A novel business idea to rent items rather than buy them is looking to gain traction in the Highlands after first being launched in the Scottish capital last December.
Pa-rent – pronounced “pay-rent” – is seeking to tap into Highland friendliness and a sense of community spirit – albeit one with a solid business plan – by providing an online portal marketplace to rent out goods.
A bike for the week or gazebo for a day
The idea sprang from an initial focus on parent needs for children but has mushroomed into a forum where people can lend or borrow family equipment – anything from a pram for six months, a bike for the week or a gazebo for the day.
“We started in Edinburgh and now want to go into the Highlands where I am from,” Pa-rent co-founder Victoria Davidson told the Press and Journal.
“I think there is a real sense of community up north and that is why Inverness would be a good place, people are so friendly. For this model to work we need that sense of trust.
“We are starting to list items in the Highlands.”
Part of that push into the Highlands is already seeing Davidson visible “everyday” on community online pages such as Beauly Online and Acts of Kindness Inverness.
Fuelled partly by an increasing acceptance of the shared economy, Pa-rent cites the huge popularity of renting private rooms to strangers after initial scepticism – “We all know how that turned out” as proof its business model can work.
Those looking to list items or rent them create an account online with the option to have goods for a daily, weekly or monthly period, while Pa-rent takes a 20% fee for its service.
Currently the Pa-rent site is running as a beta trial but in future, the company plans to offer the ability to take deposits in order to give lenders security when they rent out items.
Pa-rent also wants to give users the ability to set varying prices rates on one listing (for example daily, weekly and monthly prices).
Rental companies can also use the services, with business rates available to them.
Dispute resolution service available
One of the questions which will invariably arise is what if the goods are not up to scratch or if there is a general disagreement between parties, but this is where Davidson and her co-founder business partner, Vicky Thomson step in.
Users are encouraged to settle disputes between themselves but as Davidson and Thomson are both experienced dispute resolution lawyers themselves, they offer an arbitration service to customers.
Items need to be in good condition and not more than five years old, while neither heavy machinery nor car seats are permitted as it is not possible to determine if the latter has been in a car accident.
“One of the worries was, what if stuff gets broken?” added Davidson. “At the moment it is not big enough to have insurance so we have put in place a resolution solution.”
Fast consumerism is destroying our planet. Everyone needs to do their part and this is a small step to make a huge difference.”
As well as the shared economy, Pa-rent is also tapping into an environmental consciousness that is becoming more evident from small businesses to multi-national corporations.
“Fast consumerism is destroying our planet” notes Pa-rent which has had advice from Zero Waste Scotland in setting up a business plan with the body also paying for a 12-week intern for the company.
“Everyone needs to do their part and this is a small step to make a huge difference,” said Davidson, adding: “People buy things for fun – not everyone needs to own a carpet cleaner for example.
“It makes sense for one person on the street to have one thing and for everyone to share it.
“We are trying to make things affordable for families.”
Investment interest increasing
As Pa-rent is starting to expand, the duo is “probably looking for funding” as it approaches its 12 months of operation at the end of this year and will launch an app.
NatWest Bank has also provided advice to Davidson and Thomson, while the pair have received an undisclosed “few offers about finance” after significant interest was generated from the concept.
“There are a couple of people who have said they really want to invest,” added Davidson.