Here’s a common December dilemma: you’ve got a Christmas tree to cart home. It’s bigger than your car. Or, you’re moving homes, offices or clearing out junk that’s piled up in your garage. Brenda Stoner, Founder and Chief Good Guy of PICKUP, has your answer. PICKUP, launched two years ago right here in DFW, is basically Uber, but with guys with trucks. Just download the app, snap a picture of the stuff that needs moving, and PICKUP will send over their closest thoroughly vetted “good guy” and his pickup truck to lend a helping hand. We spoke with Brenda to learn a little about what makes the PICKUP system work so well.
What were you doing before PICKUP?
I’m 50, going on 25. This is my 6th startup, and by far the most captivating.
What inspired you to start PICKUP?
In the way most new things are created, from a personal need. Upon closing down my prior business, I needed to move some inventory from downtown to Far North Dallas. It turns out that if you want to move something less than 50 miles, more than 50 pounds, there is no good way. Driving up the Tollway to Plano, I observed all the pickup trucks traveling my way—piloted by very capable guys—all with EMPTY CARGO SPACE. The idea came together like a flash bulb going off.
What makes Dallas a good place for an app like this?
DFW is the perfect spot to start a business. We have great talent here, partly due to a vestige of the glory days of telecom and semiconductor that compressed rapidly, spilling thousands of engineers into the market. Booming growth in all directions and sectors creates a perfect launch pad.
How’d you come up with calling them “good guys?”
It was natural. If you’ve ever borrowed a pickup truck, it usually comes with its driver. Those guys are the best guys around.
The number one priority in this business is trust. We send our Good Guys across the threshold on both pickup and drop off locations, so we have to vet them. I’m a single mom, and I would not sign up a guy that I would not trust in my own home. So we started with the people everyone already trusts: military veterans, firefighters, nurses, teachers…They all drive trucks and are some of the most capable people you’ll find. They are polite, careful, service-minded and very resourceful. Then we layer on a comprehensive qualification process that includes driving records, background checks and many other requirements. We also meet everyone and inspect their trucks.
What’s the holiday season like?
Holiday deliveries are gratifying. This time of year we deliver fun stuff like Christmas trees, food pantry donations, toys for kids and other things that warm a good guy’s heart. The ability to make some extra money at Christmas is also important. Our availability right now is fantastic.
Has it spread mostly through word-of-mouth?
Yes. Our customer reviews and satisfaction are extremely high. When we started, we said, “If we can make the experience perfect at the curb, we win.” We really operate this way with daily intention which creates excellent referral. Service quality is our secret sauce. The other way we spread is through our retail partners. Customers found out they can buy big & heavy items and get them home now, this obviously resonates with retailers, who refer us a ton of business.
What’s the dynamic in the corporate office? Is it a small staff?
We are a small team with big hearts and amazing capabilities. We sit pretty close together so the collaboration is high. We also have a lot of gray hair, which we think makes us special. We’re here not for the thrill of being in a startup business, but for the deep satisfaction of building something right that can scale to a national level … And we laugh a lot.
What’s your ultimate dream for PICKUP?
I knew from the flash bulb moment this would be a national brand. We have structured every move since then to achieve that goal. We are now all over the Lone Star State, and ready to expand to other states.
Are you yourself a PICKUP driver?
I bought a Ford F150 right after incorporating the business. We drove it all over DFW before we had any technology or funding and delivered stuff for people to see if there was a business. Of course there was. My co-founder and I have delivered more sofas and bookcases than many of our good guy drivers. My truck got wrapped and now everyone drives it but me. I miss that truck. Right now it’s gone to Austin so it’s time to talk to Toyota. Jim, I need some new trucks here in Plano!
What else would you want people to know about PICKUP?
We have great investors, too. They are aligned to our mission and are invested in building it right. When Ross Perot, Jr. heard our story, he said, “Ah! I get it! You’re selling TRUST.” I couldn’t say it better myself.