In conversation with Bex Trevalyan, co-founder of the Library of Things

We know Bex from our days at Impact Hub Brixton, and bumped into her recently at City Hall, at Spacehive’s Pitch & Pledge event. Here’s what she had to say…

F: Hello Bex, how are you?

BT: Not bad Firesouls. And you?

Can’t complain… You’re one of the people behind Library of Things, which seems to be going from strength to strength. For those that don’t know, can you tell us a bit about the Library of Things?

A Library of Things is a friendly space where people borrow useful things and learn how to use them — from DIY tools to camping gear, gardening equipment to stuff for hosting a party.

Borrowers like Library of Things because it’s cheaper to borrow drills, carpet cleaners & sewing machines than buy them. It’s easier to borrow and return them than find storage space for them. They like learning skills at DIY masterclasses and Mending Meet-ups too. It’s simple to borrow things.

People become a member for free — then borrow things for a small fee. They can reserve on the online catalogue — or just pop in to visit at the first shop in West Norwood.

Great seeing the Mayor stump up some cash for the Library of Things — congrats. How are the wider fundraising efforts going and have you got any tips for social enterprises trying to raise funds?

We’re currently raising investment to build some kick-ass hardware and software, making it really easy for people to set up Library of Things. We've got some knowledgeable social investment friends on board early, who are helping us make our investment case and access investors. I'd recommend doing that!

For crowdfunding, it’s all about the personal touch. We called and emailed friends, family, borrowers, partners, that guy we met at the pub once… As well as doing an original social media campaign of course.

Wearing another hat you are, or were, a part of Impact Hub Brixton. We’re big fans but can you tell our readers why that place is a big deal?

Impact Hub Brixton is a big deal because it brings together motivated people to solve local problems in an entrepreneurial way. And generally, that works much better than a bureaucratic, top-down approach.

One of its recent projects is the People’s Fridge Brixton — a publicly accessible fridge where people and businesses can leave surplus food for people who need it.

The ‘sharing economy’ is in the news all the time. Often for the wrong reasons. We’re thinking of Deliveroo, AirBnB and Uber. At Firesouls we think a lot of the value created by so-called sharing economy platforms is created by the organisations or people that come together on it. And yet those who own or run the platform tend to walk away with most of that value. How do you think sharing economy platforms can be re-engineered to ‘do more good’?

The sharing economy isn’t really about sharing because a lot of the money and decision-making power still lie in the hands of just a few people — the senior teams of Uber and Deliveroo, for example.

What’s exciting to us is the prospect of every borrower being a co-owner of the Library of Things platform — and having a say in the way its run.

Sticking it to the man. Thanks for your time Bex.

If you need to borrow something and you live in Crystal Palace, Library of Things are crowdfunding on Spacehive… you know it makes sense.