Kiwi couple tackles storage stress in Oz

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Steve and Jonelle Philips started their mobile storage company Smartbox back in 2006. Photo / Supplied
Steve and Jonelle Philips started their mobile storage company Smartbox back in 2006. Photo / Supplied

A New Zealand couple who wanted to eliminate the stress of moving and storage are now "bedding down" their mobile storage company in Australia.

Aucklanders Steve and Jonelle Phillips decided to start their company Smartbox back in 2006 after discovering how difficult it was to put things into storage.

"It was a terrible experience - difficult, stressful and time consuming," Jonelle said.

"We then started thinking about self-storage and how it could be made easier for people and less stressful."

The couple, who have been together since they were 17-years old, saw that mobile storage was popular in the US.

"We liked the idea of combining moving with storage and this is how Smartbox was created," Jonelle said.

Smartbox delivers storage boxes to a home or office where customers have 24 hours to pack their belongings.

The storage boxes are then collected and stored in the company's facility.

The whole process is designed to make things as easy as possible, said Jonelle.

"People are becoming so much more time-poor these days and the last thing they want to do is spend their whole weekend loading their stuff into storage."

Within 18 months, Smartbox had outgrown its first warehouse in Auckland and needed a second facility. In March this year the company consolidated both facilities in a 3000 square metre building in Silvia Park.

Steve and Jonelle, aged 39 and 40, had been looking to spread elsewhere during those months but decided to forego other New Zealand cities for Australia.

"We looked at other cities but it's all population driven. That's when we started looking over here in Australia.

"Melbourne has four million people so that's the same as New Zealand in one centre."

After a year's research, the pair launched Smartbox in Sydney, in November 2009. In June this year, they took on a 4000 square metre building there with a huge outside yard for further expansion.

Next was Melbourne, where the couple moved to and shifted the company's headquarters in March this year.

Jonelle said the plan now is to spend the next 18 months "bedding down" in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Auckland, before taking on Brisbane.

Across all three operations, 80 per cent of business is with residential customers, and the other 20 per cent commercial, she said.

Much of the commercial business involves archiving companies' records which was a good earner because it tended to be long-term storage.

The company has seen growth of 20 per cent each year in Auckland and is expecting that to lift for the 12 months ending December 31 this year.

Growth across the ditch has also been strong so far.

Jonelle said Smartbox has used only "internal funds" to grow the company, no bank debt.

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