Success Secrets of eBay Millionaires

Tech Accessories, Model Trains & More

Mordy Eisenberg, 30
GSM Cellular (eBay User ID: gsm-store)
Airmont, New York
Projected 2006 Sales: $2.5 million to $3 million
Description: Computer equipment and accessories for cell phones, iPods and digital cameras

From Market to Market: With an estimated 430,000 people selling part or full time on eBay, competition is continually growing. But that hasn't stopped Mordy Eisenberg from thriving in one of the most competitive categories: Consumer Electronics. He landed there after doing extensive market research, something he learned in the stock market industry: "eBay is a giant market, and a lot of the rules for buying and selling in the stock market apply, [like] not flooding the market and not showing your hand."

Making It Month to Month: Eisenberg started out slowly, selling on eBay part time. "Once I did that, I [said], 'Let me see if I can make a go at this full time,'" he says. "I gave myself a month to see if I could succeed. I extended it for a month, [then] another month, and never looked back." Eisenberg began with a drop--ship supplier--a company that held the inventory and shipped it for him on demand-but today he handles all the inventory and shipping himself.

Freedom to Grow: eBay entrepreneurs have the freedom to experiment that traditional business owners don't always have. For instance, GSM Cellular is expanding beyond its core product line of cell phone accessories to architectural moldings and other home d├ęcor accessories. "Most of the people I know who have a business background in college look at eBay and say, 'They never taught us this in college,'" says Eisenberg. "The beauty of eBay is that you can be in a few different places and do well in each."

Tiffany Tanaka, 24
wesellthings4u.com(eBay User ID: wesellthings4u)
Honolulu
Projected 2006 Sales: $2.7 million
Description: An eBay drop-off store that sells a wide variety of items on consignment

Family Connections: After studying fashion design and graphic design at the University of San Francisco, Tiffany Tanaka looked forward to a career in New York City. But after returning to Hawaii to help care for an aging family member, she realized "there was nothing here jobwise having to do with design, so I started selling things on eBay," she says. "Soon, people started asking me to sell for them. I had to make it into a business because it was taking up so much of my time."

Picture Perfect: Tanaka's design experience plays a role in how she presents merchandise for sale. "It's an art, creating all these auctions for different people," says Tanaka, who pays special attention to how objects are photographed. Many of her 12 employees have backgrounds in art and photography, helping them present items in an attractive way.

Aloha eBay: Her drop-off store has sold everything from a rare one-cent piece for $800 to a Chagall book about stained glass for $5,000. Niche items and unusual products always sell well on eBay, and Tanaka has found that Hawaiian cultural pieces-from antique feather leis to Hawaiian paintings-are in demand, though she's selective with what she accepts for consignment because shipping costs from the islands are high. Someday, she plans to expand to Asia and Europe.

Timesaver: Tanaka enjoys helping people of all ages. "Many of our customers are older people who want us to sell things for them," she says. "But a lot of people are younger than me, and we're just saving time for them. Human beings are so busy here on earth, I don't feel many people want to sell on eBay on their own."

James Anderson, 28
Anderson's Wholesale (eBay User ID: andersonswholesale)
Mesa, Arizona
Projected 2006 Sales: $2 million
Description: Accessories for iPods and other electronics equipment, as well as "metaphysical" items such as swords, chalices, runes and wands

Putting Off the Paper Chase: James Anderson planned to start law school in the fall of 2005. When he announced to his parents that he was postponing school because he was making more money selling on eBay than he would as a law school graduate, he got a predictable reaction. "I think they kind of thought-what's the word-that I'm crazy, maybe," he says. "They're happy I'm doing well, but it was a shock. eBay has the feeling of insecurity, whereas law school is a definite thing."

From Snowboarding to Snowballing Sales: Anderson started selling on eBay when he was a college student in Utah. "I sold concert tickets on eBay part time to help with college expenses and 'fun money' [for items] such as snowboarding season passes," he says. He still occasionally has time for snowboarding, but he keeps busy selling 50 to 70 items per day.

Cutting Fees and Sale Prices: Anderson lists merchandise in his eBay Store at fixed Buy It Now prices. "I try to beat other auction sellers by offering merchandise at a lower price-as much as 50 cents [less]," he says. After problems and setbacks with unreliable distributors, he says the key was finding a good supplier through word-of-mouth.

Bringing Up Baby: Anderson and his wife, Emily, now have three children--and his success on eBay came just when his family needed it most. The income enabled Anderson to pay off his credit card debt, buy a house and tackle his student loans.

eBay PowerSeller Greg Holden has written more than 30 books about the web and e-commerce, including his most recent title, Secrets of the eBay Millionaires(Osborne-McGraw Hill).
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This article was originally published in the May 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Fast Forward.

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