The messenger bag, with origins going as far back as the Pony Express, is designed to be the simplest possible means of carrying papers while keeping your hands free. As the name implies, bicycle messengers in the 1980s and 90s popularized the bags.
Although there is no shortage of messenger bags among MU students, there were no messengers on bikes until senior Brady Beckham and his crew came into the picture.
Beckham founded Columbia Couriers, a bicycle messenger service, with junior Jason Key and graduate Steve Tinsley.
A common idea of a bicycle messenger's appearance is similar to Beckham's: slim but muscular in his cycling shirt, with a slightly unkempt beard. But Beckham donned Dickies instead of the spandex worn by most of his trade.
"I wear the Dickies because they don't get holes," he said.
Beckham said he can survive in school while managing a business because his idea is well structured.
"We won a business idea competition, the New Venture Idea Competition, with the idea for Columbia Couriers," Beckham said. "The idea was the best in the Undergraduate For-Profit Division."
With a degree nearly in his grasp, Beckham has a distinct plan for the future.
In some major cities, like San Francisco or New York, bicycle messengers are used commonly for their point-to-point delivery of important papers, artwork or sensitive documents — services that companies like UPS or Fed Ex cannot offer.
Columbia Couriers can pick up flowers, food and pretty much anything else that can fit in their bag. They are even willing to wait in line at the post office for clients.
"We don't just have one function," Beckham said. "People in big cities realize that we're fast. They don't care what we look like as long as we get things from Point A to Point B. People don't realize that bikes are just as functional as cars in big cities."
The weather doesn't faze Beckham, either.
"The snow and ice are fine as long as you bundle up," he said confidently. "I try and stay off the main roads. The rain is just awful, much worse than ice and snow."
His plans for the summer are looking bright as well.
"I think Columbia Couriers is snowballing and will do so over the summer more once word gets around," he said. "We've had no negative feedback thus far."
Beckham wants his business to suit the needs of Columbia.
"We want to stick around town," he said. "And we want to match the demand of the city."
The environment is a priority as well.
"We're a sustainable business, and we're looking forward to working as a delivery service for Main Squeeze, another sustainable business."
Karl Kimbel, owner of Klunk Bicycles and Repair, has gotten a positive impression from Columbia Couriers.
"Sometimes we get too busy here in the shop to go pick up lunch," Kimbel said.
When this occurs, Kimbel has hired the couriers to pick up lunch.
"I'm happy to support a great idea and a little business like this," he said.
Beckham glided effortlessly through traffic for a short bike ride downtown, avoiding potholes and pedestrians.
He stopped at a business on Broadway to pass out flyers for Columbia Couriers.
"The city is allowed to do business with me as well as most companies, but some of the large companies can't because they have designated carriers," he said.
Beckham said there could be problems delivering on campus.
"The university is like an 80-headed monster," Beckham said. "It's like a small city, and none of the schools communicate with each other."
Beckham and his co-founders either were or are members of Mizzou Cycling.
"Once we get more business, one of our desires is to give back to Mizzou Cycling," Beckham said.
Columbia Couriers also wants to have an altruistic purpose in the future, starting a not-for-profit company that builds hand-driven bicycles for disabled children.
"In the New Venture Idea Competition, I also won the not-for-profit division with my idea for the hand-driven cycles," Beckham said.
He said he plans to give new life to discarded or excess bicycles by converting them to hand-driven cycles.
According to Beckham, the conversion between an old bicycle and a hand-driven one requires not much more than "a welder with a knowledge of bicycle mechanics."