By Amanda Dyslin
---- — MANKATO — Tyler Elbrecht was a pretty big deal when he played hockey for the Minnesota State University Mavericks.
The last two years as a student at MSU, Elbrecht served as team captain, which has led him to a defenseman position with the ECHL minor league hockey team the Idaho Steelheads.
But until he graduated last spring, Elbrecht did a couple of other things at MSU. He picked up a marketing degree with a minor in business administration. And that's how he got the idea for the Mankato-based company he's operating from Boise, Idaho, called Runners.
The idea is pretty simple. The independent contractors who work for Elbrecht will deliver pretty much anything to Mankato residents for $3.50, to North Mankato for $5.50, and to St. Peter and Madison Lake for $10.
They won't deliver tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceuticals or people (meaning they're not a cab service for insurance reasons), but the list of what they will deliver is pretty long.
If, for example, you want them to go to Walmart and pick up a pair of purple slippers, that's no problem. A gallon of gas for your car, which ran out on the side of the road? Yep. Library books? Shoelaces? Flowers for your gal? Chipotle? Kwik Trip doughnuts? Yes to all.
If you have a list of more than five items from a single location, the charge is $13.50 for delivery. But that price is good for any number of items above five. So if someone has a 100-item grocery list, the Runners worker will go to the store, do your grocery shopping, and deliver the bundles for $13.50.
“We've delivered everything from toilet paper to food to movie-theater popcorn,” Elbrecht said. “It was awesome; they were having a movie night, and they wanted that popcorn.”
How it works is pretty simple: People will call or text their order to the business' phone number. The Runners worker will provide a confirmation and pay for the order up front. And upon delivery, payment can be made by cash or charge.
Elbrecht said he quietly opened the business last spring but really ramped it up in August. The idea came from being around college students who were always saying how cool it would be if more places would deliver.
“That was a couple of years ago … but with school and other activities, I didn't have time to pursue it,” he said. “Then I just sort of went for it this spring.”
Most of the advertising Elbrecht does is on Twitter and Facebook. The growth of the business also can be attributed to word of mouth.
Some days Runners gets 25 calls, and other days it's two or three, he said. About 70 percent of the clientele has been college students with 30 percent being a mix of various community members and families.
So far all the money made is being invested back into the business, but he's hoping to keep growing it until it's profitable.
One idea Elbrecht has is to serve as a courier service for law firms and other businesses. He said some businesspeople have told him that they pay more per hour for their assistants' time to make deliveries than they would hiring Runners.
Elbrecht has also considered branching out into a car service for special events.
“I think it's a company that can continue to grow in a lot of different avenues,” he said. “I'm taking it slow and seeing where it goes."
At A Glance Runners can be reached at 340-1564. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. More about the company can be found at www.facebook.com/runnersmankato and on Twitter at @runnersmankato.