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12 Mar 2019

Student Storage Made Easy, at Least 40% Cheaper Than the Competition

The title caught your attention, didn't it? It's in bold text on the website of Doorage.com, a valet service storage provider based in Chicago, Illinois. Why am I writing about a valet storage company? Keep reading.

Yesterday, I came across an article written by Evan Sully, staff writer for the The DePaulia, an online independent student newspaper of DePaul University.

Sully's article is titled, "A new kind of storage". His feature on Doorage focused on the convenience and affordability of moving and storage for students.

On the homepage of Doorage, its tagline reads, "Bringing Storage into the 21st Century. We’re not just storage - we’re an extension of your home."

Sully's article references financial requirements or specific dates that traditional storage facilities offer and how it's not always accommodating to college students. It's what inspired the Chicago native Sean Sandona, to found Doorage.com, in February 2018. The now-CEO launched the student program in April 2018.

Doorage, like many other valet storage companies, differentiates itself from the traditional storage business model in that it charges its customers on the cubic volume in eco-bins that they supply instead of charging for a room of storage space. Aside from catering to students, Doorage also does business and residential storage.

The company's website highlights convenience, comparing itself directly with traditional self storage. Storage starts at $1 per cubic foot for up to 50 cubic feet, and the average box is four cubic feet. The larger volume you store, the price continues to drop per cubic foot.

Doorage's flat fees for pickup and delivery: $20 for less than 20 minutes and $45 per "man" per hour.

“You get small bins. You can photo everything that’s in there, and we take it away from your dorm and we bring it back to your next housing when fall move-in is happening. It takes all of the headaches out of it. We did great with students, so we really targeted our business aggressively towards students.”

Sean Sandona, CEO, Doorage.com

The first month of storage is based on the number of days left in the month. New customers only pay for storage based on the pickup date until the end of the month and then it renews on the first on the month at the full monthly storage rate. The only minimum is the first pro-rated month and the renewal on the first full month.

According to Sully's article, on average, college students spend about $60 to $70 per month with Doorage.

What's missing from Sully's article though was the comparison of pricing between traditional self storage and Doorage. Putting aside convenience (valet), is the pricing comparable?

My intention in sharing Sully's article is that self storage operators are not helpless against the growing visibility of valet storage. Putting aside the business model and is it economically viable, what are some things operators can do to accommodate students, considering they make up approximately 8 percent of traditional self storage business? I found a great guide from StorEDGE, detailing how to engage and accommodate with this segment of the business.

“We know that with student business, there’s such a volume that student business makes us profitable in a market through the whole student season," said Sandona. "So, we can pre-launch in January, hard-launch in February, and then we’re profitable in that market during the student storage months.”

The relatively new storage solutions company is expanding and has a strategy to grow to 50 markets nationwide. Doorage will be launching in Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin later this month.

Doorage has also looked into franchising, but its primary target will be university-specific markets.