Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

The storage industry isn’t what it once was. Veterans in the industry are seeing new technology pop up all the time (like the new DaVinci Lock system or storEDGE’s latest cloud access control product!), and now both big chain stores and mom and pop shops are being joined by young entrepreneurs looking to transform the industry.

But self storage entrepreneurs with a mind for innovation aren’t out to make changes just for the sake of change. Unique culture is about more than cool gimmicks and questioning the conventional. The right employees, the right business model, and the right kind of innovation can make all the difference in the quality of products a company produces and the level of service they deliver. From large software providers with small startup ideas to brand new storage operators with unconventional methods, the storage world’s culture is shifting and becoming more modern. Will your company be the next to make a change? Find out more by reading on below, or check out the full article in Mini Storage Messenger Magazine.

#1: Sparefoot

Of course, SpareFoot needs to be included in an article about one-of-a-kind cultures in the self storage world. This Austin-based startup created the largest marketplace for self storage, connecting renters in need of storage units to operators all around the nation. But SpareFoot does a lot more for the industry, too.

Their marketing team produces blog articles covering enter tips, organization hacks, and storage-related surveys, and they’ve used the data to put together interesting infographics and state-of-the-industry style reports. They’ve designed infographics that visualize their research on all kinds of topics, including social media, closet organization, up-and-coming tech hubs, features of New York vs. LA vs. Chicago, and even calculations about space used in the popular television show Breaking Bad. These visuals are perfect examples of SpareFoot’s ability to translate self storage into what their target audience is most interested in.

SpareFoot’s unique approach has earned them press in publications like TechCrunch and The New York Times. They continue to achieve smashing success in the storage industry, but they haven’t lost their fun and light hearted spirit through it all. They understand what renters are interested in learning about self storage, and they’re able to present the information in unconventional, visual, and intriguing ways.

That isn’t even the tip of the iceberg on their company culture. From free lunches and a “no-policy vacation policy” to happy hours and a program that pays employees who bike or take the metro to work, SpareFoot understands how important it is to find and keep smart and dedicated individuals. You can tell just by seeing their team in action that they take both company culture and their product seriously — and it doesn’t look like that mentality is to going to change anytime soon.

#2: Storelocal

While SpareFoot continues to grow, smaller companies are building a unique culture of their own. One such company is StoreLocal, a self storage co-op located in California. It was created by storage operators in an effort to develop a strong sense of camaraderie as the industry becomes increasingly competitive.

Rather than taking one man’s vision and getting a team behind him to make it happen, StoreLocal’s mission hinges on an extremely collaborative goal, bringing several operators together to share their knowledge and experience to reduce operational costs, gain access to exclusive deals, increase profits, and provide customers with the highest standard of service. StoreLocal’s vision has challenged the idea of competition in the industry and banded operators together for the sake of learning and increasing profits.

The co-op puts a strong focus on the end goal in order to work, getting people who may have previously seen each other as competition to help one another out. With a dozen or so employees running the StoreLocal ship, this small team finds ways to make a lot of people happy all at once while staying true to their mission. Because they’re relatively small, StoreLocal is able to adapt as quickly as needed to keep up with industry changes — and even become leaders in it.

#3: Absolute Management

This management company is making its mark on facilities around the country, managing properties all over the southeastern United States, from Dallas to Chicago.

A noteworthy part of their culture is their ability to attract young professionals and gain fresh, new perspective on the self storage world through their internship program, which gets college students and young professionals involved in the process of social media marketing. Grace Anderson, the company’s organizational analyst, started out as an intern and moved into a full-time position, combining her experience in the storage industry with her studies in website development, marketing, and advertising.

When you think about new ideas in the storage industry, your thoughts may immediately go to new technology and products for the storage renter. But new ideas can be more than that; Absolute Management’s internship program demonstrates how important it is to think about the operational side of your business. This philosophy showcases the value of recruiting young, talented professionals who are now using their skills to better the storage industry. This allows the storage world to advance just as quickly as the industries that college grads were previously most attracted to.

#4: Brute Storage and MakeSpace

The “storage by the bin” model is starting to make a name for itself in the storage industry, demonstrating that unique cultures can spur unique, game-changing products. Companies like Brute Storage and MakeSpace allow renters to take advantage of small bins delivered to their homes rather than renting a traditional storage space and hauling their items there. This system is ideal for urban areas with large populations where space is a valuable (and hard to come by) commodity.

It makes sense, then, that Brute Storage and MakeSpace were founded in San Francisco and New York City, respectively. For roughly $10-$25 per box per month, renters can order high-quality plastic bins online, skipping the hassle of cardboard boxes and tape. What about items that don’t fit in these bins? Both Brute Storage and MakeSpace provide solutions for things like bikes, wardrobe boxes, mini refrigerators, luggage, golf clubs, and “anything one person can carry.”

Both organizations nail the company aspect of culture, too. Brute Storage has created new ways to provide storage for renters who need it - all while providing a rewarding and inviting work environment to their team. MakeSpace, with an office in a loft in Soho, allows employees to build their ideal workstation, and states on their website that, “of course,” snacks and beverages are included. (Something our team at storEDGE can get behind.) Brute Storage also provides a budget for “whatever makes it easier and more enjoyable for you to work,” offers an onsite gym and yoga studio, and even allows your dog work next to you.

#5: Get Space, 10 Federal Storage, and Storage Express

Speaking of cool cities, Portland may see its own share of hip self storage with the new facilities Get Space is envisioning. This innovative company is all about honoring the tried and true service that traditional storage provides while completely transforming the ways customers view self storage facilities. They’ve looked to other industries for architectural inspiration and incorporated popular technology in their renter experience.

Get Space is dedicated to making self storage beautiful and easy for renters. By implementing business models similar to that of Redbox and IKEA, Get Space allows renters to complete their move quickly with advanced technology, operating bright, modern, and functional unmanned properties where personalized help is just a quick call away.

10 Federal Storage has been a true pioneer in the unmanned self storage space, and their technology-first business model has led them to create some of country’s most modern, user-friendly storage facilities. 10 Federal's amenities go beyond just nailing the basics, with high-tech access control, exceptional call center service, and industry-leading tools that make renting a unit faster - and easier - than ordering a pizza.

10 Federal’s bold approach to technology and design has paid off - their Angier Avenue facility in Durham, North Carolina broke records within months of opening, and storage-seeking students clamored for more space at their Graham, North Carolina facility close to the Elon University campus. You’ll never see owner Brad Minsley far from his smartphone where he can simply tap to stay up to date on his multi-facility storage brand.

Storage Express has also been taking an innovative approach to storage for years. Their Bloomington, Indiana-based company began when their owner bought his first facility while still in college, where he saw two problems that could be solved: 1) storage properties in need of more convenient features, and 2) college students in need of jobs. Storage Express has since developed a business model that allows them to meet the needs of their renters while utilizing the resources of surrounding communities.

Also following the unmanned model, Storage Express utilizes a call center located in a college town and on-site renting kiosks to make reservations and online move-ins simple. They’ve since created a successful internship program and expanded to close to 100 facilities across the Midwest.

P.S. - Don’t forget about storEDGE

Of course, we couldn’t leave our own hardworking technology team off this list. At storEDGE, our entrepreneurial founders took one look at the disjointed, chaotic world of data, technology, and marketing in self storage and said, “we can make this better.” And since 2009, that’s exactly what we’ve done - our technology experts worked together with owners and operators in the industry to build self storage’s most advanced technology powerhouse, with cloud-based software and access control tools, mobile-responsive websites, online rental tools, and integrated services that power over 4,000 facilities around the world. We’re still just as passionate about self storage as we were on day one, and we’re always fighting like hell to create better technology for storage brands large and small.

In order to make the best products, we have to attract the best talent. Our storEDGE leaders woo Kansas City’s brightest minds with our cool company culture, awesome team, modern work environment, and of course, our killer self storage products. With an in-house coffee bar to fuel late-night hackathons, unlimited snacks and catered lunches, flexible work hours, and bring-your-dog-to-work days, our tight-knit technology team enjoys a fun, startup vibe while building the coolest software on the block. If you’re new to storEDGE and you haven’t ever been to our KC office, we highly recommend you swing by for a shot of espresso and a quick pinball game. Our clients’ ideas power our ship - and they’re always welcome at storEDGE HQ.

How will you create your own unique culture?

Whether you’re a storage operator, vendor, or software provider, there’s always room for change. No matter if your company is large and resource-filled or has yet to break the ten employee mark, it’s clear that the storage industry is just as capable as any other industry to shift over time.

Industries grow collaboratively. By watching other companies develop their own unique cultures and implementing those good ideas in a way that’s right for your company, you can be the next one to provide innovative services to renters, implement unconventional employee benefits, and transform what people may think of when they hear the phrase “self storage.” As we all continue to learn and grow from watching each other learn and grow, our ideas, company cultures, and ultimately our products and services will become better for it.

Thanks for reading! If you liked this blog post, you may also like: Meet Team storEDGE: Jeremy James, Client Launch Specialist, New trends hit self storage lien laws, and What’s the big deal with automated self storage facilities?