Alan Mruvka: An Industry Pioneer
Alan Mruvka has quite a list of accomplishments. He is a true entrepreneur, spending years of his career mastering crafts such as real estate, business management, and even the entertainment industry. Though he began his journey as a student of architecture, Mruvka became the creator and co-founder of the E! Network and later, StorageBlue, a local self storage company. But how did the Englewood Cliffs native go from wanting to be an architect, to founding one of the most popular networks in the county, and then to the self storage industry?
Alan Mruvka grew up in Flushing, Queens and moved to Englewood Cliffs with his family when he was six years old. He attended the University of Miami for architecture, and later the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn for a year after his four years of college. Following his collegiate years, he faced difficulties finding a job as an architect and began renovating his father’s garment warehouse in a historic building in Jersey City to try to get his foot in the door. Once the renovation was successful, he stayed local and starting buying up brownstones, converting them into condominiums, with each project growing larger, slowly going from 10 units to plans including 50 units. But as any young adult, Mruvka had other interests, a major one being the entertainment industry.
One weekend, Mruvka went out to Los Angeles to attend a seminar about how to sell a screenplay to a studio. But instead of learning how to sell a screenplay, the panelists grumbled about the high costs of advertising in the industry. “I thought about it the whole day I was there and my first thought was, why don’t I come up with a network that would advertise movies nationally for a much cheaper cost. Up until then, studios would spend millions of dollars on a movie, and depend on a print or picture in a black and white newspaper to advertise their investment. Or, they would do television spots the week the movie came out, and do trailers in theaters, but it was always pretty inefficient,” explained Mruvka. When he got back to New Jersey, he continued to work on his brownstones and came up with the idea for E!, a 24-hour network to advertise movies and expand into television.
“I put together a business plan, but I never raised money, I didn’t know a single thing about raising money, I was never in the media business before,” he explained. But for the next three years he flew back and forth from New York to Los Angeles to meet people from different networks, investors, and lawyers, all while working on his brownstones in between. “Over those three years, I figure I was turned down probably more than 400 times. But the more people that said no, the more I wanted to show them. All those meetings made me more determined.” His big break came from a chat in first class on an airplane, when Mruvka moved his seat next to a man in a suit flipping through Hollywood Reporters. Within the five-hour flight to California, his plan was set into motion, and over the next nine months, he raised 200 million dollars and got the network on television. Although the network started from humble beginnings with just five executives and 20 interns, there were over 1,000 people working there by the time Mruvka left 12 years later.
Back in New Jersey, one of Mruvka’s buildings started falling through and a few people approached him about turning it into a self storage building instead of condo units. That turned out to be the first self storage warehouse he owned, right in Jersey City. In between, Mruvka stayed on the creative end at E!, had an entertainment magazine, and then started producing movies and television shows, one being Pacific Blue on the USA Network with 101 episodes in five years. While at E!, the first self storage unit was born, and Mruvka was a silent partner in American Self Storage, which had about 15 buildings in the New York area.
Two years ago, he came back to New Jersey and rebranded the company, splitting it up and changing the name to StorageBlue. “We now have four facilities in New Jersey with a fifth in construction and plans to expand the brand all over the New York metropolitan area, and then hopefully nationally. At the same time, we launched a valet service called StorageBlue Now, which is a pickup and delivery bin service. For $22 a month you get four plastic bins that can be picked up and delivered. You pack them up, call to have them picked up, and if you need anything re-delivered we just come back, sort of like the Uber of self storage.”
Mruvka also explained that if the company is holding something for you and you need it for vacation for example, they could send it to your destination for you. “Especially in the New York area, space is very limited, people want to put bicycles, golf clubs, switch winter and summer things, whatever they need, into storage. Everyone could relate to that in this area.” Planning on growing both the warehouses and the self storage valet service nationally, the next market for the self storage buildings will be South Florida, Texas, and the Las Vegas area, other places, like New York, that don’t have a lot of space. “It’s for any urban center that people need space. People are downsizing, baby boomers are becoming empty nesters and are selling their houses but still have things from the past 20 years.”
Whenever you need something from the company delivered, the turnaround is 24 hours. “When I came into the business, I came into it with fresh eyes. People are usually angry or stressed when they come in, they don’t know how to deal with getting their stuff in or out. I’m trying to disrupt the storage industry, I do more training for higher quality customer service, there’s free pick up, there’s longer hours because people work. We’re open 365 days a year, Sundays have longer hours, making it easier and more convenient for people. Everything is in temperature controlled spaces so people don’t have to worry about anything being ruined.”
The valet service for StorageBlue is currently all online, with a mobile app in the works. When you buy the service you can download the app to your smartphone, or, can simply use the website for all your requests.