— It can be tough to see people move away from home. Not only is someone leaving, but there is also the stress of moving itself.
When Jake Sobieck moved away from his hometown of Willmar, he didn't expect to start a company. But now, Sobieck is bringing his company,
Blue Ox Moving,
"I had a chair and a TV on the ground, and I went to YouTube university and I just started searching everything I could about moving companies. I rented a U-Haul with Bryan Comfort (general manager of Blue Ox Moving) and moved people, learning as much as I could about it," Sobieck said.
After around a year of helping people move out of a rented U-Haul, Sobieck founded Blue Ox Moving in
in 2019. In October of 2023, Sobieck brought the company back home when he saw a need for it in the area and decided to open a new branch.
"Willmar is my hometown. I was born and raised here. I fell in love with Bemidji while going to school, but when you leave home, you kind of miss it," Sobieck said. "After doing this in Bemidji for four years, I got a lot of family and friends saying, 'Hey, it would be really nice to have a moving service in the area,' so we decided to make the trip down 71 and start it."
The Willmar branch operates out of a location just north of the city on U.S. Highway 71. Sobieck's friend Jordan Baker was hired as the manager for the Willmar branch.
"Jake and I have been friends for a long time. We played hockey together here in town. He called me up one day and said, 'Hey, I have got an idea, think it over for a while,' and here we are," Baker said.
The company offers moving services for anything from boxes of small things to specialty items like grand pianos and gun safes.
The pair recognize how difficult it can be to move, and the stress that comes along with it. Because of this, Sobieck aims to make every encounter he can a positive one.
"It is really satisfying to know that you have taken a lot of stress off of people's shoulders. Moving is stressful; closing a chapter on life and opening a new chapter is a lot to do. If you don't have to worry about the nuances about getting from 'A' to 'B,' it really helps," Sobieck said.
Being in Willmar allows Blue Ox Moving to operate all over west central Minnesota, according to Sobieck. The company typically works in a 30- to 35-mile radius of their locations, but is able to go farther if the need arises. As a company that can operate within the lower 48 states, Blue Ox Moving is able to help people as far away as they need, whether it is to a new place in town or to another state like Arizona or Florida.
"Willmar is kind of like a hub of west central (Minnesota). Bemidji is the hub of the north. There are quite a few movers in the St. Cloud area, I know there is one in Hutchinson. But like Marshall and this whole west central region is untouched right now," Sobieck said.
In their first month of operation in Willmar, the company has been focused on getting a foothold in the area. In the months leading up to the new location's opening, Baker trained at the Bemidji location. Since opening, the company has worked to get signage, make contacts with local organizations, and start their work.
"We are getting busier, which is good. Slow growth is healthy growth. It has been going really well so far," Sobieck said.
That growth isn't limited to just business. Blue Ox Moving has a history of community work in Bemidji, which Sobieck hopes to bring to Willmar. So far, the company has helped to sponsor a Willmar community hockey team.
"Getting into the community is so important. We just got done doing a food drive in Bemidji. We volunteer to park our truck there, and everybody who goes through the line we collect the canned goods," Sobieck said. "We had 681 pounds of canned goods we delivered to the food shelf. It is stuff like that. Anything we can do to get our foot in the door in the community, we want to explore. We are here to support the community because they are the ones supporting us."