56_New_CustomersMore and more local businesses are turning to bartering their services as a way to keep their costs low and bring in new customers. Bartering has been around for a long time in the business world, and here in Connecticut, Barter Business Unlimited has been assisting companies with networking since 2008.

“Businesses are using BBU Barter more now than ever,” said Debbie Lombardi, New England’s BBU CEO and founder. “Restaurants are filling empty seats, property owners are renting vacant space, dentists and medical providers are filling voids in their schedules, and much more,” said Lombardi. The service has seen a 30-percent growth in that last year alone, she said.

The BBU held its 2012 Barter Expo Nov. 15 at the Bradley Hotel in Windsor Locks. The expo is a well-attended yearly event at which companies share their products with other businesses and the public and create new relationships, which will hopefully translate into sales in the future.

One of the businesses represented at the expo, Sozo – a children’s clothes and gifts business – has been a member of the BBU for a year. The benefit for them has been brand-awareness. “Through the BBU we have exposure to moms, grand-moms and we are getting our name out there,” said Becky Faraci, as she and her colleague, Ginny Kinahan, stood amongst their baby-related goods.

Another member, Burke Ridge Farms of Ellington, uses BBU for advertising, too. “We use goods like advertising, signage and payroll services,” said Christa Burke. “The service has been good – the people are great,” she said. “You end up getting sales that you would not otherwise.”

Member businesses agree to take payment in “trade dollars” instead of cash. Using trade dollars earned, a company can purchase goods or services that they need, without the cash on hand. While there are no tax advantages or disadvantages to bartering, barter income is treated the same as cash income. Bartering produces new business, allowing companies to expand their markets and maintain their cash-paying customer base at the same time – all while getting valuable and sometimes costly repairs or services conducted by professionals.

“Many of our members have been able to maintain their lifestyles and even expand their businesses because they have the additional barter revenue coming into their businesses,” said Lombardi. “In many cases, bartering has allowed them to keep staff working.”

What makes this work is the sheer size of the business database the BBU boasts. “Barter members are definitely a community. It’s a group of very savvy, intelligent people who have entrepreneurship and a sense of relentless survival in common,” said Lombardi. “Many support one another in times of need and it’s not uncommon that lifelong friendships and business relationships are formed from finding each other in the unique bartering system.”

There are an estimated 470,000 barter clients all over the United States producing $12 billion in annual sales.

“People are really turning to barter to keep their businesses going,” said Lombardi. “We are proud of our contribution and our ability to make a direct difference in the lives of our members, which trickles into strengthening the local work forces and communities.”