Focus on Proptech: Share My Space aims to stop wasted commercial spaces

Chloe Cort, founder of Share My Space, on how she got the idea for a digital tool to relieve the shortage of commercial space for small businesses.

We’re taking a closer look at Croydon’s involvement in PropTech – a growing subsector of tech innovation in planning, property development, property management and estate agency.

Growing up on the edge of the city in East London, I had heard tales of Croydon. A distant land beyond Tower Hill and Brixton, home of the Home Office and cut off from ‘real London’ by lack of a tube line. I’ve wondered many times, since marrying my way into the borough, what Croydon had done to deserve its unpopular postcode rep.

Sure, we have our share of struggles here. But Croydon is also spacious, leafy, diverse and buzzing, and it has a decidedly ‘young’ feel about it. Maybe the aspersions are just a result of its clumsy-sounding name. Croydon. CROY-DON. It lands like a thud. Funny that the name actually means “valley of the crocus” – lovely really.

But what’s in a name? Croydon has won me over with her looks, charm and personality. I love to take the kids to different parks and outdoor spaces and scenic cycle routes. Central Croydon has a street market, pound shops, a House of Fraser and everything between. Barely a week passes by without an event: a fete on Purley rotary field, a food festival, a charity run or bike ride. Croydon is truly a hive of activity, and it seems to have an abundance of that magical thing we’re frequently told other cities are lacking: community.

This carries over into the borough’s support for new businesses. My own start-up has benefitted from the Croydon Enterprise Loan Fund, headed up by life-long Croydonian legend, Keith Miller. The fund grants loans to Croydon residents with business ideas they plan to base in the borough. And I met my main investor by chance at a “meet the council” event for local businesses a couple of years ago.

Support like that helped my entrepreneurial spirit to really come alive after I moved to Croydon. I began with a one-week spot at a kiosk in the Whitgift Centre and ended up staying for the best part of 2 years. It was through my connection to the fellow traders in the centre and talking to the regulars (the likes of ‘Magic Corn Man’ and ‘Bag and Scarf Guy’) that I stumbled into my new, Croydon-based project.

I realised that while Croydon certainly does have it all, one thing that is in increasingly short supply is space. We’re all well aware of the lack of affordable residential accommodation across the South East, but this is equally true of commercial space available to new businesses and start-ups. We cannot conjure up more space. Instead, we need to make more of the space we already have.

Enter Share My Space. Through a website and app, shopkeepers, beauty salon owners and restauranteurs will be able to hire out their excess space: be it half of a shop floor, a room in the back for a masseuse or spare kitchen space. Business owners can upload their space along with their price and other particulars. Small businesses can then search for suitable space to try out their idea without the huge outlay required for a commercial lease.

Croydon has plenty of existing businesses with space to spare. As I found out at a networking event, there’s no shortage of entrepreneurial constituents. Space sharing could be a viable way to keep Croydon’s town centre alive and buzzing through its upcoming period of redevelopment. If you’ve got space going spare, or have an idea that needs room to grow, check out Share My Space.

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