Students should only worry about taking exams – not getting the blue books needed for them, said Angel Herrera.
Co-founded in 2019 by the third-year theater student alongside his friends, second-year economics and philosophy student David Lin and second-year film student Rohun Vora, NEED Westwood features student couriers completing delivery services on electric scooters. Vora said customers use the company’s website to order, in which no sign-ups or credit cards are mandatory upfront. Lin said their company is useful on campus because they understand the student body and are familiar with students’ lifestyles.
“A lot of people try to pin students down and predict things, (but) what we are learning every single day is that the student body of UCLA is vastly complex,” Vora said. “There’s a lot of moving pieces and a lot of things change all the time and it’s really interesting just figuring out … what do people need.”
NEED sees themselves as the next version of a convenience store, Vora said. The company’s most popular orders are Guayakí Yerba Mate, Chips Ahoy! and Double Stuf Oreos, and they aim to incorporate healthier options such as fruit cups in the future, Herrera said. He said supplies for orders are held in Lin’s apartment for the couriers to pick up and deliver.
The couriers deliver their items via electric scooters, which can access routes that cars cannot, Vora said. Delivery services like Postmates typically have trouble completing their orders within an hour due to traffic, and Herrera said the scooters eliminate that issue. Herrera also said employees are encouraged to wear helmets and drive in designated bike lanes when operating electric scooters to avoid injuries.
“Life is good when you are on an (electric scooter),” Herrera said. “When it’s sunny out … and the wind’s hitting me in the face, it’s serene (and) fun.”
Marcel Salapa, an alumnus and customer, said he occasionally doesn’t have the time to buy an energy drink before going to the John Wooden Center to work out. Instead of going to a store, he said NEED delivers his energy drinks to him at the designated location. Using electric scooters for deliveries is also beneficial to the environment, he said.
“The fact that they’re not using cars is a big step forward – especially in a place like Westwood where it’s probably even easier to get around … using (electric scooters),” Salapa said. “We don’t need more cars on the road so … using electric scooters is really innovative.”
Herrera said time is a commodity for students, and the company helps students who are in a pinch for time – especially before exams. It takes about six minutes for couriers on electric scooters to travel from their apartment to the farthest location on North Campus, Lin said. And unlike outside delivery services, Lin said their UCLA-based employees know the campus and Westwood surroundings well and are less likely to get lost.
Although it is difficult to predict items that students will need, Lin said the company understands students’ social dynamics more than other competitors that are not student-run. The company provides a way for students to reduce their time walking and worrying about their commute to the store, Lin said.
“Our time right now in these four years are the most valuable asset,” Lin said. “What (the company) can really provide students, in terms of value, is reducing their time.”