Tiny condo and no storage space? This valet service can help
A look at new tech startup Second Closet, an online storage solution recently launched by a 22-year-old entrepreneur.
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Mark Ang is too young to have many skeletons in his closet, but he’s super keen on carting away whatever extra stuff you can’t fit into yours.
The 22-year-old Toronto entrepreneur came up with the idea for an online storage solution called Second Closet when he and his older brother David, 23, moved into a tiny condo in Liberty Village with very little closet space.
They quickly found out that not only was storage expensive, but the process of getting space was rigid. They had to deal with standard space sizes and minimum monthly rental fees — and there was no seamless delivery service between storage and home without the added cost of renting a moving truck.
“We were in a small, 500-square-foot condo with our Golden Retriever, Riley, and the condo lockers were small, dirty and expensive,” he recalls.
His brother “had the bedroom that had one small closet because he was paying the rent, so I needed a place to store my things,” Ang says.
So the idea, and the name of the company, came to him quite naturally. And the concept is simple: they pick up your stuff, store it and return it to you whenever you want for as little as $3 a month.
“Ultimately, I wanted to do something myself to solve the problem,” he says.
But as every small business owner knows, the hard part is in the execution.
Growing up with a good head for business, Mark Ang dove into the challenge head-on. He was a good student at York Mills Collegiate who didn’t care much for partying. And he was already an old hand in the entrepreneurial game, having started a small business selling trendy watches when he was all of 16 years old.
“I was staying up until 4 a.m. too much for a 16-year-old, on the phone with people in China (where they manufactured them). But you have to do business on their time,” he says.
While still a teen, Ang also started importing and exporting auto parts for a tidy profit.
“It wasn’t very sexy,” he says. But it helped pay for his degree in commerce from U of T. His brother, now Second Closet’s chief operating officer, was pre-med and well on his way to becoming a doctor like others in the family when the tight-knit duo decided to go all-in on their own storage business.
“I just thought of all the things I hate about the process — packing, moving, transporting all of it and finding a safe place on top of that. It all sucks,” says the younger Ang, who is chief executive officer.
They knew that most people don’t fill a standard-sized storage space right to the top because everyone’s storage needs are different.
With their service, which officially launched last April, you can use your own boxes or theirs at no extra cost. Starting with the smallest size, each box costs $3 a month to store. Bulky items such as bicycles, tires and mattresses each cost $9 and up to store, depending on size.
When you need your stuff again, you click your mouse and they deliver it back to you anywhere in the city whenever you need it.
It didn’t hurt that some heavy hitters believed in the Angs from the beginning with an initial $500,000 round of funding. Michael Hyatt, founder of digital firm BlueCat, and his brother Richard got on board right away.
“They have a maturity well beyond their years and the idea makes so much sense,” says Michael Hyatt, who sits on a panel for CBC’s online version of Dragons’ Den and loves helping young entrepreneurs find their way, after selling two internet businesses for hundreds of millions of dollars.
“I’m not betting on the company. I’m betting on Mark,” he says.
Second Closet now counts Generation Capital CEO Geoff Beattie along with Colliers’ International Mike Cowie and AJB Software founder Naresh Bangia among its investors.
The company’s North York warehouse is climate-controlled and monitored 24/7, and equipped with a zoned sprinkler system. Customers can also keep tabs on what they’ve stored through an online personal portal.
So, essentially, it’s like a virtual walk-in closet plus a valet service that operates seven days a week. The company has a fleet of Mercedes Sprinters and a staff of 15. They’re in growth mode, and are shopping for more space — just for other people’s stuff.
“Everything is smaller these days, from airline seats to condos, but people need more space,” Ang notes.
One thing they don’t do: the packing.
The majority of their business is done online, but Second Closet also has a toll-free number to get customers started. And unlike other storage firms that tend to raise the monthly fees after you move in, the company vows to keep the original pricing you signed up for “forever,” the website says.
Ang emphasizes he is dedicated, working 18-hour days, seven days a week. “It’s what I always wanted to do.”
“These guys don’t even have time for girlfriends now,” Hyatt jokes.
There are a couple of smaller competitors in Toronto, including Shufflespace and Jiffy, but Ang doesn’t appear to be too concerned.
“I’m very competitive,” the black belt says.
Today, the brothers rent a much larger place, a 1,500-square-foot floor in a Forest Hill house that, of course, has ample storage space for the brothers.
“Our heads are down and we know what we have to do to grow the business,” says Ang, adding: “I could do this until I die.”