Just like the I Love MCR brand, The Manchester Self Storage Company was born 10 years ago this year.
Over that decade, Manchester has changed a lot – and although self storage isn’t necessarily something that springs to mind until you need it, it is an industry that has continued to grow over the years and is now positively booming.
In fact, it was recently estimated that the industry turns over £540 million per year in the UK, with over 1450 storage facilities providing more than 42.2 million square feet of usable storage space – the equivalent of 127 football pitches, or 15,000 tennis courts.
The Manchester Self Storage Company, which has centres in Trafford Park, Manchester and Stockport, found a niche in mobile storage units, offering something the bigger companies weren’t – an all-inclusive, streamlined service that didn’t require you to pack and load your own boxes into your unit.
Two of the owners, Tom Ash and Tony Lord, had previously worked together before setting up on their own and giving a young lad, Thomas Casey, an apprenticeship.
All three are still driving the Manchester company forward today.
Tom and Tony had decided to go it alone after several conversations about the potential of the business – but perhaps an even more inspirational story is that of Thomas Casey, who started as a young apprentice and is now store manager.
“I had previously worked for Yodel, but wanted something full time which wasn’t available – so I looked elsewhere,” says Thomas.
“I started my apprenticeship with The Manchester Self Storage Company back in 2014, and then have worked my way through the ranks since.
“Within a year of starting I had progressed to assistant manager, which is a role I stayed in for about three years before I was promoted to manager.”
Tony had a similar experience, he says, after leaving school with no real qualifications.
“I left Blue Coat school in Oldham with no real GCSEs, just a pass in English, and basically registered for an agency, and went from job to job trying to figure out what I actually wanted to do,” says Tony.
“I remember one of my first driving jobs was driving the local milkman on his rounds. He had a heart condition that prevented him from driving so I did.
“At the time I was a typical young lad who was having late nights and surviving on very little sleep. One day I was so tired I said, ‘we’ll have to pull over and I’ll have a bit of sleep for 20 minutes’. We both woke up 4 hours later”.
Having worked several different jobs for various agencies in 1997, Tony landed a job with tech giant Siemens where he worked testing ultrasonic tranducers until he was made redundant.
“I then interviewed for a mobile self storage company in Wythenshawe where I started as a driver and rose quickly to store manager,” he says about his journey into the storage industry.
“It was here that Tom became my new general manager and we hit it off straight away.
“It wasn’t long before we were discussing how we felt the business could grow over a pint and how we would run it if it was our business.
“We had a business loan all in place, but they pulled out at the last minute and we then needed an investor – which we secured and the business could go ahead.”
Thomas, meanwhile, is delighted to be working his way up in a business he loves.
“I really enjoy the technical side of the job, booking customers in and making sure we have the resources available to deliver what they need. Creating sales reports and balancing budgets can tire you out just as quickly as physically being out on the road,” he says.
“Not to sound cliched, but I love how no two days are ever the same – and there is always something going on.”
The business had quickly gone from strength to strength and in 2015 Dave Unwin (or ‘Davey-Ray’ as he was more affectionately known at work) came on board.
Unfortunately last year Dave lost a very short battle with cancer which left a bit of a hole within the small but close knit team.
Tom recalls how important Dave was to the business.
“Dave joined our company back in 2015 and instantly became an integral part of our workforce. His experience and knowledge across so many facets of our business meant that day-to-day challenges would pose very few problems.
“A man who could be your whole support structure in projects whether you asked for his assistance or not. Rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty was standard; a true grafter who enjoyed getting things done. It wasn’t uncommon to ask Dave’s opinion on many things because you knew there was a certain level of wisdom which came with his advice. Dave would always be there to help with a kind smile and a cheeky joke to break the ice in any situation and he will be remembered in our hearts.”
“On a more personal note, Tony and I would frequently say how lucky we are to have such amazing staff who truly reflect and share the personality of the company.
“Though strictly not a ‘family business’, when working with a small group of individuals over the years, a team who you go through so much with and share so much with, these people quickly become family and we’re so sorry this chapter has come to an end.”