Ross Black

Ross Black started Simple Box Storage in 1997. The business has expanded in recent years to Idaho and Oregon. (Courtesy photo/Simple Box Storage)

Black started business in 1997 as LHS senior

LYNDEN — What began as a senior class project 22 years ago is now an award-winning small business. Ross Black of Simple Box Storage was named the 2019 Washington Small Business Person of the Year last week by the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Black started the business his senior year at Lynden High School and it’s been growing ever since. 

“I was not a good student and my teachers said as part of the senior class project, if I needed extra time outside of the classroom to work on my project I could do that as long as it was productive,” Black said. “I tried to come up with the biggest possible thing I could do that had me in school the least amount of time and that was starting a mini storage.”

He said his dad, Dave, likes to joke that he’s still helping him with his senior class project 22 years later. 

Simple Box Storage, which had its start near Wiser Lake south of Lynden, now has eight locations across Washington, Idaho and Oregon. 

Black said he began the business for self-centered reasons and wanting to be rich, but as he’s gotten older and matured he has realized that being in business is a great opportunity for him to serve. 

“It’s really through serving others I find success,” he said. “This business is an excellent way to serve others.”

He said every customer that comes along is going through something different whether it be positive or negative, and helping them through that experience is gratifying. 

Stuff is not the most important thing in life — people are, Black said. When people are going through difficult circumstances, it’s hard for them to focus on loved ones when they have to deal with their possessions, he said. 

“That’s where, as a storage company, to come alongside and take care of their stuff so they can focus on the things that matter most, it’s a pretty sweet opportunity,” Black said. “I think that’s the motivation that’s kept me going all the years, just the opportunity to serve our customers.”

He said the award is an honor he couldn’t have won without his awesome team of people around him. He said the award makes him more appreciative of his own team especially his dad, who is co-owner of Dutch Mothers Restaurant in Lynden. 

“He’s cheered me on from day one,” Black said. “It’s funny. He jokes he helped me finish my senior project, but I wouldn’t have finished it 22 years ago if it weren’t for his help and I definitely wouldn’t have won this award.”