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ENTREPRENEUR PROFILES

6.9.99  
Delivery Man
Gulam Jaffer finds fast profits in rush orders

If Gulam Jaffer, 23, had followed a straight and narrow path, he'd be halfway through dental school by now. But in the four-plus years that he's been delivering rush shipments of everything from computer parts to human organs, he's made plenty of right turns. Starting solo as a subcontractor for United Parcel Service of America, he built up a delivery service to eight drivers--grossing about $70,000 a year while earning a BS in biology. Forced by a family crisis to postpone dental school--and what he saw as a secure future--the wiry, intense son of Tanzanian immigrants focused instead on Yourway Transport Inc., which he began in September, 1997. Based in Allentown, Pa., Jaffer's hometown, Yourway now has 60 drivers and took in $1.8 million last year.

Yourway operates in a small but profitable niche of the business: specialized services, such as same-day rush shipments of livers and lungs to hospitals, or odd-hour pick-ups of film reels at movie theaters when UPS and DHL Corp. are closed. Such clients care less about price than punctuality. Using contacts from his college driving days, Jaffer, who sleeps with a phone at his ear, picked up overflow from major carriers. Now Yourway is expanding into hazardous materials and storage services.

This year, Jaffer says, sales could double. But school starts in September, and the University of Pittsburgh is calling. ''I worked my butt off to get into school,'' he thinks aloud. ''And the business here could be gone tomorrow.'' But he's already got some of dentistry's perks: a Mercedes, and soon a huge new home for his family. Leaving it all now could be harder than pulling teeth.


BY EDITH UPDIKE

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