At the age of 69, Pete Warhurst is trying to outdo Pete Warhurst.
Warhurst founded PODS, the mobile storage giant that has revolutionized self-storage and the transportation industry and has grown into a multinational force. He ran it for 10 years and sold it in 2007 for $430 million to a private equity firm.
With his new project, Red Rover, Warhurst is trying to reinvent the industry once again and fix everything he feels he didn’t get right at first. He is not shy about promoting his new company. He says the Red Rover is “a better product. There are many advantages to the company and the consumer.”
Under Warhurst’s pioneering PODS model, the company brings a storage container to the customer. A customer can use it to store their belongings for a short time during a renovation, for example, or to pack household goods in order to move. The container is usually located in the customer aisle but may also be held in a PODS facility. The company employee handles all deliveries, receiving and transportation.
Warhurst, while proud of this approach, says there can be problems – for example pickups or under-scheduled deliveries. price point. And mistakes made by drivers can leave mailboxes broken or worse.
The Red Rover, launched in February 2020, has put more practicality in the hands of consumers, combining elements of PODS and U-Haul. Warhurst calls the new model “fetchable storage.” Customers keep a truck—eight, 16 or 24 feet long—preloaded with one or more portable storage units. The container loading doors can be configured as desired by the user (right side, rear side and left side) and are accessed via a remotely controlled ramp that circles the truck. Customers take the truck and container from a self-service storage yard, fill the container with their belongings, and then bring the unit to a Red Rover storage facility, where it remains until the customer returns to move it. Longer moves are handled by a Red Rover employee, but the customer – rather than a Red Rover employee – drives for local transfers. Truck, gas, and toll free use up to 60 miles with a one-month storage agreement.
“Just bring the container and bring it back at your own pace, your time, your convenience, and on top of that, I give you a free truck, free miles, free fuel, and free toll fees,” Warhurst says, in a rehearsed crackle he’s been using for weeks to make presentations to investors. .
(Estimates collected online for local traffic in Pinellas County including storage were about $214 for Red Rover versus about $470 for PODS.)
The startup is growing as fast as PODS was in its early days when Warhurst factories were producing containers as fast as they could. Warhurst has raised nearly $80 million, has set up 11 locations in five states and is looking to open in 10 more cities, ranging from Los Angeles to Atlanta. On a map of the United States in his office, Warhurst tracks immigration trends, focusing Red Rover growth on areas with a lot of inward and outward immigration. New orders were four times higher in January 2022 than they were in January 2021.
Warhurst did not set out to be a game-changing entrepreneur. He wanted to be a firefighter. He moved to Largo from Long Island in 1973 because firefighting jobs, rare at home, are plentiful in Florida. Warhurst became one of the first paramedics in Florida. After a few years of work, the 911 emerged as a concept. Pinellas County began exploring ways to connect its public safety departments and wanted input from those in the business.
“The fire chief approached me and said, ‘What do you know about computers?'” ‘ And I said, ‘Not a damn thing,’ recalls Warhurst, and his New York accent still stands out. But he was willing to learn—a trait noted by his paramedic partner, Dave Rivelia. Rivelia, the president of the union, recommended Warhurst for the task.
“He loved the projects,” says Revelia, who has worked with Warhurst on several endeavors, including PODS, and came out of retirement to help launch Red Rover. “It kind of fits the bill.”
Warhurst ended up building a dispatch and records management system for public safety and a company called EAI Systems that took the lead nationwide and grew into the nation’s No. 2 provider of 911 records management. He sold to Bell Atlantic for an undisclosed amount in 1992 when he was 40 years old.
Warhurst then retired briefly but got bored and decided to work in small storage. His first warehouse was good. Finding a suitable drug for a second was difficult. “I was actually driving down the street and I said, ‘What if we bring the pantry home?'” “”
Warhurst frequently asks “what if” questions and insists that his employees ask them, too. “If he comes up with an idea, stop and listen,” Revelia says.
Warhurst has held the ranks of Red Rover management with previous partners. Rob Allison rose through the ranks in PODS under Warhurst and was Vice President of Operations there before joining Red Rover. I said, “Let me think about it and talk to my wife.” I thought about it for 15 minutes. I didn’t even call my wife. I called him back and said, “I want to be a part of it.” Allison is Red Rover’s chief operating officer.
Warhurst asserts that Allison is the only employee he has lured from PODS. He says he called PODS twice to buy the Red Rover concept from him; He says the company was not interested.
Many of Red Rover’s top managers have taken pay cuts and invested their own money for a chance to revive the magic of entrepreneurship. “With Pete, we’re always forward thinking; we never get enough of a mousetrap,” Allison says. “We always try to make it better, faster, and easier. We are always trying to improve everything.”
One example: Only three PODS containers are suitable for a tractor trailer truck, which creates a logistical challenge when they have to be transported empty to PODS site across the country. Red Rover containers fold flat, allowing for nine trucks.
The Warhurst business plan for Red Rover differs from the PODS model in other ways. To raise capital for PODS, he sold the franchises almost immediately. Now, with Red Rover, he is raising capital and opening company-run sites. The concession may come later. Labor costs for PODS were higher because they require a lot of drivers. Red Rover relies on automation. Red Rover’s discounted payroll translates into lower rates for customers and a clear niche in the market: budget-conscious DIYers who want something more from U-Haul and less than a full-service moving company.
“In the end, PODS will always be my baby,” Warhurst says. “I hope this kid will grow up to be a little bit bigger, but even if it’s No. 2, I think we’ve done well for the transportation and warehousing industry.”
a lot of things
No longer limited to sprawling clusters of single-story units, newer self-storage facilities are often multi-storeys, with buildings designed to look more like apartment complexes than garages. Nationwide, over the past five years, 97.4 million square feet of storage space has been built – equivalent to 6.3% of total inventory.
Growth in the Florida self-storage industry has been driven by the pandemic and an influx of new entrants. “People have accelerated their plans to come to Florida,” says Scott McLaughlin, president of the Florida Self Storage Association and executive vice president of property management for the Self Storage Management, Scott McLaughlin. He says the state has seen a net gain of about 700,000 people since the pandemic began. Some markets, including Tampa and South Florida, experienced annual growth rates of 25%. He adds that Florida, with nearly 2,600 self-storage properties, has the third-largest number in the country, after California and Texas.
Florida storage stats
- 2,602 – Estimated number of self-storage facilities in Florida
- 124.57 million square feet of storage at these facilities
- 6.29 square feet of storage per Florida resident, higher than the national average of 5.4 square feet per capita
- Orlando, southwest coast of Florida, and Tampa-St. Pete-Clearwater is among the top 10 markets nationwide for new self-storage construction, according to the Multi-Housing News website.