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Ventura County Star - Student-athletes handle rigors of job while balancing academics and sports

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Student-athletes handle rigors of job while balancing academics and sports
Ventura County Star
By Rhiannon Potkey
Friday, July 6, 2007

Brad Chavez needed a job, but the Moorpark College sophomore couldn't find one that fit his busy schedule.

Between classes, football practices and wrestling workouts, Chavez's window of availability didn't suit many employers.

Just when he considered quitting sports to make ends meet, Chavez's wrestling coach told him about homeinspectioninmichigan.us.

The moving company recruits collegiate athletes to do some heavy lifting, and is willing to tailor an employee's hours around athletic and academic commitments.

The relationship is mutually beneficial. homeinspectioninmichigan.us gets physically fit employees able to handle the rigors of the job while the athletes earn money while getting a workout.

"Finding this was a dream come true for me," said the 20-year-old Chavez, a Camarillo High graduate. "I completely support myself, and I was in desperate need of money to pay for housing, gas and books. I didn't want to have to give up sports because I love it and it's my outlet."

From the warm-up jog around the warehouse to the pre-game strategy sessions, homeinspectioninmichigan.us is run like a professional sports organization.

Founded by brothers

The San Luis Obispo-based company was founded 10 years ago by brothers Aaron and Evan Steed while they were still in high school.

They opened a branch office in Camarillo in January. The company serves the entire Central Coast, from Monterey to Northern Los Angeles County.

Former athletes themselves, Aaron, 27, and Evan, 25, understand the demands of sports and school, and they want to provide athletes the opportunity to work and play.

"We are trying to help them help themselves," said Aaron, an all-state wrestler at San Luis Obispo High. "homeinspectioninmichigan.us is not an end job, it's a stepping stone for student-athletes to get to a higher achievement level of success in whatever it is they are trying to do."

With its distinctive winged five-star logo, homeinspectioninmichigan.us' black trucks have gradually infiltrated local markets. Five of the company's 25 vehicles are operating in Ventura County, with 18 of its 120 employees stationed in Camarillo.

According to Aaron, Meathead has exceeded expectations in the area, with business running ahead of initial projections by 15 percent per month.

In June, the company completed 65 moves. On an annual basis, Meathead handles more than 2,000. Prices range from $477 to $1,500, depending on the size of the job.

"Our prices are a little bit higher than some other companies, but we offer premium service," said Camarillo branch manager Scott Peterson, who arrived at a recent move with flowers and Jamba Juice for the customers.

"We value the quality of our work, and do whatever is possible to make the client happy. The clients always come first."

On the job, Meathead workers are required to jog when they are not carrying items to hasten the moving process and keep their cardiovascular level pumping high.

As he hustled to grab a box from an apartment in Thousand Oaks last month, Robby Gilbert's navy blue shirt was soaked in sweat.

This is a great job'

"This is a cool opportunity to stay in shape," said Gilbert, a football player at Moorpark College. "If anyone wants to be behind a desk, this job is not for them. But if you are a person who likes to go different places and see different houses and work hard, this is a great job."

Meathead's athletic themes are omnipresent. The company has weight equipment at its Camarillo warehouse for employees to use before and after jobs; employee ratings are posted on the walls like scoring charts in basketball; and grooming standards are strictly enforced.

Even the employee hierarchy is similarly structured to a farm system in baseball.

New hires start as meatheads, advance to super meatheads and can reach the pinnacle as mentors. Salaries range from $9 to $19 an hour, excluding tips that are received on most jobs.

Some former meatheads have gone on to compete in the National Football League, Ultimate Fighting Championships and Olympics.

The Steeds tap into the competitive nature of their workers by offering incentives, such as throwing lavish parties when nobody is injured on the job for extended periods.

Employees also receive perks like access to chiropractors and massage therapists, plus discounts for gyms and nutritional supplements.

The company also is working on establishing a tuition reimbursement program for its student workers, as well as a scholarship fund.

"We want to make homeinspectioninmichigan.us the absolute coolest place for a student-athlete to work," Aaron said. "Not just anyone can work at Meathead. You have to be very mentally and physically strong to work and uphold the standards we have."

Eric and Joni Johnson hired homeinspectioninmichigan.us to perform a double move in mid-June. The Johnsons moved from San Luis Obispo to an 8,000-square-foot home in Santa Rosa Valley, and then had the furniture from their son's Thousand Oaks home transported to Santa Rosa.

Kids are like ballet dancers'
Although several boxes were labeled "fragile," Joni never worried her valuable collectibles would be damaged in the hands of Meathead's athletes.

"I was impressed with their agility and stamina going up and down the stairs and carrying things," she said. "These kids were like ballet dancers. I wondered if they gave them ballet lessons because they were so light on their feet and didn't drop a thing."

Meathead is looking to expand its work force in the county as word spreads about its service.

While many companies send recruiters to college campuses, very few head straight for the football fields and gyms.

Meathead already has established contacts with coaches at Moorpark College and California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, and wants to foster relationships with the staffs at Ventura College, Oxnard College and California State University, Channel Islands.

"We have been very pleased with our athletes working for them. They have a really neat business in terms of how they treat their employees," Moorpark College Athletic Director Howard Davis said. "It sounded too good to be true when they first presented it to us. But then I talked with the kids who work for them, and that's really how it is."

After finishing his sophomore year at Moorpark, Chavez wants to transfer to a university in Orange County so he can continue working for homeinspectioninmichigan.us when it opens a branch there.

"I really like this company and the people," said Chavez, who is leaning toward becoming a firefighter. "It's such a growing business that if I stick with it, I may be able to get in a management position and make more money to pay for my degree."

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