An influencer set out to trade a bobby pin for a house — 18 trades later, she had a $19,500 diamond necklace. Here's how she did it.

  • Since May, Demi Skipper has been on a mission to trade her way from a bobby pin to a house, inspired by man who did just that in Canada from 2005 to 2006.
  • The 29-year-old, based in San Francisco, made a TikTok account to track her progress; it now has over 4.5 million followers and is one of the most viewed accounts on the app.
  • Eighteen trades later, Skipper currently has a diamond and sapphire necklace appraised to be worth $19,500.
  • She says the project isn't about the type of house she can get or where it's located, but more to test the limits of what's possible.
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Demi Skipper, 29, has always been a side hustler. She has a full-time job managing the mobile app team at OpenTable and a busy side business renting out wedding dresses from her apartment in San Francisco, but she decided to add in another project to keep her occupied during quarantine. She had no idea what a viral sensation that project would become.

Skipper was inspired by Kyle MacDonald, who decided in 2005 to attempt to barter for a house, starting off with just a paperclip. Trading the paperclip for a pen, he worked his way up to a snowmobile, and eventually a two-story farmhouse. It took him 14 trades over one year. 

Skipper is on a similar mission, and wants to break MacDonald's record of one year.

She started off with a humble bobby pin, and traded it in May 2020 for a pair of earrings. Eighteen trades later, she is the owner of a diamond necklace valued at $19,500.

THE BIGGEST TRADE YET 😱##trademeproject ##fyp

"I think I'm getting pretty close," Skipper told Business Insider. "I'm hopeful that within three more months I can do it."

Along the way, Skipper has picked up 4.5 million TikTok followers as @trademeproject.

She also now has well as over a quarter of a million followers on Instagram. She calls them "the Trade Me Project family" and receives daily motivation from the fans following along. She's blown away that she has "one of the most viewed accounts on TikTok."

Skipper sifts through thousands of messages every day, some offering trades and some offering support like transporting a trade if needed. While she would have taken anything for a bobby pin, she's now getting offers of boats, real estate, and RVs. 

"Kyle MacDonald was able to trade for non-tangibles like a role in a movie or a trip, but with COVID it adds another level of difficulty," Skipper said. "People would be shocked by how many hours go in behind the scenes of the one-minute video announcing a new trade. I'm up at 6 a.m. every day looking for new trades." 

Each trade takes about a week to find the perfect 'yes.'

Skipper says the key to a successful trade is looking outside of the category — no one wants to trade their new iPhone for an old iPhone. Instead, Skipper got a new iPhone 11 Pro Max by trading some high-end sneakers. She uses Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, and other online marketplaces to find interested barterers, though now she's achieved enough fame and credibility that the offers come to her.

Her third trade — a set of four margarita glasses valued at $24 for a Bissell vacuum cleaner valued at $60 — was a turning point for Skipper where she realized that she could really achieve her goal. The hardest trade so far was getting a broken down 2008 Dodge Caravan and finding someone who wanted to trade it for something of higher value. Skipper continually reminds herself that if she can make her way through a trade for an old minivan, she can trade anything.

Trading a bobby pin for a house. Pt 4 ##fyp ##trademeproject

"What's next is just as much of a surprise for me as it is for everyone else," she said. Knowing that millions of people are invested and along for the ride keeps her motivated. At this point, whether she gets a house is a matter of "when, not if."

It was never about the type of house or where the house was, but just if it was possible.

Skipper, who lives with her husband of one year — the man behind the camera for every TikTok video — thinks that she may give the house away to someone in need, potentially someone in the Trade Me Project family. Everything is on the table, including living in it or turning it into an Airbnb rental. She may even do it all over again. With her following and drive, Skipper may find trading hard to give up. 

Her advice for anyone wanting to start a project in quarantine? Look at the big picture, don't give up when it's hard, and be ready for an emotional roller coaster. "Trade to trade, I'm like 'Oh God, I only got from this to this,'" Skipper said, "but then I look back and I'm like 'OK, I started from a bobby pin." 

"You have to know that the journey is worth it."

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