Before the concept of money entered the minds of human beings back in the day, a system called ‘barter’ was in effect. People traded things they had for things they didn’t to survive. As soon as money became the mode of exchange, people forgot the barter system at the drop of a hat.
In 2012, a Noosa-based ex-litigation lawyer, Kym Foster, decided that the barter system still had a place in the 21st century and is a great way for people to exchange one thing for another, whether it’s a product or a service. And so she began Share Shop, a place where anyone from across Australia can buy and sell different products or services.
But there’s a pleasant twist. Instead of using money as the mode of exchange, Share Shop uses a point system where members of the site can exchange points for services.
The cost for one point in Share Shop is $1 and although you are able purchase points to begin with, once you have started, you can exchange points by providing a service to another person. Using the points that you’ve earned through the website, you can purchase a bigger item or better service.
Visitors of Share Shop are required to be members to be a part of the online community. But there is no subscription charge to a be regular member.
There are, however, two other types of membership, Gold and Silver, which are paid memberships. Gold Memberships are worth $65 and Silver memberships are worth $35.
The advantage of being a Gold or Silver member is that you are given 60 and 30 points to start with as well as a featured blog post, noticeboard listing space and business listings on the Links page.
Once people become members, they have access to an account, which allows them to post their personal information and the skills they have to offer with their cost of service.
Any visitor of the website can browse the existing members. Although there are only around 150 members who have joined this online community, Ms Foster has faith that the number will increase dramatically in 2014. And so she should.
Users of the website who wish to buy a service can contact the member by sending them a private message in their profile. Both buyers and sellers can continue to keep in contact with each other and in turn they can build upon their business relation.
Ms Foster believes that through her site, people will understand the value of trading one skill for another and that it will help people socialise more in a time where there is growing physical disconnect.
She hopes that her community grows to a wider network and aims to have at least a thousand members by the end of 2014.
But how did the idea come about? Being an ex-lawyer and a stay-at-home mum now, Ms Foster knew that her time of spending and splurging had come to end. She shifted to the coast to start her family and knew that there were a lot of services that she required – including basic luxuries such as hair colouring and a massage.
As she was a new member to the town, she thought it would be a great idea if she had a group of friends who had hair dressing and massaging skills so that she wouldn’t have to spend too much on a regular spa treatment.
She also believed that it would be a good idea for these friends to swap time with each other to bring greater value to the community. This is what got her creativity flowing. And not too long after, she embarked on an entrepreneurial mission to create Share Shop.
Her main challenge at the moment is increasing the number of members on her website. She believes that the reason that she hasn’t been able to get as many members as she would have liked is because the concept of Share Shop is hard for people to understand.
This idea is one that hasn’t been seen or heard of before; and the idea of a cashless marketplace isn’t easy to grasp in our capitalist culture. Her main focus now is to help people build faith in her new idea so that they can benefit from its numerous advantages.
To date, Ms Foster is a self-funded entrepreneur who has used her own savings and time to start Share Shop. She identifies herself as “a bit of control freak” and although she trusts her peers, she likes to be the one running the show.
The reason that she didn’t want to involve anyone with her idea was because she wanted it to be her own thing. As far as raising money was concerned, she was in a position to afford small steps but she had to occasionally ask a few people for help.
She knows that had she gotten investors on board with her idea, the business would have boomed and would have been greatly marketed and advertised. However, she believed in herself and didn’t want to be accountable to anyone or feel the guilt of owing anyone anything.
When Ms Foster initially designed the website, she created it with the intention of helping stay-at-home moms, parents, semi-retired and retired people, part-time workers, students, unemployed people and small businesses.
To her, these people had a lot of time on their hands while being talented in various skills as well. Tapping into this portion of the community, she felt, would lead to a lot of benefits and would be her main target audience.
But what happened later was a different story. Some of the people who joined the Share Shop community were full-time employees and businesses that had lot of people working under them.
Although these people did not have too much spare time in their hands, they had a skill that they were willing to trade for a skill they hadn’t. Ms Foster began with a fixed mindset, but after seeing the response, she knows that more open-minded people will join and that there is no fixed target audience for her business.
Since her business commenced in 2012, Ms Foster has received a lot of positive feedback regarding her business.
Her business has already been publicly promoted in local newspapers; and the main reason her business is a sure-to-be-hit is simply because there is no need to bargain one service for another.
The point of the business is to get people involved with each other and help them out when they are not able to do so for themselves – even if it means offering companionship in a nursing home or mowing someone’s lawn.
The big softie that Ms Foster is, glowing reviews of her business in the papers have made her tearful. She stresses how grateful she is that people appreciate her idea and are willing to support it.
And who wouldn’t? It’s basically the cashless version of Elance, Fiverr, and oDesk – meaning there are opportunities for obtaining greater value, or bigger bang for your point.
For more information on Shareshop, visit www.shareshop.com.au.