Bradenton man starts online bartering service

Bradenton man starts new online option for consumers

jsalman@bradenton.comNovember 13, 2012 

BRADENTON -- Need a haircut, oil change or work done to the house?

Forget about the old yellow pages.

A Bradenton man has started an online community that allows users to trade goods and services without ever having to reach for their wallets.

The website was launched last week by area life coach and motivational speaker James Smith as a way to give those still grappling with the recession a means to access everyday services they otherwise couldn't afford.

"Given what people have been through, I thought how could I help the local community help each other?" Smith said.

The answer was GrowtoGive.

The Internet-based bartering service lets each new user start off with a spending limit of 300 purchase credits, which Smith calls "grow bucks."

The monetary substitute can be spent with other users who also have registered with the website and are willing to accept "grow bucks" instead of the real thing.

Those users, who solicit their specialty or the work they're willing to perform, then can accumulate the digital credits to barter for something else they need.

The service is free to use and geared toward consumers in the Bradenton-Sarasota area. The larger the user network grows, the more successful Smith believes it can be.

"It will not work unless a lot of people are involved, but when a lot of people are involved, it's beautiful," Smith said. "That's why I'm doing it now. I'm trying to find a lot of people."

So far, a few dozen user profiles have been created -- with requests ranging from plumbing to auto detailing and a phone. Some of the donations available now include computer help, housekeeping service and sales coaching.

Steve Smith made the first trade on the service last week when he gave an area woman 40 "grow bucks" in exchange for two hours of yard work at his Oak Creek home in Bradenton.

"It was awesome," said Smith, who is unrelated to website founder James Smith. "I would do it again for sure."

Because the website was established as a nonprofit, and the mon

ey is not real, users must rely on the honor system and police themselves should an issue arise.

The website also has a feature that allows users to rate each other -- similar to the one eBay has on its sellers.

The idea is similar to IBE Barter, which is based in Sarasota and has more than 500 card holders that barter goods and services to improve business.

Bartering has exploded with popularity across the country as the recession keeps a tight grip on consumer pocketbooks, even sparking the new realty TV series "Barter Kings" on A&E -- where savvy business owners start with a small unneeded item like an iPod and trade their way up to something bigger like a powerboat.

Smith, however, says he's only trying to help out.

"It only makes sense with the economy the way it is," he said. "People just can't afford the things they need."

Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @JoshSalman

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