Magazine’s “40 Under 40” issue, which recognizes outstanding young entrepreneurs.

APU LIFE: How did Source Consulting get its start?

Kupersmith: I started the company with two colleagues in 2004, shortly after we had launched another business. Source Consulting initially existed to fund the primary venture, an online clothing business. As the first salesperson, I was on the phone selling to customers from a dining room table in my condo. We sold the clothing company in 2009 to focus our efforts, and that decision led to 170 percent revenue growth for Source Consulting the next year.

APU LIFE: What led you to concentrate on transportation and shipping?

Kupersmith: Both of my then-business partners worked previously in sales for the international shipping company DHL. They had experience with third-party consultants who came in to help a shipper negotiate better rates with companies like DHL, UPS, or FedEx, and that became our first service—carrier rate negotiation. At the outset, it was an entirely new field for me. As I became better versed in our service offering, I used my relative inexperience to communicate with potential clients in a way they could clearly understand. The ability to translate industry terms and concepts into logical ideas using more common language proved advantageous.

APU LIFE: Did your time as an APU student help pave the way for your career?

Kupersmith: My entrepreneurial spirit thrived at APU. In fact, one of my favorite businesses started during college. At the end of my freshman year, I noticed students moving furniture from their residences. I looked at all of it and thought, “I wish I’d had this selection when I moved in.” So I started promoting my services to move furniture out of dorms for free, if they would give the items to me. I acquired about 75 couches the first year, and the following fall, I sold the furniture to incoming students who needed to outfit their dorm rooms, plus I got first pick for my own. It was the ideal business—a free product sold at 100 percent profit—and an opportunity to learn by experience. On the serious side, I learned a lot at APU, especially from my business professors, about living by example, and that knowledge absolutely influences what I do now and how I do it.

APU LIFE: What skills are essential to becoming a successful entrepreneur?

Kupersmith: There aren’t any entrepreneurs I’ve ever spoken with or studied who would describe their calling as a piece of cake. In our company’s case, we certainly endured a lot of bumps and bruises to get where we are today. A common thread woven throughout every success story I know is the determination to not give up, even in the face of overwhelming challenges. Effective entrepreneurs often look beyond immediate circumstances and focus on what they are trying to reach—and then they hold onto that vision and keep striving for it.

Originally published in the Fall '13 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).