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Michael Shelhamer explains how his Lafayette business, College Student Storage, works.
Michael Shelhamer explains how his Lafayette business, College Student Storage, works.

Come summer, Michael Shelhamer‘s moving, storage and shipping business comes alive.

Since he started College Student Storage in 1996 as a junior at the University of Colorado Boulder, the company has helped thousands of parents and students. The company helps students when they are off for summer, in between leases or taking a semester off, picking up and delivering their belongings at dorms, apartments or homes. It also provides storage, packing and freight services.

That first year, he passed out fliers and gave out boxes and other supplies to help students pack their stuff, and then collected the boxes for storage to be delivered later.

He still does the same on a bigger scale. He has expanded his business to students at eight colleges and universities on the Front Range.

“I didn’t know I would do it for 23 years,” Shelhamer said of his business’ longevity.

Shelhamer, who is originally from upstate New York, was inspired by a buddy who was providing moving services to students at Syracuse University.

“I started the business because I wanted to stay in Boulder. It was seasonal and paid good money,” he said.

It is a niche business, which has become increasingly tougher, Shelhamer said. It’s a challengeevery year to find warehouse space and recruit reliable student crews. Growth of the cannabis industry in Colorado has made renting warehouses difficult and expensive, he said.

Insurance, payroll and supplies add to the operating costs. “Boxes, tapes and supplies cost $30,000 for the summer. I make enough to get by,” he said.

In Colorado, there are 377 professional moving and storage facilities generating a little more than $2 billion in annual output, according to data published in 2016 by the American Moving & Storage Association. The moving and storage companies in the state also are “responsible for creating 11,316 reliable jobs and $674.36 million in wages paid,” the report states.

Every year College Student Storage hires more than 40 college students, Shelhamer said. Most of them are from CU Boulder. He pays a starting wage of $14 an hour that goes up to $20 an hour for some employees, he said. “They also get tips when they deliver,” Shelhamer said.

He hires students through referrals, and encourages his employees to recommend their friends for jobs.

Matt Wantz has worked for Shelhamer for more than two years. Wantz, who graduated from CU Boulder in 2018 with a degree in political science, manages staff and does scheduling as a crew chief.

“The work culture is the best part of working for Mike. He treats us very well,” he said.

Wantz said he’s able to use and build upon the skills he learned in college:time management, decision-making and adaptability. As part of his job he makes sure there are enough crew members available at a given time and the work is allocated to prevent job-related burnout among employees. He plans to look for a job in sales and marketing eventually.

Shelhamer said he likes working seasonally, from April through September, the idea of helping busy parents and students, and working with young adults.

“I don’t have kids. I feel like I’m a parent to these kids,” he said.

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