Cris Burnam, president and chief operating officer of storage operator StorageMart, is in the running for one of the most prestigious awards for American entrepreneurs.

Burnam has been named a finalist for the 2014 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Award in the Central Midwest. EY, known formally as Ernst & Young, is one of the world’s largest accounting firms. Burnam will learn June 19 whether he won the regional award.

“It’s a personal honor to be a finalist in such a prestigious award. I consider it an honor on behalf of my entire family, who have worked hand-in-hand with me in our family business,” Burnam said in a StorageMart news release. “I’m proud of the acknowledgement this award brings to the dedicated people I’m fortunate enough to work with at StorageMart.”

Burnam is among 23 Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists in the Central Midwest region, covering Kansas and Missouri.

Regional award winners are eligible for the national EY Entrepreneur Of The Year program. National award winners will be announced Nov. 15. Sponsors of the national program are the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and SAP America.

Founded in 1999, Columbia, MO-based StorageMart operates 149 self-storage facilities in the U.S. and Canada. Earlier this year, StorageMart expanded with the acquisition of an 18-facility portfolio in Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska from Wichita, KS-based Budget Storage Rental Spaces.

StorageMart founders
Cris Burnam (top right) with StorageMart’s other founders, including his father, Gordon Burnam (seated).

Entrepreneurial roots

Burnam’s entrepreneurial roots run deep.

Burnam entered the storage industry in 1987, following his father, Gordon, into the family business. During the course of his career, Cris Burnam has handled more than $2 billion in self-storage deals.

In 1994, Burnam and his brother, Mike Burnam, launched an IPO of their family-owned company, Storage Trust Realty. Five years later, storage REIT Public Storage bought Storage Trust for about $650 million in stock and debt. That same year, the Burnams started StorageMart. Cris Burnam has been president and chief operating officer of StorageMart from the outset, and Mike Burnam has been its only CEO.

Cris Burnam led StorageMart’s $416 million takeover of InStorage, a publicly traded self-storage REIT in Canada. The deal closed in 2009. Seven years earlier, Burnam oversaw the establishment of PhoneSmart, a wholly owned subsidiary of StorageMart that offers call center services for storage facilities.

Here’s what Burnam said when asked by The SpareFoot Storage Beat what it takes to succeed as a self-storage entrepreneur: “Execution is everything; brilliant plans are meaningless unless your organization has the ability to execute.”