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A Woman Barters Her Way Into a Man’s Business

Linda McCabe-Oristano of Islip, NY was always very independent. A child of a single mother with 2 siblings, her first job was at a yo-yo factory at age 14. She always wanted to go to college, but couldn’t the family couldn’t afford it so, as a go-getter, she decided to experience life by taking many kinds of jobs to learn different skills.

Oristano worked for fast food companies, an insurance company, and a retail store before she got her first non-traditional job at a Japanese import-export company. A hospital job was followed by a bartending job on the beach and then, a job with a music and entertainment company managing girl groups of the 60’s.

Then, in her late 20’s, Oristano was diagnosed with cancer and it became clear that her life-style was going to have to change. She decided to take a safe job as Director of Marketing for a dental insurance company, but her can-do attitude and vast experience approaching new people to get what she needed gave her an idea. She approached insurance brokers convincing them to offer dental insurance along with their other products. The business skyrocketed and another company offered her a job with the opportunity to create the first regional health alliance in US, providing health insurance for small businesses. Next, she went to an insurance agency in New York City and was chosen to coordinate the physical move for a four agency merger. At the conclusion of the move, the company wanted to transfer Oristano to Ohio, but there was no way this native New Yorker was going to the mid-west, so she took a severance package.

While still working in New York, a friend asked her to come to a charity meeting. When she got there, she found that her name was on a flow chart as a volunteer coordinator for Special Olympics. Within 6 months, Oristano became the Executive Director of Special Olympics for densely populated Nassau County. Working with the children gave her much hope and the belief that her dreams of becoming and entrepreneur would come true.

Her next job was consulting for a public relations firm and it was through it that she met the two brothers who owned the auto-glass replacement business, she would eventually come to own. Things weren’t going well for the two brothers; they were arguing and finally split up. The brother left with the business, and plenty of debt, agreed to barter the business to Oristano. Oristano worked out a deal where she would help collect a large amount of outstanding receivables, help the brother pay down his debt and she would get the intangible assets, a steady customer base, advertising contracts, and the building lease. Her upbringing in a family tight with money had given her experience in bartering clothes and toys – why not business assets?

Oristano had always had dreamed of having her own business and now, here she was the owner of American Patriot Glass. She knew nothing about cars, so she went to a glass manufacturer in Pittsburgh to learn how install windshields, realizing that she would never get men to take her seriously if she didn’t know how to do it herself. Not satisfied with just knowing how, Oristano got certified as a New York State Insurance Instructor. In a business with no certifications or regulation, this gave American Patriot a lot of market credibility – credibility she used to parlay into insurance company recommendation rotations.

Since 2000, American Patriot has increased from 700 to 6000 windshield replacements per year and Oristano employs eight people. She has started a plate glass business as well to increase her visibility with consumers. In September, Oristano will be launching the U.S. Women’s Business Council to continue to help women professionally by acting as a catalyst to explore and collaborate through educational and training programs.

The Small Business Professors' Words of Wisdom

Bartering for a business or a piece of a business usually works best when you already work for the business; then you know if it’s really viable. If you want out, look for an employee who might want to barter, let them try it for 90 days, and then make your deal. Bartering has been done successfully for thousands of years and can also be done on a smaller scale – you can trade advertising for products or services. There are hundreds of ways to do it without large cash outlays

  • Case History: American Patriot Glass www.americanpatriotglass.com
  • Entrepreneur’s Strategy: Barter as a way to gain ownership of an existing business and then make the kind of changes you believe will bring success.
  • Could This Work For Me? What would help your business expand? What do you produce? Can you make a deal to trade with someone who has something you need? Presto! You’re bartering!

Her upbringing in a family tight with money had given her experience in bartering clothes and toys – why not business assets?