Interview: Making better use of the nation’s space with sharing site Storemates

Good Thursday to all you Liftsharers and the share-minded alike. We’ve got another entry to our series of sharing economy spotlights, where we take some time to champion other sharing sites out there. The concept of sharing isn’t exclusive to car travel, so Liftshare is always on the look out for other sharing sites that can neatly fit into all aspects of your daily life.

Enter this week’s shaing site Storemates, a service that aims to reduce the amount of unused space going to waste across the UK. It was conceptualised by Shaff Prabatani after his girlfriend moved into his small flat and shortly after became pregant. When they realised they didn’t have enough space for three people, and weren’t prepared to pay the huge prices for storing their furniture, the concept started to grow.

They eventually stored their goods with a neighbour after dropping flyers through letterboxes in their local area in return for payment. That is the heart of Storemates as it exists today, and the site now pairs people in need of storage space with those who have unused space to spare.

We spoke with Bally at Storemates to lean more about how the site began, how it’s grown and how it helping people across the nation save money.

Take it away Bally!


Liftshare: Can you tell us how Storemates was founded and what sort of problems you saw out there that needed fixed?

Bally: The concept of Storemates was first thought up by Shaff Prabatani, after his girlfriend moved into his very small flat and then soon after become pregnant. At this point they realized there would be no space for the 3 of them. Put off by the crippling costs of self storage they eventually stored with a neighbour after dropping flyers into local letterboxes requesting storage in return for a small regular fee.

Inspired by this local solution, Shaff decided to take this simple idea and create an online service where people can rent their spare household storage space to people in need of cheap local storage. The beauty of Storemates is that it uses only existing space and so has a minimal environmental impact; provides opportunities for affordable, local storage plus increasing people’s interconnectedness within their community.

Liftshare: To what extent is there a problem with an overabundance of free storage spaces going unused out there today?

Bally: Lots of people have untapped storage space in their garages, spare rooms and attics. For example, if you found 500 lofts that would mean one less storage warehouse would need to be built. The People Who Share has released a report estimating that there is £3.5tn-worth of unused assets globally.

By just using commercial storage in London we could help solve the housing problem as 8,590,000 sq ft is taken up by commercial storage units. In the last 10 years, technology has made it easier for people to rent items, to each other, online and has meant an expansion in the ‘sharing economy’ which is often cheaper, eco-friendly, sustainable and involves the local community

Liftshare: What steps do you take to ensure stored items are safe in another person’s space?

Bally: Storemates takes the security of people’s belongings and property very seriously. We have built a community of trust where people collaborate for mutual benefit. We also have a wide range of safety features to ensure our users feel confident about using our service including:• Profile & Reviews where users can get to know each other through their detailed profiles and reviews.

  • Secure Messages are sent through the site for questions or checking any details before agreeing to storage arrangements.
  • Secure Payments via the GoCardless system regulated by the Financial Services Authority so we will take care of all the money stuff, allowing you to pay from or receive funds directly into your bank account.
  • Storage Agreement for both parties to use to protect them developed by our legal team.
  • Storemates Protection Guarantee although we have never had a reported incident due to the trust measures and safeguards we put in place. For complete peace of mind we provide cover for any losses incurred due to theft or damage up to £10,000.
  • eRated ratings which allow users to carry to Storemates the reputation and profiles they’ve built on other marketplaces and social media sites such as ebay, Airbnb, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Liftshare: Some say there is an element of trust required to become an active participant of the sharing economy? To what extent do you feel this is true?

Bally: This is true to some extent. The sharing economy is maturing, growing and there more measures being introduced such as eRated, reviews and protection guarantees to safeguard people and promote trust.

An online survey by Mashable, among 30,000 consumers from 60 countries, in 2013, puts the global average of people willing to participate in sharing communities at 66-68% and increasing exponentially.

Just think of Airbnb, Just Park and others, people are seeing that they can really reap in the benefits and earn extra cash with the the sharing economy so this is a huge incentive for many. For example, a recent independent government review states that the sharing economy could have a potential income of $335bn by 2025 turning the UK’s population into microentrepreneurs with the UK leading the global sharing market.

Liftshare: Lastly, what – do you think, is the biggest challenge facing the sharing economy today, and if you could, how would you fix it?

Bally: The sharing economy is attracting millions of people globally but it often attracts those with assets such as space and those needing assets like storage space or accommodation. This often attracts the white middle class so one of the biggest challenges is to ensure that those excluded communities are also benefitting from the sharing economy.

That is why we are holding an event next week to explore this further on 26th February at 6pm called Excluded Communities and The Sharing Economy. We need to help solve complex social problems that affect young unemployed people, older people, those with disabilities and those on low income families.

We would love for example for even more older people to be benefitting and be renting out their space at Storemates as this would not only help them earn extra cash but feel less socially excluded too.

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