McCormick senior creates company to connect NU students with local jobs


Source: Caraline Pham

Northwestern students Akshay Rao and Nick Holterman paint raised garden beds while on a job with Local. Local was created to connect Evanston homeowners who need odd jobs done with Northwestern students looking for work.

Syd Stone, Copy Chief

When McCormick senior Collin Pham finished his sophomore year of high school in 2012, he and his friends were determined to find summer jobs. After filling out countless applications to no avail, he wanted to take matters into his own hands.

Pham and his friends began putting up flyers in his hometown of Newton, Massachusetts, offering their services for odd jobs like mowing lawns. The next summer, they hired more friends to help out. The following summer, Pham bought out his friends so he could own the whole company, and he made about $20,000 that year alone, he said.

When he came to Northwestern in 2014, Pham moved away from his high school idea to try and start new initiatives. But when each of them failed, Pham said, he knew he had to “go back to the basics.”

That’s when he created Local, a company modeled after the one he started in 2012, which aims to bridge the gap between students on campus and the surrounding city.

Local, which began operating in June, connects Evanston homeowners who need menial jobs done with Northwestern students looking for work, Pham said. He wants Local to have the same feeling of community that he built back home, he said.

“We want it to feel like you’re hiring a kid from down the street as opposed to some random stranger coming into your home,” Pham said. “That’s something that we try to vet for, people who are really personable, and we’re making sure our students are easy to talk to.”

SESP sophomore Gordon Dunbar said he heard about Local through Pham and flew to Evanston this summer to help out. He said he was looking to make money during the break, so he started doing jobs for Local on a “pretty consistent basis.”

Dunbar said Pham later asked him to join the Local team as a campus representative to promote the company to other students. Dunbar said working for Local is more than just making extra money — it’s a way to feel connected to Evanston.

“There was one yard work job we did with two other workers where there was a woman who was about to put her house up for sale, and her backyard was completely overrun with weeds,” he said. “Her kids followed us around and it was cool to see how as a college student we could come in and immediately have the trust of this woman.”

He also said he’s seen his friends make meaningful connections with the people they assist.

Residents and students enjoy getting to know each other, Dunbar said, and students are sometimes able to connect with people who work in an industry they’re interested in pursuing.

“This platform could actually be something that connects campus and communities all across the country,” he said. “There are so many connections to be made, and you can’t really get that kind of access anywhere else.”

With about 30 students working for Local in Evanston and almost one job completed each day, Pham said the company is ready to expand to other markets. He said Local will launch in Madison, Wisconsin — where Pham’s sister Caraline goes to school — on Sept. 29. He said he hopes to be in five more cities by January or February.

Caraline Pham, a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, is studying strategic communications and said she wanted to help build the company’s brand.

“That comes with a college town, this divide between campus and the community,” she said. “But the community is very important to the college students there.”

Caraline Pham, Local’s co-founder, said workers typically earn about $15 an hour. She believes between 100 to 200 more students will join the company following the expansion, she said.

Collin Pham said he hopes to continue growing Local after graduating this spring.

Although the business model may seem simple, he said, its ability to bring students and residents together should improve any strained relations as the company becomes more established.

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