As part of the post-Airbnb surge in peer-to-peer platforms, Toowoomba startup Gathrin has cultivated a particular niche: renting unique items and services for events planning, up to and including exotic birds.
Launched in July, Gathrin rents out everything from grass top seats to cupcake trucks for events such as weddings, photo shoots, and exhibitions. The platform works directly with individual providers and small businesses, such as furniture service Brisbane’s Party Culture, and began three years ago as a passion project for former nurse Leisa Clark.
“My true passion was always creating and the visual arts world, but nursing was just a job to pay the bills,” Clark said. “I had a back injury working as a mid-wife, and I also had a son, and these two things started to trigger an inner desire of ‘am I really doing what I want to do, is there something else out there for me?’”
From there, Clark started creating and collecting vintage items and selling them through platforms like eBay and Etsy. As she developed connections through blogging and networking through her small business Quirky Comforts, which sells items such as teacups and buntings, Clark decided to start her own sharing website, one purpose built for weddings and events.
“Getting the site up and running has been the major challenge over the last three years. I tried to learn to code – so that’s the key word, I tried,” she laughs. “And then I realised the type of site I was wanting to build is a community marketplace, in the regions of Airbnb and eBay, they’re massive sites. “
“So me as just one person it was never going to happen,” she said. “I was about six months into learning online, and I was learning about GitHub, which is like an open-source community for coding. I came across these guys in Europe who are building or have built a site very similar to what I was trying to achieve [and] through them I was able to actually get the site built for a very reasonable cost.”
Gathrin shares a lot of characteristics with existing peer-to-peer systems, both in terms of content and style. The focus on unique and vintage items immediately brings to mind Etsy, and the site even operates on a seemingly-identical template to Cairns’ ShareStuff.
But the real value in sites like Gathrin comes from building and maintaining a community, in this case the events planning industry. Clark is clearly passionate about the community, which she says has thus far relied on third-party directories.
“It’s been about educating the startup event businesses about this platform,” Clark said. “It’s definitely a new concept for them to get their head around, like ‘we don’t just have a little advert of our business, we can actually list all our items here and create this community.”
In developing Gathrin, Clark has gotten “vital” feedback from the Toowoomba Startup Group, and, as a Brisbane-expat, maintained connections with inner-city businesses. She has monetised the system through transaction fees, and is now focusing on networking and social media.
Finally, out of all the bizarre and beautiful objects listed on her site, which does Clark find the strangest?
“The exotic bird, hiring out exotic animals is probably the oddest,” Clark laughs. “But my favourite items are the vintage caravans, they use them for coffee bars and booth. I always get very excited when one of those gets listed.”