By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Anyone who knows Tommy Nguyen appreciates the fact that he is always upbeat with a big smile on his face.
That smile might have been even bigger and brighter when we caught-up with the Co-Founder of StoragePug ahead of his presentation next week during the “Launch Tennessee Pitch Competition” that is part of the annual “36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival” in Nashville.
“StoragePug has been in a whirlwind the past year,” Nguyen told us. It was our first time to talk in-depth since the now two-year old company captured both the “Judge’s Choice” award, as determined by a three-person panel, and the “Crowd Favorite” award, as voted by the fans, at last September’s “Startup Day Knoxville” event.
Describing the past 10 months as a “fun year,” Nguyen said StoragePug has recorded a 300 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue since the competition. Staffing has tripled with 17 people now on board including new roles in marketing, project management, and client services. Two-thirds of those people work out of the StoragePug space in the UpStart Knoxville co-working facility with the balance working remotely.
With the company now providing its software product that supports online marketing and space rental in more than 25 states including recently added customers in Oregon, we wondered what had fueled the growth. Nguyen was candid in his response.
“A year ago, we were just getting our feet wet,” he said. That involved identifying conferences and trade shows attended by owners of family-owned, independent storage facilities. StoragePug began attending those.
“The first few times we were there, people wondered if we were going to last (i.e., be in business long),” Nguyen said. Now, as they continue to show-up at these events, people accept that StoragePug is a viable operation, meaning owners are willing to consider the software product.
“We will do 40 of these events in 2019,” he said. Attendance ranges from about 50 to several thousand at a Texas show. “Everything is big in Texas,” Nguyen says, adding that StoragePug has a nice portion of its customer base there.
The team will be arriving in Nashville after being at a show in Arkansas earlier in the week followed by a quick trip to Missouri. After Thursday afternoon’s pitch competition, they head for Las Vegas and the Self Storage Association’s Fall Conference at the MGM Grand. That event annually draws 2,000 to 5,000 visitors and more than 200 exhibitors.
With a year of shows under the company’s proverbial belt, Nguyen says Storage Pug has a formula for maximizing the return on investment. They know what to do ahead of a show, during the show, and immediately thereafter.
He also cites three other decisions that have propelled the growth. First is what Nguyen calls “nice swag” and a recommendation that he says came from Co-Founder Matt Huddleston who had attended an airport conference and returned with a bag full of giveaways.
“The only thing he kept was cool socks,” Nguyen said. Now, StoragePug is known for the distinctively designed socks that it gives, along with tee shirts, to those visiting its booths.
A second marketing tool that has proved invaluable is a willingness to participate in or lead discussion groups at these events. The topics are not pitching the StoragePug software, but rather focused on topics of concern to the storage facility operators – increasing online presence and reputation, giving tenants the best experience possible, and ways to grow the business.
“We leave the attendees with actionable items,” Nguyen says.
The company has also launched a blog that provides tools and tips for the small operators.
“Our largest client has 13 facilities,” he says, but many might have just one or a few. “We clearly have a ‘mom and pop’ focus.”
Nearly one-half of the StoragePug team is comprised of developers, a reflection of the importance of constantly updating the product. “We are pushing out new features daily,” Nguyen says.
With all the growth, he has not lost sight of the start-up’s mission that he captures in this brand promise – “fast, fun and familiar.”