In a recession-induced need for cash, and an ever-growing infrastructure enabling individuals to act as (part-time) entrepreneurs, are fueling concepts that help ordinary consumers make money instead of just spending it.

SELLSUMERS: Whether itʼs selling their insights to corporations, hawking their creative output to fellow consumers, or renting out unused assets, consumers will increasingly become SELLSUMERS, too. Made possible by the online revolutionʼs great democratization of demand and supply, and further fuelled by a global recession that leaves consumers strapped for cash, the SELLSUMERS phenomenon is yet another manifestation of the mega-trend that is ‘consumer participation’.

Just to be clear: the SELLSUMERS trend is not about individuals starting a business as a primary source of income. At most, we’re talking a secondary or even tertiary source of income.

SELLSUMERS is yet another manifestation of ‘consumer participation’ and consumer power.

Let’s look at existing assets first: there are now plenty of (novel) ways for consumers to capitalize on anything they already possess, from unused parking spaces to excess energy. So what’s being done besides firmly established SELLSUMER marketplaces like eBay?


* Parking spots | connects those who have parking spots to rent out with those who need them on a monthly basis. The Toronto-based company lets spot-holders in the US and Canada list their off-street parking spots, along with the price they want to charge.

A similar service is offered by JustPark, operating in the UK, Ireland, Canada, US, Australia, New Zealand and The Netherlands. Fun detail: car owners can pre-book a spot daily, but can also make one-off bookings for a football match or a day of shopping in the city.

* Storage | Los Angeles-based Homstie offers listings for excess storage space, collecting fees for featured listings and for providing custom lease agreements. Also check out Store at My House.

* Camping | Swedish Single Spot Camping offers a P2P camping solution by connecting anyone who owns a suitably sized piece of land with anyone looking for a place to pitch their tent. Listings cost the landowner a mere EUR 40 per year.

* B&B | Air BnB is an online marketplace that allows locals to earn money by renting out their extra space as alternative lodging for hotel-weary travelers. Also see Roomorama.

* Any space | Combining all of the above, UK-based Spareground is a marketplace for just about any kind of unused space. Consumers with space to share simply create a listing with its description, location and price. Those seeking space search by category or keyword and then contact the owner directly to arrange the terms.


Green SELLSUMERS looking to reap the spoils of ECO-BOUNTY will want to check out the following initiatives:

* In the UK, Ecotricity pays customers who want to sell back to the grid 12 pence per kWh, while Green Energy offers a Home Green Generator plan for those producing less than 6 kWh.


Design and Manufacturing

* SELLSUMER-posterchild Etsy now boasts 200,000 SELLSUMERS and over 3 million products. In 2008, the value of products sold was USD 87.5 million, and the first two months of 2009 have already produced sales of USD 20.2 million.

* Much publicized Ponoko allows SELLSUMERS to make and sell everything from jewelry to furniture. In addition, the PonokoID feature invites shoppers to post requests, which professional and ‘amateur’ designers then bid to fulfill.

* North Carolina-based Spoonflower lets users design and print their own fabrics for USD 18 per yard with no minimum order. When Spoonflower comes out of beta, it plans to allow fabric designers to sell their fabrics on the site.

Also check out Beehive Co-op, which allows SELLSUMERS to rent a portion of stores in Atlanta and New York in exchange for a monthly fee and at least four hours of staffing assistance.

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While countless creative SELLSUMERS are already making money from their designs, software, sculpting, knitting, manufacturing and so on, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Expect a skilled, handy and brainy SELLSUMER ‘workforce’ to genuinely blossom when the youngest generation takes over. They’ll not only be the first generation to be fully ‘wired’, but also the first generation to be completely comfortable with taking on the roles of both consumer and producer.

In the meantime, check out these random spottings for inspiration:


* Hiring | New Zealand-based Hire Things offers an online marketplace for ‘micro-hire-businesses.’ Think everything from tableware to boats.

* Advertising | French ‘carvertiser’ Liberty Drive offers a program that rewards Smart car owners in France and Switzerland for participating in carvertising campaigns, paying them up to EUR 100 per month if they turn their cars into driving billboards. Makes us wonder: what about other SELLSUMER properties that could do with a bit of (not too flashy or too gimmicky) paid advertising? Boats? Caravans? Bikes? Houses? Clothing? All yours 😉

Check out Ex-Boyfriend Jewelry and My Gold Party. The latter facilitates Tupperware-style parties that help guests sell excess baubles. The company sells the equipment that SELLSUMERS need to host gold-selling parties, including a scale, a karat tester and an instruction manual.

* Delivery | French site Colis-Voiturage aims to bring together those with a package to send and SELLSUMER drivers who are already planning a trip to a similar destination. Also check out German raumobil.