Featured Startup Pitch: Campus Bellhops is disrupting the moving business by using technology to tap into the college student labor pool
Founders: Cameron Doody and Stephen Vlahos
Headquarters: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Year Founded: 2010
Investors: Lamp Post Group
Brief Company Description: Operating in 48 cities, Campus Bellhops employs large workforces of top-tier college students to provide local moving help through a fully integrated online management system.
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Moving help has always been a business with questionable service and questionable help. People book with us because they don’t want creepy strangers showing up at their house to help them move. We exclusively employ and train students in higher education so our customers can count on respectable, trustworthy, educated young men on moving day. Our services include loading help, unloading help, local ‘A’-to-‘B’ moving and mass residential housing move-ins. Instead of asking your creepy movers to put out a cigarette before walking in your house, you’re asking your Bellhops what classes they’re taking this semester.
My co-founder, Stephen Vlahos, and I were fraternity brothers at Auburn University and have been best friends ever since. After spending two years working for large corporations after college, our eyes were glazing over and we began the slow process of dying at work every day. I used to compare it to being a caged lion at the zoo, every day forgetting more-and-more about the thrill of the hunt. College is a land of opportunity, not so much responsibility, but opportunity to create, improvise, and make things happen on a moment’s notice. Stephen and I decided that we were going to get our feet wet in a startup, even if it was $1,000 a year.
In our first year at Auburn University, Stephen’s wife built us a bare-bones site that allowed customers to reserve student Bellhops for students/parents moving into the dorms. Our marketing consisted of an $800 booth at parent orientations and about 200 bucks worth of flyers. We would have been happy with 25 moves just to cover our costs, but ended up needing to hire 70 Bellhops to move in 250 freshmen in three days. A few months later, Stephen left his job in commercial banking and we expanded to eight universities in the Southeast and added more services to our lineup. After a good second year, we picked up VC attention and partnered with Lamp Post Group in Chattanooga, Tennessee. If you haven’t heard of it, it is the next Boulder, Colorado. This place is amazing. This year, we provide moving services to anyone living within 20 miles of our 48 campus hubs, employ 2,000+ part-time student Bellhops and have less than a one percent service failure rate on thousands of moves that have taken place across the country.
We have been almost entirely focused on the individual consumer through revenue share partnerships with apartment communities, social media, print marketing, university events, emails, heck—even Craigslist. Our business has grown considerably as our system and competencies have improved, and we’re now focusing on B2B. We have such an awesome service to offer to universities and apartment management groups with large footprints. Our local community exposure continues to grow by word-of-mouth, as we do not do any kind of mainstream marketing. We also have a pretty excellent commercial that our fellow Lamp Postians at Fancy Rhino produced. You can see that here (I’m actually the guy doing one handed pushups): https://vimeo.com/58896865.
From the private housing standpoint, our market is huge. I have no idea how many apartments there are in this country, but I know there are a lot. We’re starting with apartment management companies with multiple properties in our footprint and proposing a revenue share to add our service to the leasing process where tenants can select whether they want Campus Bellhops to move them in or not. On the university side, there are 2,700 four-year colleges in the United States, of which a large majority of them provide university housing to their students. Everybody knows about the dreaded college move-in—it’s a huge nightmare. Five thousand people trying to get into the same few buildings in the same day? Nope. Book some Bellhops and have a couple strapping young guys waiting at the curb when you pull up. Because of the size of our workforce and our system, we are able to execute hundreds of moves/day on a single campus. We are now pursuing universities with a paid option for their students during residential housing move-in to coincide with their volunteer program. That way, families don’t have to hope for volunteers and can book guaranteed help.
How We Differentiate From the Competition
We don’t have any direct competition yet. We hire, train (through e-learning videos) and manage a large number of Bellhops. We do this so we can keep up with the spikes in student moving demand (90 percent move during the same four-week period). Our student business is enough to run our company, but we started offering our services to non-students because people started asking for it. Our closest competitors would be labor-brokerage websites that book and take payment for jobs and allow local labor-only movers to execute them.
Why We Are Unique, and How We Can Operate the Way We Do
Software – Campus Bellhops can only exist because of automation. We cut out the middle manager position through automated communication for Bellhop scheduling, communication and follow up. When our Bellhops claim a job, an intro email is sent to the customer including pictures and brief bios (name, hometown, major). Bellhops either claim a ‘Captain’ position or ‘Wingman’ position. If you claim the Captain spot, you are responsible for communicating with the customer and managing the job (you’re also paid more). We integrate with Twilio to send our Bellhops three reminder texts for each job they claim, move instructions, Bellhop clock in/out and customer verification. Twilio is amazing; our guys are in the know on every single job they claim.
Workforce – Employing over 2,000 student Bellhops in 48 cities. We have the staff on hand to handle an enormous amount of moves in a short time.
Hiring/Training – We exclusively hire from student organizations, and every Bellhop goes through an interview before being hired. Once hired, Bellhops are required to watch four culture implementation videos pumping them up about customer service and must-take tests on the material.
Low Cost To Scale – We’re a zero-asset company and customers are required to book their moves in advance. Bellhops claim their own moves and are paid only after the customer has already paid. If a Bellhop doesn’t do a move for us, they don’t get paid. Our goal is to be in every college city in the country by 2016.
Campus Bellhops – www.campusbellhops.com