We interviewed Max Haydon about his business Storage Shepherd which he owns with his co-founder Jeffery Widjaja.
Tell us a bit about your business idea.
It’s all about self-storage. The idea is that if you’ve got spare space in your house, whether that’s a spare room or a driveway, you can rent it out for people to use. It works out cheaper and more convenient for the storer as it’s a great way to make a bit of money back from the rent costs – and it’s greener as well, as it reduces the need to keep building warehouses, so we believe it’s more sustainable. We are particularly targeting students because they are in 12-month housing contracts, so they’re paying rent over summer but they aren’t in the house. It’s a way for them to make a bit of money back from the rent on a student house.
How did you get the idea for the business?
From my own experience really. In first year, I didn’t know anyone in the city. I had my student friends but that was it and I live on the other side of the country so I couldn’t keep travelling back and forth with all of my stuff. I ended up paying for storage and it was really expensive, around £16 a week for a 16 square foot space, which was impossible on a student budget. Then I went to second, third and fourth year in a 12-month housing contract and I hated paying rent when I wasn’t in the house.
What made you want to start your own business?
I guess it was the excitement of it all, if you have a 9 – 5 job it can be a bit dull and it’s quite a lot of routine, whereas with this, every day is different, you are always doing something new.
What are the problems you have faced so far while developing your business?
Definitely the technical side because neither my partner or myself has technical coding skills for the website. We started off trying to start the website from scratch, just building the code ourselves with the help of developer and it was just a nightmare. It became very expensive and it was a really long process. So then we ended up buying a template and trying to change and develop that, but now the web developer is no longer with the team so we are currently facing quite a few problems with the technical side.
What have you learnt from the problems?
Definitely to take more time, and to do loads of research before you launch into something. When we decided we needed a website we got great web developers and handed over to them without taking into account cost or time. We didn’t realise what experience levels we needed from the developers so that is my biggest piece of advice – take your time. Even when it’s exciting don’t rush straight into something as it could backfire.
How have you funded your business so far?
Up until now we have self-funded. We also sold the domain name that we were going to use and that should enable us to run for another few years – but we were pretty lucky with that
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur?
I think it’s when something works, because you spend weeks and weeks just working on one little thing. Whether it could be something as small as “Terms and Conditions” or a part of the website itself, when you see that it actually works and it all starts to come together it’s a really rewarding feeling.
How do you intend to market your business after launching?
We are looking at Fresher’s Fairs, in particular the Housing Fair that happens halfway through the year, because we think storage fits perfectly into that. Also, we are starting to look towards warehouse space now as well, we had a few warehouses contact us saying they’ve got spare space to rent out, one person’s actually got 7 acres of spare space, so we’re just trying to find ways to approach supermarkets and bigger companies who have got spare stock to utilise their space.
How did Rise Up contribute to your success?
A couple of years ago I first got introduced to Rise Up with a completely different idea. After a few one to one meetings I decided to change my idea and went on my year abroad. I worked on it during my year abroad and then I came back and got a job as one of the Rise Up Interns. This was great as it enabled me to meet a huge network of people throughout Newcastle. It also meant I was working with the business advisors every day which massively impacted on how I went about things. On top of that, the events that Rise Up either host or attend are great, you can meet people from a variety of different backgrounds and they are all willing to help.
What do you think are the top three skills needed to become a successful entrepreneur?
Determination is probably number one as you’re going to face things that will make success seem pretty impossible. For us specifically, it was all about the legal side, trying to work out whether you can you actually store your belongings in someone’s house if they are a tenant and don’t own it. Lots of people told us we couldn’t, but actually we found out that you can, as long as there’s certain laws and things in place.
Critical thinking is also so important, a sort of self-criticism. It’s easy to think of an idea and then think you are right and just go with it, but it’s not always the case as I found out quite a lot of times the hard way. Now it’s great to have a partner and we can bounce off each other and realise what’s right and what’s wrong and move forward with that.
I think you also need an outgoing personality because you’re meeting people all of the time and when you go to events you need to make effort to talk to everyone in the room and not be afraid to approach people who are really successful, or much older than you. It’s amazing how many people you meet can actually help you and that’s the only way really to progress in business
You mentioned you have a co-founder and a lot of people struggle to find co-founders, is there anything you could advise people that could help them find one?
I actually found my co-founder thanks to Rise Up. He came in with the same idea, so Rise Up put us into contact and we went from there. We met up in person and discussed what sort of ideas we both had for the business because it’s important to choose the right one and both be aligned on it. We started working together on it from there.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years’ time?
Our big game really is to move it to Asia, because we think there is a lot of areas in Asia like Singapore or Hong Kong for example, where they are really heavily populated and space is not readily available. We think this idea would work really well over there and luckily my co-founder is from Malaysia, so he has knowledge of that market as well. He’s been over there to talk to people about moving the business across to there. We want to test out the service in the UK, make sure it works and then move it over to Asia.
What advice would you give to aspiring student entrepreneurs?
This is literally the best time to do it. At the moment you don’t have to go and find a job, you don’t have a mortgage, you probably won’t have children or anything like that, so there is literally no better time to give it a try and if you fail, you fail, you can still go and get a job afterwards. If you have got an idea you might as well go and speak to someone about it, because you never know where it may take you, the only thing that’s stopping you from doing it is if you don’t take action.
Max and Jeffery are currently interested in finding people who may be interested in working on Storage Shepherd in terms of sales and marketing! If you’re interested in this opportunity, then email firstname.lastname@example.org!