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Armir Harris, CEO and Founder of CharterUP, Earns Entrepreneur Of The Year® Gulf South Award

Published June 16, 2023

When Armir Harris crossed the border as a refugee and traveled for three days on a bus, he only knew he was en route to St. Louis to begin a new life – but it turns out that one journey has resulted in a transformation of the entire charter bus industry.

The adversity he faced in his early years – including sleepless nights spent on park benches – helped Armir develop a drive and determination that he has since used to disrupt the charter bus industry as the CEO and founder of CharterUP.

Armir’s entrepreneurial spirit is now being recognized by the most prestigious business award for visionary leaders. Armir was named a winner of the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Gulf South Award at a ceremony June 15, and is now being considered for the national title.

Under Armir’s leadership, CharterUP has grown exponentially, reaching a $150 million annual revenue run rate in 2022. The company is now in a stage of hypergrowth, supported by a $60 million Series A round announced in October.

Although CharterUP wasn’t founded until 2018, Armir grew up in the transportation industry. He started his career in his family’s limousine company, helping with operations from reservations and dispatching to accounting. He paired this hands-on experience with an education from Boston University and UCLA to steer his story from homeless refugee to successful entrepreneur.

Through technology and a commitment to the customer experience, Armir is leading CharterUP on a mission to raise industry standards and create a better future for group travel.

Howard Bornstein, President of CharterUP and one of Armir’s trusted advisors, shared his admiration for Armir’s tenacity and vision: “From the first time I heard his story, it was clear that he is incredibly tenacious and driven and is just truly on a mission.”

Armir’s vision brings a new model of accessibility, accountability and transparency to an industry that has been stagnant for more than 30 years. His vision also includes a world that embraces group transportation and its sustainability, paving the way for more green spaces and fewer parking lots.

Bornstein highlighted Armir’s ability to learn quickly and his dedication to changing the industry.

“The award is incredibly well-deserved, and it recognizes how Armir has built something of real enduring value with a lot of grit and a lot of hard work,” he said. “But for Armir, it’s not about winning the award. It’s about making a change in the industry and transforming it with his vision.”

Jenn Gardner, CharterUP’s VP of People, also praised Armir’s drive, dedication and focus on building the business the right way. She appreciates his hands-on approach and openness to feedback, which contributes to the company’s culture of continuous improvement.

“While he’s so driven, direct and transparent, he also really cares about people and the people that work at CharterUP,” Gardner said. “He cares about their well-being and he sees this work as a way for all of us to be really successful and to be a part of something that’s really big.”

Armir is grateful for the recognition and credits the entire CharterUP team for their unwavering dedication and hard work.

“This honor reflects not only my efforts, but also the unwavering dedication and hard work of the entire CharterUP team,” he said. “Together, we have been driven by our shared passion for creating a better future for group travel, and this recognition is a testament to our collective commitment to innovation.”