A New Twist on Storage

Carmelo stands beside a garage in Fort Collins he has just agreed to finder a renter for. PHOTO by Libby James

by Libby James

Nothing but cobwebs in that old barn? Got more garages than you have cars to store them in? Is your backyard vast and empty? Most people have never given a thought to turning these unlikely assets into steady little moneymakers.

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When Carmelo Mannino’s friend found himself in need of some major storage space for three days before he could move into a new house and had to pay $400 for short-term storage, a light bulb went on in Mannino’s entrepreneurial head. He realized that there were people out there needing storage and home and property owners who just might be interested in earning some income by leasing their barn, garage or land to someone with nowhere to put their stuff.

Along with a couple of friends, Mannino, a recent graduate of Colorado State University’s MBA program in global, social, sustainable enterprise, decided to start a business they called Stow It. Their goal was to bring together people with storage space and those who need it for the mutual benefit of both parties. Renters would be ale to realize passive income from their empty space and hosts would be able to save money while meeting their storage needs.

A few months after their first year in business, Stow It has a presence all along the Front Range, has hired their first employee and is looking toward a bright future. “We have 310 rentals and 105 people renting for an average of seven months,” Mannino said.

“We’ve learned a lot.” A first they were willing to store people’s belongings but soon learned that the need was greatest and that it was most practical to limit their storage to “things on wheels,” vehicles, trailers, boats and RVs. Renting a leaky garage for someone’s belongings influenced their decision. “We made it right for this person,” Mannino said. Even so, it changed the course of their business. They are careful to ask for a deposit and have renters sign a contract agreeing not to live in the property they rent.

One family who rents out their 7,000 foot barn in Fort Lupton is able to make their mortgage payments with the money they earn from renting space they do not need. Mannino rents his own backyard in Fort Collins, housing a van that provides him with $500 a year. “Good for a few days’ vacation,” he says.

Mannino has an undergraduate degree in business with a focus on entrepreneurship and has owned a restaurant in the past. Stow It is a good fit for him because it is a service business, bringing people together to meet their needs. “Renters and hosts develop relationships and become friends,” he said.

He has found space for something as large as a 75-foot semi truck. The renter managed to store a trailer with jet skis underneath his truck. He also found a home for a moosehead, and for a cryogenic freezer before he decided to limit his business to items on wheels.

Mannino has used social media to let people know about his business but he is continually surprised at the number of people who have not yet discovered Stow It.

Anyone interested can reach him at Carmelo@stowit.com


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