Even the minimalists among us have an excess of something – something stashed away in the garage, accumulating in the cloud or piling up on the to-do list. Whatever it is, the overflow has to go somewhere. And for Alan Lindsey ’16, it’s all going into storage.
“I’ve always had more energy than most people would know what to do with,” laughs Alan, who began pouring that excess energy into Lindsey Self Storage Group, which he cofounded with his brother as a freshman at the College of Charleston. Since then, he and John Lindsey ’12 have cofounded the Store Local Corporation and Storage Front – creating something of a family dynasty in self-storage.
The Lindsey brothers grew up watching their father develop self-storage units – going to work at 5 a.m. to pour concrete for the structures.
“When you grow up around that kind of work ethic, it’s just kind of ingrained in you,” says Alan. “Plus, it’s motivating. It inspires you to work, to be better, to improve. And I’m obsessed with improvement.”
That obsession plays into the family business well: Lindsey Self Storage Group is in the business of turning already-existing self-storage facilities into something better.
“Think: Flip This House, but with self-storage. Basically, we buy facilities, improve their looks and operations, and then sell them down the line,” explains Alan.
He notes that the more facilities they improve, the more the business improves. Starting with one facility in South Carolina in 2012, the company now has 13 facilities and is on track to double in size this year, and to broker over $20.6 million in self-storage.
“We’re killing it,” says Alan. “But it’s 24/7. The work doesn’t stop. You always take it home with you. The entrepreneurial life is not for everybody. But for me, there was no other option. The corporate world doesn’t provide enough incentives. It’s not satisfying. But the incentive of being an independent business owner and watching that business grow is incredible. It’s an addiction for people like me. We are so restless. That’s the nature of being an entrepreneur.”
And that restless energy is exactly what Alan attributes his success to – both in his career in business and in his time at the College of Charleston.
“My day-to-day life in college was pretty hectic,” admits the business administration major, who started out training managers and overseeing revenue management for Lindsey Self Storage Group that first year – and, by the time he graduated, had shifted into a more operational role. “Between work and classes, sitting still was never an option. But that’s OK. I’ve always had that energy. Even as a kid, I could never sit still. I never could stop moving. Still, looking back, it may have been too much – even for me. I was trying to do it all.”
And when he says “all,” he means all: Alan wasn’t just launching a business and going to school, he was also active in the College’s Student Government Association (SGA, serving as philanthropy head), Community Outreach Committee (serving as chair), Sigma Chi fraternity (serving as secretary and philanthropy chair), Phi Eta Sigma Honors Society, Alpha Sigma Gamma Society and Real Estate Club (serving as senior vice president) – and that’s not even touching on all the service work he did.
“Once I got connected in the SGA, I had my hand on the pulse,” says Alan, who was associated with over 240 volunteer organizations during his college career. “My work in the SGA is what opened me up to the world of philanthropy.”
And, of course, he was active in that world, too. Not only did he help raise $17,500 through the SGA’s annual bike auctions, he also helped raise $80,000 for YEScarolina, $5,000 for the Huntsman Cancer Institute and $5,000 for the American Cancer Society. He also ran a toiletry drive for Crisis Ministries and a fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. All on top of his volunteer work for the Lowcountry Food Bank, Special Olympics and the Charleston Miracle League.
“Community service is invaluable to me,” says Alan, who was nominated for a 2013 College of Charleston ExCel Award for his impact in the community. “It really charges me, energizes me. It gets you active in your community, and that’s an education in and of itself. It’s a tangible way to help others, but it’s also a spiritual way to help yourself. Plus, I think it’s a good business experience, too – it teaches you about the real world in ways you can’t learn in school. The College of Charleston is so good about encouraging service learning and getting that kind of experience.”
But, as Alan points out, the College doesn’t just provide real-world experience through service opportunities: It comes from academic and research opportunities, as well.
“The College as a whole is such a nurturing, dynamic place with an incredible amount of community engagement, so students aren’t just isolated in some bubble: They’re out there in the world, interacting with people in their fields,” he says. “There’s no other school that does that like we do.”
Add in his minor in real estate and concentration in entrepreneurship, and Alan had more than enough applicable experience by the time he graduated.
“I am able to do what I do now because of the experience I got in the real estate program. It applies to exactly what I do now. You can’t get any more real world than that,” says Alan, winner of the College’s 2015 ARGUS Competition. “And the entrepreneurship program was the same: directly applicable. It’s the best. With the entrepreneurship program at the College of Charleston, you will succeed. I truly believe in the unique experience that it provides.”
What makes it so distinctive? Maybe it’s because that entrepreneurial mindset spills over into the rest of the College’s activities.
“That’s the thing about the College of Charleston: From one end of campus to the other, there’s an entrepreneurial spirit – a lifestyle – that encourages lifelong learning and a thoughtful, interactive perspective,” says Alan. “It’s everywhere you look – all over the entire campus. That energy seeps through to every part of the College.”
After all, when you’ve got that kind of energy, it has to go somewhere.