Performing humanitarian aid in Fiji, implementing his own productivity-increasing design in small-scale farms in Peru, starting his own business — BYU student Preston Alder puts his love for service and his entrepreneurial skills to good use.
Preston is a problem-solver aiming to make life easier for people. Preston’s most recent innovation was creating a company called Neighbor, which tackles issues in the self-storage industry.
Preston participated in a wide variety of unique service-oriented activities over the past few years. He was a peace ambassador in South Korea for two weeks a few years ago. Preston also participated in the Humanitarian Experience for Youth program for the past two years and was a trip leader in Fiji.
Preston and business partner Colton Gardner were companions on their LDS missions in Paraguay. They worked together at a venture capital firm in Salt Lake City, and they both worked at a start-up in Paraguay.
Preston spent five months in Paraguay at the start-up company teaching business education. The company focused on helping people learn how to invest money and how to foster a better lifestyle in South America.
Preston was even offered an internship in South America in 2016 upon winning the Ballard Center’s social innovations solutions competition.
“After a four-week engagement, my wife and I got married on the first day of finals. She walked in graduation, and then on the last day of finals we were on a plane to Peru,” Preston said. “It wasn’t your typical, glamorous honeymoon, but it was so worth it.”
Preston and his wife Abby spent many days in banana farms and avocado orchards conducting interviews and gathering data on farm production while in Peru.
“Between the wedding plans, a honeymoon, my graduation, moving all of our stuff to storage, taking finals and preparing for our internship in Peru, it ended up being the most hectic, fulfilling and fun week of my life,” Abby said. “I’m not actually sure how we pulled it all off, to be honest. It was likely a mix of adrenaline and really kind family members and friends.”
Although Preston has been involved in a number of entrepreneurial endeavors, he said he never envisioned himself as an entrepreneur.
“I’ve always taken the safe route. I wanted to be a doctor or a dentist, so doing business at BYU was a bit of a stretch,” Preston said. “The fact that I’ve gone the entrepreneur route in the last six months has been a big turn of events for me.”
Preston and business partner Gardner started Neighbor, the Airbnb of the self-storage industry, according to Preston. Neighbor allows users to either rent out space or find space for storage. The idea struck Preston when he and his wife were temporarily leaving Provo for his internship in Peru.
“We only needed storage for six weeks, and as a poor college student we couldn’t find an affordable storage option,” Preston said. “After calling around, I ended up finding an old family friend from about 20 years back who had been my next door neighbor.”
Preston’s family friend, who lived a few hours north of Provo, had room in his garage for the Alders to store their stuff.
“I remember driving back. It was about 2 a.m., and it hit me. I was like, ‘There are empty garages all around me,'” Preston said. “Why did I have to drive two hours, pay for a truck and all these things, when I could have stored it in Provo for a fraction of the cost?”
The tagline for Neighbor is “A neighbor helped me when storage couldn’t.” Preston did his research and said he feels Neighbor has the potential to disrupt the self-storage industry.
“If 10 years ago, I told you that you could hop in a car with a stranger or sleep in a bedroom next to a stranger, you probably wouldn’t have done it. You probably would have thought I was crazy for coming up with that,” Preston said. “Neighbor isn’t too far off from that.”
Colton, co-founder of Neighbor, is a recent graduate from the University of Utah. Colton and Preston have worked together for the past five years.
“We’ve bridged the gap between BYU and the University of Utah,” Preston said.
Colton has a background in coding and website design, while Preston has skills in videography and photography.
“(Preston) came to me with a crazy business idea about an Airbnb of self-storage, and that’s where it all began,” Colton said. “Preston is a talented, dedicated and humble individual. I can’t think of someone I’d rather go into business with.”
Colton said their personalities, experience and expertise work well together and provide the necessary characteristics to make Neighbor a success.
Preston said he finds confidence in his endeavors because of his youth and ambition. He is also passionate about his new business and said believing in a product or service is crucial for its success.
“Preston has a passion for learning, creating and serving that blows me away every day,” Abby said. “It is obviously part of what made (and) makes me fall in love with him, but I also think it is what will ultimately lead him to succeed.”
Preston said it is often difficult to problem-solve. There are many questions and legality issues to work around when starting a business.
“We’re doing it with essentially no budget,” Preston said. “Right now, we have a very small fund of competition money we’ve won. We’re building from scratch.”
But these challenges do not deter Preston and Colton.
“Problem-solving with a purpose is very important to me,” Preston said.
Preston’s favorite part of this business model is they get to give back to people. Neighbor provides people with a way to make money. Both the renter and the host benefit.
Preston has considered other options, but right now is willing to take a risk and chase his dreams while he is young.
“What gives me confidence is that I love it,” Preston said. “It makes me extremely excited and passionate while working on this.”