A startup to watch this summer…
As finals come to a close, the next big thing on every student’s mind is: what am I going to do with my stuff over the summer? Many students at The University of Michigan specifically elect not to have a car on campus, or fly in from far away, leaving them with no efficient mode to transport their belongings after the school year ends. The only option left is an expensive one – renting a vehicle or U-Haul to trek the items home or to a storage unit.
In steps a rapidly growing U-M startup called Vaultd. They have a new solution to this age-old college student headache and will be launching with full force in Ann Arbor this summer. CFE sat down for an interview with Vaultd founder/CEO and U-M industrial and operations engineering student, Brett Mecham to talk about the venture and his experiences as a student-entrepreneur.
CFE: Describe your business. Who are your customers?
Brett Mecham: Vaultd is a storage concierge that provides customers a superior way to store belongings. We drop off heavy-duty, plastic boxes to the customer for free, they fill it up with their belongings, and then we pick up the boxes and store them in our secure, climate-controlled warehouse. We make it so the customer never leaves the comfort of their home. Currently our customers are college students, especially since it’s summer and many students need summer storage.
CFE: How did you come up with this venture? What problem are you solving?
BM: The idea for Vaultd came from when I took CFE’s Entrepreneurship Practicum last year. My group saw that many students had difficulties storing their stuff over the summer. Self-storage units are somewhat affordable, but they require the customer to do all the work. Many students don’t have vehicles, making self-storage infeasible. Other options for storage were incredibly expensive. We wanted to create a service to make storage easier and more affordable for students.
CFE: What challenges are your startup currently facing and what are you doing to overcome them?
BM: The biggest challenge is scaling this business quickly while still being a full-time student. Now that the semester is over, our team can devote much more time to Vaulted. We are looking to expand to several other cities by next year.
CFE: Why did you decide to pursue your own business venture?
BM: I felt like I was in a good position to create a service that would be valuable to people. I’ve learned a lot these past few years as an entrepreneurship student, and I felt ready to “go out and do.” Starting Vaultd has been an incredible learning experience for me and my team.
CFE: How do you balance being an entrepreneur with being a full-time student?
BM: Students only have so much free time, and each student gets to decide what they do with that time. I choose to devote the majority of my free time to Vaultd. As a student, I truly understand the pain of summer storage. I’ve dealt with it myself and I’ve had to help my sister who currently lives in a dorm. I really wanted to create a service that would eliminate a problem that I know most students experience.
Additionally, I’ve learned to live by my daily planner. Every Sunday night, I write out my weekly schedule and tasks for the following week. And then every morning I review my schedule for the day and determine how many hours I have to spend on Vaultd. During the school year, I tried to maintain an average of 20 hours a week devoted to my venture. Oftentimes, I wouldn’t finish studying until late, which meant working on Vaultd late at night – but the sacrifices I’ve made have really paid off.
CFE: What resources or people have made an impact on your journey?
BM: A huge resource has been Slack, a web and mobile app that enables easier and more organized team communication. The Startup competition hosted by the CFE was also very valuable. We were awarded $1500 and partnered up with Amy Cell who provided incredible mentorship over the course of the semester. Start Garden, based in Grand Rapids, was very helpful in getting us off the ground. We were awarded $5000, which helped us with our initial costs and get us to the point where we could sustain ourselves.
CFE: What advice do you have for other students starting a business?
BM: Do your due diligence and be willing to sacrifice some of the hobbies and activities you love if you want to find success. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it.
To learn more about Vaultd, head to the website.
Follow the team on social media as they grow their business.