Trading places

In tough economic times, bartering makes a comeback

Steve Friede from Biz 2 Biz pours wine at the Pioneer Underground as part of the Reno Wine Walk.

Steve Friede from Biz 2 Biz pours wine at the Pioneer Underground as part of the Reno Wine Walk.

photo by amy beck

“I’ve always loved talking with people and interacting with the community,” says Steve Friede, founder of Reno Tradebanc. “That’s what trading is all about.”

Making personal connections can help revitalize a business, and amid a state-wide budget crisis, many Nevadans try to help improve the economy. Trading man-hours for services locally, instead of money, can be an answer. The Tradebanc’s 200-plus members offer a wide array of Reno-based services, including dentistry, stand-up comedy, painting, photography, plumbing and others. A plethora of goods such as furniture, cosmetics and jewelry can also be acquired.

Friede loves hooking people up, which requires constant energy. “I’m 56, but I turned 22 last week,” he jokes.

Membership affords an online account where trade “dollars” are earned in proportion to services rendered. These “dollars” can be exchanged for the equally valued services of other members. Dental care—something often sacrificed on a tight budget—is a common example. Employers who can’t afford those benefits pay for them in trade. An acupuncturist recently contributed trade dollars by treating another member who had taken ill; those dollars were put toward an office remodeling project.

Using trade as local currency keeps business circulating in Reno’s economy, since members are networked in the area. This encourages solidarity over time. Further, a history of trading strengthens relationships and trims costs.

“Trading helps businesses save cash and stretch their buying power,” says Pete Padilla, a local loan officer and Tradebanc member.

Friede says trade gives more oxygen to a business. Modern trading allows businesses to sustain new growth.

“On a limited budget, marketing is usually cut,” says Jerry Evans, a Tradebanc member and owner of 99.1 FM talk radio. “People need services, and in this type of economy, trading makes a lot of sense. I’ve traded for electrical work and wedding photography.”

With this in mind, small businesses have more avenues to adapt to today’s challenging marketplace.

Trade on, trade off

Trading is an ancient concept that seems outdated in the retail-driven U.S. Modern trade networks in America, however, go back 30-plus years, but the idea has roots in Europe. The “Wir” has been in Switzerland’s circulation since the Great Depression. According to Friede, this local trade currency now has over 70,000 members and constitutes 20 percent of the Swiss economy. The Wir’s logo can be found next to those of credit cards on the front doors of participating members.

Other trade organizations are present in the Truckee Meadows. While some are local, there are also national trade organizations.

Steve Friede says he’s always out and about in the public eye promoting his trade organization, Biz 2 Biz.

photo by amy beck

“National trade organizations focus on corporate trade because that’s where the big profits are,” says Friede. “Deals are orchestrated from an office whose profits usually wind up in the CEO’s pocket. I’m out in the community meeting people every day.”

In this fashion, Friede’s story involves finding the heart of trade with a different direction. Raised in Silicon Valley by a busy single mother, Friede saw the importance of focused duty and helping others. He and his sister assisted with the running of their mother’s home-based business. From this era, Friede recalls an early trading story: “When Carol Burnett changed her time slot from 8 to 10 p.m., my mother allowed me to trade work for staying up late Monday nights.”

When he was 13, Friede’s mother married the owner of a dry cleaner operation. He remembers taking the bus after school to work there. At too young an age, he ran the business when his stepfather became ill. On a positive note, he developed a work ethic.

Adult Friede migrated around northern California while working in retail and merchandising, all people-centered work. He made good tips in restaurants with entertaining one-liners. “I get charged when talking with people, and this always made work a positive experience.”

Reno became a refuge for Friede, as it has other worn-out Californians. For nearly two decades, Friede continued to diversify his work experience. He opened a tropical fish store on Wells Avenue, helped remodel another, and also worked in corporate trade. Over the years, Friede became passionate about trading, but with a different concept in mind: locality.

“Corporate trade is about the outcome, not about the people,” he says.

He founded Reno Tradebanc in 2009 to create a stronger local network.

Friede has received help from his cousin and now business partner, Rachel Gold, to grow the business. Together, they attend meetings and other events, following a passion of civic involvement.

“We’re always out in public, going to yard sales and mixers, because we care about where the growth comes from,” says Friede. “We love connecting the dots, helping facilitate contact with people that need each other.”

In addition to hatching trades, Friede also offers businesses an outside perspective on what they need. He and Gold love being proactive with local entrepreneurs and interacting in meaningful ways.

Trading does present challenges. On occasion, unfair trades are proposed, and Friede hates to say “no.” When running an organization, this is inevitable, but rare, according to Friede. “I’ll go out of my way to make a deal happen.”

Many of Friede’s clients agree, including local marketing advisor and entrepreneur Phil Peretz.

“They’re professional and follow through on what they say,” says Peretz. “I respect what they do for people in this area.”

Friede knows that businesses must adapt to the flow of 21st century commerce. He’s starting a new Reno trade organization called Biz 2 Biz. Based out of South Carolina, the organization has national regulations, but Friede’s Reno location is somewhat unusual. Biz 2 Biz is allowing Friede to own the Reno branch and run it at his discretion, while using the company moniker and their marketing material. Friede’s outgoing personality and engaging business approach helped land this advantageous setup.

Friede said that network expansion was the motive behind opening a new trade organization. With national backing but local ownership, Reno’s barter economy can only be improved, he added. Tradebanc members will have the option to network with Biz 2 Biz, creating a stronger localized marketplace.