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Shark Tank Contestant and Storage Scholars' CEO Sam Chason: Building an Empire at 18

Kimberly Hirsch

October 13, 2022

5 minutes

Sam Chason, Storage Scholars CEO

When you’re a freshman in college, life consists of learning a new campus, meeting friends, and studying for exams. That is if you’re a typical college freshman.

Not if you’re Sam Chason

When Sam started college in 2016, he got busy right away building an empire. From his dorm room. He did all of the typical college stuff, but on the side, he was building a company that would grow over the next six years into something huge. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with Sam and talk to him about his success that started during his freshman year at Wake Forest University. We talked about the ups and downs and how he got where he is today and his latest endeavor: diving into the Shark Tank

Back to When it All Started

Early logo design

Most college kids don’t think much about the cost of going to college. 

As I mentioned before, Sam wasn’t like most college kids. While his parents helped financially to a degree, they did pass on a big part of the debt responsibility to him (a quarter of a million dollars, to be exact). But not attending Wake Forest was not an option for Sam. As you read on, you’ll notice a common theme: when Sam sets a goal for himself, there's no other option than to make it happen.

‘Making it happen’ came in the form of a need he saw on campus with friends who lived internationally and out of state. He noticed at the end of each year they struggled with what to do with their belongings over the summer. There was a need for campus storage and a need to eliminate a logistical headache that many had each year. That’s when the idea of Storage Scholars came to Sam.

An Idea Is Born

Sam got to work. He saw an opportunity, and his entrepreneurial mind didn’t waste a minute. 

This business was built around me being able to still be a college student and also run a company,” he told me. In the first year, Sam had 64 customers. While other students were sleeping late and studying in the library, Sam was accepting box deliveries from tractor-trailers in his dorm room. It didn’t matter what needed to get done– he always found a way to make it happen.

“I asked my RA, ‘Can I deliver some things here?’ And he was like, ‘Sure’. And then there's, you know, 800 boxes and a huge thing of bubble wrap at the end of the hallway. I couldn't even legally rent a U-Haul or a Penske when I was a freshman. I had to bring my RA with me who was 21 and he rented in his name and then I used it the whole week. So you're just figuring it out to be honest with you.”

Thankfully, no one on campus questioned what he was doing. People assumed he was studying on his computer or making phone calls home, but Sam was one college kid single-handedly building a business. 

Meeting Matt Gronberg, Storage Scholars Co-Founder

Matt Gronberg, Storage Scholars COO

Sophomore year came, and Sam had extended his business to two other campuses–one in Florida and one in New York, thanks to having friends in both places to help. He needed someone to help at Wake Forest while he got the other campuses up and running and with a semester abroad in his future–because, despite the growing business, he was still a college kid first. That’s when he met Matt

“I was a sophomore. He was a freshman. I was a driver on Halloween night and he came into my car and got in the front seat. He was wearing a doctor's uniform and I had seen him half a dozen times in being an intermural referee for flag football. The kid just grinds so I asked him if he wanted a job.”

But Matt Gronberg went to college to be a doctor. He wasn’t looking for a job. Fortunately for Sam, Matt still needed money while he pursued pre-med. 

Sam Chason & Matt Gronberg

“So that winter break he made a bunch of calls and he got 15 or 20 kids signed up….then move-out week he worked probably a hundred hours with me.”

When the semester ended, Matt took over as the lead at Wake Forest while Sam went abroad. Leading the company gave him the entrepreneurial bug and empowered him to see what he was most passionate about.  He decided that summer to go “all in” with Sam and Storage Scholars. Realistically, Sam was a year ahead of Matt, so going “all in” meant something different for the two but once Matt graduated (and a semester early, too!), he became an official partner in the company.

They’ve had their typical highs and lows together, juggling business and a friendship. Sam compared their partnership to a marriage and it was clear when talking with Sam that the two complement each other very well. Sam is the visionary, the relationship builder, and a partner with solid determination and a positive mindset. According to Sam, Matt is super intelligent (Sam proudly boasted about Matt's 3.96 biochemistry GPA), and he pointed out Matt’s emotionally compassionate side and ability to connect with people of all backgrounds. The pair seem to be a perfect combination of friendship and business.

Shark Tank

Growing up, Friday nights were for Shark Tank in Sam’s house.

“I’d tell this to Matt….and to anyone: ‘I will be on there one day’. I just fully had a belief [that I’d be on the show] and that belief statement definitely stems from my mom.” 

Sam told me stories about how his mom would leave him notes around the house or packed in his lunches in high school, always encouraging him to visualize his college acceptance.  

“It was a lot of visualization and positivity and a “think it, believe it, achieve it kind of thing.”

So it only made sense for Sam to apply to be on the show. He spent a lot of time filming and filling out the application and got some incredible feedback. But, like everything else in 2020, once the pandemic hit, his dream came to a halt, and he was encouraged to try again next season.

The amount of work almost deterred him from applying for the next season, but one nostalgic trip home during winter break after graduation reminded him so he went for it again. 

“I just applied again in December and then I got a call one random day in February. [It was the] same process. I mean it was an absurd amount of work. It was a second job– is what it was– to get on the show. But we kept going to the next round and the next round and every time a new email would come in we'd have this new ‘homework’. It was like, ‘drop everything, let's do it. And let's do it with the best of our abilities,’ which was a risk. Right? And thankfully, I think it's paid off.”

No doubt it’s paid off. Sam and Matt will swim with the sharks on ABC this Friday, October 14th at 8 pm EST. Will they get the deal they were hoping for? You’ll need to watch to find out!

Present Day SS

Since starting college in 2016 and Storage Scholars' inception in 2017, Sam has brought on Matt as a partner, as well as seven additional employees, and hundreds of college movers. At the time of this article, Storage Scholars has paid over $500K to college students. They serve 23 schools across nine states, most on the east coast, and as far west as Texas, and have done over 7,400 campus moves. They have big plans to double their reach in the next year.

One of Sam’s passions is developing the next generation of business leaders. Storage Scholars utilizes and trains several talented Campus Co-founders and Campus Marketing Managers to run their own operations on their campus. He feels driven to empower others around him and pass on the tools and opportunities that he was given early on. 

On Being a Young Executive

One of the reasons that Sam’s story is so inspiring has to do with his age. It is hard not to talk about the fact that he is so young and started his business at 18. I couldn't help but ask how his age has impacted his business. 

“In the beginning, it probably hurt me just because there was a lack of trust in my longevity. When I was in college selling this service, I know the biggest fear was, ‘Are you really going to be here? Are you really going to do storage and moving on campus five years from now?’ 

Now that Sam has graduated, those fears have disappeared. Instead, he is viewed by others as a business owner with six years of success and a proven track record.

His Biggest Mentors

Fortunately for Sam, he was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors who helped him immensely along the way. When I asked him about this, he credited two of his entrepreneurship professors for believing in him in the earliest days at WFU–Greg Pool and Dan Cohen.

Pool advised him that the best time to start a business was in college since he had a meal plan, a place to live, no kids, and a .edu email to ask anyone in the world for advice (since no one views a college student as the competition). “Then at the end of those four years you’ll have a degree and either be a step ahead by knowing what you want or even better, having just taken the first steps towards building it.”

Sam speaking to his peers in the Entrepreneurship Program at Wake Forest

After winning a substantial scholarship, Cohen advised Sam, “with this generosity comes the responsibility of being the face of the [entrepreneurship] program.” So when it came time to leave for a semester abroad, Sam was naturally worried to tell his mentor about his absence. Instead of being upset, Professor Cohen was proud that Sam could learn so early on “how to remove yourself from your business, set up an infrastructure, and manage your business remotely.” He taught Sam stepping away could allow his business to grow at scale. 

“I went off to New Zealand with an exciting challenge and returned 6 months later with a newfound confidence and perspective.”

Looking Ahead

Storage Scholars logo

If the future of Storage Scholars is only as strong as its leaders, then it's bound to succeed. I asked Sam what the company might look like in 5 or 10 years. He's got some big plans, and he didn’t hesitate to tell me about them.  

“In five to ten years, we are absolutely outside of the United States. We are global. And we're not only doing student storage but … [we plan to] increase the customer life cycle.”

Currently, Storage Scholars works with incoming freshmen until their senior year. Sam explained that “increasing the customer life cycle” means they want to go beyond that and be the first choice when those graduating seniors are ready to move into their first apartment– or years later when they buy their first home and need someone they trust for their moving. The ultimate goal is to become a reputable name that customers will call on repeatedly at different stages in their life. “Like when you pick Crest versus Colgate at age eight, you kind of just run with that for the rest of your life, right?” The goal is for them to pick Storage Scholars every time. 

Final Thoughts

It’s one thing to say you’re going to make something happen. It’s another to do it. Sam Chason knew he didn't want to leave college with debt, so he made it happen. Sam Chason knew he needed a storage solution for his friends, so he made it happen. And Sam Chason knew he wanted to be on Shark Tank, so he made it happen. Will he get the deal too? Find out tonight at 8 pm EST on ABC.

To learn more about Storage Scholars and what they do, visit

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