Chicago-area self storage owner Phil Murphy was just named Young Entrepreneur of the Year by suburban Chicago’s The Business Ledger a few weeks ago. Gradually, Murphy is beginning to get more media attention as people in the industry begin to realize how the concept of self storage for people who only need to store a few boxes could revolutionize the self storage market. Murphy’s brainchild, Storage by the Box, was featured in The Chicago Sun Times today.
Storage by the Box is meant to appeal to people who have only a few things to store — not enough to fill up even the smallest self storage unit (which is usually about 5’ x 5’ or 4’ x 6’). Instead of renting a unit, people can store their boxes in a way similar to the method used by wine collectors to store wine — by renting shelf space in a climate-controlled facility. Like bottles of wine, boxes can be received or sent out by the storage facility itself, without requiring box owners to spend time or additional money on transportation.
“We don’t need a ton of space, but we’re looking at storing the baby toys, the high chairs and other things that the children or friends’ children could use down the line. A yard sale can only go so far,” commented stay-at-home dad Pete Kelly in The Chicago Sun Times. An ordinary self storage space was outside Kelly’s budget, but storing a box meant that he could pay five or six dollars a month per box. Kelly and his wife, Barbara, pack the boxes themselves, and file lists and/or photos of the contents online. The cost of mailing a box to storage (via FedEx) is picked up by Storage by the Box, while the cost of returning a box (again via FedEx Ground) is paid for by the customer.
In a press release, Murphy explained how he thought of the Storage by the Box concept.
“Lack of storage space is a real problem for a lot of people, especially urban residents living in small apartments,” Murphy explained. “Renting a public storage unit can be expensive, especially if you don’t have enough stuff to fill it. You could end up paying for way more space than you need. And, if you live in an urban area without a car, getting your stuff to and from the unit can be a nightmare.”
Professor Ellen Rudnick, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, noted that the recession should get part of the credit for the innovative new business ideas that many entrepreneurs are coming up with. She compared Storage in a Box to the new car-sharing service, ZipCar, which allows people living in cities to share cars with people they do not even know.
“People are innovative in all kinds of economies,” Rudnick said in the Chicago Sun Times. “A bad economy often forces people to be more creative and to focus on more cost-effective solutions for consumers.