Moving service hires college students

The Uber-like app has seen increased demand in the Twin Cities this summer.

by Eliana Schreiber

An Uber-like moving app that employs college students has recently seen a significant surge in its Twin Cities demand.

Bellhops, a Tenneseebased company, modeled itself after Uber when it started five years ago to help students move into dorms at Auburn University. The app has operated in the Twin Cities since 2013 and grew by 300 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Bellhops communications director David Martin said the company — which only hires college students and is busiest during the summer months — expects similar growth in the region this year.

“We’re that option between booking a traditional moving company and begging your friends for help,” Martin said.

The job is meant for college students, who can create their own schedule and take jobs during free time,” he said.

When someone requests help through the app, bellhops in the area accept the job with at least 24 hours’ notice, said Macalester College sophomore and mover Wyatt Ferm. 

Bellhops and other sharing apps like Uber and Lyft digitally match customers with services, said Univeristy of Minnesota business analytics and information systems Professor Ravi Bapna.

“The app’s job, really, is to create a matching mechanism for the supply and the demand,” Bapna said.

The setup of these companies means they compete differently than traditional ones, he said. 

At first, these businesses don’t typically make money, Bapna said, but if they become popular, they can monopolize their field. 

“These platforms have what they call winner-take-all phenomenon,” he said.

Sharing apps like these also blur the line between casual workers and employees, he said.

Martin said while the bellhops are independent contractors, not Bellhops employees, the company hires some students as campus directors.

The campus directors help recruit and work with the company’s headquarters to promote the business, said Macalester biology sophomore and Twin Cities campus director Tyler Seaberg.

Seaberg said he recruited 25 people from February to May, including many of his teammates on the Macalester men’s basketball team.

During the six-month span, the movers claimed 40 percent more jobs in the Twin Cities, he said.

Martin said the Twin Cities moved into Bellhops’ top 25 most popular markets nationally. 

“This past month, we were doing as many jobs in May as we were doing in July of last year,” Martin said. “If those numbers continue, we’re going to have to have a lot more muscles and strong backs on our platforms claiming jobs.”