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Staff photo by Tim Barber / Luke Marklin, CEO of Bellhop

America's fastest growing moving company is expanding its services and territory, but the company is shortening its name.

Bellhops, the Chattanooga-based technology startup that is revamping the moving industry, is rebranding itself to the singular "Bellhop" name as it adds such service options as packing, furniture assembly and pod transport. The changes for Bellhop, which has already been backed by $56 million in venture capital over the past three years, is helping the company to continue to grow even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Luke Marklin, a former Uber general manager who has headed Bellhops for the past three years, said the new name reflects the "Bellhop experience" that the company provides with its on-demand workers, not just for moving goods but also for packing, preparing, installation and cleaning services related to people moving.

"We want a Bellhop move to be completely different experience and we want to be able to have other home service experiences that have the Bellhop brand and quality as well," Marklin said. "What we're known for is our people, our hospitality, the seamless process we've created and the great value we offer."

Bellhop will remain focused on people's moves, which the typical American makes 12 times during his or her lifetime. With its technology-based business model that streamlines the booking and cost estimation for customers, Bellhops is seeking to revolutionize much of the $18 billion-a-year moving industry. Since its start nearly a decade ago, Marklin said Bellhops has sought to provide the on-demand talent and support services for those making moves and to offer a straightforward process for its workforce to find and receive job assignments.

Bellhops began in 2011 when Cameron Doody and Stephen Vlahos were wanting to provide a way for their fellow students at Auburn University to move into and out of their dorms. The founders' initial goal with the company, originally known as Campus Bellhops, was to schedule 30 to 40 moves during freshman orientation weekend, but they ultimately completed 325 and decided to turn their idea into a bigger business.

With backing by the Chattanooga-based venture capital firm the Lamp Post Group, Doody and Vlahos brought their startup firm to Chattanooga and have since expanded its service across most of the country. Last year, the company's footprint expanded from coast-to-coast and Bellhop ended 2019 providing their services in more than 60 cities across the nation.

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Contributed photo / Bellhop workers load moving van. The 9-year-old Chattanooga-based company is rebranding and expanding its services to continue growing even during the current pandemic

"The reason that moving stinks for many people is not just the actual moving day, but all those things you have to do before you move and after you move and we're able to provide a lot of those ancillary services that people who are moving also need," Marklin said.

Moving is regarded as an essential service, one that impacts 30 million Americans each year. Over the last 10 months, Bellhops reconstructed its entire tech platform to make online bookings faster and offer a new customer dashboard that allows customers to more easily schedule and reschedule their reservations.

Bellhop also has added to its senior staff over the past year or so by hiring Peter Usu from UberEasts as chief operating officer, Michael Harbot from KeyMe as chief marketing officer, and Gus Pinto from MagicLeap as chief product officer.

The additional venture capital and staff has kept Bellhop growing even amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has shut down many businesses and limited travel and other economic activities.

"While the virus has had an impact, the industry is still ramping up for summer and a lot of leases are expiring," Marlin said. "It's definitely an unprecedented time, but we're continuing to grow even during these challenging times."

Marklin estimates that COVID-19 has cut revenues 15% to 20% from what they otherwise would have been, but he said the company is still ahead of year-ago levels.

Within days of the Coronavirus hitting communities across the country, Bellhop was able to provide contact-free moving options to allow customers to fill out electronic work requests of Bellhops and have the work and move done without customers having to even be at their homes while the work is done.

The company is also offering personal protection equipment and additional sanitation requirements for its Bellhops. For workers and movers, the opt-in nature of its platform also ensures only those who are healthy and able are assigned moves, Marklin said.

Despite the economic slowdown triggered by the coronavirus, Bellhop is continuing to seek thousands of more workers to keep up with market demand. Marklin said movers with the company are able to pick their own schedules, when and how they work, and are then assigned jobs based on those preferences.

"Bellhops can make $20-$30 an hour, including tips, and that can be a lot of money in a short period of time," Marklin said. "This is traditionally our busy season and it looks like that might be shifted back some, but I think the season will still come this year and we're looking to hire workers, especially with the expanded service we are offering now."

Marklin said he has worked to make Bellhop as easy to use as possible with the best moving talent available to avoid the confusing pricing or frustrations many movers have felt with moving companies and services in the past.

"We recognized the moving industry was broken, and with our latest advancements, we are making it even easier for people to move, by giving them more overall control with added options, services and faster bookings," Marklin said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.

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