Boxman: Bringing convenience to the storage industry

Tell us about Boxman?

Boxman is an on-demand storage service, a no-hassle alternative to self-storage. We come to you to deliver boxes and then collect them for free. It’s like a virtual spare room where everything’s easy to find and that never runs out of space.

Where did the Boxman idea come from? 

Boxman is the natural evolution of self-storage in the internet age. We do our shopping online and a home delivery service is assumed. Why should storage be any different? 

What made you choose the on-demand storage sector?

Storage isn’t sexy, but it’s something that everyone can use and we had an opportunity to offer a better service than anyone else out there. People often need storage at stressful times, for example moving house, so I like that we can at least make the storage aspect a seamless experience. That’s really important to me – having a service that makes a positive contribution.

What are the advantages of using this business model?

Self-storage is a lot of hassle and it’s full of additional hidden costs. You pay by the room which you can never fill, you need to take extra insurance and you most likely need to rent a van to transport your things, not to mention spending a day at the storage unit. With Boxman, there’s none of that. We come to you at a time you choose so you don’t need to waste a whole day.

Pricing is simple, at £5 per box per month, and because you only pay for what you use without any hidden extras it typically works out cheaper than doing it yourself. Also, there’s no rooting around piles of boxes to find something when you need it. It’s really easy to call things back from our website, where you can organise all your items with individual photos, names, descriptions and tags.

What were you doing before?

I spent most of my career in finance. In 2008 / 09 I went to London Business School to take a step back, reassess things and broaden my horizons.

How did your business journey begin?

After London Business School, I started a business manufacturing a nutritional supplement for children in an ‘Actimel-style’ once a day, yoghurt/fruit-based drink. At the time, I didn’t have children, had no experience of retail or food production and had no contacts in the industry so it was a crazy leap looking back.

In the end, we turned down a supermarket offer to trial us and walked away. Nestle had launched a similar product which failed and whilst ours was better, the supermarkets were now scarred by the experience so weren’t going to take any risks on a new company. Instead the risks were all on us and it just didn’t stack up.

Did you always want to run your own business?

Definitely and I think that’s true of every entrepreneur. Starting a business isn’t something you just fall into.  You really have to want it and to have that self-belief that you can make it work. Lots of people think they want to do it, but when they get the chance they still choose the safe, boring job with the monthly salary. 

How would you describe your experience as a business owner?

All-consuming is the only word for it. If you’re passionate about a business then there’s no switching off. Not only are you always thinking about the business at the corporate level, you’re thinking about the employees too – it’s like an extended family.

With space becoming such an issue for city dwellers in the UK, was it a case of seeing a gap in the market?

Space isn’t the only issue – it’s time and transport too. People in London are more likely to own an Oyster card than a car, so self-storage just doesn’t work for a large proportion of the population. On-demand storage makes it possible to free up the space in an affordable way.

What are Boxman's plans for the future?

Right now most people who put things into storage are doing so because of a trigger – for example they’re moving house, moving in with a partner or a new baby is on the way.

Our aim is to make people see that on-demand storage can just be the norm. It’s an affordable way to create extra space by putting items you rarely use into storage and calling them back whenever you need them.

What entrepreneurial skills do you regard as most important?

For me there are two – know yourself and know your customer. Nobody is brilliant at everything and you have to be honest about what your strengths and weaknesses are. This isn’t a job interview; you’re not selling yourself for a role. Know your limitations and bring in people with complementary skills to plug the gaps. When you have your team, make sure you’re able to empathise with your customer. Understand what they want and need then give it to them. Too many people design products and services for themselves not for their customer.

Best advice you've been given?

You’ll always regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did.

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