Sharing for Profit

Peter Shankman of HARO (Help a Reporter Out), has an interest in SnapGoods, where you can sign up to rent out your rarely used electronics. Robin Chase of ZipCar is profiled in Inc. this month because she founded BuzzCar, a service that allows French people to rent their cars to neighbors.

In Santa Monica, Writers Junction co-owners and siblings Jay Gibson and Eileen Gibson Funke wanted a quiet place to write but dreaded the isolation inherent in the profession. So they created a shared workspace they rent out by the day. It’s ideal for writers who need a real place to go once the coffee shop thing gets old. Plus Jay and Eileen can host profit-making events for their community. I recently spoke on personal branding to their screenwriter “tenants” and will do it again this coming Sunday.

Strength coach Jon Torerk at BioMechanix in Los Angeles wanted to build himself an elite facility to train in. So he created an industrial/zen-style super gym where contract trainers pay a small fee to bring their clients. It’s got the exact equipment that professional athletic gyms have, plus video games, movies, a conference area, kitchen and even a place to nap. And, Jon can work out whenever he wants.

This is a new take on “follow your passion.” It’s more like “share your passion.” Or, build it and they will come. “They” according to Seth Godin, are your tribe. The basic concept is seeing that your taste, desires or stuff are probably really attractive to other people like you.

What’s great is that you can afford more and better stuff when you share. And, there’s a fun quotient here. Something good happens inside and out, whenever you are with your tribe, even if just one aspect of your lives brings you all together.

Warning: this is not a business concept for only children or people with poor boundaries. You have to be able to play well with others. You must set clear rules and standards for the behavior of your clients. You also must have the right apps or check-in/check-out procedures to keep track of what’s going on. And, make sure you are making money.

Good people skills

Your personal brand plays into this business scenario. You must have good people skills. You must be generous in nature. You must be able to bear the bent edges or spilled coffee, or whatever dings are going to happen in a shared environment.

You like-ability is going to be part of the sell as well. Successful shared services, equipment or space business begin with positive buzz from people you know. In this business model, without others you are nothing, or at least you make nothing.

Elliot Erwitt is a photographer and filmmaker who was getting lost in Los Angeles until she found that sharing her home with other people’s dogs was the ticket to a great business concept. She’s someone you like instantly. It helps that she sends home professional quality photos of your dog at play and rest. Her business Citizen Kanine has a great Facebook page that documents the field trips and activities of her pack. She also alerts a very large group of followers about dog-friendly and dog-saving tips. For example, oleander is poisonous and a lot of it grows in the neighborhood.

So, look in your closet, bookshelves, garage and backyard. Think about what you have and would like more of – or better. Consider what your friends always admire about you (or what they borrow). Spend some time appreciating yourself. Maybe you’re really patient with grandparents and they love how you play piano. Or teenagers always come to you for advice. A clubhouse concept may fit perfectly in your living room.

Something is bound to bubble up that you can put on loan, for hire or in some way share for profit. Given the current financial markets’ roller coaster ride, it really might be best to invest in yourself and the stuff you like at this time. You might find out what you’ve got is as good as gold. Maybe better.

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