A few years after founding a pet supply company in 2018, local entrepreneurs Emiliano and Shannon Lerda found themselves in a predicament that is more common among small, home-based business owners than many might imagine — they needed warehousing space to scale their operation.
Finding a Solution
Upon researching options, the couple only found large warehousing spaces (roughly 3,000 to 5,000 square feet) with a three-to-five-year lease term. This wasn’t ideal for the Lerdas, who hoped to secure a space that was approximately 500 square feet with a six-to-12-month commitment.
“We quickly realized that what we needed was co-warehousing,” Shannon Lerda said. “This means taking a larger warehouse space, dividing it up among businesses and sharing costs all for a low monthly commitment.”
According to Shannon Lerda, this kind of concept would be an answer to some of the major problems that home-based businesses often face. Thus, they decided to launch Elevator, with the mission to “cultivate the growth and development of local businesses with a community-oriented co-warehousing space.”
Fortunately, the co-founders received a lot of support early on from the Greater Omaha Chamber, which met with them monthly to offer help and resources to make Elevator a success.
“The Chamber understands that growing this ecosystem of small businesses and helping them get to that next level of growth is going to be beneficial to all of Omaha in the long term,” Shannon Lerda said.
Community Support Matters
As former e-commerce entrepreneurs themselves, the duo understood that there was a real need to create a center of community that would bring small businesses with physical goods together.
“Many entrepreneurs need something like this so they can learn from and support each other,” Emiliano Lerda said. “It can feel isolating when you’re working in your own e-commerce business and you are often yearning for that sense of community and support, which is why we also offer classes, training, social events and networking.”
The Lerdas said they feel very privileged to have the opportunity to witness the journeys of many local entrepreneurs who are doing unique and innovative work in the metro.
“The best part of my day is working with members and helping them troubleshoot issues,” Shannon Lerda said. “We are not just providing them space, but we are providing them resources and connections. As we continue to fill the space, we look forward to watching as the collaboration here becomes even more frequent, and our members become even more successful because they are here.”
Space for All
Located in the Old Market, the four-story 77,000-square-foot facility holds 75 warehouses, 17 offices, underground parking and more than 7,000 square feet of shared space that includes a training room, packing and shipping stations, kitchen, break room and lobby for hosting events. Members can also book a meeting room or part-time on-demand labor to help with packing and shipping.
Business owners can opt for a social membership, which includes access to the common areas and the community components offered. For those looking to utilize physical space for their business needs, units range in size from 80 square feet to 1,300 square feet. Members can size up or down and pay on a month-to-month basis. Wi-Fi, utilities, janitorial, kitchen and bathroom supplies are all included in the monthly fee, making Elevator an all-inclusive and affordable move-in ready space.
“Our staff is also going to be there to receive shipments and put them in their units so business owners can rest assured that their shipments will be received by someone,” Emiliano Lerda said. “The same goes for outgoing shipments — we make sure they are sent.”
Right now, the Lerdas said the newly opened space is about 22% occupied and they are offering various new member specials to increase that number.
Elevating the Industry
Undoubtedly, the pandemic has accelerated the e-commerce growth trend, as many saw an opportunity to exit traditional jobs and start small businesses.
“What we’re finding is there are a lot of small businesses out there that don’t have warehouse space,” Shannon Lerda said. “So, it’s a really great time to be entering the market with a co-warehousing concept and offering a really nice warehouse space that is not otherwise available on the market, especially in a time where e-commerce and small businesses are on the rise.”
For the Lerdas, their long-term vision includes one main element: growth. They plan to follow an intelligent growth strategy to responsibly bring Elevator to other communities across the country. Right now, the Lerdas are in the very early stages of planning and decision-making regarding the next location.
“Our 10-year goal is to be in 101 locations,” Emiliano said. “In the next two to three years, we plan to be present in eight to 12 locations. Our intention is to take Elevator to as many communities as possible.”
Their current agenda also includes spreading awareness about co-warehousing. The Lerdas encourage people to book a tour of the facility to better understand the new and emerging concept that is reshaping the industry.