The story of Trade to Travel, as told by Daniel Solon of Luxury Lifestyles Magazine
It was a rainy day in paradise. Vaniene Hardy and her daughter, Leah Hardy-Powell, along with their long-time friend, Betty Magee, were spending an idyllic holiday in a beautiful beach home on the Outer Banks of North Carolina (in August of 1991). Lounging happily, mimosas in hand, the three women drifted into a conversation regarding the possibility of Vaniene buying a vacation home in the area.
Vaniene was already a partner in the beach home they were enjoying that morning, so Leah thought her Mom had a large enough investment in that particular location. "If you buy another beach house," she said, "You will always feel like you should go there whenever you have vacation time. It will limit the number of trips you'll take elsewhere."
It was at that point that Vaniene said something which changed the lives of all three women. "Wouldn't it be great," she said, "if there was a company that arranged for owners of vacation homes to be able to visit one anothers' properties in the same way that timeshare companies arrange for timeshare owners to visit properties around the world?"
"It would, indeed, be great," they thought.
Still, Vaniene and Leah both considered the whole conversation to be nothing more than a fun way to pass an afternoon indoors. That is, until Wednesday morning when Vaniene called Betty and Betty answered her phone, "Good morning. Trade to Travel, how may I help you?"
With that, Trade to Travel (TTT) was born. Since both Vaniene and Betty were (and still are) exceedingly busy women, the two agreed to get together once each week and do "ONE THING" to forward the creation of their dream company. Before long, "one thing" at a time, the basics had been figured out and put in place. Betty became TTT's first President and Leah managed its first offices.
Looking back on those early days, Leah, now the effervescent President/CEO of the concern, laughingly describes the initial operation as, "not a Mom and Pop business, but a Mom, Mom and Mom business." Vaniene is a serial entrepreneur with 24 company startups to her credit. She is a Physical Therapist who owns several medical companies and has launched a computer software business, a fitness center, and a restaurant among other ventures. At the time of TTT's inception, Betty and her husband, Dallas, owned and operated a massive 5,000 acre vegetable farm as well as "Magee Lube" (an automobile Tune-n-Lube operation).
When founding Trade to Travel, what these enterprising women wanted to offer was global flexibility. The idea was, and still is, that members of Trade to Travel are able to enjoy one another's properties worldwide without the constraints involved in direct home exchange (in which parties must coordinate travel plans with their exchange partners). "We're the vacation property exchange...in which you don't exchange," quips TTT.
What sorts of properties are on Trade to Travel's books? Frequently, they are vacation homes occupied only occasionally by the owners, and hence available over large periods of the year. For example, an estate on a private island in Bermuda includes use of the owner's 50-foot yacht (with Captain). A famed villa on Barbados (which has been visited by the Queen of England) offers a staff of up to 14 with 4 world-class chefs, 8 bedrooms boasting only the finest linens, an indoor air-conditioned racquetball court, a lit tennis court complete with elevated referee chair, a basketball court, billiards table, shuffleboard, children's playground, volleyball and badminton courts, a 50' sparkling pool, and use of the owner's facilities on Barbados' lovliest beach. Other impressive homes are in the centers of the world's greatest cities.
Looking back at Trade to Travel's growth over the past 30 years, Leah says, "We could never have imagined what we were getting into when we started TTT. The internet didn't exist back then and starting a global company seemed like a formidable undertaking. These days starting a global company can be as simple as buiding a website, but Trade to Travel is so much more than a website. The best aspect of creating and growing the company has been the wonderful people we've come to know and consider "family." The benefits of our services are social, psychological, and emotional, as well as financial. Trade to Travel is better than a Country Club - it's a "Countries Club!"
Vaniene & Betty, 1991