Getting Serious About Self-Storage: Insight All Around at the Record-Setting 2023 ISS World Expo

Industry professionals showed up in droves last week for the 2023 Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas. Were they there for a good time? Sure. But more important, they were there to do research, learn new things, make vital connections, shop for products, and ensure a successful future for themselves in a thriving business. Read all about it in this event recap.

April 19, 2023

6 Min Read

Anyone seeking affirmation that the pandemic is well and truly “over” and professionals are ready to get back to business needed only to attend last week’s record-setting Inside Self-Storage World Expo in Las Vegas, where 4,100-plus owners, managers, investors, developers and suppliers gathered from all over the globe to take the next steps on their journey toward success. With many COVID-19 challenges fading into the rearview, the community is focused on what’s next for a sector that’s been excelling consistently on every level. It seems the world is getting serious about self-storage, and this year’s attendees were more than ready to learn new things, make vital connections and walk into a favorable future.

Held for the first time ever at the luxurious Caesars Forum Conference Center, the ISS World Expo was loaded with education, networking and commerce opportunities. The new venue was a definite crowd-pleaser, providing contemporary, upscale space for seminars, workshops, exhibits, private meetings, roundtable discussions, open-forum Q&As, a keynote presentation, an evening cocktail reception, vendor presentations and other special events. Read on for more highlights from this year’s spectacular show.

A Time of Enrichment

Riding the high of the last few years, self-storage representatives are ready to invest—in their business, their team and themselves. At the conference and expo, this translated into extremely robust participation in the education program, which kicked off on April 11 with four deep-dive, half-day workshops.

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Attendees enjoying one of the show’s 42 seminars

Among the attendees was Jessica Pentz, whose parents own three Quincy Storage facilities in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. With the goal of transforming the family business, the 21-year-old immersed herself in industry knowledge and met with a variety of vendors. “Every time I come, I learn a bunch of stuff, and I’m motivated to go home and do it,” she says.

Cindy and Mark Taylor, who co-own Arbaugh Mini Storage in Alliance, Ohio, had a similar agenda. After taking over the business from Cindy’s father 12 years ago, the couple has been steadily introducing updates to the 200-unit facility. “You have to stay current to compete. I look at what I can do and find a way to make it work for our business,” says Mark, who particularly enjoyed sessions on technology and marketing. “This is a very valuable event. It’s the place for people to meet other people who have a similar interest.”

Though the expo drew many smaller operators, it was also attended by those who work for larger brands that recognize the value the conference provides to their staff. “This is by far the best place to train employees and get my team ready for the sales season,” says Robert Madsen, president of U-Lock Mini Storage Group, which operates more than 20 facilities in Western Canada. “There’s no better place to immerse yourself with other storage nerds!”

First-time attendee Rachel Connor, human resources director for Trojan Storage, particularly enjoyed the sessions about staffing, which has been a challenge for her company. “This has been a huge resource for learning. It’s definitely worth the investment,” she says.

Olympic gold-medal gymnast Dominique Dawes giving
her inspiring keynote address

Shopping the Show Floor

In the expo hall, nearly 240 vendors showcased their top innovations, with offerings running the gamut from large purchases like building components and moving trucks, to must-have tools like door locks and bollard covers, to operational necessities including software and insurance. A rapidly burgeoning category is technology, with more and more companies offering solutions in AI, programmatic advertising, reputation management and remote-management tools.

“The expo hall had amazing energy. It was filled with excited attendees and exhibitors coming together to learn about the latest products and services,” says Debbie Pirkey, business development manager for ISS. “As the self-storage industry continues to grow, the ISS World Expo Hall hosts more suppliers than ever.”

As always, the goal is to provide something for everyone, regardless of their role in the business. This year, however, we saw a sharp uptick in new entrants to the business. “ISS continues to draw new investors to self-storage,” says Shawn Hill, a principal with The BSC Group LLC, which offers debt and equity financing. “Our booth was extremely busy.”

The hall also featured an association area, where attendees could meet with representatives from specific state organizations, and a fundraising booth for Charity Storage, which partnered with ISS for the second year on its “Hoops for a Cause” campaign. More than $9,000 was raised this year from attendees and exhibitors, many of whom flexed their free-throw basketball skills in a fierce but friendly game of Pop-A-Shot.

Playing Pop-A-Shot as part of the ISS and Charity Storage
“Hoops for a Cause” fundraising campaign

Let’s not forget about all the fun freebies. The hall was brimming with giveaways like water bottles, flashlights, ballcaps, pens, stress balls, cell-phone holders and much, much more. A couple of exhibitors set up putting greens right in their booths. At least one hosted an open bar. Many held raffles for amazing prizes.

An Extra Layer of Engagement

This year’s expo included brand-new events that were incredibly well-received. The first was the three-hour WISE (Women in Storage Education) program in which the ladies of the industry gathered to share experiences and advice on advancing their careers. Led by the much-loved Anne Ballard, aka “The Hat Lady,” and a stellar panel of six other experts, the discussion and Q&A was sincere and refreshing, drawing nearly 150 participants.

“I liked the positivity of the presentation,” says Christine Schmitz, a district manager for Trojan Storage, which operates more than 40 facilities in four states. “I’m always looking for ways to be more positive. You have to have motivation so you can achieve your dream life.”

Speed Networking for Facility Operators was another new launch with the goal of connecting managers and owners for quick yet candid discussions on a variety of triumphs and challenges. Dozens gathered on April 13 to share ideas (as well as some laughs) and exchange business cards along the way. We hope many lasting friendships were forged!

The conference also included returning favorites such as the Buyers & Sellers Meeting, Self-Storage Q&A sessions, Table Talks and Legal Chat With Jeff Greenberger. After a hiatus, the International Program resumed this year with sessions focused on investing, development and operation across several continents.

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Conversation flowing at one of nearly 40 Table Talk discussions

“As more self-storage facilities open around the world and competition intensifies across all sectors of the business, members of this incredible community are seeking ways to excel and prosper,” says ISS Vice President Teri Lanza. “Not everyone can or will, but the ones who do will have invested time and energy in the type of education and relationship-building the ISS World Expo provides. We aim to supply the fuel anyone needs to advance in this industry, and we’re grateful to everyone who contributes to the event so we can do that skillfully and consistently.”

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Enjoying cocktails at Party on the Plaza

The ISS World Expo will return to Caesars Forum Conference Center next year, April 2-5. Details about the event will begin to unfold at this fall.

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