Bellhops — Changing the way people move
By Stephen Vlahos, Co-founder and CEO at Bellhops
When Cameron Doody and I started Bellhops at Auburn University a few years ago, we did so to remedy a specific need: alleviating the headache of college move-in day. The business operated off a pretty straightforward concept back then. Parents needed a hand lugging their kids’ suitcases to their dorm rooms, and we happened to know a bunch of strong, upstanding guys in need of extra spending money. Connecting the two was a no-brainer.
It wasn’t long before we realized it’s not just the parents of undergraduates who hate the moving process — everyone does. Knowing that, we decided to offer our services off-campus, providing labor-only help for do-it-yourself movers. We fashioned ourselves as the budget-friendly option between booking a traditional moving company and begging your friends for help.
Bellhops became very popular very fast. But for the company to grow to its potential we needed scaling help. That’s when we decided to move our headquarters from Alabama to Chattanooga, receiving seed funding from Lamp Post Group (LPG).
Simply put, Bellhops wouldn’t have achieved the level of success we have without moving to Chattanooga and partnering with LPG. First of all, Chattanooga really is the greatest midsized American city. Lighting-fast internet and a booming entertainment scene are complemented by a close proximity to water and mountain sports that have earned Chattanooga the title “Best Town Ever” by Outside Magazine.
And while all those things make Chattanooga incredibly livable, the most beneficial element of the city for Bellhops has been a community wide commitment to entrepreneurial cultivation. Private foundations, nonprofit organizations, VC funders and City Hall have all mobilized resources to support new ideas. Chattanooga’s innovation ecosystem is so impressive, the world-renowned Kauffman Foundation recently released a study documenting how it works so other cities can replicate it.
One of the most consequential variables in Chattanooga’s recent revitalization — less than 50 years ago it was a desolate place, referred to as “the dirtiest city in America” — is LPG. By channeling the fruits from their first company, Access America, into the local innovative community, LPG has propelled a long roster startups into sustainable and lucrative businesses. Bellhops, of course, is a proud member of that family.
By tethering Bellhops to LPG, we were able to procure much-needed investment capital, as well as invaluable guidance and professional insight. With so many entrepreneurs and creative individuals working alongside one another, LPG is an environment rich with energy, optimism, ideas, and best-practices.
While there, we realized the best way to scale Bellhops was by building out a tech platform, which would allow college-aged workers in various markets across the country claim local moving jobs that fit around their respective school and social schedules. Yes, our job-claiming app has been called “Uber-like.” And similar to how Uber changed the way people catch rides and Airbnb changed the hotel game, Bellhops is altering the moving industry.
Now that we have a market presence in 86 cities, from Tampa to Seattle, the next Bellhops phase will borrow from an Access America logistics concept: tapping into pre-existing transportation fleets. We’ve learned that many of our customers would love more than just labor help. They want us to supply rental trucks too. That doesn’t mean we need to go out and buy rental trucks, though. There are plenty of rental options — UHaul, Penske, Budget, etc — already. Why not leverage those? In the near future Bellhops will be able to bring your truck to you, fill it with all your belongings, and move it to your new residence…for a fraction of the cost of traditional moving companies.
In the Bellhops story, there was a clear BC/AD demarcation. It was our decision to move to Chattanooga and pair with Lamp Post Group. We’re here for the long haul. There’s no place we’d rather be, and there’s no place better suited to help us reach the successes we’re aiming to claim.
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