Since taking the reins of Storage Solutions eight years ago, Noah White had toyed with a variety of ideas for expanding the Winchester, VA, company without adding space. The answer, he discovered, turned out to be as plain as the moving boxes his customers put in storage units: Apply the principles of business-records storage to better use existing space and make it easier for his self-storage clients to keep track of their ever-burgeoning belongings.
White’s epiphany resulted in the development of Itimizit, a web app that offers storage renters a way to create an online database containing descriptions, photos, dimensions and locations of their stored possessions. They can access their database at any time from their smartphones, PCs or tablets.
For consumers, Itimizit means no more rummaging around in a jumbled storage unit to find just one thing. For White, Itimizit is a potentially profitable add-on to his existing storage operation.
“I hatched the idea of Itimizit out of a desire to grow our current business without having to build another storage facility,” said White, who is CEO of White Properties Inc., the parent company of Storage Solutions. The company, founded in 1985, has seven storage facilities in Virginia—200,000 square feet of self-storage and 50,000 cubic feet of records storage.
“What I like about our records storage is that we get a better return on our square footage. We take advantage of our ceiling height,” White said.
In addition to its online inventory feature, Itimizit provides users with three storage boxes and 6 cubic feet of storage space. Here’s the takeaway: That’s cubic, not square, footage. Therein lies the secret to White expanding his business without adding space.
How microstorage works
Once White settled on the concept of Itimizit, he brought aboard software developer Jason Wilkinson (at left in top photo with White), who has created a number of other websites, and understands the principles of inventory control and tracking. Wilkinson applied his tech expertise to White’s concept to create what they describe as a “microstorage” service.
“Itimizit isn’t an app that you have to download,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a web application. Everything is done through the browser. Once you get an item into the database, it’s just so easy to keep track of it.”
Itimizit is a web-based app, rather than a downloadable one.
After creating an Itimizit account, he said, a client fills out a short form describing each item he wants to store. The client also can upload a photo of each item. Itimizit generates a unique code for an item, then each storage box is labeled with a scannable QR code. The code makes it possible to locate any object in the box without having to open it and search through the contents.
With Itimizit, customers rent the space they need instead of renting an entire self-storage unit, White said. They pay a monthly fee of $4.99 (consumer) or $9.99 (business) to store their boxes in a facility where they’re stacked with those of other clients.
When a customer wants something from one of his stored boxes, he can go online and request delivery; if he wants to add something to a box, he tags and codes it through the web app, then requests delivery.
Building a better pack-rat trap
White and Wilkinson spent 18 months building the Itimizit app, which they launched in December. Since then, several dozen customers have signed up for the service. While some are people who want to rent a few feet of space to store seasonal clothing or sports equipment, others are business owners seeking a simple way to inventory and track their assets.
“We really were targeting the 70 percent of Americans who have so much stuff they can’t put their car in their garage if they have one,” said White, whose prospective Itimizit customers include downsizing seniors, military families and college students. “But the funny thing is that we’ve found this web application to be applicable across many industries. People keep coming up with new and creative ways to use it.”
Itimizit’s clients include a commercial cleaning company that uses the app to keep track of its wet-floor signs, mops and vacuum cleaners. Another client is a nonprofit organization storing tablecloths, silverware and decorations that are used at fundraisers.
Itimizit isn’t just for people who rent self-storage space, White said. Homeowners who don’t want to store belongings in Storage Solutions facilities use Itimizit to inventory belongings in their attics and basements. That means the potential market reaches beyond the company’s base of operations in Virginia; a homeowner in Texas could use the Itimizit app just as easily as a local client could.
Another aspect of the app’s versatility is its potential for expanding Self-Storage’s business-to-business component through software licensing. “We built it from the get-go to have partners, like in a franchising operation,” Wilkinson said. “That’s definitely one of our bigger goals.”