Sao Paulo Start-Up Forges Success, Brazilian Style

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The thing that strikes you the most when flying over or driving around Sao Paulo is the concrete forest of high-rise residences. They’re everywhere, and so are countless cranes, busily building more. In a city somewhat defined by the river that runs through it, and the highways leading around it, it’s hard to imagine more than 20 million inhabitants move through the streets daily.

Like so many other Latin American countries, one glaring socio-economic factor is the extreme from very poor to oh-so-very rich, and those signs are inescapable. In this market, self-storage projects primarily cater to the wealthier end of the spectrum. However, the growing economy is creating a new middle class in need of service too.


Sao Paulo’s skyline is dominated by high-rises.

Style

The people at Guarde Aqui made a business decision to bring American-style, upscale self-storage to this culture. At the same time, they knew they’d need to do more than recreate the U.S. model. Research revealed that previous attempts to bring self-storage to Sao Paulo stopped at the basic level. Here was a country rich in culture, style, class and people, and the few facilities available looked like first-generation “garages in a field.”

Guarde Aqui’s approach was to recognize Brazil’s distinctive style. The country’s colors, textures and even its amenities are uniquely Brazilian. An office is more than just a counter and cluttered work space. So, Guarde Aqui created an office environment that is professional, stylish, warm, functional and extremely comfortable. The stone-tile floor, rich wood paneling, and soft beige colors radiate a good feeling and sense of quality as soon as one enters.

To enhance this feeling, bathroom designs were pulled right out of Architectural Digest, with full-tiled walls, granite countertops, above-counter bowl sinks and high-tech faucets. And, although they had to be imported at great cost, two flat-panel screens were installed behind the work counter to display facility graphics and show customers the color video cameras on site.

Even the colors of building and partitions were chosen to bring style and brightness to the image. Guarde Aqui’s logo and icon (an abstract of unit doors resembling the walls to a fortress) can be found on the building parapet, unit doors and elsewhere throughout the project.

Security


Guarde Aqui’s stylish office shows Brazilian flair.

Security is a key element for any business in Brazil, as in most Latin countries. Again, the developer spared no attention to detail. The facility has an after-hours guard; a full-perimeter security wall and fence; Digitech International security gate and access system; individual door alarms; color CCTV; and a music-intercom system throughout the premises. Each access point is monitored and additional surveillance cameras are also in key hallways.

Security is on top of everyone’s mind, and peace of mind must be assured, not only while goods are stored, but during the loading and unloading process. Loading areas provide an extra measure of security with individually fenced or barrier-arm sections accessible through keypad control. All direct-access points to the storage area, including the executive office, have special lock-down doors for additional after-hours security.

Flexibility

In addition to providing basic mini-storage, Guarde Aqui’s concept is to adapt to customer needs. In the commercial-style loading dock area, units can be custom-sized up to 5,500 square feet. Though flexible space is common in the States, it’s relatively new to Sao Paulo. On the second level, plans call for the facility to have unit sizes based on the popularity of those on the first floor. Overall, this section can accommodate more than 4,000 square meters of traditional self-storage.

Also on the second floor is an area for individual office suites featuring a conference room, common snack area, and separate entrance and parking area. Tenants have access to office workstations with Internet access, and a large conference room near the lobby that may be reserved for meetings. A small climate-controlled area and wine-storage section are in the testing phase. Up to now, self-storage facilities haven’t had these types of services.

If nothing else, Guarde Aqui’s target audience understands, appreciates and expects the highest level of service. Therefore, the company offers the best: It picks up and transports tenant goods, and provides “concierge and valet” assistance to customers moving in.


Guarde Aqui Exterior

Marketing

Because self-storage is such a new concept to the majority of Brazilians, an extra effort must be made to get the whole story to those needing the service. Along with standard marketing pieces, an institutional-style training CD is being created to show potential customers the benefits of a first-class self-storage operation. The CD highlights Guarde Aqui’s features and describes the industry in general. This free media tool will be distributed to numerous business through a trained and separate field-sales staff.

The marketing plan will do more than spread the word about Guarde Aqui; it will educate the public on what we in the United States have known for a long time: Self-storage isn’t about finding a final resting place for our stuff before it heads to the junkyard. It’s about finding the best, cleanest, most secure facility to safeguard our possessions while we’re in a state of transition.

Like the European market, the Latin American market will evolve rather quickly. The timeline will likely be shorter in Brazil because overseas self-storage development has grown a lot since Europe joined the industry. Plus, many Latinos make frequent trips to the States, during which they become more familiar with the self-storage concept. Add local style and convenience, and the population’s readiness to accept grows.

Guarde Aqui provides superior service with a panache reflecting the flair of the Brazilian market. This will be just the first of many facilities to serve Sao Paulo and beyond. It’s a great way to launch the brand—and the industry—in Latin America. 

David Blum, an industry consultant, is president of Blum Management Services Inc., based in South Florida. He is also past president and founder of the Florida Self-Storage Association. Mr. Blum has more than 10 years of experience in self-storage and more than 35 years of business experience. For more information, call 954.255.9500; e-mail dblum@blumms.com; visit www.blumms.com

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