The celebration of small businesses in Arizona that started with Local First Arizona’s Fall Festival, then Small Business Saturday, continues into December, as the dream of another entrepreneur comes to fruition. Ana Hawk opened Instant Barter in March 2011. She had worked for several companies, and wanted to use the lessons learned to create a company to introduce 21st century Phoenicians to a tradition as old as the maritime trading done by the Mediterranean Phoenicians in 1200 BC.
With the brisk business in gold trading, it may look like Phoenicians are reverting to ancient ways. But most modern barter involves services, like IT services, and goods like vacation condos. Barter is much more global and organized than it used to be. Trading is not done directly between individuals (e.g., an oil change in exchange for a dining certificate); members “deposit” and “withdraw” dollar equivalents of their traded goods and services. Today, barter companies are regulated financial institutions and the IRS considers barter income, same as cash.
Instant Barter is unique from most trade companies in several ways, including having the lowest fees in the industry; salaried, not commissioned, trade directors and brokers; and active pursuit of trades for customers.
Hawk has overcome many personal challenges, and is determined to use barter to improve the lives of others. She is ensuring that Instant Barter is a good neighbor, being heavily involved in community activities, from domestic violence prevention to housing rehabilitation to animal rescue.
“Everyone in our network is environmentally conscious, believes in helping others,” says Hawk, “There is a reason that reduce/reuse/recycle symbol is part of our logo. We do cross promotional events to allow our clients the opportunity to showcase their business and get, not just trade, but cash business as well.”
The next such showcase is Customer Appreciation Day on December 6, 4-9 PM at 4750 N Central Ave. There will be food and door prizes. The public can come to see the wide variety of Instant Barter vendors and learn first-hand about barter. There is a suggested $10 donation to help victims of domestic violence.
There are two other trade companies (Value Card and Tradesource) having celebrations in December. In difficult economic times, small businesses must be creative and flexible about plying their wares. Barter can be an effective tool to generate profitable services in exchange for excess inventory or underutilized skills.