“Collaborative Consumption” on the Rise

by Susan Johnston

1 min read

Last fall, when Boston-based photographer Dan Watkins learned that the studio he’d hoped to use for a photo shoot in three days was unavailable, he initially panicked. Then, after a quick online search, he discovered StudioShare.org, a website that connects photographers like Watkins with studio owners willing to rent out their space.

Within a few hours, Watkins found another local studio that fit his needs and booked the shoot. His client was none the wiser about his behind-the-scenes scramble, and Watkins said he’d use the studio again if needed. “I wouldn’t have known about the space if I hadn’t found it on StudioShare,” says Watkins, “but after meeting the photographer who owned that studio, he’s become my fallback studio.”

Watkins is part of a growing tribe of entrepreneurs and individuals who use web-based sharing sites rather than buying the products or other resources they need in a more conventional fashion. For instance, sharing unused office space, renting audio equipment instead of buying it, or staying in a stranger’s home instead of a hotel while traveling. It saves money and also gives businesses greater flexibility so they can find exactly what they need for each project instead of committing to a long-term lease or traditional ownership.

We reported on the sharing economy (also sometimes called collaborative consumption or “the mesh”) earlier this year, and GigaOM predicts that the concept will soon enter the mainstream.

In just a few months since our last post on sharing, car-sharing service ZipCar debuted on the Nasdaq, the Oregon Senate Transportation and Economy Committee approved a personal vehicle car-sharing bill, and Ashton Kutcher announced that he’d invested in Airbnb.com, a peer-to-peer accommodations site which recently closed a $100 million round of funding.

What does this mean for businesses? Whether you’re looking to cash on the trend by starting a niche sharing site or hoping to keep costs down by renting equipment or space for the day, the opportunities are out there — and they continue to grow.

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