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Utah Business

Utah companies are redefining ownership with the “access economy.”

Redefining Ownership

Many a millennial was raised on the sage advice of Brad Pitt from Fight Club warning that “the things you own, end up owning you.” As adults, this generation didn’t go and start underground fight clubs (or if they did, they haven’t talked about it in respect of rules number one and two)—but what they have done is realized that ownership isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

Started by Uber and Lyft, the sharing trend has become popular globally and two Utah companies are already seeing a much wider potential for this “access economy,” where consumers only want to access something for the time they actually use it.

Own Nothing, Have Everything

For Melissa and Phillip Niu, founders of Parachut, their motto is “own nothing, have everything.” For Tim Charlwood, lifestyle community developer for Sanctuary homes, his market is geared more toward an older, more established crowd. One who wants to own a vacation home as an asset, but only pay for the actual time spent on vacation there.

“You have the largest collective purchasing power generation in the history of the world that no longer wants to buy stuff—what are you going to do with all your inventory?” Mr. Niu of Parachut asks in reference to trends of consumers moving away from owning stuff that just ends up in a  storage unit. For the Nius, it meant a company focused on rental camera equipment—high value items that can be shipped easily to and from a customer.

Customers can access all kinds of cameras and photography equipment but only have to pay for the time they use them— at their friend’s wedding or on a dream vacation—and then return it. People can also put their own cameras into this sharing eco-system and collect revenue (6 percent monthly of the retail value) during the time that their camera is enjoyed by another user. It benefits consumers and even the environment through reuse of items instead of superfluous production.

The Nius see the market pivoting hard toward access rather than ownership and some projections put the access economy at a $335 billion by 2025. “The new millennial mindset is experience over things,” Ms. Niu says.

Experiences Are Everything

For Mr. Charlwood, experience is also key—but in his case ownership is, too.He’s developed a spectacular community of 13 vacation homes set among 527 miles of preserved wildlife habitat. Surrounded by dramatic horizons dotted with resorts from Snowbasin, Powder Mountain, and  the Whisper Ridge Backcountry resort, one can soak in a bathtub set against floor-to-ceiling windows and admire the changing colors of the trees without worry― since each home is on 40 acres, you’d only have to worry about a moose seeing you get out of the bath.

The homes are extravagantly high-end but available at only a fraction of the cost. How? By flipping the frustrating timeshare model on its head and creating homes where buyers become “tenants-in-common,” with other owners, sharing the home amongst themselves for a month at a time.

In this way, one can access a $6 million home, for one-twelfth the price—and yet still own an asset, one that will increase in value and that you can sell your share in if you like whenever you want.

Mr. Charlwood, who has put over a decade into developing the community, says at one point he had very nearly inked the deal as a high-end timeshare when he realized it was a terrible idea.

“When you buy a timeshare you don’t own anything, you just own air,” he says.

Instead he’s built a community around an unparalleled, shared experience, where the acclaimed and the accomplished can buy the month they want instead of a vacation home that sits empty most of the year. At Sanctuary owners can share snowshoeing trails, off-road vehicles, and electric fat bikes while creating a meaningful gathering place perfect to bring families together.

“If we can give experiences to people they never forget—that’s the ticket,” Mr. Charlwood says.