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How Bellhops is the new way to move- Startup Stories #15

By Harshil Lakhani 6th August 2015

The most difficult part of moving out?

Cameron-Doody-Stephen-Vlahos-| Jw

The moving part. Historically, you had three options in this area: spend hours of your own time doing it yourself, beg your friends and family to help you, or pay ridiculous prices to have professional movers take care of it.

Now there’s a fourth option: Bellhops.

Bellhops is a mobile application that connects people who need movers to athletic college students who can get the job done – at a fraction of the cost. Customers can just sit back and relax while friendly “Bellhops” do the moving for them.
In conversation with Bellhops co-founder Cameron Doody, we went more in-depth in what Bellhops do:

Q1.Tell us a little about Bellhops and your personal motivation for starting this business.

While at Auburn, my co-founder Stephen Vlahos and I realized one of the most frustrating parts of the college experience for students and their families was moving.  College kids moved all the time and it was always a “beg your family and friends” situation.  We quickly realized non-students shared almost identical needs when it comes to moving (75% of Americans are DIY movers), and it has taken off from there.

Q2.Can you give us a rundown of how Bellhops works?

Using the Bellhops app, we connect athletic college students in over 120 cities to customers who need moving and lifting help. We like to say that we’re ‘the new way to move’—the option between begging friends and hiring “movers”.

Q3.Who are your key stakeholders and how are you offering them value?

We would be nothing without our bellhops in the field. Bellhops are the front line of our company, delivering our brand through incredible service, fun personalities, and great attitudes. We have a Net Promoter Score on par with customer service heavyweights like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and Amazon— and are bellhops are the reason.

Since bellhops are all current college students, our goal is to provide the best college job possible. Bellhops can choose when (or if) they work, depending on their class or social schedules, and that autonomy is key for students.

But going a bit further, we can utilize the performance reviews provided by customers and fellow bellhops to create resume supplements that former bellhops can use during their post-grad job searches. If you’re an employer looking to make a young hire, how cool would it be to know that they consistently scored high in areas like effort, attitude, punctuality, and communication over the course of a three-year college job? That’s invaluable.

Our bellhops drive this company, so we want to help them in the next stage of their careers as much as we can.

Q4.What is Bellhops’s biggest achievement to date? How did you go about accomplishing this?

We’ve grown an incredible amount over the past three years, but there has never been a single “make-it” moment.  We’ve gotten where we are by laying bricks, day in and day out.  Building our tech, building our brand, and creating the right relationships along the way.  I’m proud of the brick wall we’ve built in such a short time.

Q5.What has been your biggest setback? How did you deal with it?

Believe it or not, one of our toughest hurdles has been getting away from the stigma that we only serve students. Campus moves make up less than 5% of our jobs now.  We dropped the name “Campus Bellhops” for “Bellhops” in early 2014, but it’s proven to be a bear to get away from our previous brand. The brand is powerful, so changing it is difficult!

Q6.Could you shed some light on the technology and tools used to build Bellhops?

Our engineering team has found that open source technology enables us to move quickly and solve the moving problems of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Their tools of choice include python, Django, Postgis, and javascript as well as an assortment of various open-source and proprietary data analysis tools.

Q7.What was technically the most challenging part of developing Bellhops?

At its core, Bellhops is a logistics platform that has the additional complexity of a marketplace. Our biggest challenges revolve around the ability to fulfill our customer’s labor needs with a workforce of 1099 laborers who have the freedom to choose when and how they want to work. To overcome this uncertainty we’ve built several systems that help us to predict demand from customers that allow us to appropriately manage our bellhops and let us know when we need to recruit more.

Q8.What are some of the hurdles and roadblocks you still face?

We’re serving most major cities in the US now, providing an affordable and much easier solution for DIY moving and physical help.  We’re growing at more than a 5x year over year rate, primarily through word of mouth, but word of mouth takes time with a service that you don’t use every week.

Q9.What are some of the current trends you see in the industry?

Introducing the SCRUM methodology and a version of Google’s OKRs (Objective Key Results) has been really helpful to facilitate the effectiveness of our team as we have grown. Not sure if these are current trends, but definitely current trends we’re utilizing at Bellhops.

Q10. There are definitely a lot of companies similar to Bellhops floating around right now. What are you doing that differentiates you?  

There are a lot of tech-enabled platforms utilizing 1099 workforces that are popping up to solve a myriad of problems, which is great. We broker muscle, and we’re going after a terribly fragmented, stale market when it comes to moving. Our commitment to exclusively contracting high-quality college students allows us to maintain continuity across the board and it makes things fun for customers.

Q11.Where do you see Bellhops in five years?

I think the only real question is “where will Bellhops be in 5 months?” And to that, I’ll say “Wrapping up another 5-6x growth year, getting close to the 100,000 booking milestone, breaking 70 for our Net Promoter Score, and probably hanging Christmas lights.”

Q12.If you had a chance to go back, what would you want to do differently?

A zillion things.

Q13.Any advice for startups trying to make it big or join the On-Demand space?

Institute company maxims early, and does not waiver.  Ours are:

  • Deliver Barnabas (the perfect Bellhop) Every Time
  •  Treat the Bellhops Like Kings
  •  Blow the Customer’s Mind
  •  team. Team. TEAM!

To learn more about Bellhops, please visit their website: https://getbellhops.com/

Wanted to create a similar business? Don’t worry, Jungleworks is here for you.

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