A Bargain at $450 a Year, plus Applicable Fees

Parents hire concierge services to mother their college students, hugs optional

Like any good mother, Mindy Horwitz helped Emma Feirstein move into her college dorm room, got her an internship and took her to lunch when she had a bad day.

Horwitz, though, is no relation. She raised three boys of her own and was a social worker before launching a concierge service for college students living away from home. At $450 ayear, plus delivery fees, Horwitz, 53 years old, performs some of the same duties students would expect from their own mother.

A young client called Horwitz on a recent night in a panic. He needed a sport coat for earlythe next morning. Target was the only store open but nothing there fi t his 6-foot-3 frame.With Horwitz’s help, the student walked into his presentation wearing a coat borrowed fromone of her sons.

Similar services have sprung up near college campuses around the U.S. The businesses grew more popular after the pandemic made it difficult for many parents to reach their children at far-flung campuses. Among the tasks offered are medicine pickup and delivery, furniture assembly, rides to and from the airport and accompanying college-age children to doctor’s appointments.

Students can hire Uber, DoorDash, TaskRabbit or Instacart for the same help, Horwitz said, but “we just do it more lovingly.” Seeing the demand for having a mom away from mom, Horwitz expanded her business this fall from Washington University in St. Louis to Northwestern University, Skidmore College and University of Hartford, hiring locals with a measure of maternal instinct.

Mother's Love - Article on Boston CSS by Tara Weiss
Mother's Love - Horwitz

Mindy Horwitz, left, with Washington University in St. Louis students Angelica Barnes, Danyal Raza and an unnamedstudent in February. 

“Concierge Services for Students, based in Boston, charges $10,000 for the academic year and accepts no more than 30 clients.”

Tammy Kumin started the business with her partner 30 years ago, largely to serve foreign students at boarding schools in the Boston area. This year, about 75% of her clients are college students, including at Northeastern, Harvard and Suffolk universities.

Rachelle Arnold, left, of Daisy Bug Delivery, eating lunch with Keeleigh Wilbanks and Ella Makowski. PHOTO: RACHELLE ARNOLD

Rachelle Arnold, left, of Daisy Bug Delivery, eating lunch with Keeleigh Wilbanks and Ella Makowski. 

Before the school year starts, the company shops for items to outfit a student’s dorm room, all in their preferred color scheme. The company washes and irons the sheets before making the bed. Each student has access to as many as five women, collectively referred to as their second mom. They accompany students through registration, and Kumin assists with professor recommendations. She said she has been around long enough to know, for instance, which instructors give an easy A, as well as how to balance a class schedule between tough and not-so-tough courses. She also has an army of tutors on call.

Kumin hosts her clients each month, either for dinner at home, sports events or the theater. She cooks her family’s traditional Middle Eastern recipes, including Persian rice, tenderloin and salads. “They make a family here with us,” said Kumin, 74. 

For the past three years, Rachelle Arnold, owner of Daisy Bug Delivery, has sold various services to students at The University of Tampa. She uses her house to receive their packages. “It’s six minutes from campus,” said Arnold, who charges $25 for same day service to deliver to dorm rooms and off-campus apartments. Storage of the items costs extra. 

Since June, 250 students have shipped mini fridges, mirrors, bedding, laundry carts and such, in advance of moving into their fall semester living quarters. Arnold, 54, logs the incoming deliveries and sends photos to parents. She then transports the boxes to one of 10storage rental units until it is time to move the items to their final destination.

“As soon as I come back from storage, there are 100 more boxes on the sidewalk,” Arnoldsaid. The delivery-and-storage service is labeled a “special project,” she said, and priced accordingly.

Stephanie Makowski, of Connecticut, heard about Daisy Bug Delivery from a Facebook groupfor parents of University of Tampa students. For her daughter Ella’s freshman year,Makowski shipped 13 Amazon orders to Arnold’s house along with six large UPS deliveries. 

Arnold is also hired to take Ella, 19, to and from the airport and walks her into the terminal. She sends Makowski a photo of Ella going through airport security—a package deal costing$45 one-way, $70 round trip. When Ella got Covid last year, Makowski hired Arnold to deliver chicken soup from Panera Bread, Jell-O, Gatorade and flowers to her dorm room. Arnold added a get-well balloon and an unexpected maternal touch.

“Ella called me and said, ‘Mom, I have Covid, and she hugged me,’” Makowski said.

Arnold jokes to those who ask how many children she has: “Only about 300 of them,” she says. 

By hiring Horwitz, he said, “we were able to spend more stress-free time with Emma.”

Three weeks after moving on campus that first year, Emma came down with a seriousinfection. The health center was closed. Urgent-care centers and hospital emergency rooms overflowed with Covid-19 patients. Her parents called Horwitz and within minutes she connected them with a doctor who admitted Emma to a local hospital.

Brookings Hall

Brookings Hall on the Danforth Campus of Washington University in St. Louis. 

Horwitz got Emma’s resident adviser to let her into Emma’s dorm room, where Horwitzretrieved her phone, laptop and medication. Emma’s parents kept in contact with doctors and Horwitz about the severity of the infection, waiting to see if they should take a flight to St. Louis.

Over the next several days, Horwitz brought Emma grilled trout, meatballs and a cheeseburger. In the years since, Horwitz has dropped off chicken soup when Emma wasn’t feeling well and recommended a hair salon, seamstress and drivers. She also gave Emma, 21, an unpaid internship at her company mindy Knows.

“I can do locally what a mom in Michigan can’t,” Horwitz said. “Some things are possible from afar, some aren’t.”