Can you have fun using virtual worlds like Second Life and at the same time try to create a sustainable small business model? Yes, if you can find your business and do it in a way that makes you stand out from the anonymous mass of generic users and hobbyists.
One of the oldest business in Second Life is that the rent of land: if at the time of the boom of Linden Lab‘s platform seemed enough to rent a “land” (ie aspace on a server of the California company where to recreate a three-dimensional environment) then divided into plots and leased to higher prices, now unless you are one of the few big “landlords” that still stand (and can afford to hold hundreds or thousands of sims, earning a small margin on each of them) you should strive rather to avoid losing time and money chasing a dream.
But if you find a way to differentiate yourself, to offer a better than average quality, success can still be favorable. It ‘happened to the case of Marianna Vita (nickname of a Greek lady in SL since September 2007), owner and designer of Maritonto Home Rental, a system of sims with homes tailored to individual customerrequests. Marianna met recently our Luciana Pinazzo, here is summed up their conversation.
Luciana Pinazzo: Marianna, congrats. You speak perfect Italian.
Marianna Vita: Thanks, I study Italian for two years.
LP: How did you ended up in SL, if I’m not indiscreet?
MV: It has to do with the study of Italian that I started 5 years ago. I read your newspapers and one day I read on the Corriere della Sera that Massimo d’Alema was a Second Life user (years later you can still find traces of this experience in the online archives of the Corriere della Sera, LmS), so I thought, but what is Second Life? And so here I am.
LP: Did you like immediatly SL?
MV: Yes, very much: love at first sight! But come I’ll show you Maritonto Home Rental and you’ll see what I do in SL.
(the two avatars move in front of a screen where dozens of images flowing among the most diverse virtual apartments)
MV: Do you see these photos?
MV: They are the photos of the houses I’ve done before. I offer in SL furnished homes for rent, from 550 to 1100 lindens per week.
LP: So are you a builder?
MV: Yes, I have waterfront homes for rent furnished and those interested can have a house exactly as they want, I am furnishing the houses (I have more than 100) the way my customers prefer. And what do you do in SL?
LP: Me? In addition to talking and writing on Mondivirtuali.it and on my blog, I was a model for some virtual fashion agencies, then I had problems with the work in RL, too many commitments and I had to reduce my presence here. Now I help Anubis Hartunian, owner and designer of Anubis Style, fashion brand of which I’m Ceo and PR Manager. In practice, I prepare press releases, I study brand positioning, I try to do some SEO on the web and in SL.
MV: Anubis is a good designer, I like so much her clothes. The dress you wear, I’ll buy but in blue (the outfit was Vanessa, the blue version is called Arion, LmS)
LP: Yes, she is a good designer, but in my opinion she is not appreciated enough: she does a lot of work, and although the results are nice, should and could be better.
MV: What does it mean nice?
LP: It means that she earns enough at the end of the month, but certainly she won’t become rich.
MV: Ah yes, I know: I make money, but I need more and more money for my business grow further. Do you speak English? (the original conversation was in Italian until this point, LmS)
LP: Yes, I can speak English as well as Italian.
MV: Very well! I’ll say this and only this in English, ‘cause I speak English like I speak Greek but I prefer to speak Italian, lol! Ok, in Greece we say: one hand washes the other and both wash the face!
LP: In Italian is exactly the same: “una mano lava l’altra ed entrambe lavano la faccia”.
MV: Esatto! So, I thought of this and made the mall, giving the shops for free. My merchant sell at a discount, they gain advertisement and I give my tenants one more reason to be here! E se il mall crescerà ho già anche alter idee!
LP: Hopefully you’ll have lucky and so you can growth even more, crossing fingers.
MV: Lucky depend on us. I’ll tell you what has happened the last few days: I had to change the simfrom pg to mature because we open a club and you can not have a club to a sim “pg”. This has sent out search and I was afraid we would not have new customers.Instead, surprise: I have more customers now and you know why?
LP: Tell me…
MV: All find us because our old customers are happy and send messages telling that they want a new home.
LP: So word of mouth works?
MV: Yes, here works a lot.
LP: A curiosity: but they are Greeks or do you have customers all around the world?
MV: Greeks? Just 2 on 100! No, no: I have customers from all over the world and many are Italians.
LP: I asked you because I’ve never understood those Italian users that tend to close together and do things just for Italians and then complain that they have little success. I think this is really stupid because I believe that if SL works is because people are open to the world. Or it doesn’t work at all.
MV: The same happens with the Greeks. You know what I like? I speak to you now: if there was no Internet or SL, I’d never even spoken to you!
LP: Right! So good luck and see you again soon thanks to Second Life.