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posted on October 11th, 2017

Balancing hosting duties with college

For Turo hosts, managing listings in multiple cities can be pretty tough. Setting drop off and pick up times, handing over keys, and cleaning cars in a different city requires thorough coordination with a trusted partner in that city. Thomas C. manages multiple listings in both San Francisco and Portland, which is logistically tricky in itself. But Thomas doesn’t even live in either of these cities — he lives in North Dakota, where he is still in school.

West coast by way of North Dakota

Thomas is a senior at the University of North Dakota, where he studies airport management. After getting interested in car sharing, he decided he wanted to connect his passions for transportation and tech into something he could build a future with after college. Just over a year ago he found Turo and decided to give it a shot.

Thomas’s Hyundai Elantra (San Francisco, CA)

He quickly discovered that North Dakota was one of Turo’s sleepier markets, but Thomas was set on starting his business somewhere that was more active. If he could manage listings remotely, then he could start something in a city where car sharing was already more ubiquitous, like San Francisco. But to avoid the risks associated with launching a fleet from afar, it would take dedication, optimism, and a little networking.

A Rip City experiment

To test the waters, Thomas began with a Hyundai Elantra in Portland, where he had some friends in the area to help him take care of the car. He used the opportunity to work out the kinks of managing listings remotely. He could make all the regular communications with guests through the app, but the face-to-face part was left to his trusted Oregonian compatriots. After developing a rhythm that worked well, he decided he could scale up if he did it cautiously. As a student, Thomas could only manage the costs of acquiring budget vehicles, so he bought a couple of Smart Fortwos to keep alongside the Hyundai in Portland.

Thomas’s Smart Fortwo (Beaverton, OR)

Thomas is careful to note that having friends that can handle in-person logistics as business partners is key. Without trustworthy people with whom he can easily communicate and rely on, managing listings on Turo from a different time zone can get hairy. In Portland, Thomas got by with a little help from his friends. He then turned his focus to the ultimate goal, San Francisco.

Southward bound to San Francisco

Thomas had only been to San Francisco once before, and trying to gain traction in an unfamiliar city presented real risks. Charging bravely ahead, he moved his Hyundai down from Portland, added another Smart Fortwo, and set up shop in the city by the bay. Because he had no connections in the city, Thomas started out using TaskRabbit and other services to clean his cars, hand off keys, and do the work he couldn’t while in the midwest.

Thomas’s Smart Fortwo (Beaverton, OR)

The going was much rougher in San Francisco, but Thomas muscled through the growing pains. “There definitely were some roadblocks in the beginning, but I went where I thought the best business opportunities were,” said Thomas. “If you position yourself correctly anywhere, you can make the connections to make it work.” And after months of working hard to keep his listings in San Francisco running smoothly, Thomas’s faith was rewarded.

Last winter, Thomas attended Turo’s “Turbo Week”, a biannual company gathering in San Francisco, where he talked about his experiences on the marketplace alongside a few other Turo hosts. He met another host on the panel with whom he hit it off. After chatting after the event, they struck a deal and Thomas had someone in San Francisco to look after his cars in person! Having practiced and perfected his long-range hosting chops with the Portland cars, managing the San Francisco listings with his new partner was a cinch.

He’s since added a sporty Mercedes-Benz C250 in Portland and a Ford Escape in North Dakota, and has plans to keep expanding. With multiple listings in two west coast cities and a crack team to manage them, Thomas has found a way to successfully manage a multi-state fleet while providing a top-flight experience for his guests — all while finishing his degree.

Thomas’s Ford Escape (Grand Forks, ND)
Thomas’s Mercedes-Benz C-Class (Beaverton, OR)

A successful and savvy juggling act

There are a lot of factors working against Thomas. He has to work around his class schedule, the distance from his cars, and even his age (like another young, intrepid Turo entrepreneur, he’s only 20). But Thomas believes that with exceptional organization and old-fashioned gumption, he can overcome all the obstacles in his way. “I’m in North Dakota, thousands of miles away from my cars, and I’m not even old enough to rent cars on the platform,” he said. “Yet I’ve still managed to make it into something that works for me.”

When you’re a college senior, you constantly field questions about what you’re going to do for the rest of your life. I’ll save you the trouble — Thomas isn’t sure yet. He might move to the west coast, or back to his hometown of Atlanta, who knows? Life is full of uncertainty. Thomas is sure, however, that he’ll keep adding more cars, no matter where he goes. And no matter his obstacles, he’ll somehow make it work. He’s managed to do it so far.

Steven is an avid car guy and editorial assistant at Turo. Between Golden State Warriors games he can be found getting lost somewhere in California.