Out of Sight, If Not Out of Mind

Denver’s Closetbox takes all of the onerous heavy lifting and moving out of self-storage.


Courtesy Closetbox

Marcus Mollmann knows what it feels like to need some space. The banker-turned-real-estate-investor-turned-entrepreneur struck upon the idea for his self-storage company, Closetbox, after struggling to raise four kids in a house without enough square footage to accommodate his family. Closetbox—on a mission to make one of life’s most cumbersome tasks about as difficult as ordering a pizza—offers full- service pickup, storage and return of household items in 75 cities across the country. The company promises “No truck rentals. No heavy lifting. No hauling it yourself ” and offers services ranging from 5’ x 5’ closet storage to 10’ x 20’ storage, enough for 3+ rooms’ worth of items. We chatted with Mollmann about his professional background, his inspiration for Closetbox and the challenges of balancing fatherhood with life as a CEO.

How did Closetbox get started?
The way most businesses do: circumstance and necessity. In 2013, my wife and I had twins, and our family doubled—from two to four children. We wanted to turn our dining room into a playroom, but that involved moving this huge dresser down into the basement. I couldn’t move it on my own, and my wife, having just given birth, wasn’t able to help me. And at 38, with four kids—how do I put this? You’re not exactly surrounded by close friends who want to come over and help you lug heavy furniture around. We needed some help. And that instilled this idea in me, that people all over the country were probably experiencing the same thing.

What did the company look like in its early stages?
A couple of months after the dining room/playroom problem, we decided to sell our house. Our realtor told us flat out, “The place is too cramped. It looks too small. I can’t market it looking this small. You have to move some stuff out.” Well, as I said, my wife and I could barely open a pickle jar between the two of us. We both had a baby in each arm, so it was hard for us to move things ourselves. Our realtor said, “There’s a storage unit down the street. Why don’t you put your stuff in there?” I basically told him, yes, I know there’s a storage unit nearby, but that’s not really helpful to me, because I have no way of getting my stuff there. Of course, the realtor didn’t want to help me haul things around, so I had to do it on my own. I rented a truck and got started. After that, the conviction really hit home: No one, I said to myself, should have to struggle in this position. There needs to be a solution. I started building some technology that would connect people to easy, affordable self-storage solutions. Hence, Closetbox was born.

Do you come from a business background?
Out of college I spent some time in investment banking, to learn about financial markets, and then worked for a little while in government. I got to see a lot of the country through the government job, and I learned a lot about politics. After that, I ended up in business school. Out of school, I spent time in real estate finance. I’ve bounced around quite a bit. I took my finance background and applied it to real estate, and through that process ended up in Denver working for Archstone-Smith, a multi-family real estate investment trust. In the spring of 2007, I left Archstone because I thought the wheels were going to come off the residential market, which they later did. A few other projects followed, and finally I ended up building some technology to help developers refinance properties that had gone bad during the downturn. I sold that business, and then, when I was presented with this problem of having to carry heavy storage items, I immediately saw another business opportunity. I already knew how to build the technology I would need for Closetbox, so I was perfectly set up to begin.

What has been the biggest obstacle to running the company?
The challenge of being both a great dad and a good CEO. That’s an inherent challenge for any parent-entrepreneur, but I do think it’s achievable. It just takes a lot of work and effort. I always try to turn off during the weekends, to be there one hundred percent for the family. A couple days a week, I do work late, or travel. But on the weekends, I keep my mind with my family, not on the business. And that seems to strike the balance.