Check out what these guys have come up with to help keep up with the ‘Jones’ by building a community rental program for all of our stuff! What do you want to rent for the summer!!!
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Romy: Welcome to the Bonfires of Social Enterprise with me! Romy. Yup, you have me again for another conversation with an innovative social enterprise.
On this episode, we talk with Matt and Lenny from a new platform called Jonezie. They have moved back to Michigan from other experiences in social enterprise around the globe to create this great community rental program.
Let's drop in now on the entire conversation....
Romy: Okay. So we've got Lenny and Matt here, guys, on the show with us.
So let's talk about what's Jonezie?
Matthew: Good question, take it away Len.
Zachary: Well Jonezie is a platform that let's people list anything that they might have that they don't use all the time. They can list it on Jonezie, and someone in the area can rent it from them. You make a little extra money, and someone in your area doesn't have to go drain their savings account buying the item, they can just rent it for a couple of days or however long they need it and ... you know ... they both win.
Romy: So for our listeners in some of the other countries, when we say platform that might be like a digital platform, an online platform, right?
So how did you guys come up with this idea?
Zachary: Well I ... me and my wife, girlfriend at the time, just moved into our house. It was like the first nice day out here in Michigan, and everyone was out riding their bikes, or running, and I just really was craving a bike ride. We went to the store, and I realized a decent bike was like anywhere from six hundred to eight hundred dollars. I mean I could have bought them, but I knew I would have ended up with buyers remorse or we wouldn't end up using them and they would be in the basement and our house is kind of small, so it's like more things taking up more space. We were sitting on the porch ... we didn't end up buying the bikes, and I saw our neighbor, they came in, him and his wife, and they were on their bikes and it was like "How cool would it be if I could just give em like twenty dollars, I'd use their bikes, drop em off when we're done, he'd make a little side cash to go out to dinner with, and we got our bike ride.". So as the night went on, I kept on thinking about it.
Next day I called Matt, and I was like, "Listen I think I have something here. I want to know your thoughts.". Matt was my entrepreneur friend, so I felt like it was appropriate to reach out to him and just play the idea off of him. We kept on talking about it and we ended up talking more about it, and we're like, "Should we do this?", and I was like "Yeah. How do we do this?". He was like, "Well, we are gonna build a landing page and let's gauge what our networks think. If they think it's a good idea maybe we discuss it more.". That's exactly what we did.
Romy: The virtual world of pop-up. Those are the retail pop-up, it's the virtual pop-up that's the landing page isn't it?
Matthew: Right, exactly.
Romy: Oh good.
Did you ever ask your neighbor for the bike or it was just, it just planted that idea?
Zachary: Recently I told him about it because he keeps on wondering why there's so many cars parked at my house. Well its ... I had an idea cause I saw you riding your bike. He's like "Oh. [inaudible 0:4:01]"
Romy: No kidding, that's so good!
What did he think of it?
Zachary: Loves it.
Romy: Well good, so what happened when you guys started that? You put up a web landing page and ...
Matthew: Yeah. That was day one, and that was sort of like, we were sort of like, "Okay, how can we default the action right the now? How can we try to validate whether or not other people are going to be just as excited about this idea as we are?". So quickly put up that landing page and just pushed it out on social media. Lenny and I both made a post on Facebook and Instagram, and it was basically like URL was just detroitrentalsinc.com, and the text on the landing page just said: "rent anything from anyone in your area." Literally went on google and just searched for a garage and that was the image of it. So it were just an image of a garage and said: "rent anything from anyone." I don't know, maybe this is good, this is all we need right now to see if people are actually, gonna be attracted to the idea.
We posted on social media and we started getting phone calls, and text messages, and people were leaving comments, and people were saying "oh my gosh, I wanna list my camping equipment", or "I want to rent a belt sander so I build a coffee table". I think the idea then expanded beyond what originally even thought it could be because of everyone else's excitement, and we were like less about us and this is more about building something for everyone else around us. It seemed like there was demand there. So we kind of just looked at each other and we're like, "Okay. We actually have to do something.". We have to figure out how to build the actual platform so that people can list stuff, and rent things, and I don't have a background in writing code or programming, nor does Lenny. One of the first things we did, was we jumped in the car and went to Ann Arbor and basically at U of M's campus in the computer science building, trying to look for developers.
Romy: Oh my gosh. Awesome.
Matthew: Knocking of the shoulders of different students and we're like, "Hey, you look like you might know something about programming, would you be interested in helping us?". It was just like, "No, no, you guys are weird. I want nothing to do with this.". We had zero credibility, we were just two guys that showed up at this college campus and talked to probably fifteen or twenty people, tried tollering up.
Zachary: Played a couple games of Foosball.
Matthew: Nothing worked. So we were like, "Okay, back to the drawing board. We need to find a programmer, but we just don't have one.". We ended up posting something on Upwork, which is essentially if you are looking for a freelancer or if you want to be a freelancer, then you can sort of get connected to people that way. That's when we found Andy.
Andy is co-founder of Jonezie and he is just sort of a Godsend. He is an amazing dude.
Zachary: He's a prodigy. He's self taught. He's ...
Zachary: Never says "No.", and if he doesn't know how to do something, he teaches himself how to do it ... no [inaudible 0:7:11] vocabulary.
Another cool fact about the day up to Ann Arbor was also the day we figured out the name Jonezie.
Romy: Yeah the name.
Zachary: I still remember that day so clearly.
Matthew: It's a magical day.
Matthew: It was a very magical day.
Romy: Let's go there.
Zachary: Yeah. We were just planning out the idea. We're like, "You know, the landing page, we can't keep it a Detroit Rental Inc forever.". It's ... we want to be more than just Detroit on a day and that just not a name to go with. So we ... for like weeks we were just going back and forth of names, which is probably the most fun ... doing your own businesses and naming your baby.
Zachary: And you don't want to do it lightly. It took a couple weeks but that was the ... or a week or so ... we drove up to Ann Arbor we were playing off each other like, "What are you thinking?". I'm like, "Keep up with the Jones'". Matt was like "Jones', yeah I've heard that term before and that's cool.", but I'm like "That's also like I'm jonesing to go on a bike ride or like ... you just wanting to go do something.". We kept on playing with Jones' and then it turned in to Jonezie.
Romy: Yeah, it's so catchy and easy.
Romy: It's refreshing. It's got like this refreshing feel, but I get it. It's a lot of fun with it. Yeah.
Matthew: Yeah and I think that was a big goal for, it to, was that what we have realized with Jonezie and people that are actually listing stuff and renting it out to other people is there is kind of a level of discomfort involved in something that you own, that you've loved, there's probably some form of sentimental value there, and to be willing to rent it out to someone in your area there's like a little bit of discomfort. The way that we are really focused on building a brand is all around trust, right? When it comes to the name Jonezie, we just think it's fun, it's playful, it's trustworthy, it's approachable, and we just felt like it was ... as soon as we came up with it we were like, "Oh my gosh, that's perfect!".
Romy: Yeah, that's so good.
How did you come to realize that there is this sort of awkwardness about people renting out their private stuff? It sounds so good in theory, but when you go to say "Oh wow am I gonna let that go out to someone I don't know?" Everyone was like ... I showed your site to a bunch of people, I was super excited after I met you and-
Matthew: Cool. Thank you for doing that.
Romy: People were like, "Oh my gosh, that's so awesome!", and then I go "So what could you post on there to rent?". I was trying to be action oriented, and they're like, "I don't know, I would have to think about that, like, does the stuff come back?". All of a sudden they posing all these questions, I'm like-
Romy: Wow, so how did you, did it just organically started to come up as you asked people?
Zachary: Yeah and that's exactly how ... like we said we put up the link
Matthew: Yeah, and that's exactly how it looked. So like we said, we put up the landing page, we put up the idea of what we were gonna be working on. And that reaction was awesome; people had so many ideas. I mean, today people are still connecting dots, for my how Jonji is. But it wasn't until we actually started building the site, and testing the site where I would go to my friends and I'd be like, "All right, well love the idea let's start listing some things." And they're like, "Ooooh, yeah. About that." I don't want to rent anything, I like the idea but I don't want to rent anything, so that there's gonna be - we're gonna have to build a very trustful company and yeah, that's what it's gonna take.
It's more than just the idea. You have to build a company that people rely on, and people that trust when I'm gonna put it up that my things are secure. Like, if something happens, I'm okay at the end of it. We had to really go to drawing board on how do we make that happen? How do we ensure that everyone's happy at the end of the day? It's still getting tweaked out every now and then, but I think we're there. Yeah.
Romy: Yeah, but I think you guys are hitting on something that's so important for us to address as a society. I mean, we're a bit too attached to our stuff.
Matthew: 100 percent.
Romy: For sure.
Romy: I think.
Romy: And it's we can't be in this place of like, "Oh I've hoarded enough, therefore I'm gonna give it to the charity." There is this middle space.
Matthew: Right. Right.
Romy: Nothing wrong with that, but like stuff you only use once a year or twice a year, or whatever, that could be available. So one question I had, and I'm like diving in for it personally, is I noticed on your site you're starting with the geographic area, right? Is it Oakland County of Michigan?
Matthew: Yeah, it's primarily Southeast Michigan.
Speaker 2: Okay.
Matthew: Yeah, yeah.
Romy: So one of the questions I had, personally, is my husband and I moved way out in the - we are on the very Northwestern tip of Oakland County. We're like way up there.
Romy: We moved way out in the rural area from the city, and we have a bunch of stuff and we thought, "So how does that work with people if you live on the edge of the area?"
Romy: How does it work to get the stuff to people?
Matthew: Yeah, so that is sort of up to the lister. You, as the lister, we really hope that people that are listing these things are gonna be super motivated to help out their renter. But at the end of the day, we also think that the renter should be motivated enough to go to the lister to pick up those items.
Romy: So either way.
Matthew: Yeah, so if I'm renting something from you, I think sort of the default is, I'm gonna come get it from you. And then when I'm done with it I'm gonna drop it back off to you. But there might be some cases, and we're just not sure yet, because I don't think we have enough data. It's still super early, like we launched our beta two months ago, so we're still sort of in this phase where we're still figuring stuff out, and we don't necessarily have all the answers but we are starting to build assumptions. So as a default, the renter would go and pick up the item, and then when they're done with it they would go and drop it off as well.
Romy: So we'll see. That's a test for me to put some stuff up on at the edge of ...
Matthew: Yeah. Yeah, the theory is that ...
Speaker 2: Northwest Michigan.
Matthew: Yeah, exactly.
Romy: See what happens, I'll be your test case.
Matthew: Yeah, sure, yeah.
Romy: Well, cool. So what are you noticing from a social perspective? There's always, in my opinion when you're doing social enterprise, there's always sort of that initial inspiration and thought.
Romy: And then there's the reality of all the other things that you find and discover ripple off of that. What was your original, and what are you starting to witness?
Matthew: Yeah, so I think one of the originals for me was just the fact that it could really help people save money, you know? But a lot of, for me personally, I was in a situation when I was working on a socially conscious company out in Los Angeles. And there were months that were really, really tough. And in those months that it was really tough and I was sort of running out of money, I wanted to leave town and go camping, but I didn't necessarily have all the camping gear. And that was the type of situation where if I needed a bundle of camping stuff, it would've been really, really expensive for me to go out and get it; and if I were able to just rent that stuff from my neighbor, for a much, much lower cost, it's something I only want to do once or twice a year, it would save me just so much money. As soon as Lenny called me and told me the story about wanting to rent a bike, that's the thought, and that's the story that I immediately went to.
So I think for a lot of people it'd just be really helpful in terms of gaining access to more stuff that you need just for a day or two. And I think that a lot of people are waking up to this thing where the physical things in our lives aren't that valuable, and it's really the experiences that we have. I think that people in general are waking up to this thing where we just want access, we don't want don't necessarily need ownership; ownership over all these products and things aren't what make us who we are, and we wanna have really valuable experiences with the people that we love. So that immediately for me was like, if this can save people money and can allow people to gather experiences with people that they love and do new things, than Jonji's gonna allow people to live better lives.
Romy: I love that. You can accumulate so much stuff that you're busy taking care of your stuff ...
Matthew: Yeah, yeah.
Romy: That's kinda sort of a generational problem from people older than me, and ... All right I confess I'm 50 okay so I'm in the baby boomers, but like that's like ... It's been this cool transition. I was blessed early on to be a mission work around the globe, so I had a different view on accumulating stuff.
Romy: It seemed like really, it seemed like literal baggage to have that much stuff. Like I was always in this mode of like I gotta transport this somehow, it's not coming with me, you know? So, I get what you're doing, but that's a big pivotal change for some folks.
Matthew: Definitely, yeah. And the great thing about Jonji ...
Romy: Especially the folks with with all the stuff.
Matthew: Right. The great thing about Jonji is you don't have to let go of it.
Matthew: It comes back. So you're not selling it; you're helping someone else out. And that's like, don't you wanna help someone?
Matthew: So I mean, a great Jonji list thing would be if you're walking around your house, and you're like, "Should I get rid of it?" Or ask yourself, "Do I use this everyday?" And if you don't, you could probably list in on Jonji.
Matthew: Yeah, and that for me, on your question, was ...
Zachary: The social impact.
Matthew: Oh, the social impact, yeah. For me, it was just like even if we could just even the playing field a little bit. Like I always say to the team, "Let's never let any of these protegees fall through the cracks." There's people out there who just don't have some of the same opportunities as we have, and that's trying guitar, or playing soccer, or being a hockey goalie. I was lucky enough in life to be able to do that, but not everyone knows that opportunity, and I kind of want to give everyone that opportunity, 'cause I don't want to miss out on the next Jimmy Hendricks 'cause his family couldn't afford to let him try out the guitar. With Jonji now his dad might be able to let him try his new weekly passion until he finds out what he likes. Yeah there's so many benefits.
Speaker 2: Yeah.
Matthew: The renting. Just starting to realize, I had no idea.
Romy: What are some of the things that you're surprised it rented? Like was there anything that went on there that you're like, "Hmm, I wonder if that will rent?"
Matthew: Yeah, for sure. Well, also just to give you an idea, we just launched a couple months ago, we've had four total transactions. Just four total transactions on the marketplace take place. The first one, I don't think was too unexpected, it was just a carpet cleaner. Someone wanted to rent a carpet cleaner, and it was as simple as that. I think maybe the storage space one was most unplanned thing.
Matthew: I actually ... So we're in my apartment right now, and my apartment has a basement and we starting listing our own spaces. We listed my...