Cofounders Kyle Bainter and Dan Slaven
In the summer of 2015, Houston native Kyle Bainter and his wife, Lauren, were nesting as they awaited their first child, July. They’d been in Dallas for about 12 years, and as they painted their baby room and bought and arranged nursery furniture, they were left with only their garage as storage space for all the furniture displaced to make room for their growing family.
And they were also renovating their home at the same time, so even more furniture and décor needed temporary storage.
As Bainter got ready to inventory his items and call storage facilities, he had a sudden understanding of the hassle he was facing.
“I just kind of realized I was going to have to rent a truck. I was going to have to get my in-laws, friends and family to help me load it. I was going to have to call the storage and then the back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” he said. “I mean, that was absolutely the last thing I wanted to be dealing with while we were trying to get ready for the kiddo.”
And thus, the idea for Callbox Storage was born.
“I said to myself, I’m a young and able guy and this is the last thing I wanted to do in the middle of the summer. There’s got to be a better solution,” Bainter said. “So, lightbulbs started going off. We live in the world of Uber and Favor and all these different on-demand services. How come no one’s done an on-demand storage model?”
Next, he met with his friend Dan Slaven of Dallas to discuss his idea and form a partnership.
Bainter, 38, and Slaven, 41, have a history of working together in real estate, and both said they believe they make good business partners, Bainter being the more analytical of the two and Slaven providing the entrepreneurial skills and risk-taking.
“I was immediately in. I told Kyle if we could surround ourselves with the right team and do it for a price point that was in line with traditional storage then I knew we had something,” Slaven said. “I had an interest in co-founding it with Kyle because I knew that we would be solving a pain point by providing a conveyance-based service that enabled folks to know what they have and enabling consumers the ability to get it back when they need it.”
And that is exactly what they did.
Callbox Storage is a full-service storage company. Like traditional storage units, they charge a monthly rate for storing the items, but what makes this company different is its free pickup and free delivery of up to five items monthly.
Though Callbox doesn’t do the packing, it does just about everything else for customers. It inventories a customer’s boxed contents or other items, loads them into Callbox trucks and takes them to its storage facility in Grapevine.
With Callbox, customers use an online portal to manage the size of the space they need, their inventory and their deliveries/pickups.
With real estate backgrounds, the two not only had a strategy for the location of their new enterprise, they had also been able to look at traditional storage businesses, gaining insight into the storage industry well before founding Callbox.
With the idea and the founders in place, the pair knew they needed to assemble a team to lead the business and really make it work.
“I always like to say, you always hear the saying ‘An idea is only as good as its execution,’” Bainter said. “Well, I would go further and say, ‘An idea is only as good as the people who are able to execute it.’”
In that vein, they hired Luke Collins, who has a background in operations and logistics; Tasso Ziebarth, who has a deep customer service background; and Darrel Olson, who is known for orchestrating Sleep Comfort’s Sleep Number bed online delivery platform. At first, Callbox Storage was 100 percent self-funded by Bainter, Slaven and a few others at about $300,000 total. With the proper team now in place, that first investment allowed them to build the necessary technology and create and build the brand.
In July 2014, Callbox did a soft launch to friends and family to work out kinks in its technology and system. Once they had done that, and when Bainter said they “knew it was at a point where the idea has turned into a business,” the company sought passive investors, most with a real estate or oil and gas background, who did not wish to be named.
The company raised $1.5 million to launch and grow the business in Dallas-Fort Worth. Though it officially opened to the public in September 2016, Callbox is marking its one-year anniversary this August.
Because of its pickup and delivery model, Callbox’s marketing can reach throughout DFW from Denton to Arlington, Dallas to Fort Worth, Grapevine, Plano and more.
Bainter started his business in DFW because he’s raising his family here and the area is known for its growth.
“There’s a lot of storage here – there’s 50-70 million square feet of storage space here in Dallas-Fort Worth,” he said. “If not the largest market, it’s one of the largest markets for storage. Everything’s bigger in Texas, right?”
He added that in large metropolitan areas like DFW the cities are seeing couples and families who want to live in urban downtown and uptown areas, and the simple fact is that the closer to downtown, the smaller the spaces and the higher the cost.
“Real estate prices are at an all-time high, so you’ve got to be smarter with your space,” Bainter said. “Because of that you have a growing family living in smaller spaces.”
FAMILY AND ASPIRATIONS
Bainter and Slaven are no strangers to growing families. Callbox began while Bainter and his wife awaited their first child, and as the company reaches its first anniversary, the pair are expecting their second child, Pace. Slaven and his wife, Jessica, have three children: Kate, 8, Edward, 7, and Eva, 2.
Family has played an important role for both co-founders, who have been inspired and mentored by their parents.
Slaven says his mother and father have been a big influence on his life.
“My father has always been there to provide great feedback for any questions I have had over the years,” Slaven said. “My mom was a teacher and later a crisis counselor. She was always very involved and taught us to try to give back.”
For Bainter, it’s always been his father that he could look up to, learn and get advice from.
“My dad has always been a big role model of mine,” Bainter said. “I certainly had the benefit of having a great role model when it came to my father, and not only his work ethic, but always working to do what’s right.”
Bainter says he’d always known he’d end up owning his own business and leaving his mark. He said founding Callbox really made him appreciate the people who have started businesses and all the work that goes into a business.
“I’ve always had the dream of being able to start something, you know,” he said. “But sometimes you never know if those things are going to happen. You have to wait for the right idea and when it crosses your path you have to recognize it.”
He added that he’s fortunate to have been able to come across great people to help execute Callbox.
“My favorite part about owning my own business is working with people I like,” Bainter said. “I think I’m going to look back at this with the folks that have been on this journey from the beginning with just a sense of accomplishment. There’s something special about building that with people, and the relationships [involved].”
Bainter said that although the good thing about the storage industry and market is that it’s a gradual growth, Callbox does have plans to enter other markets beyond DFW. He said the company is pursuing Texas markets and hopes to have an announcement in the next few months. And he sees no reason the company can’t one day be nationwide.
“I definitely think that we have something here that we can scale to 50 states,” he said. “It’s just a matter of when, because we’ve really found a heavy response rate to what we’re doing.”