Putting her legal career on hold to travel around Australia with her young family, Kym Foster spent 2 years exploring, enjoying and re-evaluating life as she knew it.
With a change in mindset and a new appreciation for lifestyle, Kym and family settled into life at Sunrise Beach, near Noosa, to welcome baby number two. It was while taking this time out from her career to focus on being a Mum, that Kym had a single idea that catapulted her into the world of online business, creating an Australia-wide online marketplace that has been termed “a whole new stream of commerce”.
Share Shop is a community hub that allows members all over Australia to trade their skills, talents, goods and services, using points instead of money. It’s free to join and Kym is a passionate believer that everyone has something to offer that others will find valuable. Whether your are a small business looking to reach new clients, a retiree with some time on your hands and lots of experience to share, a student or casual worker looking to earn a bit extra value, a stay-at-home parent who has a skill they would like to use now and then, or even someone travelling around Australia; Share Shop is a way to use what you have, to get what you want.
With 401 members already, offering a huge variety of products and services, Share Shop is growing organically and nationally, proving that people do want new ways to connect and trade.
shareshop.com.au @ShareShopAU facebook
Great outcomes are born from ideas that are not denied for fear of failure.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
As a single-income family and as a Mum with young children, I wanted to find a way to be able to still enjoy some ‘luxuries’ (massages, hair appointments, beauty services, babysitting etc), without having to go back to work to afford them or feel ‘guilty’ about spending our household income.
I had skills I could be using but didn’t want to have to commit to returning to full-time work as a solicitor, starting my own business, selling my craft items at a market stall or the expense of advertising for a few jobs here and there.
I thought that there must be others in the same position as me, but when I looked into it and found that other barter-type services available were only for businesses, or not in my local area, were very expensive to join or required finding a matching swap, I decided that there was a void that needed to be filled! As a result, I created Share Shop – a flexible, modern approach to bartering that is Australia-wide, open to everyone, free to join and doesn’t require swapping as we have our own ‘currency’ of points.
Please explain your business model.
In addition to the free membership level, there are also two optional paid membership levels that include extra benefits. Members can also buy extra points when required, for $1 per point, and at some stage in the future paid website advertising will be introduced.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
One of the main things I am working on right now is getting an app developed to make transferring points at the actual point of ‘sale’ much easier and quicker.
I am very excited about the media attention that Share Shop is starting to receive and looking forward to seeing the word spread and our online community grow.
How do you make ideas happen?
For more complex ideas, I like to draw a diagram to clarify exactly how it will work. I am a big fan of organising, making lists and planning! I don’t outsource much, so it is a matter of making sure I stay on track by following the steps of the plan.
What does your typical day look like?
My day usually starts at 6am with some ‘me time’ to go for a walk or jog before the onslaught of morning chaos that comes with getting 2 children ready for school and (on 3 days) daycare. It’s not usually until 9am that I return to my office, turn on my computer and begin to send and reply to emails, make social media posts, answer member enquiries, work on marketing ideas, update the website, liaise with my IT guru and anything else that unexpectedly crops us – which is more often than not in the world of internet business! Most days I also have meetings with members or networking events to attend as well – all before school pick-up time!
Having an online business, a young family and a self-employed husband means that I often have to work unconventional hours to fit it all in, and am usually on the computer working until very late most nights and also weekends.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
There have been many challenges along the way that at times, have almost got the better of me! As a self-funded business owner, most of these could no doubt have been avoided with funds sourced from loans or investors, but that has been a road I have chosen not to take for various reasons.
Initially it was years of IT and website creation difficulties (until I decided to do it myself and get a great website developer on side), but currently my greatest challenge is marketing – getting the ‘right’ message to the ‘right’ people in the ‘right’ way. There are so many people all over Australia that could benefit from Share Shop (such as stay-home parents, WAHM’s, retirees, part-time / casual workers, students, unemployed, self-employed and small business owners) that it should be easy, but as it is a relatively ‘new’ concept, it can be met with some hesitation of “I’ll wait and see who else joins”. In this growth stage, it is crucial to be able to reach those more proactive people who can see the potential, will get on-board, and inspire others to do the same.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
In relation to online business, I think Go Tribe, an Australian organisation facilitating change both here and overseas through their global giving circle, is inspiring in the way they harness social media and online business techniques to share their passion for helping those less fortunate.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
It seems many new businesses are created based on ideas or concepts that are somewhat new to the marketplace, many with the potential of creating social change.
Great outcomes are born from ideas that are not denied for fear of failure. It doesn’t mean other people don’t have the same or better ideas, it just means that some people have more courage or faith in their own ideas.
Share Shop was based on the idea that there needed to be an alternative to the restrictive commercial marketplace that allowed absolutely anyone the opportunity to earn value for something that could otherwise potentially go to waste. That is, allowing people to contribute, feel valued and be rewarded for their time, hidden talents, life experiences, hobbies and skills of any level and in turn, also allowing others to benefit from these untapped or under-utilised resources (or ‘hidden treasures’!).
Speaking of affecting social change, is there a particular charity you’d like our readers to support?
The Go Tribe.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Yes – become a member and tell others you know to join up too!!!!
It is a great tool for businesses to reach new clients and for individuals to value-add to their existing lifestyle. Any opportunity to help us spread the Share Shop message and increase our membership numbers across Australia would be welcome.
My intention is to focus on growing Share Shop nationally and then expanding the model internationally as well. Whilst I wish to maintain 100% ownership of the company, I am always open to any ideas or suggestions of collaboration.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
How can I make the Share Shop message go viral and get membership to ‘critical mass’?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
My favourite restaurant is anything with a kid’s room (sanity is more important than ambiance these days!). Luckily the Sunshine Coast has plenty of kiddie-friendly surf clubs with great views.
My favourite café is the Rose Room Café on Gympie Tce, Noosaville.
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
Free Share Shop Gold Level Membership for 1 year (worth $65). That includes a blog written about their business, a business listing on our Links page, 5 Noticeboard listings and 60 points (worth $60) to spend straight away.