When Atlanta native Jason Kay traveled overseas for work, he would leave many of his belongings scattered among his parent’s basement, friends’ houses and several self-storage facilities.
When he returned home from stints in Russia and South Korea, he honestly didn’t know exactly what stuff was where.
“I was frustrated with the lack of transparency and available options in terms of storing your stuff, keeping track of your stuff when you’re traveling, and moving back and forth,” said Kay, who worked as an engineer on a large-scale marine project.
“I figured there had to be an easier way to provide that door-to-door, on-demand, convenience market that we’re all looking for this day in age,” Kay said.
That frustration prompted Kay — an entrepreneur at heart — to seek a solution, so he talked to website-developer friends and “just kinda chatted people up,” about the possibility of launching a concierge storage service that provided on-demand pickup, retrieval and delivery of stored items.
“I knew there was a space there; storage is a $25 billion-a-year industry and it’s super-segmented,” Kay said. “That coupled with me wishing there was a service out there that I wanted to start and utilize myself jump started me to look at the process.”
After spending eight months researching, talking to on-demand storage companies in other markets, and working with his website development team, Kay launched in October 2015 Atlanta-based MyPorter.
It’s a web-based, valet storage service that allows customers to store small personal items, furniture, and recreational equipment securely and without ever having to leave home.
MyPorter joins a growing number of concierge storage players in urban areas that are jumping into this new niche market. MyPorter is one of several companies that make up SpareFoot’s nationwide network of full-service providers.
How does it work?
Customers visit MyPorter’s website, create an account and request how many bins they need delivered. A MyPorter employee delivers the eco-friendly plastic storage bins to the customer’s home. Also, MyPorter provides customers the opportunity to create a visual catalog of their stored bins and larger items.
After customers pack the bins, they request a pickup on the website. A MyPorter employee picks up and delivers the bins to their secure facilities, which are off-limits to customers for security purposes. The customer can request at any time that a bin be returned — or even a single item from a bin — by scheduling a delivery on the website.
“Because you have an online inventory, you can take as many pictures and add as many notes as you want so you have a complete idea of what you have stored in each bin,” Kay said. “You’re not having all of the bins brought back when you just need that one pair of party pants.”
What does it cost?
Customers can request delivery of any items at any time for a flat fee of $20. (Same-day service is available for an additional $10). Storage pricing starts at $7.50 per month per bin. Pricing on larger items ranges between $15 and $30.
Atlanta is MyPorter’s only location so far, but Kay plans to expand to other southeast locations this year. Also to better reach his target market, he’s partnering with apartment complexes to create an amenity service, similar to valet trash services or shared-car services.
“People are trying to get adventurous with what they’re providing their tenants nowadays — just for differentiation sake — and we talked to a lot of project managers about how we can implement our service as an amenity,” Kay said.
In Atlanta – like many markets — apartment development is getting more and more expensive, and units are getting smaller and smaller.
“We’re trying to figure out a way to give people space without having to build extra space… We think creating these partnerships is going to be a big part of our scalability plan,” Kay said.
‘Customer experience’ is key
No matter how Kay grows his company, ensuring that “customer experience” is crucial to that growth.
“Whatever we need to do to make sure that quality and security is maintained, we’re going to do,” Kay said.
Atlanta resident Ryan Shirley and his wife heard about MyPorter through a friend. They needed to store items when they moved into a smaller apartment further into the city.
“We wanted to be in that more accessible part of town, but that was at the expense of space,” Shirley said. “We knew we were going to have extra stuff.”
They gave MyPorter a try and Shirley is impressed with its personalization.
“You can even take pictures of items in your bins and share specific items you want back,” he said. “It’s just unprecedented to me in terms of that level of customization. We had a box come back last weekend to get some of our summer stuff.”
What are challenges?
Kay said getting exposure to people in need of storage and estimating the time needed for each customer trip have posed challenging.
The time spent with each customer is more than he expected, because the conditions can vary so much. While one customer might live in a house with a basement door for easy loading, another may be in an apartment with several doors to go through and a flight of stairs.
Also, Kay realizes his business isn’t for everyone.
“People either want access to a unit where they can go look at and touch their things or they don’t care about that and just want it out of their space and know it’s going to be able to be returned when they need it,” he said. “That’s the big differentiator.”