Alumnus transforms shipping containers into sustainable housing

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In summer 2015, Sto Mahoney, ’15, had just landed an internship in Davidson, North Carolina, and was searching Craigslist for a temporary roommate.

Mahoney found Evan York, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. To their surprise, what was supposed to be a temporary living situation turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime business partnership.

Mahoney and York are the co-founders of SHIP’D, a business rooted in Asheville, North Carolina, that aims to refurbish shipping containers into luxurious vacation homes.

Hoping to make its services available in summer of 2018, the company’s mission is to create a sustainable and temporary housing solution that acts as a paradise away from home.

“We want shipping containers all over the country that act as a modern getaway for couples or groups of friends, and we want to do it with sustainability in mind,” York said.

The idea for SHIP’D came about from a mixture of serendipitous realizations. York worked for a company whose supply chain came mostly from overseas, and he was intrigued by the expansive shipping yards that only seemed to accumulate more containers.

The tiny home movement was slowly beginning to grow in popularity, and soon the idea of incorporating shipping containers into the mix seemed like the next logical step. Affordable vacation housing options were in high demand in their area, and they wanted to convert a durable, sustainable product into a livable space

Mahoney and York developed a plan to purchase a plot of land and build a shipping container home, then list it on Airbnb. 

“Consumers are becoming more conscious,” Mahoney said. “We wanted to reuse shipping containers and put them back on the map as luxurious spaces.”

The refurbishment process involves creating a rustic atmosphere that matches the environment of Asheville. Glass sliding doors will let in natural light and allow vacationers to interact with the nature around them, while clean lines in hand-picked decoration add a modern feel to the experience.

Mahoney and York are committed to being hands-on with every part of the process — whether it’s furnishing or financing — despite potential roadblocks.

From finding an architect who was willing and able to take on the project, to learning about proper zoning procedures and finding the money to make it all possible, the process of bringing SHIP’D to life has been far from conventional.

Because of the nature of the product, traditional financing is not an option. Instead, Mahoney and York have invested their own money and begun an Indiegogo campaign to help advertise and fund SHIP’D.

No matter what has come their way, Mahoney said he has never doubted that SHIP’D would be a success.

“If we run into a roadblock, I’ll assume that there is a way we can figure it out,” he said. “That’s the glamour of being an entrepreneur. I have trust in us and what we bring to the table.”

Mahoney likes the challenge of having to think creatively about problems to guarantee the success of SHIP’D. He attributes his curious mind to the Integrated, Business and Engineering program at Lehigh, from which his most valuable takeaway was learning how to learn.

“Lehigh gave me a solid base of what discipline means,” Mahoney said. “The sheer act and exercise of discipline is what guided me to be successful.”

Current Lehigh students have noticed the duo’s path to success. Thomas Agate, ’20, appreciates not only the innovative solutions that SHIP’D provides, but also hearing about what alumni are doing after graduating from Lehigh.

“It’s cool to actually see the things that are being done by people who have been through the same experiences I’m going through,” Agate said.

Whether they find success with SHIP’D or not, Mahoney and York have enjoyed the process. Mahoney takes pride in knowing they are creating a tangible solution that will be valuable to people all over the country — and the best part is he’s doing it with his best friend.

York and Mahoney encourage students who would like to pursue their entrepreneurial ventures to invest in themselves, guaranteeing there is no better time to start than right now.

“Embrace the fact that there is no clear path to success,” York said. “It’s about taking calculated risks. You’ll learn through trials and tribulations.”

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