We’ve all been there before. You’re having a family gathering or a graduation party and you’re two folding chairs short, or the rain is coming a day early and you need a tent for the backyard. Greg Jaros, founder of Spare to Share, was in this position when he and his wife were throwing a graduation party for their daughter. At the last minute, he had to run out to purchase a tent, and an hour later, the first guest to arrive informed him that he had the same tent sitting at home in his garage.
In a sharing economy, Jaros wondered if anyone was leveraging idle things in their homes. “You don’t know what they need, and vice-versa,” says Jaros. Knowing he had the technology background that could create a product to help neighbors help each other, Jaros left his position as Chief Information Officer at PayNet, Inc. and launched his own startup.
Jaros quickly realized that there was no other company that was positioning itself as he was in the sharing economy. This meant there was a lot of trial and error. After building the technology and testing it with neighbors and friends, Jaros saw a need for the technology in a closed and trusted group. People were willing to share their rarely-used belongings, but they wanted to know the neighbors they were sharing with. This pushed Jaros to advance his technology toward more than just sharing, and into community management in private networks such as apartment complexes, homeowners associations, coworking spaces, or college resident halls. The new focus was on community and how Spare to Share could support that in private networks.
“Our technology is trying to connect people who have something in common but do not have a way to connect,” says Jaros. The Spare to Share team believes that bridging these connections leads to additional relationships and business opportunities.
After working from home and in coffee shops, Jaros moved into Expansive ’s 73 W. Monroe location in 2014, where he brought on his partner, Ian Stellmach, a recent DePaul University graduate. Stellmach and Jaros met through DePaul University Entrepreneurship Center’s summer internship program. Stellmach was one of three DePaul students chosen to be part of the program. After researching and interviewing startups that were part of the program, Stellmach chose Spare to Share.
Now full-time with Spare to Share, Stellmach helps the company leverage the Chicago community through DePaul University and connections of the investors. Through these connections, they are able to have an intern team that Stellmach oversees. “They can take advantage of the autonomy and take on projects that they normally wouldn’t be able to get as easily in other internships… At Spare to Share, we love and value our interns and would not be where we are today without them,” says Stellmach.
Nothing makes Jaros and Stellmach happier than seeing their product support community in their buildings. “We’ve been creating a runway, and now our business is ready to take off and grow,” says Jaros. On top of borrowing and exchanging idle items within coworking spaces and apartment buildings, volleyball teams and walking groups have been formed with people inside the buildings. The connections made have become invaluable, leading to a greater sense of community within buildings all around Chicago.