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The Shareholder Online The alumni magazine of Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business

Harbert alum co-founds student-oriented moving business

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Moving into your dorm or apartment at the beginning of the semester — or moving out at the end — often brings sweat, desperation and frustration. Who’s going to help carry this load, to the car, back to the dorm, back to the car, rinse-repeat? Where will your ever-growing haul of possessions spend the break?

What if there was another way?

Whit Mitchell, who was majoring in International Business at Harbert College at the time, had an epiphany.

“Most students would tell you that when classes get out, it is a zoo seeing everyone pulling up in trailers, pulling up in rental trucks, dads drenched in sweat, and girls begging you to come help them,” said Mitchell, a Montgomery native. “As my sophomore year was coming to an end the light went off and I thought, ‘Why not go ahead and network and let a lot of our friends know that we’ve got access to guys who can help load or unload trucks and trailers? This was a week before school got out that a couple of my friends sent out emails to their friends.”

MoveAuburn helps students move in and out of dorms, apartments between semesters.

MoveAuburn helps students move in and out of dorms, apartments between semesters.

Word got out and more than 40 students responded to Mitchell’s offer.

“People would call in, I would write their name and information down on a note card – basically like a Rolodex – and I’d pass the cards to guys who could go over,” he said.

Mitchell graduated from Harbert College in 2012 and co-founded the business with his college roommate, Will Forbes, who holds an engineering degree from Auburn.

What started as moving requests for help taken on simple notecards then given to buddies with moving-friendly trucks in 2010 is has grown into a three-state, five-location operation. MoveAuburn, officially founded in 2011, is now simply known as MOVE Moving and Storage, serving Oxford, Miss., Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Athens, Ga., and Auburn.

Expansion, however, always comes with risks.

“We knew there was a great foundation in Auburn that could be replicated in other college towns,” Forbes said. “We talked about starting up in surrounding towns for a year or so but were afraid that we would not be prepared. In July of 2012 we decided that it if we start expanding now we could learn from our mistakes and correct them by the time we graduated. The greatest challenge was making sure all of our processes could be replicated and maintaining excellent quality control.”

Mitchell added, “The key is having the systems in place to solve to problems students encounter in those specific locations and having the right people to perform those systems.”

MOVE offers a variety of services, including local, statewide and out-of-state relocation, and offers packing and storage plans. If storage is not an option, the business has a team of student-movers ready to load or unload residents’ vehicle – basically serving as on-site labor.

The business’ early days existed in a room of a house with fraternity brothers on West Glenn Ave. Half of a ping pong table replaced a bed in the co-founders’ room to allow for a work space, and Forbes admitted he often slept on a mattress beneath his desk.

“That was our office,” Forbes said with a grin. “Sometimes we’d yank guys out of bed when we were a couple of workers short to come work with us.”

“With any start-up, you’re going to run into some pickles,” Mitchell said. “We had a good group of friends where if we got into a pickle, we had them to help us out. It’s no longer like that.”

Mitchell said young entrepreneurs should “be prepared to makes mistakes and be equally prepared to learn from those mistakes.”

“Find mentors whose experience could save you the time of learning the hard way.”

What’s next for MOVE?

“Our vision is to be the premiere, collegiate moving and storage provider in every town we step foot in,” Mitchell said. “We want students to know that we are there for any moving or storage need they have throughout their collegiate career, and there are a lot of schools and students that we’d like to provide our services to.”

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