Charlotte, N.C.’s Boxman Studios modifies shipping containers, designing, developing, and deploying them for a wealth of uses, turning imagination into reality.
Boxman’s founder David Campbell, who had the idea for utilizing shipping containers for real estate and commercial uses in 2008, answered questions about Boxman’s process and vision, and suggested why words such as manage and maintain are backwards.
ACC Social Lounge: Boxman Studios brought the ACC Social Lounge to Bank of America Stadium for an Ultimate Tailgating Experience.
Jason: Design, Develop, Deploy is the Boxman process. Architects often say Design & Build when referring to a job’s evolution. Why do you use the word Develop instead of Build? Is it because of your background in real estate, where land and buildings are often referred to as being developed?
David: In our early stages, we were deciding the best way to tell potential clients about our process and we landed on Design Develop Deploy not only because they accurately allude to our process, but because alliteration made it sound so much better. Develop was chosen over build because our business is largely custom creations. Build to us, means only following through on a design, and that is not indicative of our process. There is a level of creation and conception that goes into each of our projects that is far out of a simpler builder’s scope.
BeautyKind at Clemson: For BeautyKind’s college tour, Boxman used a 20 ft. suite and outfitted the container with beautician chairs, mirrors, and plenty of products to sample. BeautyKind also provided makeovers, manicures, pedicures, and had online portals for visitors to purchase their favorite products.
Design, Develop, Deploy… what about Manage? Maintain? How does management and maintenance of your clients’ projects and assets factor into your day-to-day operations?
Words like manage and maintain are controlling and looking backwards. Design, Develop, and Deploy are words that embody a growth-focused thought process. When you look at manage it’s a control position not an empowering position. And yes, we have leaders that have management responsibilities but the intention is only to empower and push decision-making responsibilities as far down into the organization as possible. Maintain is a dying word. I believe that you’re either growing or shrinking. There is no such thing as maintain. We believe in betterment, which means improvement through change not maintenance. Maintain means that you’re okay—don’t change anything. If you are only trying to maintain then you might as well give up.
Facebook at the GOP Convention: Facebook approached Boxman with a big ask, they wanted to bring the Republican National Convention to the people, not the other way around.
When was the moment you realized you were on to something with the business idea that became Boxman Studios? Years later, what thing or things have contributed to its ongoing success?
When Boxman Studios (as we know it today) was founded, we moved from a field to a 1500 sq. ft. warehouse across the parking lot from Redbull Charlotte. We would watch them prepare for their events and these monstrous activations would take 2-3 guys, a box truck and 3 days to ship out. That sparked our thought process: Can we make this easier, cheaper and cooler using our concept of betterment—meaning improvement through change not through maintenance?
My team and I were still deciding what that meant to us and how we were going to tell people about it when we developed our first 20 ft. hospitality suite. As we had more and more conversations we were getting two kinds of answers: “Can I invest?“ and “This is pretty cool.“ That’s how we knew we had an idea that would work. But that is not how we are defining our success.
We have realized an environment that keeps our clients, vendors, and coworkers inspired and satisfied. When you have a team that believes in what you’re doing and are passionate about their jobs, that’s when real innovation happens. Our success as a whole doesn’t rely on one program or one project, it’s our belief that our team can do it, will do it, and together we can affect change.
Shark Wake Park: Apex Wake Parks owned by Great White Shark Enterprises had an awesome plan for a wakeboarder’s paradise.
What are the soft skills that you find most valuable for Boxman’s success, and why? They can be office-wide with everyone needing to possess that skill or skills, or they can be on an individual to individual basis depending on one’s role and responsibilities.
I’ve always said that if there was one question I could ask in the interview process that showed if a person has empathy, I wouldn’t need to ask any more questions. If you believe accountability is caring for the group, then empathy is a very important part of that. I believe that if we put a group of people together who care about our clients, vendors and about each other then we have set ourselves up for success.
Zatar at MOS&T: In partnership with Boxman Studios, Compass Group and Missouri University of Science and Technology opened their Mediterranean container restaurant, Zatar.
Edited from a series of interviews conducted in person and via email with David Campbell. Boxman Studios provided images and image captions for this article. Learn more about Boxman Studios online at their website and see more examples of their designs at Flickr.
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