First-year Azure Sensabaugh delivers Marketplace and Homer’s Hut orders straight to students’ dorms
You may have seen the posters scattered around campus advertising a courier service à la GrubHub or Postmates, but for Homer’s Hut and Marketplace products. Unbeknown to most, the sole face of the operation is an entrepreneurial first year named Azure Sensabaugh. The Quest sat down for a quick Q&A to uncover a little more.
So, first of all, what’s your name? What’s your story?
My name is Azure. I’m a first year at Reed, about to start my second semester. I am declared as a political science major right now. I am undecided though, I have been taking a lot of humanities courses and sociology, and I took some political science courses last semester. I’m taking logic to see if I like philosophy. So I don’t really know what I want to do, but I am interested in law maybe or working in government. But this sociology class I’ve been taking has been really fun.
I’m from Southern Oregon, from Roseburg, and I do choir here. I was in the orchestra, but I ended up dropping it because it’s mostly for string players and I play trombone.
Can you give me a little backstory on your inspiration?
It was just in November. I just had the idea. I guess I was influenced by Uber Eats and Postmates and all those properties. I thought that if I put up some posters and stuff that I would be able to see if people are interested in something like this, without really investing much money into the business. So I thought I would just give it a go. So I put up some posters, and I got a sideline number. And basically the way it works is that during the open hours, which really depend on my class schedule and my homework, people just text me for what they want to order, either from the marketplace or from Homer’s Hut and I just bring it to them and I charge them a delivery fee.
How has the delivery system changed since you began?
It’s definitely expanded. I haven’t made very much, but it’s still really early, and I’m trying to think of ways I can get the word out and promote it. Because it’s just fun, it’s not really a business but a business idea I have.
Are you working with the school to do this?
It’s not with the school, and I was a little bit worried I would get in trouble when I first started. I think people think it is with the school because they’ll send in an order and be like, ‘Are you guys open right now?’ or they’ll be like, ‘Oh, it’s so cool the school’s doing this!’ And I think that might just be because the posters do look kind of nice. I don’t think I’m breaking any rules, but it’s just an idea that I independently have been doing.
Why do you think it’s so appealing?
I think the most popular part is that people can pay so easily on their phone. I didn’t even have Venmo and Cash app before I started, but I thought, “Oh, maybe some people would use them.” Definitely the most popular payment method is Venmo. I got a square swipe thing; that’s probably the second most popular. I think the most popular dorm for orders is Trillium. There’s a lot of people in it, and also it’s mainly freshmen. They haven’t through the years gotten used to just walking over to Homer’s Hut.
Have you run into any problems?
It’s been fun, but I’m definitely gonna do a better job of managing my finances this time because it was really hard to keep track. I had no idea how much money I was making. Over the winter break I went through all of my bank statements, and I had to enter all the deductions and whatnot that were specifically the bookstore, and it was kind of hard to tell which ones were worth pursuing for the business. So I’m opening a separate bank account now and having a separate debit card that’s just for the business, so I can have apps that automatically track my money. And that’s a way that I’m going to be more organized.
Do you get a lot of orders for people who live on campus? Do you ever go off campus?
Actually my mom asked me that when I first told her about it! She was like, “It’s really not super safe to be out there,” because I’m usually just on my bike. When I first started I was just walking, but then I couldn’t keep up, so I switched to my bike. I don’t feel super comfortable going off campus right now, so I think the farthest I’ll go is the apartments.
I think right now it’s only used by on-campus residents. If people off-campus want to order food, they’re probably not going to order Homer’s Hut anyway. They’d probably order from a restaurant. But I don’t know! Maybe if there’s a demand for it then I’ll expand in the future.
Do you have a lot of repeat customers?
Yeah, something I’ve learned is that I make the most money off of the people who tried the first time and then keep coming back for it. It is hard because it’s just me right now, and Homer’s Hut stays open till 2 a.m. every day. I was at the beginning delivering every day, and it’s just definitely not sustainable. Because I am a first year, I have humanities at 9 a.m. three days a week, so I just can’t stay up till 2 a.m. every day. I have started cutting back, closing at midnight on certain days.
But I really do want to be open for the first time people order, because once they do the first time, they’re way more likely to come back again. Then they’ll pass the word on, and I’ll get business from someone else who hasn’t ordered yet, if that makes any sense. I’ve made friends with repeat customers and got to meet some cool people through the service.
Most of the time I have to deliver outside the buildings, because I can’t go in, but I live in Sullivan, so I can go into Sullivan and Naito. So in those buildings I can deliver straight to people’s rooms. This one room in Naito is so sweet. I got to meet them, and they invited me to their Christmas party. Now I feel like we’re getting to know each other, and they’re just the sweetest people, and I met them just through them ordering food a couple times a week. It is nice to go to a school where people are really nice.
What are your plans for the future?
Since it’s just a personal idea I had, I do eventually want to expand because right now it’s still early. It was seriously only open from mid November to December. I haven’t made enough money to pay people to be delivering for me.
It’s not like I’m sitting outside Homer’s Hut for the open hours just waiting. Usually I’m in my room, or I’m in the library doing homework. And if an order comes, I’ll do it and then go back. During high volume hours which are usually 8pm to 11pm, then I could probably afford to have someone cover me because I definitely make more than minimum wage, but it doesn’t make sense at this point. I do eventually want to expand it if it gets bigger, but if it doesn’t, then it’ll still be a fun, small project.
I also want to try to figure out how to find a way for people to pay with their bookstore account or with their board points because a lot of people try. They want to pay that way. And there have been some misunderstandings where I’ll bring them their food and then they’re like, “Here’s my card” and I’m like, “Oh, I can’t do that.” Those are a couple things I want to try to figure out. I think I would have to get the school’s permission to do that because it’s not a secure way of paying at all for someone to just give me their card. So if I wanted to get permission to go into all the buildings or to use bookstore accounts I would need to do that.
Lastly, do you personally use the Marketplace a lot?
I use the Marketplace for snacks. I use the Marketplace because I can use board points, and it’s more convenient. But I don’t use Homer’s Hut.