Q & A with Hire Things CEO Iona Elwood-Smith
1. Can you describe Hire Things to Happyzine readers?
Hire Things is the online community where you can share resources by hiring in what you need and hiring out what you have. It’s like Trade Me for hiring, except you only list once and get to keep your stuff! You can make and save money by hiring instead of buying.
2. Where did the inspiration come from to start it up and when?
The inspiration came when one of the co-founders, Peter Torr Smith, was travelling in Canada and used a ride-sharing scheme to travel in someone else’s car from Montreal to Quebec City. He loved the idea of resource sharing and cost sharing, and, as he’d worked along side the Trade Me team in its early years, was inspired to extend the idea to be a broad appeal marketplace where you could lend or hire anything to and from others in your community. He thought it would be a logical compliment to the popular buy/sell marketplace, everyone already understood the concept of hiring, plus it seemed liked a socially, environmentally and economically sustainable form of business.
3. How’s it been – what have been your challenges and how have you moved through them?
It’s been a bumpy and exciting ride! An Amazing site was built, but what to do next became the problem. I started working part time at the end of 2007 and set about building content – no one wants to visit an empty site! We listed small/medium hire companies. While the site continued to grow ( 8000 members, 6000 listings) We saw limitations with this direction and didn’t want the site to become too commercial looking. We still wanted to build on our original vision of people hiring to each other – peer to peer rental so we have recently shifted focus in this direction. The challenge here has been getting known and for people to take the step of listing things for hire. We have a fundraising programme for community groups to help raise awareness and are trailing an advocate programme in universities. I am constantly looking what else we can be doing and what improvements we can make. I passionately believe in Hire Things and that keeps me energetic and inspired.
4. What do you particularly love about Hire Things?
I love that people can make money from their stuff – and that they can keep making money from it! I love that everyday people can build businesses from home. That we can get more value form our things . I love that we can really make a difference. I love that I meet really great people.
5. Who works on it?
Me as well as Peter on operations, Darryl on development, Barbara as my CHQ Mentor and Nick as our Chairman. A great team.
6. What’s your grand vision for Hire Things?
Ah ha the million dollar question! My grand vision is become the complete online community resource where you find what you need, when you need it, making a difference world wide to communities and to the environment.
7. Where are you based?
A nationwide company based in Wellington – which I love!
8. Can you tell us a little about yourself – your background, are you a parent, etc?
I’m the mother of three gorgeous children – 14, 12 and 8yrs. When my youngest stared school I couldn’t face a 9-5 job certainly not back in retail or administration as my background had been. I found the online world completely fascinating and approached Hire Things about working with them part-time from home. They said Ok and 2 years later I’m the CEO. My family where not at all surprised as they are used to me” bossing them around”. I had breast cancer a year ago and you do come out the other side thinking, now I can do anything. It’s been an amazing journey and I still feel that it’s just the beginning.
9. Can you elaborate on the green aspect of Hire Things?
One of the core values behind Hire Things was that we don’t have to own everything we need. We all have too much stuff that we aren’t using very often. By sharing resources we get more value from what we own, less things being made and ending up in landfill barely used. There is a definite move away from consumerism. A recent report commissioned by the British government said hiring instead of buying would cut CO2 emissions by about 2 per cent a year, through a fall in manufacturing and lower consumption of raw materials. Hiring – the new secret weapon against climate change!
10. How do you maintain life balance whilst running a business?
Very carefully and not always well! It’s a juggle but being able to work a lot from my home office helps. My hours are flexible and the kids know when to give me space. I can take time out to help at school and I can end up working till late at night. There’s never a dull moment!
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