In 2010 a Bronx (N.Y.) correctional officer named Vernon Alcoser carved out a niche business tapping perhaps the unlikeliest of markets: student bodies in the New York City public school system. A few years prior, city officials had banned students from bringing mobile phones into public schools. His girlfriend's daughter, like many other enterprising students, began taking her cell phone to a nearby bodega, which offered to store students' devices during school hours.
"She had concerns about [her daughter's safety]," Alcoser says. "The bus would stop directly in front of the school. Her daughter would have to go down the block towards the train station to put her phone there and then come back up to where the school was. A light turned on in my head. My partner wanted to open a store [to store phones], but trucks will be more mobile and you could get them in front of the school."
The resulting business, Pure Loyalty, holds students' electronic devices in trucks for $1 a day while they attend class. It has eight trucks that park outside eight public schools from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on every school day. Each is manned by one employee. Still, things aren't all rosy: More competitors--namely bodegas, and even neighbors--are offering storage services. In 2010, a Pure Loyalty truck could take in 700 devices daily; today, the maximum intake for a truck is about 400 devices, Alcoser says. Bloomberg Businessweek hopped on the phone with Alcoser, who still works as a correctional officer, to learn more.