What if you could put stuff in storage from anywhere in the country?

The idea came when Sam Rosen’s mom called and asked him to pick up some of his belongings she found while cleaning out a closet at his childhood home in suburban New Jersey. As much as Rosen wanted his high school diploma and old hockey gear, the busy startup CEO couldn’t justify making a trip from New York City to fetch it.

“Mom, I love you, but I can’t come and pick up this stuff,” Rosen told her.

That’s when he hatched the idea to have his mom pack up the mementos and send them to his company’s warehouse. That got him thinking about how other people might want to do the same thing. MakeSpace Air soon was born.

Self-storage 3.0

New York City-based MakeSpace launched in September 2013 as an alternative to traditional self-storage. It recently raised $1.3 million in seed funding.

The company drops off empty plastic bins to its customers in three New York boroughs: Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Once the bins are packed, an employee picks them up and takes them to the company’s secure warehouse. A customer uses a smartphone app to catalog belongings and request delivery. Similar services are operating around the country.

The company’s latest offering, MakeSpace Air, takes the concept to the next level by letting customers box up items and ship them to MakeSpace for storage. The company charges $6.25 a month per box.

“This opens us up geographically for anyone who wants to mail something to a storage facility,” said Rosen, CEO of MakeSpace.

When a customer is ready to retrieve his or her stuff, MakeSpace will ship the items back. The company covers shipping both ways as long as the customer keeps the belongings in storage for at least six months. Shipping is provided by UPS, so all boxes must fall within that company’s size and weight requirements.

MakeSpace
MakeSpace executives Sam Rosen, Rahul Gandhi and Adam Levasseur.

Cloud storage for objects

Rosen likens the MakeSpace Air to Internet services, such as Dropbox, that allow users to back up and retrieve their data from any computer.

“Dropbox made cloud storage convenient and effective, but more importantly they made it accessible anywhere,” Rosen said, “With MakeSpace, we are helping people solve an access problem to their own physical possessions.”

Rosen thinks the MakeSpace Air offering, which debuted in early March, will appeal to an array of consumers, including students, movers and travelers.

“Customers that are traveling buy something they like, they want to ship it somewhere but don’t want to ship it home. They want to ship it someplace that will accept it on their behalf,” Rosen said.

Core concept growing

Rosen said the company’s core business of picking up and delivering storage bins is performing extremely well, with triple-digit revenue growth each month. As of early March, the company had 13 employees and two Mercedes Sprinter vans.

“We’ve doubled the amount of time slots available because we were booking up two weeks in advance. We’ve also exhausted our bin supplier three or four times now,” Rosen said.

MakeSpace competes with San Francisco-based Boxbee, which expanded to New York in October, and CubeSmart Direct, which launched in January in the Big Apple. Rosen said the entrance of CubeSmart, a self-storage REIT, into this market is a sign that the business model is solid.

“The big guys are smart to give this a shot,” Rosen said. “We are like David going against Goliath, and you know how that story ends.”

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Alexander Harris