Mosaic Stories

    Nick Sinanovic

     

    Why is diversity important to have in a company? According to Nick Sinanovic, co-president of the nationwide trucking company Vega Transport, it is because a diverse group of employees brings a variety of perspectives to the table. “It’s amazing,” he says, “I think that’s why the United States is such a successful country … people from all over the world came together to build this country and everybody brought their ideas.” At Vega Transport, which is also a Mosaic Ambassador Company, their efforts to honor this belief will include employee diversity training, establishing a welcoming team for international hires, and continuously working to promote diversity within their company.

    Originally from Bosnia, Nick and his brother Irfan immigrated to St. Louis from Germany, where they lived as refugees of the Bosnian War. After the war ended, the United States began a program to accept 200,000 Bosnian refugees into the country. “Bosnia was in ruins, “ Nick says, so returning home was not an option. They made the decision to immigrate to the U.S., ultimately making St. Louis their home. 

     

    After moving to St. Louis, Nick began college at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) where he studied computer science. During this time, it was at his part-time job at the International Institute translating for Bosnian-Americans taking their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) test that the idea for Vega Transport was born. Established in 2005, the business was initially focused on training commercial drivers. However, it became clear that there were further business opportunities open to them in the trucking industry: “We first started teaching people to drive trucks,” but “after that, we realized that these new graduates need employment, they needed somebody to work for, so we started a trucking company.” Through the International Institute, Nick and his brother were able to access some resources designed to help immigrants start their own businesses, such as industry mentoring and business advising. These helped with establishing the basic building blocks of their company through assistance with creating a business plan, obtaining office space, etc.

    Now that their business is established, not only is the expansion of trucks and drivers in the company’s fleet on Nick’s radar for the future, but also new technologies that could have an impact on the trucking industry in general. Regarding the latter, he says that “there’s always challenges but you have to keep on par with new technologies.” The emergence of Tesla electric trucks is one such example. As it currently stands, Nick believes that with modern technology it is not yet feasible to completely electrify all trucks. At the same time, he is “totally open to the future” and emphasizes that “the company is ready to adjust and certainly promote environmental conservation” through electric vehicles. This attention to environmentalism is also apparent Vega Transport’s current partnership with US EPA SmartWay, an “innovative collaboration between the EPA and the freight sector designated to improve energy efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas, air pollutant emissions and improve energy security.”1

    Tesla trucks also bring to the forefront the matter of autonomous driving, an area in which Nick’s vision of adaptability for Vega Transport also comes into play. He argues that autonomous driving technology won’t necessarily “replace the drivers altogether because it’s so demanding to maneuver vehicles in cities and urban areas” due to the complexity of the vehicles. Nick does, however, see how “adding some capacity where the trucks could maybe move on open highways by themselves, saving the local and regional deliveries for humans” is “probably more realistic in the next ten-fifteen years.”

    As both an immigrant and an American, Nick believes that it is important to conceptualize St. Louis’ immigrant entrepreneurs as part of its greater entrepreneurial community in general. The region’s immigration goals, then, should be to “reach parity with the general community in the sense of, if 20 percent of people start their businesses, then probably that should be a goal to see in the immigrant community as well.” Because most truck drivers own their own trucks and work as contractors, truck driving is “in effect, their own business.” In this way, Vega Transport is helping more immigrants on their way to becoming business owners. Another way of increasing the number of foreign-born entrepreneurs in St. Louis is retention of international students, which Nick believes can be heightened through increasing St. Louis’ prominence on the “world stage” by developing enterprises such as professional soccer. He views the current initiative to build a soccer stadium in the city as an valuable undertaking that would put St. Louis on track to becoming not just “an important city in the U.S., but on a world stage.” 

    To aspiring entrepreneurs, Nick advises that “there are no recipes for running any specific business.” Rather, to be an entrepreneur is to be someone who “has a great idea, and somebody who believes that they can improve a service or a product.” Further, he says that “once they get into the business,” an entrepreneur must be prepared to “realize that they have to start from scratch … and that nothing is as they planned initially.” In the end, Nick says that being in business requires the entrepreneur to “constantly reinvent yourself, and your company, to keep moving forward.”