In a city that redefines what small living spaces means, hydraulic or folding beds and movable furniture are commonplace.
So when Lewis Cerne and his wife were living in a 300-sq ft space, they began thinking of how to customise furniture that could double as storage. That’s when Lewis had a Eureka moment.
“Instead of trying to make everything fit and being frustrated, I thought why not figure out a way to take away stuff you don’t need, but keep it accessible?” shares Lewis, who has been living in Hong Kong for the last six years.
“In Hong Kong, you sit and sleep on storage,” says Lewis. “But we want to take these things out and still give you peace of mind.”
Hence the seeds for startup Spacebox were planted, a storage solution that allows you to get stuff out of your apartment without leaving home. Lewis partnered up with Co-founder and brother Stuart Cerne, and launched the service in November 2014. By January, they had over 100 customers, primarily through word-of-mouth.
How it works
Spacebox delivers the specified boxes to the customer. A standard box size costs HK$49 a month. You then pack up your belongings in the box, taking photos of your belongings and labelling the boxes along the way. You can upload the photos and descriptions (which are privatised), to make deciphering between boxes easier in the future. You then arrange for pick up of the boxes.
After the boxes are picked up, the items are dropped off at a humidity and temperature controlled warehouse. Checkout is free. If you’re in a rush, express deliveries are available at an extra cost.
Developing a model for Hong Kong
In the past, Lewis utilised self-storage units, but found the process tedious and inconvenient for the needs of Hong Kong.
“You have to pack up all your stuff, vet for the storage conditions and then when you need it, lug it all back. It seems like a petty issue, but finding appropriate boxes is also really hard in Hong Kong!”
After some research, Lewis discovered similar concepts had already emerged in other high density cities like New York and was popular.
Lewis, who was working in environmental consultancy, advised anyone wanting to do a startup in a different industry to be realistic about what you can’t do. For him and his brother, that included programming. The team now has seven, including two software programers.
“It’s crucial to develop the software, don’t wait. Luckily Hong Kong has great resources and programmers looking for opportunities.”
“We’re not leasing fixed amount of spaces. Long term, we need to develop the ability to scale,” he says.
Spacebox currently has the capacity for 40,000 boxes. As for the future, the team wants to expand the business and also enable the sharing of storage spaces amongst friends (like a library) or have an option for boxes to be donated to charity.
“My wife is extremely happy we started this,” he says, adding that though they have now upgraded to 750-sq ft space, they are still storing their belongings.
This interview was conducted and condensed by Hannah Leung of EntrepreneurHK (EHK).
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