BarterWorx for Maine entrepreneur

Posted Sept. 19, 2010, at 6:31 p.m.

WARREN, Maine — When money got tight last summer for Marilyn Johnson, she started thinking who she could barter with. This got her thinking that a lot of people in the midcoast are having hard times right now, and maybe she could help. So she started BarterWorx, her bartering business based out of her Warren home.

“It has been very well-received. It is very exciting because people just love having something new — a new alternative to build their business,” Johnson said Friday. “Everybody is hurting, and no one necessarily wants to spend money to build their business.”

The way Johnson sees it, bartering spends no money and a dollar saved is a dollar earned.

Her business works like this: A landscaping company pays a fee to join the network, then perhaps a restaurant on the network approaches the company to have some landscaping work done at the restaurant. In return, the landscaper can choose to either get a few free meals from the restaurant or the landscaper can choose to spend the barter money he earned at another in-network company.

Johnson has about 20 businesses signed up that offer marketing, computer help, bookkeeping, jewelry, plants, haircuts, carpentry and more.

One of those businesses is Rockland restaurant Amalfi on the Water.

One of Amalfi’s owners, Nancy Wood, said her business has given services, but has not yet asked for anything in return.

“I truly believe bartering is a sound way to do business on many levels,” Wood said. “It is a community-based idea. I believe you’re doing a job for someone and at the end of the day you look them in the eye and know they’re going to do a good job for you, too.”

Wood’s is one of the 20 or so businesses to join since May, so she is holding out and collecting bartering dollars while she waits for a deeper pool of services to choose from. She wants something that will help her company, possibly some carpentry work.

“We entered into it in good faith, and we are learning as we go along and so far we’ve had a good feeling for it,” Wood said.

Sara Spencer, who runs The Errand Girl in Rockland has also given her services for bartering dollars. She delivered gifts for another company on the network and now plans to collect by getting a haircut or possibly having some work done by Midcoast Internet Solutions for her business.

Businesses are allowed to create limitations about what barterers can receive. For instance, a company that fixes computers might allow another bartering company to have work performed on a computer, but it may have to pay the cost of the computer parts needed for the repair.

Right now, Johnson’s bartering business is midcoast-only, but she hopes to expand soon. Eventually, she hopes to join into a national network of bartering companies and may be able to offer cruises and vacations, but to do that she has to be able to offer similar services from Maine.

“I’m looking at the locally owned and operated businesses. Those are the ones I’m trying to help build, they are hurting. We’re a mom-and-pop operation. We’re here to be local and to help the local businesses,” she said Friday. “It just makes sense for me to focus locally and expand from there. I plan to expand as far as the business is willing to grow.”

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