Monday, 27 April 2015

Fancy a trip to Grand Designs Live?

Picture provided by Remade in Britain 

Fancy a trip to Grand Designs Live? Courtesy of Remade in Britain I have 2 tickets to give away! Remade in Britain is a UK based online upcycling market place and will be showcasing some of the work of its retailers at Grand Designs Live. The show runs from the 2nd to the 10th May in London.  

To enter the prize draw: 

Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.  (It will take your details so that if you win I will be able to get in touch with you to let you know and it will also select a prize winner at random when the draw ends.)


The rules:

This prize draw is open to UK residents only. The site owner, Remade in Britain staff and their immediate families are not eligible to enter. One lucky winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter at 12.00am on the 30th April after which the prize draw will be closed to new entries. The winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours of the prize draw ending. The winner must respond within 48 hours of being contacted by this site otherwise the prize will be redrawn and the same rules will apply.  Ineligible entries will be disqualified and again if necessary the prize will be redrawn. There is no cash alternative and no other prize available. 

Thursday, 9 April 2015

An interview with a sharing expert - Benita Matofska!


Benita Matofska says she saves £20,000 a year through sharing. She does a bit more than just share her stuff though, she also recently founded Compare and Share - a comparison website where you can search for people's rooms, homes or cars to rent originally listed on various different websites. She lives in the same town as me and I just had to get in touch and find out more.  She very kindly agreed to meet with me and let me interview her.  I had a few questions prepared for her, but her story was so interesting that mainly I just listened and took notes.

I asked Benita to tell me about what she did before she got involved in the sharing economy.

Benita worked in broadcasting for over 20 years.  She worked on radio and TV both on and off screen. She lived in New York for several years working for the BBC and eventually came back to the UK. Over the years she became very disillusioned with the TV industry. To her it seemed that the industry was locked in old more traditional ways and wasn’t moving fast enough. 

Benita had a drive to make an impact, create a difference and do something good in the world, so she left TV and went to work in the charity sector for a year. She worked for Enterprise UK where her role was Head of Global Entrepreneurship (GE). During her time in this role she was invited to present at One Young World Congress which took place in London in 2010 - an event all about giving young people a voice. She ended up presenting alongside Desmond Tutu and Bob Geldoff and felt incredibly inspired by her experience. In that moment she decided the next thing she would do would be about making a big positive change in the world.

I asked what sparked her interest in the sharing economy?

After the Congress the word that kept her awake at night was sharing.  She just couldn’t get it out of her head. Benita didn’t know what she was going to do, but she knew it would be do with sharing.  Her friends weren’t sure what she was doing. Her dad said where’s the money in that. Interestingly now we know the sharing economy was recently valued at $15 million globally and is predicted to rise $335 billion dollars by 2025!

One morning she woke up and decided that one of the key problems with the world is that there is a shortage of sharing. She became excited about the possibilities this presented and felt that the situation could be fixed as each of us having unlimited potential to share.

Benita told me how her interest in sharing led to her setting up a not for profit organisation.

On Jan 17th 2011 The People Who Share (read more here) came into being.  Benita set it up as a not for profit campaign to help build a sharing economy. It’s mission is to educate, raise awareness and help people discover the sharing economy.

Benita began to run events in Brighton called Crowdshare via the People Who Share. The first event was during the Brighton Festival Fringe in May 2011, which was held in the Brighton Youth Centre on Edward Street.  They had a giant clothes swap, had a big art share, had a big picnic, had a sharing market area which was all the local sharing services that existed at the time in Brighton so people could sign up for sharing goods, car share, seed swapping, skills exchanges, time banks. There were musicians who came and shared their time and their talents, skills exchanges – young people teaching old people to skate.  That was a great success. They continued putting on those kinds of events and did a number of those.

National and then Global Sharing Day

In 2012 Benita decided to run National Sharing Day.  She decided to do it 6 weeks before the day, she had no money and only a few people helping.  People told her she was mad - she didn't have the resources and how on earth was she going to do that? Benita said what is the worse that can happen and gave it a go. On the 20th June 2012 it happened and it went viral!  People were tweeting from the Ukraine, the Phillipines and all over the world wanting their own national sharing day.  So this led to her running a global sharing day on November 14th 2012. You can see her talking about this day in the video below.




They ran another global sharing day partnering with various other organisations on June 2nd 2013 and they had 3.65 million people sharing food. There was a big launch event with Caroline Lucas (Green MP for Brighton) at the House of Commons who was very supportive.

I asked Benita to tell me about Compare and Share

Soon after founding The People Who Share Benita was trying to book a family holiday online. Her family like to have a local experience when they go on holiday, they like to rent from local people and get the local intel. She was tearing her hair out as she was trying to trawl through all these diffferent websites to find the info she wanted. She would get 15 millions hits on google. Friends had the same problems and she was sure there had to be a better way.  She decided what was needed was a one stop shop for the sharing economy - a comparison marketplace. Benita wanted to access shared stuff in the same way that when you book a flight you go to a single site and it brings up all your options, That was the birth of Compare and Share because it wasn’t easy and she felt that people aren’t going to do it in great volumes unless it is easy.

In January 17th 2013 Compare and Share was officially born – (it coincindentally shares the same birthday as The People Who Share). It is a social business and a for profit company. They have ambitions to become the next big tech brand and their vision is to open up the sharing economy a bit like Ebay opened up the secondhand goods market - they want to make it discoverable for everybody.

They started the platform with car and ride sharing and got 90% of the UK market on the platform – very quickly you could get a series of options to travel from Brighton to Bristol and so on. At the end of 2013 they launched accommodation and now give access to over 1.2 million properties via a network of affiliate partners e.g. houseshare.

Benita explained the opportunities that have arisen from Compare and Share.

Because they are known as global sharing experts, what started to happen is that businesses would come and ask them to provide consultancy or give talks – in London in June 2013 Benita presented at Le Web and the whole theme was on the sharing economy. Following that she was contacted by someone from Macmillan Cancer Support because they wanted to build a peer to peer task sharing platform to connect volunteers to run errands for people living with cancer e.g. someone needs the shopping doing, laundry doing etc. They worked collaboratively with Macmillian on a year long pilot project goteamup.org.uk. It started out just in Brighton and Hove, but they have now been scaling it up across East and West Sussex and she is sure it will go further afield. Other companies have approached them as well.

'Business has changed forever'

Benita feels that business has changed forever now that people can trade directly with other people using technology. She thinks that in order for businesses to future proof themselves they need to find ways to be part of the sharing economy. Companies the world over are starting to look at different ways of getting involved and one way corporations can get into this space is by buying. Zip Car was acquired by Avis in 2013. BMW have invested in Just Park and they also have something called Drive Now – all different forms of car clubs, most of the major car companies like Peugeot or Daimler have all invested in car sharing in some form.  Benita feels there is a massive shift in how we are leading our lives and that people are choosing to access rather than own goods.

Benita's take on why we should share

As you can tell Benita is an incredibly passionate key player in the sharing economy.  To find out more you can watch her Tedx Brighton Talk on the sharing economy below.



I wanted to know how she managed to save herself £20,000 a year through sharing and asked her how she did it. Benita replied as follows:

In her TV days Benita would think nothing of spending a few hundred pounds on a top.  When she left TV her salary went down to a third of what it was and by then she also had 2 kids.  She couldn’t sustain her previous lifestyle and didn’t want to.

  • She stopped buying new things and everything is preloved. 
  • She does regular monthly clothes swaps at home. She has been doing them for about 20 years - something she did even when buying designer clothes. 
  • For holidays they do house swaps – one example was when they did a houseswap in Italy to a beautiful restored farm house which would have cost them £3500 euros a week. It was in acres of land and didn’t cost her anything.
  • Childcare – she couldn’t be a working mum if not for the swaps that she does. On some days friends look after her kids after school and on others she looks after theirs. She feels really happy with this set up knowing her kids enjoy going to their friends after school.
  • She organised a street party on Global sharing day. Before she did it she barely knew any of her neighbours, but she says after doing it she never looked back - people smile at her, say hello and it is now a very friendly street.  From this other things have developed. They now have adhoc tool sharing in the street.
  • She uses a book swap platform - Read It Swap It (find out more here)
  • She has rented out a room in her home
I asked Benita how Compare and Share works with membership only sites as you need to sign up to a lot of these sites to be able to use them.

Basically Compare and Share is an affiliate link site.  If you want to rent out a car listed with Zipcar for example you would click through the link to Zipcar and sign up to be a member.  Compare and Share would then get a referral fee.  In the longer term they are looking to implement a oneshare login. This would mean people could log in once to Compare and Share and then be logged into a variety of sharing type sites at once. 

My next question was about lawnmowers - what will be the future of lawnmowers if we all share them?  I asked this because it was one of the examples given  in Mark Boyle's Moneyless Manifesto - if we all share lawnmowers, ladders and so on and demand rapidly drops companies would have to completely rethink their businesses and they may not be able to produce certain items at all any more (or only at very high prices).

Benita replied that there are going to be casualties in this – e.g. lawnmowers companies going out of business.  She feels inevitably what will happen is there will be more businesses built up around restoration and repair.  There will be a move away from traditional manufacturing to different kinds of manufacturing, lots of recycling, upcycling and the mining of landfill sites.

I could have spent longer talking to Benita but sadly at this point we both had to end the interview.

I found it a really fascinating couple of hours talking to Benita and thanks to her for taking the time to speak to me!

I'm really intrigued as to what the rise of the sharing economy will mean for the future and am very interested to hear your thoughts on the subject!

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Saturday, 28 March 2015

Can I earn £10,000 in a year without getting a job? - Progress update.



This year I set myself the task of earning £10,000 in year without getting a job (read more here).

In actual cash terms I'm not doing brilliantly.  We have had one student so far this year who was with us for 8 weeks at £129 a week. In total we were paid £1032 (this does not take into account our costs - extra money spent on food, water and heating).  Plus we have been renting out our garage at a price of £65 a month - a total of £195 so far this year.  So I have made £1227 this year.  I have £8773 to go with 9 months left.  That is £975 a month ish!!

I am doing lots of the ground work though so that we can make more money in the future.

Renting out our spare room

In our spare/ student room we only had one bed, but it is a decent sized room and I have been looking for another bed for a while now.  With two beds we can rent to two people and charge more.  

I recently found a bed being given away on on local Facebook giving group and the lovely Mr ETL went and picked it up for me and brought it home.  Unfortunately the bed isn't great - it smells of cigarette smoke and the mattress is not in good condition at all.  I think with a bit of airing/ scrubbing with bicarbonate of soda or vinegar the base will be ok though and I am continuing to look out for replacement beds and mattresses being given away on free groups online.

In the meantime I am going to use the bed as a prop. I want to advertise the room to rent on Airbnb and the sooner I get the pictures up the sooner I will get some interest.  If I get a booking and I can't find a free mattress/ the base doesn't smell good enough in time I will go and buy replacements from a charity shop. Before I take the pictures I have a bit of work to do though as I need to rejig the furniture in the room a bit (as you can see in the picture above the beds are a bit too close together at the moment), get some matching bedding and put some more pictures on the walls. I have found some lovely bedding and pictures in charity shops recently, but the bedding doesn't match, so I will keep looking! I also found a headboard being given away on Freegle recently which goes nicely with the bed.

Aside from renting out the room through Airbnb I have also been signing up to more agencies who place students with host families.  I am now signed up with 4 or 5 of them and will keep going until I rent the room out one way or another!

Renting out my car 

I have been feeling much more enthusiastic about renting out my car recently as I think they got the price wrong on the website originally.  I thought I was only going to make about £10 a day, but now it looks like I can make around £20 a day and that has motivated me to get going with it!

I have been following the tips on the Easy Car Club site for renting out my car.  I put stickers in my car windows showing that the car is for rent, I have requested promotional flyers through the website, which people renting out their car can personalise and have printed and sent to them for free. I have also been telling everyone that I know and meet about it. With both my Easycarclub listing and whole house Airbnb listing I have shared the links to Facebook and asked friends to share my links. Loads of people have been helping me by sharing them with their friends and I'm hopeful that someone will rent out my car :).

At one point I thought I was going to rent it out and I spent an afternoon cleaning the car out. Unfortunately it didn't come off in the end and since then I have been trying to maintain an level of cleanliness in the car.  If someone was to rent it out now, it wouldn't take long for me to clean. The initial wash I did of my car was pointless though (read more here) - my recommendation is that if you are going to rent out your car, don't wash it until you have a rental booked!

A student has been filming me recently for a documentary for her Masters degree and she said she has been looking to rent out a car and my car was much more reasonably priced than the ones she has been looking at (you never know I might have a customer there). I don't know the market, but if you are looking to rent a car you might find Easy Car Club a cheaper option. If you are going to sign up to the website then use this code zo520m and you will get £10 off your first rental!

On car advertising

I phoned a few companies about this and chased them up and although they were enthusiastic I haven't actually had any success. I can't bring myself to push this at the moment as I am so busy doing other things. When I meet or speak to people I think might be interested though I mention it so you never know I might have some luck at some point :) 

Renting out extra storage space

I have been promoting the fact I have storage space to rent on Facebook and to my friends.  I have a friend who is currently paying around £40 a month for storage and she has managed to negotiate with me to pay me £25 a month to store her stuff instead, which she will be moving in soon.  I'm happy, she's happy and it's all good.  I just need to clear some space for her stuff!  Better get to it!

Renting out our whole house in the holidays

I've been advertising it like mad on Facebook as I mentioned earlier.  I have also been smartening the place up a bit  - mainly with curtains as mentioned here and here and new pictures.  I have been finding amazing paintings and pictures in charity shops - in particular at the YMCA shop at my local council recycling centre.  I paid £2 the other day for an original painting in a frame! I also found some wallpaper lining paper there  - I paid £1 for two massive rolls.  It was perfect because I had previously found 5 rolls of matching wallpaper in a different charity shop (which I paid around £6 for).  I plan to wallpaper one of the walls in my OS's room.  I am not going to get a chance to put it up before the Easter holidays though and unless the kids want to help do it, I think I will wait till afterwards :). I could do with some lessons as well as I have never done wallpapering before.

Once the house is looking great, I'm going to request free professional photography from Airbnb. My friend told me about it and she has been run off with her feet with bookings after having it. Find out more about that here.

I have had some interest from people about renting out the house during school holidays but no definites.  We are very lucky as we have relatives we can go and stay with for short periods if we do manage to get a booking, which is great as we can be flexible over exact dates.  We also have a tent which I got for free from Freecycle which we could put to work if the need arose. I need to test it out first though - it is an old massive, bulky 1970's one and it doesn't have a waterproof cover.  I have been told that as long as there is an inner sheet and an outer sheet and they aren't touching it should be ok though...

Can I make the rest of the £10,000 this year?

I hope so :).  If I could rent out my spare room to two people for £800 a month, my house for a couple of weeks at around £1000 a week and continued with the garage rental of £65 for the rest of the year plus an extra £25 a month for some more storage we will be looking after soon I would make £9610. If you add that to the £1227 I have already made, that would be a total of £10837 (before any expenses).

If I don't meet my target for the year for whatever reason I will be disappointed but I won't be too upset. There is a fair amount of effort and a learning curve involved in getting these things up and running - signing up to websites, advertising the fact that I am renting out my car and home etc in the right places, getting my car and home etc in good order (fit for renting out) and getting regular customers established.  I have been putting the effort in and even if it doesn't pay off fully by the end of the year, it definitely will in the long run as I plan to keep going with these side hustles on an ongoing basis. So I am pretty happy with my progress so far and am looking forward to seeing how much money I actually manage to make by the end of the year!

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Friday, 27 March 2015

Keeping the heat in and the light out!



I've been spending a lot of time smartening up my house recently and one thing I have found that has made a big impact is changing the curtains. Apart from a couple of rooms most of the curtains in our home had been bought for previous homes and gone with previous decor. They were functional, but not beautiful. I have been very lucky with finding 'new' curtains, having found some gorgeous animal print curtains for YS's room, some lovely dinosaur curtains for OS's room, and some beautiful beige patterned curtains for our bedroom (all in charity shops at a combined cost of £33). 

I just had one room left that I wanted to change the curtains in  - our kitchen/ family room. The Natural Curtain Company must have been reading my mind (or maybe just my blog :) ) because they got in touch and offered to send me some of their thermal black out lined curtains from their ready made curtain range.  I chose a lovely set of blue stripy curtains as pictured above.  I felt slightly guilty about getting new curtains, but I really like the company. On their about us page they say that the curtains are all made from natural fabrics (where possible) and everything is made in the UK.  They are not cheap, but they are good quality and will hopefully last for years to come.  They don't just do ready made curtains they also have a made to measure range.  A big bonus as well is that they sell curtains with thermal black out lining.

With all our curtains it is really important for us to have thermal black out curtains or lining behind them as they keep the heat in and the light out! The thermal images below illustrate how well thermal lined curtains keep the heat in and what a difference shutting them makes!

Top tip: Keep your curtains open when the sun is shining and as soon as it goes dark (don't wait until you go to bed) shut the curtains.This will help to retain the heat of the day in the room and will mean your heating system has less work to do in the evening which means energy savings!




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