“When you think about renting, you think about houses, cars, boats…big items. You don’t usually think about renting something in your house. And you should!”
That’s how coffee with Anabella Watson, CEO of RentBillow started this past week. She isn’t building just an online peer-to-peer rental business (within 9 months her site has had over 400 signups and she created an iOS app), she is building a community.
Let’s start with the peer-to-peer rental story. According to Anabella, there are 5 reasons why you’d want to rent something from someone else:
1. Save money
2. Make Money
3. Save storage
4. Save maintenance
5. Always get to enjoy the latest model of whatever you want
It makes sense. How many times have you wanted to try a new tool? Or try using a new cooking device? Need a blown up castle for a kid’s party, so they can jump around and stay out of trouble? Great rental candidates are items that you probably wouldn’t use more than once a year, you aren’t sure you’d use at all, or something you want to try before you buy.
There are other reasons you may want to rent. What if you are traveling and forgot to bring a flat iron with you? Or your child wants to try a sport that requires expensive equipment, but you aren’t sold that he will stay with it? What if you’d rather invest in a great honeymoon than an expensive wedding dress? The list is endless.
The renters at her site offer convenient rates that scale by the day, the week, and the month. And she already has renters in multiple locations including Texas, California, Florida, Michigan, and beyond. RentBillow is focused to build trust amongst its members (all members need to have an account). A renter asks to use the item for a specific time range, and if the owner accepts, the renter pays up-front. By paying first, you show good faith that you will be responsible for using the item and won’t stick the renter with damaged or unreturned goods in the end.
Now, some people may feel weird about renting their stuff, worried that the renters may ruin or abuse it. She has found that generally untrue. From her perspective, you have these things sitting around your house, collecting dust and not being used. Rather than having it sit around, why not let someone else use it and make $10. And how much damage could someone do to a ladder? Or a flat iron?
She also pointed out to me that it’s not just more economical to rent your things, it’s more environmentally friendly. By getting into a renter’s mindset, you realize that you don’t need to live off the perpetual shopping, buying and owning model—you can look for and rent what you need when you need it.
During coffee I started wondering what I could rent from my house to make a few dollars. Her energy and passion around peer-to-peer renting had me sold. Eventually, she’ll have a subscription model, but for now it’s free so she can build a community.
And this leads to the community side of Anabella’s business. She started RentBillow to help people earn extra revenue from what they own. Stay-at-home moms, her primary audience, are always trying to be frugal and optimize their finances. Renting items that aren’t being actively used is a great way to do that.
Then there are those who immigrated to this country and need things, but may not have the money to buy them. She born and raised in Mexico and while talking with her, I could tell that she generally wanted to help these people find other sources of income. It is a very important part of her business. Many immigrants will call her with questions and she is happy to help them in their native Spanish. What she has found through her business is that these immigrants will rent tools from RentBillow to use at jobs. Through her site, they are able to save money while earning money. She is currently creating a promotion that encourages people to donate tools for unemployed people in Dallas to use rent free so they can take on jobs that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to.
What impressed me most about Rentbillow is that Anabella personally talks to all of her customers. She is literally a phone call away and wants to help them succeed. She is constantly on social media, promoting her customer’s products (she showed me some of her social media posts—they are just awesome!). She is the strongest advocate for her renters—in some cases, she promotes them more than they promote themselves.
And yes, Anabella isn’t just the CEO, she’s a customer. She told me a story about her child desperately wanting this expensive toy, which came with all these add-ons and extras. After spending hundreds of dollars for it, her child played with the toy for 15 minutes and never touched it again. Needless to say, that was the first item for rent on RentBillow.