Our office in Itajai, Brazil proudly celebrates its 10 year anniversary on May 13, 2021! We caught up with Barbara Echelmeier, Director of Brazil Sales & Operations and Rochele Boscaini, Director of Finance - Brazil, to reflect on the group's growth over the past 10 years.
Left to right: Barbara Echelmeier, Duncan Wright, Dave Hertvik, & Rochele Boscaini.
10 Questions for 10 Years
How has UWL Brazil grown over the years?
UWL Brazil initially began as an extension of the company Newport, and then moved out to work independently. In 2016, the Operations, finance and administration teams were consolidated into one office in Itajaí, SC.
In terms of employees, we've grown an incredible 528%, moving from 7 to 37 folks in 2021.
Currently, UWL Brazil has a 262 sqm office in Itajaí overlooking Navegantes and Itajaí ports.
What was the most surprising thing about your journey?
Rochele: "For me, in particular, was being part of UWL Brazil's growth. I would have never expected, when I joined back in 2016, that the company would expand and become this big in just 5 years. Also, it is surprising to see that our company has such a young but strong team who are capable of learning and perform any tasks and challenges they face."
Barbara: "Sharing the same feelings as Rochele – I would add the fact that I could not imagine that we would be able to build and keep such a great culture and team. I hear people saying about how much they like to work in UWL spontaneously to different people. That makes us work every day, focusing on taking good care of our people, to take good care of our business."
What is one piece of advice you wish you would've known in the beginning?
Rochele: "I had an amazing mentor when I started with UWL (aka Mr. Hertvik). He gave me loads of advice and has supported me through the journey. One piece of advice I remember him giving me was to keep my head in the plan — which, back in 2016, was a challenging one — despite of any barriers. And I could feel he trusted in me and what I was able to do."
Barbara: "I believe we have learned a lot from this process and would not change things. But I’ll mention a piece of advice I heard and followed, from Duncan Wright: 'Nothing can stop us once we put our hearts and minds to it.'"
Describe one of your most favorite or memorable moments from over the years.
Rochele: "There is one moment I will never forget: in my first day, me and Barbara flew to São Paulo where we used to have an office. This was May 31st, 2016. The São Paulo office was going to be closed so we flew there to make sure we learned everything so we could take it all back to Itajaí. It was also my first time in São Paulo, and I remember arriving at the hotel, sharing the same hotel room with a bunk bed, and when going to bed, my lovely colleague Barbara instead of going to sleep, she was working late hours, typing like crazy! I lay down on my pillow and thought: ‘This is going to be one of my biggest challenges professionally. I will give my heart and soul because I can see that Barbara is so excited about it, so I am sure it is going to be worth it.'"
Share some of the coolest shipments we've helped move.
Besides loading container boxes, our team likes moving vehicles! Ro-Ro, Flat Racks or even fitting into a container… We have moved Door-to-Door operations of Tractors, Trucks, Kombis, Boats & Classic Cars.
Tell us about the culture at UWL Brazil and how it came to be.
UWL Brazil lives the core values of World Group and it is amazing how we can truly feel those values, even being far away from our HQ. We believe this was only possible because passionate people were chosen to restructure UWL Brazil back in 2016, and our main goal was to do things right, take care of our people and build a healthy environment. That small team of 7 was living the culture so strongly, making it easy to pass on this feeling and truth of our culture, values & beliefs.
Describe a time when a team member made a really positive impact for a client.
Hard to answer that one… we have such an engaged and passionate team, we can see them daily doing their best to impact our customers in a positive way and build strong relationships with our partners.
Tell us your funniest/craziest shipping story.
Barbara: "Not the funniest, but the scenario was pretty interesting: I was 18 years old, recently joined the freight forwarding industry and was working for another global freight forwarder in Itajaí in Imports Operations… one day, a container was arrested at Itajaí Port, containing illegal goods and this container became the hot talk of the day – it was showing on the News, people were talking, I remember brokers coming in the office to release their Import HBLs and saying at the counter: “Hey did you see that container arrested this morning? They say it is a company located here in town”.
Later in that day, we had access to the number of the container and just out of curiosity, I checked in the system. It turns out it was shipment I was handling, and the file was sitting right in front of me on my desk! Because I was so new to the industry at that time, I thought I was going to jail or so. Haha!
Later, a sales guy calmed me down and I actually had to handle the export move of that container back to the origin country. FYI, the Importer was a Trading Company, they were caught by the police and had their doors closed."
What is something that makes UWL unique?
Rochele: "The way we deal with stuff. We very often hear that we treat the situations different from any other place (in a good way) and this makes us believe there is no other place like our company."
Barbara: "Our teamwork is unique too. Everyone here is willing to help each other even if the work is not related to our department. I guess this environment helps us engage and create this bond in between ourselves. We are family."
Where do you hope to see UWL Brazil in 20 years?
We see that we have the potential to expand geographically in South America. However, the main goal would be to see the development of the team, to build and shape new leaders for our company, give more work opportunities to our community and to first-job students.
We believe that knowledge is like happiness: the only way to live a happy life is sharing our knowledge and pass along to our colleagues and others, like planting a seed and see it grow and bloom. With that, it is easy to see our business growing as consequence of a serious, dedicated and qualified team.
Expanding our offices, developing new services, owning our own building and implementing high technology in our favor.
Last but not least, we want to be known as number #1 reference when it comes to moving cargo in and out of Brazil and the United States.
Congratulations to all the folks on our Brazilian team for all their hard work over the past 10 years. And a huge thank you to our customers and partners who have supported us every step along the way. We wouldn't have made it here without you. Cheers to another 10 years!