It started with a nagging question two years ago: Deedee Ledonio-Mallari, serial entrepreneur and president of Columbia Transport (also known as Coltrans Cargo Philippines), was pondering what to do with some unused space at her warehouse facility in Pasay City.
“I needed to increase the profit per square meter of the warehouse,” recalls Ledonio-Mallari, who also owns a chain of spas and laundry shops. “Kung open space, mura lang per square meter at P150 [Openspace
rental would be cheap at P150 per square meter].”
She finally got the answer to the nagging question during a 2006 trade exhibition show, for which Coltrans handled the logistics and freight forwarding requirements. She recalls: “Somebody asked me whether we had a public storage facility. I in turn asked that person, ‘What are you going to put there?’ It turned out that she needed to store several boxes containing various items.”
So Ledonio-Mallari quickly said yes, even if she actually didn’t have such a facility at the time. And when she was asked how big the public storage was, she plucked a figure from thin air and said it was about 9 sqm in floor area and was secured by a padlock.
The other person then said it was exactly what she was looking for, and quickly asked how much the monthly rental rate was, to which Ledonio- Mallari as quickly replied, “P2,500.”
Another query: “What material was used for the public storage facility?” Again a quick reply: “Hardiflex.”
And thus was born a new line of business for Coltrans, the country’s first-ever public self-storage facility—without a business plan to begin with, but with a lot of innate business sense.
Ledonio-Mallari says that right after that conversation, she called her people at the warehouse and asked them to buy Hardiflex plywood right away and build four units of public storage, which her very first client needed a week after their conversation. For the new service that she started offering, all she had to shell out were several thousands of pesos for the plywood and other carpentry materials for the cabinets. She just had more cabinets made later when she received more bookings.