The Courier News
By Erin Calandriello - January 26, 2009
The Art of Barter Inc., based in Elgin, works with about 1,400 small businesses across the Chicago area. The company essentially "barters small business' services in exchange for other business' services through 'barter dollars,'" said John Hora, co-manager of the Art of Barter.
Hora gave the example of a printer, in the barter network, who needed an apartment roof redone. The printer hooked up with a construction worker within the network, who re-tiled the entire roof. The printer, who had earned barter dollars by providing printing services to clients within the network, used those barter dollars to pay for the construction worker's labor.
Hora estimated the printer saved about $13,000 by using his barter dollars. The Art of Barter made a profit by accumulating 10 percent of that sale, $1300.00
Art of Barter, he added, is "a legal underground economy," licensed by the Internal Revenue Service, where millions of barter dollars are ready to be traded. Some of their clients include Swizzle Inn in Elgin; El Sombrerito in Carpentersville; and Dr. Dana Landin, an Elgin chiropractor.
But it's not for everyone. A potential client must apply and if the Art of Barter approves a client, which is mainly based on how marketable that client is within their small business network, the client will pay a fee, depending on how much business he wishes to attain.
Bartering, they say, has changed over the last two years.
"During good economic times, people would use their barter dollars for fun stuff including cruises, spas and sports tickets," said Hora. "Now, barter dollars are going toward more of the essentials, the practical expenses," like printing, car repair, dentist work and eye care.
In this economy, writing out less checks is a plus, notes his partner.
"I don't know anyone who is doing well in this economy," said Ronald Szekeres. "Most of our clients are much worse off in 2008 than in 2007. Hard working, small business owners are struggling to make it and they're turning to us."
However, clients can remain optimistic.
"I tell potential clients that I don't have a crystal ball, but we have 1,400 small business owners and there's bound to be someone interested in your services," said Hora.
"There is hope. If you put good stuff in, you'll get good stuff out."