As Starbucks-fueled students race toward finals and the semester’s end, Gainesville moving companies prepare for a marathon of their own.
Bellhops, a national tech-based moving service, is gearing up for Gainesville’s annual post-Spring exodus with its largest local team yet following a successful trial period in town.
With 75 local student employees and plans to hire up to 50 more, the Tennessee-based startup is expanding rapidly, co-founder Cameron Doody said.
The students — employed as independent contractors — receive localized mobile alerts to claim new opportunities as they become available, on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Every job is booked through the company’s web application, which serves as a hub for communication prior to moving day. Doody, 28, said the web-based approach allows the brand to “scale and mobilize a large workforce more efficiently.”
Although Bellhops’ employment practices allow the company to accommodate high volume, the owners may be overestimating the local demand, said Wade Swikle, president of local competitor 2 College Brothers.
“I understand wanting to accommodate more business,” the 23-year-old UF alumnus said, “but it’s not like we’re turning customers away, even during peak times. I don’t think any local moving companies face that kind of demand.”
Swikle started Smarter Moving Solutions in 2012, during his senior year at UF. He acquired 2 College Brothers from its founders last October.
Like Bellhops, Swikle exclusively hires students for his moving service. But with six employees and the goal of hiring between 10 and 15 more this week, the similarities end.
Students employed by Bellhops have to pass an in-depth screening and training process before they can get a job, but Swikle said there’s no substitute for consistent experience in the field.
“Jobs run more smoothly with trained employees that coordinate moves on a regular basis,” he said. “They’ve dealt with different situations over time and gained the experience that comes with that.”
Although 2 College Brothers is retaining a traditional employment structure, Swikle said he isn’t afraid to mix things up.
The company is partnering with Gator Domino’s this summer to bring free large-pizza vouchers to every moving job this summer.
“People always order pizza when they’re moving,” he said, “because their entire kitchen is packed up in boxes.”
For those who prefer to leave their belongings in Gainesville over the summer, newcomer HaulBox offers a cheaper alternative to traditional storage options.
Born out of the Gator Lab accelerator program at Starter Space downtown, the startup is the brainchild of Luke McGurrin and the program’s team of project managers.
Students can have the company’s black and yellow plastic boxes delivered to their front door. Once the boxes are filled, the company returns to collect them. The boxes are stored in HaulBox’s warehouse until students request them back.
“Uber changed everyone’s outlook on what business can provide on-demand,” the 23-year-old UF finance senior said. “We figured storage hadn’t changed in forever, so it deserved another look.”
[A version of this story ran on page 1 on 4/18/2014 under the headline "Moving companies ramp up for Summer"]
Bellhops student movers Weston Wamp, right, and Jared Houghton carry a couch as part of their moving service in Chattanooga, Tenn. Bellhops is run completely via a web application.