Interview by Cristina Gutierrez
Shomer is an online marketplace designed to compare warehousing services quickly and easily. Whether it's 1 pallet or 1,000 pallets, there's available space near you.
Everyone dreams of becoming their own boss in college. Monica Rojas managed to do that out of an unexpected class project. Shomer came to life as a solution for college students who were in need of storage space at the end of the academic term. Now, it has become an online marketplace designed to compare warehousing services for anyone who needs it. As Shomer continues to grow, Monica and her team find daily motivation in helping e-commerces and people start their business and find the best storage option out there.
– Cristina Gutierrez
What is Shomer and how was the idea born?
Shomer is a two-sided online marketplace that connects individuals and businesses who are in need of storage solutions with warehouse operators who have underutilized space. It allows people to save money by only paying for the space they use, while also allowing others to earn passive income with their unused warehouse space to overall create a new way to reduce our carbon footprint. Many refer to us as the “Airbnb of Warehousing.” The name Shomer comes from the Hebrew language and it means guardian. We chose Shomer because we want our customers to create a sense of trust and see us as the guardian of their belongings.
How is Shomer different from other storage companies?
Shomer is different because it allows our customers to only pay for the space they use. On the other end, it provides others with the opportunity to make passive income (or money while they sleep which is how gen z likes to call it) with the space they already have. By recycling space it allows us to reduce our carbon footprint because we are technically sharing electricity and energy that already being used. We are also different because we are working to create a sense of community. The shared economy allows people to connect and generates a new way to do business soles through building relationships. You never know who is down the street and how you can work together in the future.
When did you realized it had potential?
When my class project turned into an actual business. When I started the concept of “airbnb of storage,” I started it with $0, no website, and no official contract. It was just me, my dolly, and my car.
I knew students were going to need storage no matter what so I thought what if I just offered them the best deal in town and to make it even easier. I offered going straight to their dorm room to help them move so they didn’t have to move a finger. I realized it had potential when I actually helped students save money and helped other people make money. After a few weeks into business, I found out I won a competition I didn’t even apply for. I was invited to join a start-up accelerator at our neighboring university where they have provided resources, office space, mentors and a great network. That’s when I realized the concept had potential.
Building Shomer from the ground up is a privilege. It allows us to showcase our company values through our purpose. Our goal is to help others and bring value to the people around us. If we can help people save money and others earn money, our goal is complete. As a millennial/gen Z it's important to do business with a sense of purpose and looking for a way to give back. In the world, there’s a question we should always ask ourselves and it’s 'What can I do for you?’. The rest will fall into place.
–Monica Rojas, Founder and CEO
Who is your target market?
So when I first started my business it was solely directed to students who needed storage for the summer. It was a target market I had direct access to and I could feel their main points. As the summer went by, and I did a lot of customer discovery (super key when starting a business) is when I realized that there’s way more complications than I could imagine. City regulations, coding enforcements, HOAs, insurance policies all the above plus more. About two months ago, there was a company in Miami doing the same thing as me but they had a sick app just the way I wanted it. So, I went to meet them to ask about their app and I ended up partnering with them instead! For the last two months our target market shifted to B2B due to legal responsibilities that we face when uses to residential storage. Also everyone and everything is going e-commerce! Where are they going to store all their inventory? This market is growing and growing and we are here to help. Personally I like to focus on entrepreneurs with online stores.
The beginning is always hard, so if I am able to find someone a solution or make their life easier, that is the best feeling in the world.
What is your vision for Shomer in the next 5 years?
Our company vision for Shomer is to eventually make it into the bookings.com of warehousing services. Create an online platform that allows individuals to showcase their different services under one platform. So let’ say someone needs to store their e-commerce store inventory but they need transportation from one location to another or even inventory management, they would be able to find it all under one website.
Overall, our vision is to create solutions and create a community.
Starting a business in college is a dream to many, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ask a lot of questions. Ask people what they like, what they dislike, how would they make things better, their pain points what they eat for breakfast, ANYTHING just always ask questions. Also customer discovery is key. If I didn’t do customer discovery I would be waiting for business transactions for the upcoming summer and I would’ve never discovered shifting target markets.
From a personal growth perspective, the advice I give is be kind and be the hardest working person you know. You never know who might end up being your business partner, or your client, better yet you never know what someone is going through.
Being kind to others always pays off and it should be something that is practiced on a day to day. Second, don’t let anyone outwork you. Working hard takes a lot of mental strength and sacrifices. When you work hard and see results, it always pays off. It allows you to fall in love with the process and when you succeed at something it makes the feeling of relief and happiness 10x better.
Lastly, being anxious is completely normal. Don’t let being stressed discourage you just find a way to deal with it and then down the line you will be able to help your employee who feels the same way.
How has Shomer grow since it was created?
Shomer has grown community wise. We are taking advantage of the resources that have been presented to us. We are part of an accelerator in Boca, and in Miami and we were just recently accepted to a mentoring program in Ft Lauderdale. We have four team members and an intern. Soon to be onboarding a few more employees. We've grown in the sense of allowing our community to know who we are and our company vision.
What are some of the challenges that you have encountered? How did you tackle them?
One of the challenges I have encountered is working with people who didn’t have the same vision or have the same purpose. For a while it was draining and it starts to really piss you off and distract you on the daily. But I am a firm believer that it is important to not burn bridges. I handled it by saying we just don’t have the same goals at this crucial point in our start-up so let’s wait a few months to see how we can regroup in the future.
Another challenge I face on a daily basis is NOT KNOWING A LOT OF THINGS.
Whether it is something in marketing, website development, graphics, management but you have to find solutions. Hubspot, youtube, podcasts, and most importantly ask people who are older than you or more experienced than you on what they would do. Being resourceful is something I do on a daily basis, especially as a start-up with no money. Asking questions is always the best route to go!