In the bitter catalog of inconveniences associated with moving, finding boxes barely deserves a mention: Compared to changing addresses and forwarding mail, switching phones and looking for the best supermarket, finding cardboard packing cartons is pretty minor. Still, whether one decides to buy brand new boxes from U-Haul or simply scavenges leftovers from the local liquor store, gathering containers is a vital -- if irritating -- necessity.
Having moved several times, Stephanie LeBlanc found the perfect solution to the box problem: Over the years, she gathered a collection of reusable plastic bins that enabled her to pack her things with minimal fuss. But when she recently relocated to Hoboken N.J., she faced a problem: there was no room in her new apartment for her trusty plastic crates. Deciding that she was ready to stay put for a while, she put them up for sale on the Internet, where she discovered that she wasn't the only person with a box problem: "I was surprised to find other people doing the same thing. In fact, there was a large community of people asking for boxes or selling boxes."
LeBlanc and her partner, Cliff Godfrey, realized there was a business opportunity: By renting reusable bins, they could offer a low-priced, environmentally-sound alternative to traditional cardboard moving boxes. An Internet search revealed that some companies -- Canada's Frogbox and Florida's Bungobox -- had already come up with the same idea, but the New York/New Jersey area was still wide open. With millions of residents, it was a prime market for box rentals.
The pair came up with a name -- Bin There, Store That -- which they quickly registered on GoDaddy.com. Godfrey, who has a business degree, drafted the business plan, and they found a cheap online supplier for their bins. Their idea was simple: They would rent plastic bins at prices lower than the cost of buying new cardboard boxes. With free pick-up and delivery, their service would be more convenient. And what's more, by sanitizing their bins between uses, they could offer a handy solution to customers worried about bedbugs or other stowaways.
Thus far, business for Bin There, Store That has mostly grown through word of mouth. In fact, one of the company's first customers signed on when LeBlanc applied for business insurance: "When I was explaining our company to an insurance agent, she thought that it was a great idea. She was moving from a four-bedroom house to another four-bedroom house. A month later, she was one of our customers."
LeBlanc and Godfrey are still working out the kinks in their new business, and both still have full-time day jobs. But she is optimistic about the future: "I absolutely see this business moving up," she smiles. "Bin rental is the next big thing in the moving industry."
Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at email@example.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.