Founder’s Chronicle: Chuck Gordon of Sparefoot
You founded Sparefoot in 2008. What is your company’s model and how did you get started in the field?
SpareFoot is the world’s largest online marketplace for self-storage, making it easy to find and reserve a storage unit with comparison shopping tools and exclusive deals. SpareFoot also offers web marketing products to help storage business owners win new tenants online. So all of our listed storage facilities pay us a finder’s fee when we send them a new customer who successfully moves in. The service is all free for consumers.
Before leaving to study abroad in Singapore my junior year, I realized I would need storage space for my furniture and other belongings. A traditional storage unit would cost hundreds of dollars, so I ended up storing my stuff in spare closets and garages in the homes of friends. An idea was born and I founded the company that would become SpareFoot. It was originally a peer-to-peer storage website that helped people rent extra space for storage in private residences.
We started to see a lot of mom-and-pop storage facilities signing up for the site — indicating there was potential to actually profit from all of this — so we applied to a few seed mentoring programs and were accepted by Capital Factory. We packed our bags and headed to Austin, Texas,, quickly changing our business plan to serve the traditional self-storage industry.
As an entrepreneur, what impact has branding had on your venture’s success so far? How do you approach marketing? With whom do you collaborate to get your message out to your target audience?
We do all our marketing in-house, and our goal is to build a brand that is trusted by both our storage facility clients and self-storage consumers. Since those groups are totally different, we definitely have a unique challenge. It has taken a long time, but our brand is really starting to gain traction in the storage industry. We have also effectively leveraged our partner brands like SelfStorage.com to add credibility to the SpareFoot brand.
Many advertising professionals find themselves interested in entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to someone with marketing skills interested in starting a new venture?
You are as equipped as anyone else to start your own business…so just do it!
What would your ideal relationship with an agency look like? What do you expect from a marketing partner?
If incentives are aligned, it might work. One way to do that would be to make payment contingent on certain measurable success metrics of the marketing efforts.
Thought leaders in marketing regularly reinforce the idea that agencies (and other marketing-oriented organizations, too) should collaborate with startups. Do you agree? Why?
If agencies can change gears from their typical clientele and really get their hands dirty with an early-stage startup that doesn’t have an established brand, product or budget, it can be great. However, agencies usually aren’t set up to do that.
What entrepreneurial ideas and start-up lessons can advertising professionals apply to creating breakthrough work?
Fail quickly and cheaply! Just keep trying ideas until something sticks.
What is your view of where Sparefoot currently stands in the marketplace today? Where do you see Sparefoot in three years? What problem are you solving?
For consumers, we are the only place to comparison shop for storage, and to our storage facilities, we are the most efficient way to market online. We are growing constantly and foresee a big future. For consumers, we solve the problem of finding and comparing storage facilities in one easy place, which can be a major headache otherwise. For storage businesses, we help them rock web marketing to reach modern consumers effectively.
Chuck Gordon is Founder and CEO of self-storage finder SpareFoot. He holds a fine arts degree from UCLA, where he specialized in ceramic sculpture. Making and selling serving dishes ignited his interest in entrepreneurship. SpareFoot originated as Chuck’s cheap alternative to traditional storage while he studied abroad in Singapore during junior year. The stuff he stored at Co-Founder Mario’s house and girlfriend Anna’s house in 2008 is, of course, still sitting right where he left it.