Anyone who has driven around the Chicagoland area knows the frustrations of finding a parking spot. Want to go to a Cubs game? You have the option of taking the CTA or paying a hefty fee to park and walk. Want to go downtown? You know that you will be paying at least $15 for a couple hours to stake a spot in a garage. The inconveniences of parking are not limited just to the city, however, but right here in Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park.
The cleverest drivers know where to find parking on the street and avoid areas with permits. Nonetheless, these spaces are limited and parking on the street still presents the issue of sometimes paying. You’re either feeding coins into a meter, running back to a box to put your credit card in the machine a second time or checking an app on your phone to ask for more time.
The realities of parking have not changed in years and you might even argue that we’ve accepted all the inconveniences. We’re here to tell you that the game has changed.
A couple of friends got together and came up with a concept we’re excited to tell you about. It’s a park-sharing company called ShareASpot, and they told us all about their innovative idea over a cup of coffee last weekend. This is their story.
In the summer of 2014, ShareASpot Co-Founder Devin Bates found himself knocking on doors and posting flyers for the simple reason of needing a parking space. Much to his surprise, a lot of people ended up calling him back, mentioning they would be more than happy to monetize their available spaces. It was from this idea that Bates knew there was a need for a park-sharing network and ShareASpot was born with the help of his friends, Jimmy Nortier and Marcel Krawczyk.
ShareASpot is a network that allows users with extra parking spaces to post them online (through ShareASpot.com) and allow parking seekers to use the space for a fee. Much like Airbnb or Uber, the ShareASpot business model works as a facet of the sharing economy. The company does not own any of the parking spaces listed on the website, but acts like a property manager of the spaces and makes it as easy as possible for customers to post and pay for parking.
The public response has been mostly positive, but there are still concerns such as lending a spot to a stranger and wondering what happens if a vehicle is parked in a space outside of designated hours. The ShareASpot Founders understand that customers may be apprehensive about the concept, which is why they plan to be expert communicators whenever an issue surfaces. For example, if a car is parked in a space outside of the posted time frame, ShareASpot will handle the situation internally rather than involving tow trucks or the authorities.
“If we had this idea sooner, it may not have worked. Now that the sharing economy is more mainstream, there are fewer barriers for us to address,” said Co-Founder Marcel Krawczyk.
Krawczyk credits companies like Airbnb and Uber for helping the sharing economy gain recognition. The Founders also used social media as a case study, and it’s hard not to agree that Facebook is much more popular now than it was in the early 2000’s when it was only available to college students. Similarly, the Founders do not anticipate ShareASpot to blow up right away, but they are confident that the sky is the limit in terms of growth. “It’s like the Wild West,” said Krawczyk of what they are just now tapping into.
Currently, there are only two other companies in the country that are similar to ShareASpot; one is located in Boston and the other is in San Francisco. Nonetheless, ShareASpot aspires to be the premiere park-sharing network with enough dedication. They plan to become this by starting right here in the Oak Park River Forest area.
“One of the things we talked about is getting involved with the community by addressing parking issues with the local government,” said Bates. “We plan to host community events and start an open forum, address parking issues and see what we can do to help.”
When it comes to expanding, ShareASpot has its eyes set on targeting top talent at universities. “New ideas can only make us stronger,” said Bates.
Today, ShareASpot has 200 users online with 15 spaces available in the OPRF area. By fall, they anticipate a minimum of 100 spots available, and that is when they will really start seeing growth and the potential for new jobs within the community.
For more information, visit the website for yourself at ShareASpot.com.