In 2016, recession hit Nigeria and the value of the naira, the Nigerian currency, plummeted rapidly. At the time, 400 Nigerian naira equalled approximately one Canadian dollar, an exchange rate that hurt not only the citizens that resided in the country, but Nigerians around the world as well. In the midst of this economic depression, international student Attah Salifu, a fourth-year management student at the University of Toronto Mississauga, found himself struggling to pay for school fees, rent, and groceries. To combat his financial crisis, Salifu joined the trading community on Facebook, an experience that inspired him to launch his own company in 2017 called The Barter Corporation.
“My parents normally provided everything for me. I never struggled.
Then, when the recession hit our country, I could’ve asked them for money but I didn’t because they were helping other people as well,” Salifu explains, “I couldn’t even buy ramen, so bartering really helped me during that period.”
According to Salifu, bartering refers to the trading of items or services for other people’s items and services without any monetary payment. Salifu started bartering in Toronto where trading is steadily gaining popularity. With online sites dominating the online Torontonian community, such as Bunz.com, people can post photographs of items they no longer need, like a pair of lightly-worn jeans, attract potential traders, arrange a meetup, and swap for something more useful like subways tokens or coffee beans. After a few trading endeavours, Salifu decided he wanted to bring this initiative to Mississauga.
“I was thinking about selling some stuff that I had to make money and then I found bartering. It actually helped me a lot. I traded stuff for drinks or valuable items so I could stretch the small money that I did have,” Salifu recalls. “I spoke to people in the community because in Mississauga our trading community isn’t as active as in Toronto. People wanted something in Mississauga where we could trade and be active. So that’s why I decided to found The Barter Corporation.”
Salifu vividly remembers his first bartering experience. With a generous woman, Salifu traded his PlayStation 4 Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag video game, now sold at BestBuy for $19.99, for a bottle of Jacob’s Creek wine. Bartering isn’t just limited to trading inexpensive items.
Throughout his experiences with the trading community, Salifu has seen people trade items ranging from clothing to pianos.
“Think about it. You probably have stuff in your house that you don’t use, but it’s still valuable. You struggle to pay your bills, so instead of using the money you need, you just barter,” Salifu says.
Currently, The Barter Corporation operates through a website that uses blog posts to provide the community with advice, including tips on how to budget and where to store certain foods like dairy and meat products in the refrigerator, to best prevent premature spoiling.
In November of 2017, The Barter Corporation will launch an app to help people connect with other traders located in Mississauga. Upon downloading, the app will ask the user to input their interests so that it can create a personalized feed. Salifu explains that the app will also feature two facets: trade and upgrade. Once a user taps on an item that they want to receive through a bartering exchange, they will have to choose between the trade and upgrade options. The trade option allows users to simply arrange a meetup and exchange their item. For the upgrade aspect, The Barter Corporation team will trade the item for the user and deliver it to their house.
To his fellow entrepreneurs, Salifu recommends that if they have a business idea brewing, they shouldn’t hesitate to transform the idea into a tangible reality. “Honestly, just do it. At the end of the day, there’s really nothing to lose. Even if you don’t succeed, the experience is worth the risk.”