2022 Innovator Award Winner

Undergraduate Student | Second Place

Hannah Ung, DMSB’23

Founder, Boxy

Meet Hannah Ung, the Founder Behind the Airbnb of Storage

by Molly Callahan   |   November 1, 2022

A true embodiment of resilience, Hannah Ung took what she learned from growing up with her family of four tucked into a small room and turned it into an opportunity that allows people to make better use of their space. Called Boxy, her venture seeks to provide a platform for people to earn a profit from their unoccupied spaces by allowing others to use these spaces for storage purposes.

There’s a saying in wrestling: Once you start the sport, everything else in life is easy. For Hannah Ung—whose travels have taken her halfway around the world, and whose startup might take her even further—it’s proven true.

Ung’s high school and collegiate wrestling career almost got her recruited onto the Cambodian national team while she was a student at Northeastern, but her passion for entrepreneurship led her in a different direction.

Right out of high school, Ung won a $1,000 scholarship that she could use for “anything that would benefit my college career,” she says. “To me, $1,000 meant plane tickets, and I took a solo trip to Japan, Cambodia, and Singapore that summer.”

While the trip ultimately enriched her worldview and her college experience, Ung ran into a problem almost right away. She had packed enough to fill a big, rolling luggage bag as well as a carry-on, and had no place to store them while she was roaming the countries.

“I was only going to be in Japan for two days during that trip, so I wanted to make the most of it,” Ung says, which meant packing in as many sites and experiences as possible—and lugging her bags from location to location during the day.

Because she was staying in new locations almost every night, Ung couldn’t leave her luggage in her room. And when she tried to find safe places to store it, she encountered unaffordable hourly rates, or just flat-out “Nos” from business owners. “I remember asking myself as an 18-year-old: ‘What if you could store your stuff in someone’s home, like an Airbnb?’” Ung says.

The more she traveled, the more she saw that this was a problem lots of people encountered, especially people who were trying to pack a lot into a short amount of time. When Ung got to Northeastern, she befriended international students who would store their belongings in U-Haul trucks between lease cycles, or else they scattered boxes among a bunch of other friends.

“It was disorganized and messy,” says Ung, who will graduate this May from the D’Amore-McKim School of Business.

“I remember asking myself as an 18-year-old: ‘What if you could store your stuff in someone’s home, like an Airbnb?’”

—Hannah Ung, Founder, Boxy

“I remember asking myself as an 18-year-old: ‘What if you could store your stuff in someone’s home, like an Airbnb?’”

—Hannah Ung, Founder, Boxy

So, when it came time to pitch a venture in one of her marketing classes, Ung pitched Boxy, a short-term rental service for luggage—the “Airbnb of storage” she had envisioned years ago. Her classmates and the faculty in the class were excited about the idea from the get-go.

“I started thinking that this could actually go somewhere,” Ung says, “and I knew that Northeastern was the place for me to try it out. The entrepreneurship ecosystem that we have here made me feel comfortable to explore Boxy a little further.”

Ung worked with the Women’s Interdisciplinary Society of Entrepreneurship (WISE), the Husky Startup Challenge, and IDEA—three of Northeastern’s student-led entrepreneurship programs—to develop Boxy beyond a pitch for a class assignment.

Working with WISE gave Ung the confidence to consider herself an entrepreneur for the first time, she says.

Valerie Robert and Stacy Pablo, co-directors of the group, say that’s exactly their goal.

“Our programs empower women-builders to create and ideate on startups confidently, all while exchanging ideas among community members, while receiving and providing feedback and support as well,” they say in a joint statement. “Through community, members know when they graduate from our programs they will still have people they can reach out to bounce ideas off, which empowers them to continue working on their projects or startups.”

Ung then joined the Sherman Venture Co-op at the university, a paid, six-month development opportunity for student-founders. It was during that co-op that she realized she had something special on her hands.

“For the first time in my life, I finally felt like I knew exactly what I wanted out of college,” she says. Before that co-op, she felt like she had two options: “Either become a professional wrestler for Team Cambodia, or be a digital nomad and travel the world on a budget,” Ung says. “I didn’t realize Boxy was a third option.”

Indeed, it’s become more than that. Ung was recognized with a 2022 Innovator Award, a competition hosted by Northeastern University’s Women Who Empower that drew more than 100 applicants this year.

She’s raised more than $30,000 in funding and is launching a pilot version of Boxy to test it out on an early group of hosts and stashers. For now, Ung and her co-founder are matching hosts and stashers by hand. Soon, they hope to expand and automate the platform so that the next time Ung travels, she’ll have a hand storing her luggage.