Have you ever found yourself searching for a product or solution only to discover it doesn’t exist? It was this exact scenario that helped Courtney Whiteside, 27, come across a specific niche in the student market — storage options.
After graduating from the University of Western Ontario in 2003, she decided to pursue a masters degree at the University of Warwick in England. Being an international student she immediately recognized many challenges students face when studying outside their home country. One of the main ones was where and how students could store their belongings when on a co-op term or simply going home to visit family and work over the summer break.
“The university did not have the infrastructure to facilitate this demand and there were no businesses operating in the community that provided a service to accommodate this challenge,” says Whiteside.
Upon graduating in 2004 she returned to Canada and worked in financial and legal recruitment for two years. Although she enjoyed the job she realized recruitment was not for her.
“I started researching the student storage market in the evenings and on weekends,” says Whiteside.
She found several companies in the United States running student storage businesses but none were operating their businesses as a service, in her opinion.
“These businesses were treating students as inferior consumers by servicing them only at pre-determined times and not including added protection like insurance,” says Whiteside.
On her 26th birthday, Whiteside resigned as a recruiter and started Store Your Dorm. In her first year she concentrated her efforts on Toronto, covering eight colleges and universities.
“Due to overwhelming demand in the Toronto area last year, we decided to expand the business to operate on 27 campuses across Ontario and Quebec for 2008,” says Whiteside.
Her goal is to make Store Your Dorm the most student friendly storage service operating in Canada.
If you are thinking about launching your unique idea into a real business venture, like Store Your Dorm, Whiteside’s words of advice are two-fold.
“Don’t assume you need a business degree to run your own business; common sense is the best business degree. Secondly, don’t let anyone tell you that you are too young or have too little experience to start and manage your own business,” she says.
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