Business

Miami on-demand storage startup lifts off, plans to expand

Stow Simple, an on-demand storage startup in Miami, recently partnered with Miami Rescue Mission. It will deliver customers’ donations for free.
Stow Simple, an on-demand storage startup in Miami, recently partnered with Miami Rescue Mission. It will deliver customers’ donations for free.

Joining the “on-demand economy” with a new twist on traditional storage, Miami-based Stow Simple has launched its valet storage service in Miami’s urban core from Brickell through Midtown, as well as Coconut Grove, Miami Beach, Key Biscayne and Coral Gables, with plans to continue to expand in South Florida.

Stow Simple, runner-up in this year’s Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, aims to offer another alternative to schlepping boxes to the storage facility. The transaction can be booked through its mobile-friendly website, stowsimple.com, and an app is under development. Stow Simple provides free bins and pickups. Items are photo-catalogued and stored in a secure, climate-controlled facility. Customers can log into their account any time to see what they have or schedule delivery or pick up of items.

Siblings Silvia and Jorge Camps, founders of Stow Simple, soft-launched in a smaller area in June and said they have been going door to door to Brickell property managers and doing direct mailings, online ads and events to get the word out. Based on feedback, they added more pricing options for customers, too; customers can now rent a 5-foot-by-5-foot or 5-foot-by-10-foot space, in addition to its four bins for $28 a month or per item pricing. “We will store as much or as little as you want,” Silvia Camps said.

The company has also partnered with the Miami Rescue Mission to make it simple for customers to give back. With branded donation bags provided at the time of bin drop-off, customers can simply fill up the bag with any unwanted clothing, which will then be delivered free to the Mission as a tax-deductible donation.

People who have been using our service have been using it again and that is very encouraging,” said Silvia Camps, adding that customers so far have included downsizing families, international customers who also rent out their second home when they aren’t there, college students coming and going and small businesses and law firms undergoing renovation or moving to new offices. “It isn’t peak storage time yet, which is great for us because it has given us time to learn. We want to hit the fall full throttle.”

Stow Simple has national aspirations, but is starting with the South Florida market. Read more about Stow Simple here.

SCALING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP

If you know Robert H. Hacker, you know he often advises entrepreneurs to go after the big opportunity. The same advice holds true for social ventures, and he’s written a book on it, Scaling Social Entrepreneurship: Lessons Learned from One Laptop per Child, available on Amazon.

Hacker, who teaches social entrepreneurship courses at FIU’s Honors College and MIT’s Sloan School, spent 3 1/2 years as CFO of One Laptop Per Child, an organization with a mission to provide every child in the developing world with a connected laptop. Big opportunity, scaled globally. How did the organization do it? By successfully creating a movement early on, Hacker said.

For another example of scaling globally, look no further than Toms Shoes, he said. “They have successfully grown a company which is committed to both shareholder returns and social engagement at scale. Their recent private equity investment demonstrates that professional investors see no conflict between the social mission and future financial returns,” Hacker said.

He believes the most important key to scaling social entrepreneurship is to plan from the very beginning to achieve scale. “Social entrepreneurship by definition has lower financial returns, which means such organizations generate less cash internally. Therefore, these organizations have less ability to iterate on business model due to lower cash reserves. They need to execute well right from the beginning, which requires very careful business model development and planning,” said Hacker, who runs GH Capital Partners consultancy and has served as a Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge judge many years.

More of Hacker’s advice to social entrepreneurs:

▪ Choose for-profit status for a social entrepreneurship project because it gives you better access to capital.

▪ Partner with private sector companies because they have the resources and can be motivated to support social projects.

▪ Solve one social problem well and let others solve myriad other problems.

Read more in a Q&A with Hacker on the Starting Gate blog here.

RESEARCH ON WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS

Early-stage venture capital firm First Round recently released findings from its deep dive into 10 years of investment data. Among the Silicon Valley firm’s findings among the 300 startups it has invested in over the decade: Its investments in companies with at least one female founder performed 63 percent better than its investments in all-male teams. And, if you look at First Round's top 10 investments of all time based on value created for investors, three of those teams have at least one female founder — far outpacing the percentage of female tech founders in general. You can read about First Round’s other findings, all very interesting, at 10years.firstround.com.

While women-founded companies perform better, there needs to be more of them. The Kauffman Foundation, an authority on all things entrepreneurship, also released some interesting research about women in entrepreneurship recently.

While the number of women entering the workforce has significantly increased over several decades, they are still half as likely as men to start a business, and the findings are fairly consistent across all age groups, according to Kauffman’s most recent Entrepreneurship Policy Digest.

Women are one-third as likely to access equity financing through angels or venture capital, and they begin their companies with about half the capital of men.

Kauffman Foundation found the lack of women entrepreneurs is not just a gender issue, it’s an economic issue. Research shows a lack of female mentors (in one survey, half of the women surveyed reported challenges finding mentors), challenges to maintaining work-life balance and an implicit bias against women as entrepreneurs as major obstacles.

The Digest offered suggestions to entrepreneurial programs and organizations to help more women become successful. Among them:

▪ Develop and report entrepreneurial program metrics by gender to better understand what works best for women entrepreneurs.

▪ Increase the number of women represented in entrepreneurship programs to expand access to female mentors.

▪ Partner with women’s professional organizations to increase awareness of Small Business Innovation Research awards. Just 15 percent of SBIR awards went to women-owned businesses in 2012.

▪ Celebrate successful women entrepreneurs to counter the false narrative that only men are successful entrepreneurs.

Read the Digest and more findings here.

Follow @ndahlberg on Twitter. Have startup news? Email ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

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