How to create a storage container business

In the world of business, securing premises can be an expensive, confusing process. If you want to launch a customer-facing business such as a café or retail shop, you are likely facing soaring rental costs, redecorating costs and outfitting.

Perhaps this explains why there’s been a soaring rise of storage container businesses in the UK. Providing more flexibility, short-notice periods and low overheads, running a business from a storage container gives business owners a more cost-efficient solution. Whatever business you create within a container, the versatility provided by the ability to move it to various new locations provides strong appeal. That explains the popularity of shipping container parks such as Boxpark Shoreditch, Boxpark Croydon and The Stack Newcastle.

So, with shipping container businesses offering potential business owners a more cost-effective premises, how do you get started?

Write a business plan

To decide whether it’s worth pursuing your business idea, you should create a business plan. This outlines everything from your strategy through to financial estimates. It helps you frame your idea and allows you to showcase it to investors or advisors.

Key consideration: if you intend to run a container business, it’s essential that you factor in where you will be operating. If you use your container as a mobile, pop-up business you will need to work out how you’ll transport it and your yearly location schedule. If you keep your container in one place, you’ll need to assess land rental fees.

Arrange events

Provided you have made your container mobile to suit a ‘pop-up’ style business, you must begin contacting festivals and other events where you can offer your services. Use a website to help you identify targets and begin pitching your business to them.

Raise funds

The average cost of starting a small business varies. Lloyds bank estimates that £12,601 was the average cost of starting a new business back in 2016. In the same year, Moneywise estimated that the cost was £27,520 – showcasing the wide variance in costs throughout the country. Whichever number is true the fact remains that to start your business, you’ll need capital.

Alert HMRC

When you’re registering a business you’ll need to register with HMRC. This keeps you on the right side of the law and on top of your taxation and other financial matters

Set up business details

There are a number of steps you’ll want to take for running your business depending on what you’ve registered as. Firstly, if you intend to brand your business, check Companies House before naming it. If it’s not used, you can then secondly buy the website domain and begin claiming the name for your own. Thirdly and finally, you’ll then need a business bank account.

Achieve compliance

Depending on your type of business, you’ll need to achieve certain compliance accreditations such as health and safety, data protection and more. If you’re intending to run a café or something similar, you’ll also need a food safety certificate although this will only be possible once you’ve set up your workspace.

Source and outfit your container

If you intend to use a shipping container as part of your business, whether it acts as stock storage, a portable showroom or a mobile hospitality venue, you’ll need to choose the actual physical container. Then, you must budget for a container conversion. This will include:

  • Initial container cost, which varies between £1500 and £4000.
  • Structural alterations such as adding windows and serving hatches
  • Interior fixtures and fittings
  • Power adaptions (such as lighting and heating)
    • These outfitting costs vary anywhere from £2500 to £15000. However, we can tailor conversions to suit virtually any requirement – so contact us for bespoke pricing.
  • Branding

Example Business: Coffee Bar & Internet Lounge

Kingston University wanted to create a coffee bar on their campus, which would function as a one-stop rest point for their students. Working in collaboration with HV Building Services, we provided a 20ft storage container which was then modified heavily. The coffee bar is a great example of the considerations you need when creating your own container business:

  • Access: We started by cutting an entrance and serving hatch into the container, which required both increasing the structural strength of the container and weatherproofing the new openings. This meant customers could either enter and use the interior as a café, or be served takeaway coffee from the serving hatch. If you’re opening a container business, will you need a fast way to serve customers?
  • Interior comfort: Insulation is essential if customers are spending any time in your container. This coffee bar was insulated with 150mm of Rockwool to keep temperatures under control.
  • Food preparation and serving: If food or drink prep is happening in your container, you need to ensure that it is hygienic. We used food grave UVPC to line the kitchen area and also added high-grade plywood to the seating area to keep things clean, safe and high quality. We also added teak decking to the seating area and anti-slip vinyl for the kitchen – safety first!
  • Secure furniture: whatever style of business you are planning, you will need furniture that functions well in a container. For example, we supplied kitchen units, worktops, a steel sink, drainer, work surfaces, a shelf and fixed un-upholstered timber seating for the coffee bar.
  • Electrical considerations: a container business without power won’t function well unless it is solely used to house stock. For the coffee bar we included a full range of sockets, light fixtures and more to ensure the facility was ready to prepare food and house customers.
  • External decoration: whether you’re trying to attract customers or just adhere to your brand colours, you will need external decoration to transform a shipping container from its original purpose and reshape it for your own business goals. For the coffee bar, situated in a student environment, we sprayed the exterior with a light blue RAL 5024 colour and added vinyl graphics.

This coffee bar is just one example of the many considerations you will need to take into account when you are planning a container business. From eye-catching decorations to electrical necessities, which all need to fit perfectly into what can be a limited space, the success of your business may depend on how well you plan your conversion.

At Mr.Box, we carry out conversions ourselves, working in collaboration with our clients to cut complexity and create a container conversion that achieves your business goals. If you’d like to make the process simple, click this link after you’ve finished reading to start an enquiry.