- Associated Press - Monday, February 23, 2015

TULSA, Okla. (AP) - A new type of moving company has expanded into Oklahoma City and Tulsa, targeting projects that are too small for traditional firms.

Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Bellhops focuses on the 75 percent of moving Americans who just need a few extra sets of hands to complete their largely do-it-yourself efforts. Instead of using brick-and-mortar offices, truck fleets or other such infrastructure, the 2-year-old Bellhops employs a software network to accept customer move-time orders within select cities, offering those jobs to a contract labor pool of some 7,000 insured college students.

“We found that college students are able to provide an improved level of service over other labor sources,” said 28-year-old Bellhops co-founder Cameron Doody. “They fit into our platform really well.”



While students may turn down assignments that don’t fit their schedules or needs, Doody said the size of its labor pool allows Bellhops to fill 99.8 percent of customer requests at their chosen move times. He said customer reviews have given company workers an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

This launch parallels several other growing apps-based businesses, said University of Central Oklahoma Assistant Professor of Marketing Grant C. Aguirre.

“This is an interesting field in that people can develop sort of a software program and an app fairly cheaply and figure out a way to make money,” Aguirre said, comparing Bellhops to the alternative taxi service Uber.com. “The challenge is going to see how long some of these things last. Obviously some of them will, but it’s a little like the dot.com craze.”

He also wondered about potential regulatory questions, as Uber has encountered Oklahoma City as well as New York City, or liability concerns. Doody pointed out that all Bellhops contractors are screened, insured, and trained for their tasks.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission regulates the household goods carrier industry in Oklahoma. Public Information Officer Matt Skinner directed inquiries to consumer information pages on its website, The Journal Record https://bit.ly/1E6LsDn ) reports.

“I can only state that as a consumer, if you want to make sure your household goods movers is operating legally, with all the insurance and other protections afforded you under the law, go to our site and do business with the companies listed there,” Skinner said.

Bellhops charges $40 per hour for each worker, with customers verifying the length of each move. At about two-and-a-half hours, Doody said the average project comes in around $200.

Contracted bellhops can make up to $15 per hour, plus tips.

The company currently handles moves within 25 miles of its 130 markets, with no travel fees within city limits. Doody said Bellhops should reach 147 markets by the end of this year, with a software upgrade coming to expand its geographic range to 75 miles around each city.

The privately held company would not release financial data. Doody expects a six-fold revenue hike this year, paralleling what the firm enjoyed last year.

“We went wide really fast,” he said. “Now our focus is to go really deep in each of our markets and become a staple in each market that we serve.”

To drive repeat business and word-of-mouth marketing, Doody said Bellhops takes steps to provide personalized service.

“We just try to get real creative on how we can wow the customer,” he said, noting how Bellhops moved couples for free on Valentine’s Day, or gave customers Domino’s Pizzas on National Pizza Day. “Moving is really an emotional experience. We really key into the category of making a move a fun experience.”

While the primary customer ranges from age 18 to 33, Doody said it can fall all over the board. The company started with a college focus, since that demographic average seven moves, but Bellhops soon found college students made up just 10 percent of its customer traffic.

“We cater really to anybody that has small-scale moving needs that really wouldn’t fit traditional movers,” he said.

With its labor focus on college students, Bellhops first started taking Sooner State orders a year ago in Norman and Stillwater. That allowed the 57-employee company to garner 250 contract laborers in Oklahoma. The company’s software system augments that force with other Bellhops workers if they happen to be traveling in the vicinity.

“You aren’t limited to a certain market,” Doody said. “If you go to school in Tulsa, but your family is in Norman, the app automatically changes the city that you are in, and so you no longer receive Tulsa notification for jobs, but you’re receiving Norman positions for jobs.”

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com

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