How Sharing Resources Can Help Your Business

by Ellen Lee on July 18, 2011
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When Caterina Rindi needed a label maker for her small business, Mo Foods, she didn’t rush to the store to purchase one. She tapped NeighborGoods, a sharing site, to borrow one from another member.

Rindi, whose business uses fruits and vegetables picked from neighborhood backyards to make pies and other dishes, is part of a growing movement called “collaborative consumption” or the “sharing economy.” It’s built around sharing resources, from label makers to automobiles, and it’s one that can benefit small businesses. Here’s how it works.

1) Borrowing tools that you don’t need often – Rindi’s need for a label maker is a classic example. Through NeighborGoods, she borrowed the label maker at no cost. Other sites also let you rent an item for a fee. Say you need a GPS device for a road trip, or your camera broke and you haven’t had a chance to purchase a new one. You could rent one through Snapgoods, a sharing site focused on gear such as photography and DJ equipment. Since these sites are fairly new — most were launched last year or this year — they are still building inventory and critical mass. But a scan of their listings shows that there’s already a lot that can be borrowed, such as a steam cleaner, a Kindle, folding chairs and tables, party tents, and kitchen tools.

2) Sharing the resources you own but don’t use often — Rindi uses her car only about two to three times a week, so on the other days she makes it available for others to borrow through RelayRides, a car sharing service available in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston. Rindi estimates she makes about $200 to $300 a month by letting other people borrow her car. Through RelayRides, other people in the neighborhood can reserve her car by the hour or day for a fee.

3) Renting out extra inventory – As a small business, you may have extra inventory on hand or inventory that isn’t being used regularly. Maybe renting gear is your entire business. Check out a site such as Rentcycle, which allows businesses to post belongings online for customers to rent. It’s another way to put your inventory to better use instead of letting it sit idle in storage.

4) Building partnerships and community – By sharing your resources with others, you open the door to meeting new people in your neighborhood and building new partnerships. Micki Krimmel, founder of NeighborGoods, told us that one member found a new job just by dropping off a video game to a borrower.

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