Eric Laurent, a former Missouri wide receiver, came up with the idea for Roo Storage in his senior year of college.
“Unfortunately, or fortunately,” as he puts it, the Tigers didn’t do very well during his last season on the team.
When the football team failed to qualify for a bowl game, Laurent was freed up to attend the last week of his Crosby MBA Seminar.
Offered through the Trulaske College of Business, the career development class allows students to network with like-minded peers and key business leaders, as well as engaging in site visits, case competitions and Career Project Teams. The week Laurent was able to attend happened to be the same week his section was discussing business ideas for the upcoming year.
Laurent flashed back to a problem he’d encountered the previous summer.
Unable to move into his new college housing until August 15, but needing to move out of his current apartment by the end of July, Laurent needed to find a place to store his things for the two weeks in between.
All the storage facilities he called were full or far too expensive. He started asking around to see if any friends had extra space. Eventually, Laurent got connected to a friend of a friend with an empty garage who lived just three doors down from him. He was able to store everything for $30 and a cheap bottle of wine.
“That was sort of the spark behind the idea,” Laurent said.
He pitched the idea to his classmates, including his two friends and fellow student athletes Kristen Rivers and Jake Hurrell. They decided to pursue the idea head on.
Although it began as a project for a college class, Roo Storage became an actual startup when they were awarded a cash infusion of $25,000 in a local SharkTank competition through the Missouri Innovation Center’s Accelerator Fund.
“I’ve told people this left and right. I was shocked to see how supportive the city of Columbia was of our startup,” Laurent said.
Roo Storage has continued to grow since then. They brought on two more co-founders, Pravin Sivabalan and Joseph McAllister, to help develop the site. Laurent, Rivers and Hurrell graduated from the MBA program in May and now work full time from their office in the MU Life Science Business Incubator.
Laurent, Rivers and Hurrell all credit their time as student athletes for the success of Roo.
“It taught us how to work hard, persevere through adversity and really grind when it’s necessary,” Laurent said.