SpareFoot was founded in 2008 by then-UCLA students Chuck Gordon and Mario Feghali (aka Chario), SpareFoot storage finder originated as a person-to-person storage website that helped people rent extra space for storage in private residences. They soon realized there was a larger opportunity for this platform in the traditional self-storage industry.
Now SpareFoot is the world’s largest online marketplace for consumers to find and reserve self-storage units, with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals. SpareFoot also offers web marketing solutions for storage facility owners and operators.
MO: How did you meet Mario and what inspired your decision to start a business together?
Chuck: We met at UCLA as freshman year suitemates, and we’ve been together ever since. We were fast friends and even now we’re roommates in Austin. I remember the first time we talked about going into business together, right before I went back to his house for Thanksgiving. I had the original idea for the site, and Mario was really interested in it. We got so excited about it we missed the exit for Bakersfield on the freeway.
MO: How challenging was it to take your initial concept of a person-to-person storage website and translate it for the more traditional self-storage industry?
Chuck: We completely started over. We created a completely new site, with a new functionality, look and feel. It’s always challenging to start over, but it’s less difficult when you have an even better idea. We didn’t have significant revenue with the other idea, so it didn’t hurt. When you realize something needs to change, you just have to do it. Ultimately, those who don’t change are the ones who don’t succeed.
MO: Your company culture sounds enviable and more fun than most people are having at the office. Can you talk about what makes it so special and was creating a play hard environment part of your vision from the beginning or did it evolve as the company grew?
Chuck: I didn’t really consider the culture until we hired our first employees. All I knew is that I wanted to like coming to work everyday. I figured if I enjoyed it, other people would too. Then I was concerned with candidates who worked really hard, and then played really hard too. People are here all day and still want to hang out afterwards. Everyone is one hundred percent dedicated to the cause and likes making SpareFoot a success. It’s now a combination of dedication, a super-open environment where anything can be discussed at anytime, and zero politics. I get to speak to other people and hear all their horror stories about politics. From these lessons, I shape SpareFoot to eliminate everything that’s bad at other companies. In every interview I ask, “What do you not like about your current job?”
MO: Can you talk us through some of the biggest advantages of using the SpareFoot site? What features are you most proud of?
Chuck: The comparison shopping for storage is incredibly useful and previously wasn’t possible. Another huge advantage is that we have exclusive pricing deals that our listed facilities offer only to SpareFoot customers. So even if a customer already has a local facility in mind, it’s worth checking to see if they have any promotions for making a reservation through SpareFoot, or to compare and see if a competitor is offering a better deal.
We have also this interesting feature where agents can make notes on facilities (special notes that only pertain to that facility) in our internal search system. We had a customer ask for help in finding a storage unit where his band could practice. I searched the word “band” in our system and found a location within 5 miles that allowed band rehearsals. That would have been a very difficult search for someone not using SpareFoot.
MO: What was the biggest risk you’ve taken with SpareFoot and how did it turn out?
Chuck: The riskiest time was when we convinced our grandparents to invest in the company when it was purely an idea. For two people with no experience and just an idea, there was a large amount of capital at stake. Failing wasn’t an option, and something like 9 out of 10 startups fail in their first year. Now the company is progressing well, and we expect any early-stage investor to see significant returns on their investments.
MO: You’ve come a long way in a relatively short period of time, what recognition or milestone has been the most meaningful so far?
Chuck: We moved into the new office, an office we designed with sushi-inspired conference rooms, open spaces, and games all over. You can walk in and witness what SpareFoot is about because our culture is physically evident. It’s really cool, especially in interviews when I know the candidate understands SpareFoot simply from being here. It makes me happy to see everyone working here.
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