Mother Geese: A Slew of Services Cosset College Students Away From Home

Photoillustration by Mark Stinson for The New York Observer/
Photoillustration by Mark Stinson for The New York Observer.

Sting famously sang, “If you love somebody, set them free.” But when it comes to your much-loved baby in college, maybe set them just a little free.

Such is the mindset of Mimi Sternlicht and Amy Jurkowitz, co-founders of Campus Goose, a one-of-a-kind college concierge service catering to Brown University students which was started last year. The company partners with local businesses and “freelance moms” to give students “the comfort and security of home,” according to its website. The company’s services range from the practical—move-in assistance and rides to doctors’ appointments—to the whimsical, such as morning muffin deliveries and gift-buying advice. 

“There is part of you that wants to completely let them grow up and part of you that says, ‘You know what, even grown-ups need a helping hand once in a while,’ ” Ms. Sternlicht said.

The company charges for half-hour units of time—packages start at $40 for a trial of 1.5 units and rise to $2,300 for 100 units. Campus Goose acts as a kind of interior design firm, crisis management agency, personal assistant, party-planning company, travel agency and food delivery service all rolled into one. As the company’s website notes, “dragging your laundry bag across campus each week isn’t easy.”

Although some services may seem trivial, the company was born out of an urgent situation. Two years ago, Ms. Sternlicht’s daughter, who is now a junior at Brown, was injured in a horseback riding accident, leaving her to cope the icy New England winter on crutches.

“If I was there, I would drive her to the physical therapist, do grocery runs, help her out,” said Ms. Sternlicht. Instead, she reached out to a local mom to help her daughter, which sparked the idea for her company. “There are so many empty nesters around that are so great at being moms,” Ms. Sternlicht added.

The company is currently looking to expand next year—perhaps to Tulane or the University of Pennsylvania. “We want to at least do one more place ourselves before we franchise,” Ms. Sternlicht said.

Businesses tailored to college students’ needs are not new. ZOOM Interiors, an online design firm, specializes in low-cost decoration of dorm rooms.

Rushbiddies, something of a sorority consultancy based in the South, educates prospective sisters on how to dress (for success!) and prepare for (don’t forget alumni recommendations!) the ever-important pledge process.

The Boston Collegiate Consulting Group meanwhile provides around-the-clock support for international students in the Boston area, offering the assistance of art and nightlife consultants.

Still, these services do not offer the kind of mothering (critics might argue smothering), that Campus Goose prides itself on. According to Ms. Sternlicht, many of her current flock of 80 clients use the service as a safety net, in case an emergency arises. But the occasional doctor referral, urgent replacement of a lost wallet or last-minute pick up from the airport often morphs into a type of dependence on the company. Even Ms. Sternlicht acknowledges that some of her clients walk the tightrope between the necessary and the superfluous.

One family uses the company around exam time to deliver a couple of Big Macs and fries to fuel cramming sessions. “Their child,” Ms. Sternlicht said, “just really likes McDonald’s.”

When Amie Brauer’s daughter, a Brown sophomore, was about to celebrate her birthday away from home in Texas, she asked Campus Goose to send over some flowers and maybe some balloons. But the company wrote back, she recalls, offering to deliver a cupcake as well. “Little surprises,” Ms. Brauer gushed, “kind of like a mommy.”

Ms. Brauer praised Campus Goose for giving her the “peace of mind” that many parents cite as the main reason for using the company. But she has come to see Campus Goose as more than a cupcake delivery service.

“I know that if I can’t get something or I can’t do something or something happens up there, she’ll have an adult she can call who will say, ‘I’ve got you covered,’ ” Ms. Brauer said. “The students may be smart to get into Brown, but they don’t necessarily have the world experience to be able to take care of themselves.” Mother Geese: A Slew of Services Cosset College Students Away From Home