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In theory, working out of a storage unit seems like a grand idea for small business owners. The rent is cheap, and space is ample. However, starting up a storage unit workshop or transforming your storage unit into an office is not allowed in most cases.
That doesn’t mean that standard self storage is entirely useless for small business owners and larger companies. Traditional storage units help ease some of the burdens that come with growing operations. In fact, retail business owners, artisans and other entrepreneurs can benefit greatly from a little extra space.
Also, there are some legal ways you can operate a business out of a storage unit with Life Storage. Some of our locations have designated retail and office space available where businesses are permitted to operate at full capacity. These spaces offer amenities like restrooms and conference rooms, utilities, parking for tenants and tenant customers, and in some cases, good visibility for a retail business.
In any case, let’s say you can only afford a regular storage unit to help grow your business. Here are some general rules to remember as well as some small business inspiration to get your entrepreneurial juices flowing.
Don’ts: Small Business Storage Unit Rules
Commercial storage units have slightly different rules than regular storage units depending on the scale of the business. But remember, unless you rent an office, retail or commercial space specifically, you’re not allowed to work or conduct business inside a storage unit. Units that are not permitted for occupancy and business activity are usually limited to storage and order fulfillment only.
For a full breakdown of what you can and cannot do within your unit, be sure to refer to your rental contract.
Ask a manager before attempting any of the following business activities inside a standard storage unit:
- Operating machinery, power tools or other equipment.
- Meeting customers and conducting sales out of the unit.
- Installing telephones, computers or other electronics for use inside the unit.
- Adding any additional wiring or outlets beyond what is currently there.
Do’s: Creative Small Business Ideas that Utilize Self-Storage
There are plenty of business plans that could benefit from an additional storage unit. Here are some types of business customers we service and how they use self-storage to enhance their companies.
1. Independent Publishers
Independent publishers and book dealers have quite a bit of physical product on their hands. Think about the mountains of magazines, pamphlets, brochures and books. After a book or magazine is printed, it gets shipped to a central location before being sent out to its readers or to the retailers who sell it.
A self-storage unit is a perfect place for a publisher or dealer to store inventory and extra boxes and supplies. Rather than filling a garage or attic at home with these not-quite-weatherproof products, the company can keep everything in a climate controlled storage unit to better preserve products in retail condition.
As the company and its work grow, so can the storage unit—units range in size from tiny to gigantic. Best of all, the publisher can arrange to have their product shipped directly to his storage unit without being present to receive the shipments. When companies opt for our Delivery Acceptance services, the store office retains a key for domestic carriers to open the space and secure shipments inside.
2. Local Landscapers or Contractors
The “stuff” that these small business owners accumulate doesn’t come with the issue of quantity alone. It’s also bulky and irregularly shaped. Think lawn mowers, leaf blowers, drills, saws, wood, etc. The space in a truck bed or van is not infinite, so as a landscaper or contractor grows their business, the demand for space will increase too.
Home is not always the right place for a business owner to store everything business-related, whether it’s because there’s simply not enough room for it or because it’s disruptive to the owner’s family. A self-storage unit is a great solution. A landscaper or contractor can store everything they don’t have room for in the truck or at home.
Most Life Storage facilities offer extended or 24-hour access, so companies that start early or work late will still be able to access the facility grounds and get to their storage unit. Plus, the owner of the business can set up the unit so that their employees have access as well. This way, when they have a day off, employees can stop in and grab whatever it is they need to get their work done for that day.
3. Theaters, Galleries and Artists
Self-storage isn’t something we usually associate with the arts. But think about how much goes into managing a gallery or putting on a show. It’s pretty clear that there’s a lot of material involved. At a small, locally run theater or gallery space isn’t so easy to come by. So when it comes to storing paintings from past exhibits, self-storage units could be the best place.
On top of the sheer volume of things that require storing, there’s often a need for special storage conditions. Rather than shoving everything into whatever closet space is available, owners can feel better about the condition of their art by storing it climate controlled units, which many self-storage facilities offer. These units provide the temperature and humidity required to preserve an oil painting or a silk costume.
4. Online Retailers
The rise of crafting for a living is noticeable in the emergence of more Etsy and eBay shops. Perhaps you even know someone who makes fantastic hand-crafted pieces like furniture or clothing. When an online shop finds success, the need for greater available inventory builds. And when the people running these small online businesses are producing so much, they need a place to store their inventory.
Though most of these businesses get their starts at home in the garage or the craft room, they often grow out of these spaces. That’s where self-storage can come in handy. Suppose that an artisan’s hand-crafted wooden toys are suddenly in high demand with the increasing desire for natural, eco-friendly goods. They might be making a few rocking horses and a dozen toy trains a week. They’ll want to keep their inventory somewhere until it ships out to the individuals who order it. Most of the time, crafters don’t want to crowd their workspace with finished products.
A storage unit is a perfect way for this business to keep the product safe and sound during the time between production and shipment.
5. Sales and Service Professionals
Working in sales usually means toting around a lot of marketing materials and inventory. For someone who works in one city, cramming everything in the trunk of their car might work just fine. However, some sales professionals need to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to meet with clients, which makes carting along all the needed materials cumbersome and time-consuming. Instead, these associates will store their business materials in multiple storage facilities that are located closer to their clients.
Likewise, service professionals that provide services like repair, cleaning or restocking benefit from having multiple storage units spread across various locations. Let’s say you’re a maintenance company that services apartment complexes across the state. Rather than having parts located in every crew’s van or in a central location, dispersing parts at different storage facilities shortens response times.
For these businesses, renting a storage unit is more affordable than finding larger commercial real estate to store more products and supplies. In fact, storage doesn’t need to be a major expense for these businesses. Storage facilities offer spaces as small as a locker that rent for $20 per month or less.
Read Also: How to Choose a Career You’ll Love
If there’s anything that should be taken away from this article, it’s that self-storage is more versatile than you’d expect. There are so many ways to make use of a self-storage unit to improve and grow your small business. We’ve discussed only five businesses that could benefit from self-storage—we’re sure that there are lots more! Let us know how you are using self-storage for your small business in the comments below.