How USC Alumni Brett Henry Turned Self-Storage into a Multi-Million Dollar Business

Pictured: Brett Henry receiving Entrepreneur of the Year

Trojan storage was formed in 2007 by USC business school graduate, Brett Henry, and provides innovative storage solutions for the communities they serve.

Trojan Storage acquires underperforming self-storage facilities in desirable markets that can be improved through proper management. Trojan Storage currently owns and manages four self-storage facilities in Southern California.

Brett received a bachelor’s degree (2000) and MBA (2009) from the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. While in the MBA program, Brett won the Young President Organization’s scholarship (YPO) and the Best Graduate Business Plan both in 2009.

When Brett Henry was awarded for his success in entrepreneurship at the Marcia Israel Awards Banquet 2019, he spoke to the audience about building Trojan Storage with his partner, John Koudsi. Essentially, he parlayed two USC degrees and a stint at a storage company into a multimillion-dollar opportunity.

After studying finance as a Marshall undergrad, Henry took a job at a storage business. Though it only paid $13 an hour—significantly less than he’d made with his first startup, a children’s swim school—he regarded it as a paid education before he started his own venture. “It was a unique opportunity to go in … and learn the business from the ground up … on someone else’s dime,” he said.
In two years, he became executive director and discovered that six of the 12 managers were stealing from the company to the tune of $500K. He told the owner it was because he didn’t value and invest in his employees. They turned that around, Henry said, and “watched the revenue go up almost 50 percent in the four years I was director.”

Six years later, Henry brought what he’d learned to his own business. Trojan Storage started in 2007 with one facility in Rancho Cucamonga and now is developing $150 million worth of storage facilities in California, Arizona, and Oregon. From the start, Henry believed in valuing his employees: paying more than minimum wage, giving bonuses, offering medical coverage on day one and otherwise investing in the people who help run the business.

“We didn’t set out to be the biggest storage operator in the world,” Henry said. “We set out to be the most profitable.” Selling their portfolio to Harrison Street Real Estate for $250 million and clearing $168 million in profit was a “game-changer” for the company.
Henry and his partner bought their first facility the weekend he started Marshall’s MBA program, where he spent two years “focused on developing the business.” “The entrepreneurship classes were the best things I ever did,” he said, recalling how he worked out his business plan in (now) Professor Emeritus Kathleen Allen’s class and picked the brains of guest speakers to learn everything he could about what made them successful. “The USC degree ended up being a huge blessing,” Henry said.

In fact, the company was named to honor the school that had given the partners their educations, their connections, and their first loan from the USC Credit Union. “We’re all really proud to be a part of USC,” Henry said, “and the network is really amazing.”
Henry said his core strengths were recognizing opportunity and being persistent. He also stressed the important of not getting too high, or too low. “On the really good days, it’s OK to celebrate, but if you get too high, then you have a bad day and sometimes you don’t even want to go to work.”

His advice to the budding entrepreneurs in the room: Become an expert in whatever you want to do, and be passionate about what you do. “It’s never been work to me in the last 12 years—it’s been a blessing,” Henry said. “My life’s been changed because of being an entrepreneur. But if you hate what you do, or you’re just in it for the money, then it wears on you. If you love what you’re doing, there’s money in everything. Just ask for it.”

Credit: Marshall- Anonymous Author