When you’re building a home, you always start with the foundation. You have to lay the groundwork and make sure everything is solid before you build the frame, put up the walls, or hang the doors.
When you’re building the Uber of tool rentals, the same principles apply.
Wontbuy is a startup based out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. It’s creating a business that will tap into the roughly $17-18 billion tool rental market in the United States.
“Home Depot is getting into tool rentals and realizing that where they really make their money is on the consumables. If they can make it easier for people to do projects themselves, they can sell more consumables,” says Doug Peterson, founder of Wontbuy.
“That’s kind of left an opening for us to go into places like tool rental shops, the small mom-and-pop stores, and say, This gives you wider access to your tool rentals by getting your tools available on a mobile app.’ We’ve actually found a bit of interest from tool rental shops to do that.”
How It Works
Say you’re building a deck and you realize you need a specific tool that you don’t have. You can open your phone, put in the tool, and the mobile app will connect you with someone in your area willing to rent out the tool you need.
The app allows stores and contractors to advertise the tools they’re willing to rent out and make money when they’re not using them.
One of the first steps in Wontbuy’s rollout is to appeal to contractors. Through market research they’ve found that about seventy percent of people who rent tools are contractors.
“They’re out doing a project and they realize they need a forklift or a scissor lift so they can do some work up high in the building. So they go to a rental store and rent one rather than buy one,” says Peterson.
The ideal situation for Wontbuy is to have contractors list their tools as well as become the primary customers for the platform.
“As we’ve gone out and met with contractors, there’s very high excitement level.”
According to Peterson, the app will appeal to contractors for two reasons: it allows them to save space and time. They save space because they don’t need to store as many tools. They save time because, rather than having to call around to different shops when they need a tool, they can just look at the mobile app.
The project should also be attractive to the average do-it-yourselfer. According to Peterson, they’ll be able to list their own tools and earn income by renting them out.
For years, one of the only options for the average handyman has been a local tool library. The first American tool library was founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1976. While there are no official statistics on how many tool libraries there are in the world they’ve become increasingly popular, with libraries opening in Canada, Australia, and Western Europe.
Peterson says Wontbuy is targeting a different demographic.
“People are putting low-end drills and saws and stuff like that [into tool libraries]. It’s stuff that they’re not going to make a lot of money on. They rent it because they’re not that expensive. They’re not really professional grade type tools. Whereas we’re targeting a higher end because that’s where their financial gain is going to be worth it for the both the lender and the renter to get involved.”
It’s almost poetic that Wontbuy’s story began with a visit to an Airbnb. Afterall, Airbnb is a site where people can list their properties and rent them out.
Peterson got the idea when he and his partner were staying at an Airbnb and the fire alarm started beeping. They were disappointed to find the alarm was attached to the ceiling fifteen feet above them.
“We’re looking around the Airbnb and we couldn’t find anything there to take the batteries out to stop it. And we kept thinking, There’s probably fifteen homes right around here that will have a ladder. It’s too bad we can’t just get online and find one.'”
That planted the seed that would eventually lead to a sharing app for tools.
Building A Blueprint
From there, Peterson and his crew went about doing research. They went to quite a few different rental stores in different regions of the U.S., traveling as far away as California from their home in Michigan.
They collected feedback and learned what stores would want to see in an app and they spoke with hundreds of contractors to gauge their interest level in the project.
Their research was enough to push them to the next step, and now they’re preparing to launch their app in Ann Arbor.
Starting From The Ground Up
As Peterson explains it, Wontbuy is currently working with a rental store in Ann Arbor to “actually list [the tools], to load them up . . . and make sure all the right information is there.”
Peterson says the owner of the store is a big fan of the idea. Wontbuy has great potential to help these small mom-and-pop hardware stores by offering their resources to a much larger customer base. That should help them compete with large chains like Home Depot.
After that, they hope other stores will become interested, but their first priority is making sure everything runs smoothly with the initial store.
“We just want to kind of scale up in a reasonable manner and make sure the first one is successful before we go to the next one.”
Peterson says Wontbuy will spend the first six months after launch in Ann Arbor working with local rental stores and contractors. They’ll use the time to make sure they can scale up and work out any bugs.
They’re also looking at delivery options for the tools.
In Michigan, there is a smaller competitor to Uber called Zoomer, which focuses on restaurant food delivery. Peterson says they’ve shown interest in working with Wontbuy to deliver the tools.
“That will just be another option for their delivery people,” says Peterson. “So we’ll prove that one out with them in a smaller scale, and if that works out we’ll look at trying to scale it up through other partners globally.”
Down The Road
Throughout the development process, Wontbuy has retained its values of working with DIY builders, contractors, and mom-and-pop rental stores to realize their vision.
Wontbuy’s approach from the beginning has resembled how a contractor builds a house. You start with a vision, lay the groundwork, and start building from there.
If you’re looking to design your own app, contact Gigster.