Bartering – the exchange of goods or services for other goods or services without using money – is not a new concept. For centuries (long before money even existed) business owners used this creative method of doing business to negotiate deals that benefited both parties.
Bartering is still popular today; in fact, according to Barter News Weekly, bartering accounts for 30 percent of the world’s total business, with close to one third of all small businesses in the U.S. using some form of bartering on a regular basis. A sluggish economy and the weakened dollar have forced business owners to find creative solutions to daily issues such as cash flow, unsold products, or a stagnant or untapped customer base, and bartering can be a lucrative solution.
And while bartering is easy enough to do on your own, entrepreneurs in Western New York now have the option of joining Bartercard, a business network that, according to its website, boasts 54,000 cardholders worldwide who trade over $40 million every month.
Founded on the Gold Coast of Australia in 1991, Bartercard has grown to be the world’s largest trade exchange and a globally recognized business-to-business brand with 75 offices globally. Bartercard’s first U.S. franchise opened in Charleston, S.C., in 2012; today, there are close to 30 offices across the U.S., with roughly 1,200 members.
Bartercard Buffalo, which opened just about one year ago, is the fastest growing Bartercard franchise in the United States.
“In less than a year, we have grown to 170 business members throughout the eight counties of Western New York,” said Franchise Principal Jerry West. “Our members range from sole proprietors, such as plumbers, to large businesses, such as TV stations, and everything in between.
“We are already up to 18 employees, and recently moved into new offices in Orchard Park,” said West. “The concept has been very well-received, and our members are thrilled at all the advantages Bartercard brings to their businesses and their lives.”
What is Bartercard and how does it work?
Bartercard is a trade exchange that helps businesses acquire the goods and services they need by trading their own goods or services using a currency called “trade dollars” to increase cash flow, sales, and market share. Think networking group with a system similar to PayPal. It is officially recognized by the Internal Revenue Service and, in terms of tax accountability, each Bartercard trade dollar is equivalent to one cash dollar. Members receive a 1099 at the end of the year and associated expenses are tax deductible.
Here’s how it works: A business owner joins Bartercard – currently there is no fee to join through the Buffalo office – and is assigned a trade broker, who then meets with the business owner to put together a business plan that will allow them to maximize their Bartercard membership and best use its tools to their advantage. The broker will discuss that particular business owner’s needs, and how he or she can utilize Bartercard to bring in new customers, offset expenses through trade, and save money and/or increase cash flow.
“Every business is unique and has different needs,” said West. “Our brokers sit down with each new member to develop a customized plan that fits their needs. It’s not a template at all.”
Bartercard gives the member an interest-free line of credit in the amount of $2,500 in trade dollars (equivalent to $2,500 in cash) to start. Then, the member can use that line of credit to make a purchase from any network member. The amount is transferred from the buyer’s to the seller’s Bartercard account (Bartercard takes a nominal fee) and the goods or services are delivered to the buyer. It does not have to be a back-and-forth transaction; the seller can simply accept the Bartercard dollars and use them elsewhere when needed.
“Say, for example, a theatre has unsold tickets or a massage therapist has open appointments,” said West. “Bartercard can help turn that into viable assets by allowing other members to purchase using trade dollars.
“Or if you get a clogged sink in your home, you can call a plumber who is a Bartercard member and pay using Bartercard trade dollars. That plumber, in turn, can use those dollars any way he needs to, now or in the future.”
How can Bartercard help small businesses?
Justin and Karen Zalusky own Nickel City Novelties: events, edibles, and entertainment, a startup rental business that was one of the founding members of Bartercard Buffalo. Over the past year, Bartercard has helped this mom ’n pop business.
“In our case, we used my Bartercard membership for an unexpected personal situation,” said Zalusky. “Our two dogs needed $4,000 in dental work, so we found a local veterinarian through Bartercard and were able to put the expense through Bartercard. I believe the vet then used those dollars to purchase office furniture from another member.
“Having the option to use Bartercard for such an unexpected expense helped us free up cash that we were then able to put back into our business,” said Zalusky. “The dogs’ dental work would have been a major financial burden without Bartercard.” They have also booked several events through their Bartercard membership, clients they might not have otherwise found.
Zalusky says Bartercard is the perfect solution for a business such as hers, and that its employees, particularly her broker, have been extremely helpful. “They’re always about marketing – how they can help your business, connect you with others who need your services, and finding members who can use your services. Anything you need!
“As with anything else, the more you put in to Bartercard, the more you’ll get out of it,” said Zalusky, who regularly attends Bartercard networking and other events. “Bartercard has proven to be very useful and very easy to use. We’ve met a lot of great people, and it’s definitely given the business more exposure.”
Eric Adams runs Picture Your Walls, a custom frame shop, art gallery, and wholesale and commercial supplier of art and art supplies in Hamburg, N.Y. He joined Bartercard after hearing about it in a networking group he belonged to.
“I have used Bartercard to sell some of the services I offer, specifically a service we call ‘wall décor solutions,’ as well as some artwork,” said Adams. “Bartercard is a very practical solution for an entrepreneur. It has helped me gain new customers during my slower months, and it’s allowed me to barter for some much needed web work for my business. Now, whenever I look at doing something new, I automatically think of Bartercard first as a possible option.
“It’s well worth looking into to see how you can find new markets for goods and services and purchase needed items without tying up cash,” said Adams, who says he’s recommended Bartercard to several entrepreneurs.
“They do a great job at communicating to members when new members have joined, and how they might be of help. They also are great at using social media, events, email, and other forms to keep us all connected, and they’re always adding new members based on needs expressed by current members.”
Bartercard Buffalo is always accepting new members. For more information, contact Jerry West at 716.809.8188 or [email protected]