Meet the London start-up reinventing storage for the sharing economy

Interview | Property & Construction

The ever-growing cost of housing and living has recently led to a rise in the number of self-storage units and buildings across the UK, as many homes are too small for the number of possessions people own.

Despite them having a historically negative view, driven by the television and film industry, the UK is experiencing a rise in sharing economy platforms across a range of sectors – with self-storage becoming more-and-more prominent.

London-based Stashbee connects individuals and businesses who have spare space (garages, spare rooms, parking spaces, warehouses) with those who need it (private and business storage, parking, warehousing).

The business has experienced impressive growth in recent years and this month announced it had registered its 10,000th user, making it the UK’s leading storage sharing economy platform.

Business Leader spoke with co-founders David Mantle and Anthony Paine about the inspiration behind the company, the growth of self-storage, and why London is the ideal location for their business.

Can you give our readers an overview of Stashbee?

Anthony: Stashbee is an online platform which is harnessing the power of the sharing economy to connect individuals and businesses who have spare spaces, such as garages, spare rooms, parking spaces and warehouses, with those who need them for private or business uses.

David: The platform empowers people who need extra space to scope out a broad range of storage options in and around their area in one place. It enables them to compare locations and features, whilst providing transparent prices that are easy to compare and decide on what’s best for their needs. We also offer individuals and businesses a means to easily and safety monetise their idle space. All whilst delivering unrivalled customer service.

What was the inspiration behind it?

Anthony: The idea of Stashbee was born in 2016. We were both attending Escape the City, a programme where aspiring entrepreneurs meet like-minded people to discuss potential business ideas. In our third or fourth week we were asked to fix a problem which had been bugging us recently and discovered we had shared frustrations.

Anthony: I’d recently split up with my girlfriend and needed to find somewhere to store my belongings fast after moving out of our shared flat. I struggled to find a self-storage space that was close by, affordable and whose staff were helpful, and it occurred to me that there must a better solution.

David: At the same time, I’d spent £3,000 building a shed to store my bike, after growing tired of carrying it up three flights of stairs every day.

David: We both realised there was a need for affordable, local storage, and that the rise of the sharing economy could provide the solution. So, we created Stashbee.

Did you take inspiration from Airbnb?

Anthony: When we first started Stashbee, we were drawn to how much opportunity there was to really improve what was on offer for customers. So, when asking ourselves how we could build a better solution, we certainly drew inspiration from companies like Airbnb and Uber who have done just that. They have paved the way as ‘asset sharing platforms’, providing a clever blend of process, user experience and technology that allows people to exchange assets with each other.

We also looked at other companies such as TaskRabbit, who have brought us ‘service sharing platforms’, where individuals and businesses are given the tools to provide services to / consume services from each other. We set out to combine these concepts of ‘asset sharing’ (monetising untapped resource) and ‘service sharing’ (people delivering brilliant service to each other) to disrupt storage for the better.

Are we experiencing a growth in self-storage companies and places?

David: Definitely! The Self Storage Association UK’s (SSAUK) 2018 report found that turnover in the industry has now hit £750m per year, up from £540m in 2017 – a huge annual increase. It also found that demand is growing faster than supply. In our view, this is why it’s the perfect time for a service such as Stashbee’s, that harnesses the power of the sharing economy to benefit both people who need space and those who have it to spare.

How would you describe the growth of the company?

Anthony: Working at Stashbee feels like a rocketship taking off sometimes, because of the speed and volume of uptake from people across the country. We currently have 10,000 registered users and are experiencing a 14% increase MoM.

David: Meanwhile, in terms of square footage, we now rank just outside the Top 10 storage providers in the UK – with 280,000 sq ft available, the equivalent of nine warehouses.

David: We’ve got here in just a couple of years, whilst spending a fraction of what traditional service providers spend. We’ve got our sights firmly set on the number one spot and don’t plan to stop there either.

Is London the ideal location for your business?

Anthony: London is a fantastic focal point for Stashbee’s business because of the sheer volume and variety of people who need space and those who have space to offer. Fortunately for us, there is also still a lot of growth to be had in London and we know we’ve only just scratched the surface.

Anthony: This being said, we already service the entire rest of the UK and have seen a huge amount of uptake in other urban and rural areas, including in the furthest parts of Wales and Scotland.

David: Whilst Stashbee currently puts quite a lot of focus on London, we will of course be looking to expand, both nationally and eventually internationally, when the time is right.

What are the future plans for the company?

Anthony: We see Stashbee becoming a household name, as the number one platform for all types of storage space globally. We plan to achieve this by fulfilling our mission to make storage affordable, accessible and easy for everyone. While staying 100 per cent focussed on constantly improving our customer experience and making the process of finding and booking spare space, and making money from your space, seamless.

David: During our growth, we will also always focus on being empathetic and providing unrivalled customer service. We realise there are usually four reasons why an individual needs storage space: death, disaster, divorce and downsizing. Because of this, we want to make sure that during our growth we maintain a caring attitude towards people using our services.

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