Small Business: Community focus - Sharon George

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Sharon George, Director of Swap or Trade It.
Sharon George, Director of Swap or Trade It.

Sharon George, Director of Swap or Trade It, a newly launched grass roots New Zealand company that has built a website that individuals, businesses and communities can use to swap or trade, rent or hire, buy or sell or give away. It is designed to encourage recycling and encourage people to think about sustainability.

Why did you set it up?

Initially we set up Swap or Trade it because we saw a gap in the online market space that wasn't being met. There weren't any good quality websites where you could do more than just buy or sell.

There were no websites that gave you the option to buy, sell, swap or trade, rent or hire or give away. One size doesn't always fit all.

The more we looked into it, the more we saw that there was a need for an online website that allowed people to do more than buy or sell. We saw that people did not always have money, so purchasing was not an option. People on a day to day basis are struggling to make ends meet, and we saw an opportunity where we could build an online website that allowed people to swap or trade their skills and services as well as goods for goods or other things they needed.

People could use their "clutter as currency" as they say. We are also encouraging people to think more about recycling stuff they no longer need, instead of throwing it away so less is going into our landfills.

Are you intending it to be a profitable business?

Of course we would like to be a profitable business but not at the expense of the people who need this kind of service most. We will build toward being a profitable business.

There are many different avenues that we can pursue to build profitability. We have invested a significant amount of money in our business, because we are passionate about building a more sustainable economy, environment and community.

We are currently developing multiple streams of income from different areas other than fee collection from users which will allow more people to use the site for free.

What has the response been so far?

The response has been amazing. We have travelled from the top of the North Island to the bottom, talking to Kiwis and they all have been saying: "What a great Idea." We know that it will take a while for people to understand the concept of our website, but once people do, it will create a whole new way of thinking.

What kinds of things are you seeing swapped and exchanged?

We are seeing all sorts of things going on, from household furniture being exchanged for gardening work, to boats being exchanged for Harley Davidsons. I can't wait until we have our first house exchange. There are lots of cars and household items being listed, and there are also people putting wanted to put listings up for things they are looking for.

How big could this get?

Enormous. There is a huge movement at the moment called Collaborative Consumption. This is where people are looking at swapping, bartering, or renting instead of ownership, as the cost for ownership is too high. People are looking at ways to reduce their debt and increase their income. It also gives people a whole new way of thinking around recycling and being more sustainable. We say that it is only limited by your imagination.

Have you had any support from other business partners?

We have been very encouraged by the amount of support that we have received and have two large corporates, NZ Post and NZI that we are currently working with around some pretty amazing ideas.

Why have you personally decided to involve yourself in this?

Our world has changed so much over the last 40 years and will change so much more in the next 40 years. We want to be part of the change for the better. If we don't do this, then who will and if not now, then when?

What have you got out of it?

Humility, friendships and stories. We have met some amazing New Zealanders as we travelled around the country. Every day Kiwis, who are struggling to stay in business, struggling to bring up families, and struggling to make ends meet, but who can still share an idea, a laugh and a beer with you. That to us is pretty special.

Do you have other ideas?

Yes, watch this space.


Next week: It can be said that NZ game developers punch seriously above their weight, the likes of Sidhe Interactive, SmallWorlds and Ninja Kiwi. I want to hear from more game developers making some major strides here and overseas who are not so well known - yet. I know you are out there, please get in touch.

- NZ Herald

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