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Art of Barter in the News

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."

Daily Southtown

February 3, 2002

Mike See, vice president of Trendsetter Men's Wear in Orland Park, said Barter now accounts for 35 percent of sales for his home-based men's clothing business.

See joined Art of Barter, a Skokie-based barter brokerage, in 1994. See has used his barter credit to pay for accounting services, floral services and even dinners at area restaurants.

"Today's businesses are looking for new business, and barter gives them an extra dimension," See said. ….about 80 percent (of members) are service-oriented, vice president John Hora said. "…. It's cheaper to buy things with widgets than with cash," Hora said. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Art of Barter has experienced a surge in business.

"When things (sales) get tight, people are very resourceful and they find ways to keep things going," Hora said.

Ken Courtright, owner of Mr. C's restaurant in Oak Lawn, allows customers using barter credit to dine there from Sunday through Thursday. The restaurant, 9848 Southwest Highway, reserves its high-volume days for cash customers.

Courtright has belonged to Art of Barter since 1997 and estimates that he does about $20,000 worth of bartering each year. "I thought it (barter) might be a good way to stimulate business during the slow periods," he said. Courtright has used his barter credit for dental services and to have his parking lot sealcoated.

Right on the Money

Syndicated Television Show - Spring 2000

John says there's no limit to what you can trade. He's even had clients pay for entire weddings with barter dollars, from the dress to the prenup. But John cautions that bartering shouldn't be the core of anyone's business. Rather, he says, the icing on the cake.

"John: I can bring 'em extra business that they wouldn't have had otherwise, and they can use that money to buy things they would've otherwise had to pay cash for. And that's how they save money. It's how it hits the bottom line."

Chicago Tribune - Chicago Sun-Times

October 1997

More and more, small and medium-sized retailers are joining countertrade "exchange" companies, or bartering networks, in an effort to circumvent cash shortages, an especially useful strategy during critical growth periods.

"Everybody's got to pay back the debt from the easy credit we've had the past 20 years," says John Hora, vice president of Art of Barter in Chicago, an exchange that tallied $34.5 million in trading last year. "When it's hard to find cash, barter's that much more appealing." Companies actually can save cash by bartering an underutilized asset, says Hora.

A hotel with empty rooms or advertisers with unsold space can trade their commodities or services so as not to lose money on the fixed costs.