If you’ve ever gotten a ride from Uber or Lyft, rented a vacation home through Airbnb, or shared your home WiFi through Fon, then you’ve been a consumer in the sharing economy.
In a recent Fast Company article, author Rachel Botsman defined a sharing economy as, “An economic system based on sharing underused assets or services, for free or for a fee, directly from individuals.” The key phrase in her definition is the notion that we’re sharing underused assets or services—resources that would’ve otherwise been idle and therefore would not have delivered their real value.
As a small business owner, I have watched the rising popularity of the sharing economy, and found it amusing that people think of it as something “new” and “hip” and “innovative.” The reality is, that we who run small businesses have been applying the principles of the sharing economy since we first hung up our shingles. Whenever we exchanged or bartered goods or services with someone, rather than paying with or getting paid through cash, we were using sharing economy principles, even if we didn’t know what to call it.
In the five years that I’ve run my own small business, I’ve had to learn about applying sharing economy principles the normal way–through trial and (sometimes painful) error. But these experiences have taught me quite a few valuable lessons, some of which may sound familiar to you from your own experiences.
Below are four things you can do today to take part in the sharing economy, and benefit your business in the process:
- Create a local and regional following by collaborating with local influencers. The more people hear about you, your products, and your services from third parties, the more likely it is that they’ll remember you the next time they need something that you provide. For example, when I ran a salon, I collaborated with pageant title-holders, local news anchors, local socialites, local authors, various business industries, as well as fashion, food, and style bloggers.
Souny West is the Founder of Collabz, her solution to the sharing economy for collaborative thinkers and doers. By cultivating an ethic of contribution in our community, they have now created an infrastructure for collaborations to be seen, valued and rewarded.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.