|Movegreen founder and CEO Erik Haney started the business in 2007. The company looks to reduce waste by driving biodiesel vehicles and using recycled boxes. (Stephen Nellis / Business Times photo)
Santa Barbara, California – Published 2/14/2014
Pacific Coast Business Times
Pacific Coast Business Times: Moving on up: Green storage business expands along South Coast
By Marlize van Romburgh, Staff Writer
Movegreen is growing at a rapid clip and plans to start driving its biodiesel-powered moving vans down the coast in an expansion spree. The company has built a business by providing environmentally friendly moving and storage service along the South Coast.
For Erik Haney, the moving and storage business is about much more than loading boxes, carrying couches and driving big trucks. Seven years ago, he took his already successful South Coast moving company and tossed the old-school business model out the window.
Today, Movegreen is growing at a rapid clip and plans to start driving its biodiesel-powered moving vans down the coast in an expansion spree. The company has built a business by providing environmentally friendly moving and storage service along the South Coast.
“In being involved in the industry and realizing the waste and how dirty and not very socially responsible the business models were, I had the idea to try to turn the industry on its head,” Haney said.
Last year, Movegreen moved into new, larger digs at 1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez in Santa Barbara. Just six months later, the company more than doubled its space to 17,300 square feet when it amended its lease to include 9,900 additional square feet of adjacent warehouse space.
Its latest lease is the largest industrial space deal in Santa Barbara since 2011, according to commercial real estate insiders.
Haney said Movegreen’s revenue has grown 20 to 30 percent year-over-year. The company has about 22 part-time employees, mostly college students, and plans to ramp up to 30 team members this year.
Although his company’s eco-conscious moving services are pricier than those of many of its competitors, Haney said many people are willing to pay a little more to lower their environmental footprint during a big move.
In moving into its new facility, Movegreen also landed one of the few large industrial spaces available on the South Coast. With its new warehouse facilities just outside of downtown Santa Barbara, Movegreen is centrally located. The large warehouse means it can host storage for commercial clients. That has been key to building out a new part of the business, Haney said.
For example, Movegreen currently hosts the contents of pizza chain Rusty’s Pizza Parlor’s Santa Barbara restaurant as the company makes the move from its longtime home on Cabrillo Boulevard to a new location on lower State Street. The Santa Barbara Inn, which is down to the studs in the midst of a remodel, has also moved its furnishings to the Movegreen warehouses.
“Those are both jobs that we would probably have had to turn down previously,” Haney said. The business’ previous space in Goleta was 3,600 square feet — about one-sixth of what it currently occupies.
Haney founded Santa Barbara Student Movers as a 20-year-old attending Santa Barbara City College. The side business helped people who didn’t want to pay for a full-service move because they just wanted some extra muscles to help unload mattresses and couches into and out of a rented U-Haul van.
In 2007, Haney stepped back and wondered if there was a way to propel the company in a new direction. The moving industry can be very wasteful — there are lots of boxes and packing materials, not to mention big gas-guzzling trucks.
Movegreen’s vehicles are all biodiesel-powered. The company subsidizes bikes for its employees to use to commute to work. Team members use iPads to perform in-home surveys and send paperless estimates. The business’ packing and storage supplies are sourced from sustainable materials, cardboard boxes are reused and recycled, and the bubblewrap is biodegradable. And for every move it does, Movegreen has 10 trees planted through the nonprofit Trees for the Future program.
Gene Deering of Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments represented Movegreen in its lease expansion at the new facility. Deering said he’s worked with the company for seven or eight years. “Erik talks to everyone in town and he returns a quote quickly. Just being in a small town, if you do right by people, your business will do well,” Deering said.
Deering said the largest challenge in finding the right space for Movegreen was dealing with the very limited supply of industrial properties in South Santa Barbara County. Santa Barbara has an industrial vacancy rate of 1.3 percent. In Goleta, it’s 1.4 percent, and in Carpinteria, 0.9 percent, he said. Many businesses that were launched on the South Coast and have been successful there struggle to find industrial spaces to expand into.
“Most of what’s been built here over the last few years has been office and retail,” Deering said. “Being at this all-time low [for industrial space], it’s harder than ever to find space for somebody that wants a roll-up door or warehouse space. It’s a challenge, and it’s going to remain that way for the near-term future.”