Rising senior Everett Brubaker is entering his third summer of running “BruCrew,” dispatching fellow students who work at tasks as diverse as assembling furniture, babysitting, making airport runs and basic landscaping. (Photo by Kara Lofton)

The BruCrew: EMU junior spins demand for odd jobs into business employing his classmates

The average junior in college is better known for ridiculous behavior or pulling all-nighters to finish a paper put off until the last minute, not running a successful business that employs fellow students. Everett Brubaker, though, is getting ready for the third summer of operating “BruCrew,” a self-proclaimed “community-driven workforce” of young men (and currently one woman) that takes on tasks as diverse as assembling furniture, babysitting, making airport runs and basic landscaping.

The business emerged out of a combination of two elements. After high school, Brubaker took a gap year and went on a cross-country road trip with a friend. The trip concluded a few months before the start of classes at Eastern Mennonite University in the fall of 2012. Brubaker wanted to work, but didn’t think that he had enough time to find and hold down a full-time job. Instead, he began to advertise himself as an “odd-job” man. Much to his surprise, requests for help poured in and he eventually had to enlist a friend to help him handle the workload.

That fall, Brubaker took an EMU business class called “Principles of Management,” which required developing a business model. It helped him think more formally about the business opportunity he’d discovered that summer. Brubaker titled the business BruCrew, and officially launched under that name the next summer.

“There has been a bit of a learning curve,” he said, as he explained that he had to figure out how to get a business license, pay taxes, keep books and manage any (small) conflicts that may arise between one of the crew and a client. “We really haven’t had any big problems [though],” he added, “because the people I bring in recognize that the job is a blessing and are pretty driven.”

For the students who do work for him, the job is ideal. Full-time BruCrew work is 20 hours a week and starting pay is $11 per hour, with a raise to $12 per hour after the first 60 hours. BruCrew is designed with college students in mind, he said. “I want to pay them well enough to be competitive with a full-time, minimum-wage job so that they can volunteer, read, spend time with friends and enjoy their summers as well as working.” Although 20 hours a week at $11 dollars per hour doesn’t amount to a 40-hour week at minimum wage, Brubaker believes that his model allows students to make enough to be able to invest in activities that are inherently valuable.

Brubaker does have a few contractors (he technically doesn’t have any employees) who will work for him all summer, but most on his BruCrew are pretty transient, working stints to supplement things like camp counseling jobs or to fit between family vacations. Others are on call for big moving or furniture installation jobs.

Brubaker, an environmental sustainability major with minors in business and sociology, tries to conduct his business as simply and sustainably as possible. “We have a pretty low overhead because we use the clients’ tools,” he explained. “This allows us to bike or walk to client homes and means we don’t have to maintain and fuel a fleet of vehicles or expensive equipment.” BruCrew tries to find that middle ground between the neighborhood 12-year-old and a professional landscaping company, he said.

One way that Brubaker finds that middle ground is by building relationships and giving back to the community. He encourages his crew to do the same. Brubaker, who is currently studying at EMU’s Washington (D.C.) Community Scholars Center, drove two hours to Harrisonburg one recent weekend to join other BruCrew folks in the annual Blacks Run stream clean-up.

While in D.C., Brubaker has been using his free time to help install a rain barrel on the back of EMU’s house, start a rain garden and faithfully empty the house compost bucket every week. He hopes that he will be able to incorporate some of these eco-friendly ideas into BruCrew this summer.

Brubaker, who will be entering his senior year at EMU in the fall, doesn’t know what will happen to the business after he graduates. “I see potential for large growth,” he said, “but I’m not exactly sure where I want to take it.” He hopes that the vision will be shaped some this summer, when he has the space to dream and look to the future. For more information, check out the BruCrew website.