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.
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.