Entrepreneurship and Liminality: The Case of Self-Storage Based Businesses

Daniel, Elizabeth and Ellis-Chadwick, Fiona (2016). Entrepreneurship and Liminality: The Case of Self-Storage Based Businesses. International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour & Research, 22(3) pp. 436–457.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/IJEBR-01-2015-0015


The paper applies the theoretical lens of liminality to a consideration of non-traditional entrepreneurial locations. The study exemplifies such locations by empirically exploring self-storage based businesses: that is, businesses that operate for a significant number of hours each week from self-storage facilities.

The study draws on interviews with entrepreneurs operating self-storage based businesses and operators of self-storage facilities. The interview data is supported by site visits, businesses’ websites, promotional and marketing materials and press coverage.

Consistent with our liminal lens, entrepreneurs view their time operating from self-storage as a transitional phase. They do not suffer the high levels of uncertainty and unsettledness usually associated with liminality. However, they experience anxiety related to perceptions of operating from a business location outside the mainstream. Whilst the entrepreneurs benefit from additional services provided by the self-storage operators, this may be at the expense of extra ‘liminal’ work and anxiety experienced by the storage operators’ staff.

Our study contributes to entrepreneurship by answering Steyaert and Katz’s (2004) call for studies in unfamiliar places and spaces. We identify a number of ways in which liminality can arise when considering entrepreneurial locations. Drawing on extant entrepreneurial studies, we theorise that idiosyncratic characteristics of such spaces attract entrepreneurs with particular personal characteristics and needs, who will in turn be influenced by those spaces. In the case of self-storage facilities, the liminal space allows trepidatious entrepreneurs to ‘try on’ (Hawkins and Edwards, 2015, p.39) operating a new venture.

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