Entrepreneur Justine Kiska wants SMEs to Barter Smarter

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Tech entrepreneur and Barter Smarter founder Justine Kiska.
Tech entrepreneur and Barter Smarter founder Justine Kiska.

Young tech entrepreneur Justine Kiska is seeking to disrupt the local e-commerce market with Barter Smarter, an interactive marketplace that she says bands small businesses together to exchange value and grow smarter.

Launched at the peak of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the bartering platform allows cashless transactions by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of almost anything, ranging from goods and services, to expertise.

In SA, platforms such as Swopanything and the SA Barter Network offer their members a similar business bartering network.

For Kiska, her primary focus is to assist SMEs to create value bartering.

She tells ITWeb: “SMEs do not have a centralised online platform to connect with one another, or showcase their products and services to a larger audience. Barter Smarter has developed a networking space for SMEs to encourage partnership and collaboration, further contributing to growing the small business community.

“Barter Smarter was formed during the COVID-19 pandemic when many small businesses were closing down and thousands of individuals lost their jobs. Our aim is to become a contributor to the current economy by enabling small businesses to network with one another and exchange value smarter.”

Kiska says with a reach of over 10 000 deals monthly, the Barter Smarter platform is not restricted and allows small businesses to be part of the growing digital economy.

“SMEs in South Africa are under financial constraint and lack capital and resources to effectively take part in the digital space. The Barter Smarter marketplace acts as an outsourced service provider, which gives access to a larger audience and provides a digital voice at a low cost.”

According Kiska, Barter Smarter is more than a platform, as it is her team’s contribution to the growing e-commerce sector in SA, which has become one of the top employers.

“Barter Smarter is providing a unique platform in the market of e-commerce by providing an onboarding platform to exchange value between SMEs, in which the bartering culture is modernised.”

SA’s e-commerce sector is now rapidly growing more than ever before, as evidenced by the 66% surge in 2020 compared to the previous year, according to research firm GeoPoll.

It says this increase was primarily influenced by the restrictions placed on traditional retail stores that led to the reduction of in-store shopping by 30%.

“While many sectors of the economy were crippled by varying degrees of lockdown in 2020, online retailers experienced a boom in sales as South Africans avoided shopping malls and stores in favour of home deliveries.”

Despite the growth of the local e-commerce sector, Kiska cautions that South African marketplaces face stiff competition from global players, hence the need to be more innovative and stay ahead.

“Our biggest threat would be large multinational corporations that have surplus funds and additional resources entering the SME space and penetrating the market,” she says.

Barter Smarter is the latest start-up to receive seed funding from the recently launched multimillion-rand Empire Partner Foundation Tech Fund 2.

The fund identifies and rewards young, high-potential, innovative entrepreneurs to spur economic development in the country using technology.

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