Sean Sandona has been an entrepreneur since he was 15 years old.
The 42-year-old’s first company was Sandona Holiday Decorations, where he bought wreaths and poinsettias at wholesale prices and sold them around his Palatine neighborhood during Christmastime. He made around $5,000.
“I was a Boy Scout, and they had the same idea to have us sell these products”” said Sandona, who now lives in Chicago’s Ravenswood Manor neighborhood. “I figured that I could do it better and do it myself.”
Sandona has taken that mantra with the numerous companies he’s founded and grown in the 27 years since, including his latest venture, Doorage Storage Solutions, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary, serves Chicago and a 30-mile suburban radius, and is expanding to Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin in March.
How Doorage Works
The full-service storage company, which has never lost an item in storage and stores owners’ belongings in numerous 100,000-cubic-unit, Amazon-esque facilities, features several key components, including:
- Owners never having to leave their home to store belongings. Doorage employees will pick up belongings and box them as well if customers request it. Doorage also will bring packing crates to customers’ homes.
- Doorage charges by exact cubic volume consumed, instead of charging for a certain-sized storage rooms that usually aren’t filled completely
- Customers can request specific items like a painting to be returned by Doorage employees by utilizing a user interface that shows every item in storage.
- Price for customers will never increase as long as they are storing the belongings.
“I love looking at true problems, analyzing other companies’ downfalls, all their negative reviews, and then building a business around those failures, and that’s what we’ve done with Doorage. We figured out all the others’ failure points, and we built a business around fixing all those problems.”
Student Storage Options
Sandona has been focusing Doorage’s efforts on the college housing market, especially for students who want to store their belongings over the summer, in addition to business and home storage consumers. Doorage serves hundreds of students at Northwestern, University of Illinois at Chicago, DePaul, Loyola, University of Chicago and the University Center near Columbia College Chicago.
“Students are huge for our business,” Sandona said. “We take the whole headache of moving out over the summer and moving those belongings back in the fall, so the students never have to bring those belongings home.”
Sandona dealt with similar headaches when he was a student at Northeastern Illinois University, where he also worked several full-time jobs and owned a handyman business he said earned him about $30,000 a year. It also allowed Sandona – who grew up in a blue-collar home and didn’t own a pair of Nikes until he was 12 years old – to buy a new Chevrolet Silverado and 25-foot Bayliner Cabin Cruiser boat upon graduation.
That business would evolve into All Pro Homes – after Sandona secured a several-hundred-thousand-dollar loan from Cornerstone Bank in Palatine – which prospered until the housing crash in 2007. Sandona would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy that year, and in 2008, he nearly died when his Lake Zurich home burned down in an electrical fire. Sandona was in the hospital for two days with carbon monoxide poisoning and when he was discharged from the hospital, he had no possessions other than his four dogs who also survived the fire.
“I had lost everything,” Sandona said. “But when I got out of the hospital, I told myself I was never going to quit.”
In 2009, he founded Elk Grove Village-based North Village Companies and North Village Snow Management, which provides commercial snow and ice management services and specialty construction services. The companies have flourished and gave Sandona the flexibility and capital to create Doorage, which has seven current full-time employees and will add several more to accommodate the expansion into Wisconsin.
“Everything I’ve learned in life is through failure and reading,” Sandona said. “So many people have had problems with self storage, where either their belongings have been stolen, it’s stored in an unclean environment or they don’t even know what they’re storing. I knew there had to be a better system of doing this, and Doorage represents that.”