BoxCo. jumps into student storage market

Audrey Cheng

Northwestern Student Holdings, a student-run company that manages businesses serving the NU community, launched its new storage company BoxCo. on Sunday night.

BoxCo.’s mission is to provide “simple, safe and affordable storage and shipping service to Northwestern students,” according to the company’s Facebook description. The company was founded by Weinberg junior Alex Onsager, Weinberg senior Prateek Janardhan and Weinberg junior Nathan Katz.

Onsager, who is also the CEO of NSH, said the three founders created the new company because the BoxCo. team thought they could offer better service than Campus Solutions Inc., which he said has a monopoly over the storage market at NU.

“Looking at other storage options, we saw substantial things we knew would benefit other customers that we thought we could offer,” Onsager said. “If you look at our service, we’ve managed to reduce the total amount of storage item prices to five, and if you look at any other competitor, their pricing is a long list of exceptions and variations of everything they offer.”

Campus Solutions Inc. President Ren Wang (WCAS ’09), however, said he was “shocked” at how similar BoxCo.’s service is to that of Campus Solutions.

“Their wording and a lot of their policies are pretty much an exact copy of our website,” Wang said. “Competition is not something that we take offense to, but this is kind of shocking in how similar it is to what we do. It doesn’t seem like there are any changes to the overall idea.”

Onsager said BoxCo. would distinguish itself from Campus Solutions by focusing on affordability.

“Our prices fall as customers purchase more boxes, which makes total sense,” Onsager said. “I’m not really sure why no other storage companies offer this type of pricing. That’s how it should work.”

Wang said despite BoxCo.’s lower prices, he is not worried about his company’s sales this year, because Campus Solutions is more established as a 5-year-old company.

“Overall, I’m flattered that NSH decided to copy our model and get into the exact same market as us,” Wang said. “But I’m not really worried about our outlook this year. There are still very important points that they cannot duplicate. It’s a lot harder than just putting up a website.”

BoxCo. is also offering a new service, called BoxGuard, which Onsager said is a “secure storage system” that provides insurance for belongings.

“We cover pretty much every item,” Onsager said. “Campus Solutions, as far as I know, is only covering boxes. They promise $300 of insurance per box.” Janardhan said BoxCo. will be NSH’s first business that will appeal to a very wide number of students.

“Almost every freshman or sophomore on campus – nearly 4,000 people – have storage needs over the summer,” Janardhan said. “It gives NSH the opportunity to be exposed to a greater amount of students around campus.”

Some NU students will opt out of using either storage option. Weinberg sophomore Alex Benfield said he stores his own belongings for a cheaper price.

“When I was looking into storage options last year, the only really reliable ones were Campus Solutions and some of the other companies on campus,” Benfield said. “(Their services) were more than $200 and I didn’t want to spend that much on storage, so I talked to some other people and priced it out. It was a lot cheaper, even with renting U-Haul vans.”

Benfield said for seven people, each person had to pay $80 for storage last year. He said he would rather “pack (his) own things, know where they are and pay $100 less.”

Onsager said BoxCo. does not intend to be the only storage provider at NU.

“I’m sure this is going to be a very vigorous and lively market over the next month,” Onsager said. “I think people are going to see an improvement in the service that storage companies are offering, both from BoxCo. and Campus Solutions.”

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