Carmelo Mannino and the Eldridge brothers figure they have the perfect service for two kind of people - those who have empty room for storage rattling around and those that have way too much stuff …
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Carmelo Mannino and the Eldridge brothers figure they have the perfect service for two kind of people - those who have empty room for storage rattling around and those that have way too much stuff and nowhere to put it.
Their company STOW IT pairs the two, letting the storage-starved stow their stuff - vehicles, in this case - in the space belonging to those with a storage surplus.
“We are like the Airbnb for vehicle storage. We look for hosts that meet renter’s needs,” Mannino said.
The germ of the idea began growing when founder Devin Eldridge found himself paying $400 for three days of storage.
“When Devin spent $400 to put his clothes in a big basement for only three days, he questioned why they couldn’t connect their friends’ basements to those who wanted to store stuff temporarily for less, like $50 per month,” Mannino said. “But then we thought it might be better if we store stuff on wheels instead of personal stuff.”
Devin Eldridge and his brother Dillon recognized that traditional storage spaces are usually the only option for most. It is usually expensive, may lock you into long-term contracts and offers little to no customer service.
For two years, the idea sat on the backburner. That’s when they approached Mannino, who had moved out to Colorado to attend Colorado State University.
Mannino specializes in consumer marketing and building things for individuals to make life easier. He built a Twitter application during the 2016’s presidential election and had done some consulting work for other companies before he decided to join STOW IT.
“We need to offer safe and secure transactions using technology,” Mannino said.
When the three launched STOW IT a year ago, there were no applications devoted to finding a storage solution.
“You would just google `storage near me’ and view the results of the traditional storage companies,” Mannino said.
Matches made on the web
The matching process begins on the website for hosts.
“This isn’t a mobile application, only a website,” Mannino said. “The host lists available space and rates. We meet with hosts, especially with those who have larger spaces, like farms with barns, and take photos. We’re in between a property management company and an online marketplace.”
For consumers or renters, they search for properties by criteria and then they indicate their interest on a particular property, paying when they’ve confirmed with the connection.
STOW IT charges a five percent fee, which goes towards handling all the marketing, payment processing for the transactions, and problematic issues, such as evictions. Rentals are negotiated for a minimum of 30 days.
“It’s like an Airbnb that takes a percentage from each party,” Mannino said.
As with any entrepreneurial idea, the trio learned that their success depended upon how quickly they were able to pivot in response to the market.
“We originally thought that we were going to store stuff in a basement, but by May we switched our focus to vehicle storage. Today, we connect people with extra space to those who need to store vehicles, which could be trailers, motorcycles, motorhomes, and basically anything on wheels,” Mannino said.
Room for storage
STOW IT’s band of brothers quickly saw growth.
“At the end of 2017, we had 45 hosts and 100 rentals. In 2018, we grew by 500 percent and we’re approaching our 2,000th host now,” Mannino said. “It’s a little slower in winter months. We get up to 100 calls per month of people looking to rent space, so we’re looking for more hosts located mainly along the I-36 and I-25 corridor.”
STOW IT properties cover the Front Range from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs.
Mannino said the service tries to treat each customer, whether they are host or rentor, as individuals and not numbers, making service more personal and boosting customer service well beyond most traditional storage solutions.
“We’re in contact with most hosts on a texting basis, which is a big difference in the relationship we form with the hosts,” Mannino said. ”At the same time, renters get to know the hosts. It’s Mike or Jamie, not just a security camera. We help renters move vehicles where necessary. We’re not just guys with a computer connecting people.”
With an employees count of five and growing, Mannino offers some early advice for other entrepreneurs starting out: find a mentor, sell, and learn as you go.
“No one knows everything about their business, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying something. We had no idea that we would evolve from storing personal things to vehicles without doing,” Mannino said.
It’s a long process, he said.
“I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more as we go. It’s optimization not perfection. We’re always learning how to make things better,” Mannino said.
For more information, visit STOW IT online at http://www.stowit.com or call (844) 478-6948. You can also find them on Facebook at /juststowit, Twitter @_Stow_ or on Instagram at stowit_storage/.
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