COURTESY OF STL Rent-a-Box
Five years ago, St. Louis resident Todd Isermann was a real estate agent looking to get out of the field and start his own business. Todd had an interest in environmentalism, and there was something about his industry that had always bothered him — the number of cardboard boxes that he saw thrown into dumpsters after a move, boxes that would ultimately end up spending years in a landfill.
Todd thought there had to be a better way, and he found it in the concept of renting reusable plastic boxes to people moving, something that’s become a full-time business for him and his wife Stacy.
Todd and Stacy founded STL Rent-a-Box (stlrentabox.com
, 314-837-RENT) in November 2012. Although there are companies with similar business models in other cities, the Isermanns didn’t want to own a franchise. They decided to go it alone, finding a U.S. manufacturer that could produce their boxes in bulk and a local designer to create their website.
“We started from the ground up,” Todd says. “We designed absolutely everything.”
At first, the couple advertised their business by attending real estate industry events and by optimizing their website to launch it to the top of Google search results. But soon, their customers started coming to them largely through word of mouth.
“Once we started getting customers, the referrals took off,” Todd says. “We have so many testimonials, it’s a really great thing.”
The Isermanns now own thousands of plastic boxes, which they typically rent to customers for a period of two weeks. The boxes are made with industrial-strength plastic, with attached lids for maximum space efficiency.
STL Rent-a-Box serves both residential moves and companies. They’ve worked with hospitals, law firms and universities. Though the company plans to expand in some ways — for example, they hope to soon offer a special package for college students moving out of their dorms — staying local and family-run is important to them.
“I don’t think at this point we would expand outside of St. Louis,” Todd says. “We want to keep it local.”
The company’s business model provides benefits besides going green. The plastic boxes snap together, making them easier to stack, and unlike cardboard, they don’t need to be constructed before the move. Stacy says they are more convenient for moving companies as well as for STL Rent-a-Box’s customers.
“It tends to be the bright spot in something that can be very stressful,” Stacy says.
STL Rent-a-Box has experienced a 65 percent increase in business every year since launching. Todd says he’s proud of the influence the company has had.
“Every time, we feel as though we’ve kept one more box out of a landfill,” he says.
Prices for a residential move range from $59 for 15 boxes to $229 for 75 boxes. Online orders and a customer service webchat are available at stlrentabox.com