Imagine that a museum needs $1,000 worth of printing done. If the museum is a member of the Value Card Alliance (VCA), it could contribute $1,000 worth of memberships to the network and VCA would find a printer in the system to get the job done. In return, the printer would receive a $1,000 credit with VCA, to be used for services that another VCA member provides. The printer is not limited to whatever is offered by the museum, but can choose from anything within the network across the country. For example, the print shop owner might want to reward an employee with a trip to Florida, so he or she could use the $1,000 credit for resort accommodations there.
The Phoenix-based business trade service brings the option of widespread bartering as an alternative to cash payments, allowing its members access to the resources of 3,200 companies in Arizona and 36,000 nationwide.
A wide variety of companies exist in the network, including restaurants, auto repair shops, beauty salons, law offices, plumbing businesses, florists and marketing firms. VCA was founded in Tucson in 2004 and later moved into the Phoenix market. This spring it opened a Flagstaff office this spring and reports nearly 70 memberships including participation from Arizona Snowbowl, local photographers and yoga instructors.
VCA’s Northern Arizona presence is expected to increase in Prescott, Sedona and Camp Verde.
“We have some clients that are already in those areas, such as Out of Africa, Sedona Red Rock Adventures, a Sedona wine tour company and a doctor in Prescott,” said VCA’s Northern Arizona Regional Manager Tim Stipo. “It’s not a fully viable market on its own yet, but we expect to be there by the end of the year.”
Participation in the VCA network includes a monthly fee of $8, 10 percent cash fee on transactions and 2.5 percent trade fees. Thus, in exchange for $1,000 worth of trade, a company will supply $1,000 of its own goods or supplies, plus pay $112.50 and the $8 monthly fee.
Ty Largo, principal and creative director at Phoenix-based Awe Collective, a PR/marketing firm and member of the VCA network, says working with VCA has been critical to his company’s success. “It’s been huge for us, to not only purchase services that we needed, but also give us access to services we didn’t necessarily have the budget for.”
While people have been bartering for centuries, Stipo says the concept of the modern formalized trade exchange as a business model arose in the late 1960s. The system really started thriving with the development of the Internet, and since then, participation tends to peak during economic recessions.
“That’s when people are really trying to pinch pennies, and trading is the best way of doing that. When the economy is up, trade exchanges still grow, but it’s not like when everyone is trying to scramble and save cash,” he said.
In the case of smaller cities, Stipo says, many companies already trade services locally. VCA’s goal is to connect these and other companies into one large network. “It doesn’t matter what product or service you provide. It just depends on whether we have someone in our network who could use it, and then you can spend it with whomever you want. So it really opens up the market for everybody who’s already doing these little trades here and there.”
VCA’s philosophy is simple, he says. “Our goal at the end of the day is to help businesses save cash, as well as improve their cash flow, by getting things they would normally spend cash on in exchange for their goods and services.”
By Kevin Schindler, QCBN
For more Information about VCA, visit valuecardalliance.com.