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Belinda and Jacob North knew research would be a key ingredient in launching their business on eBay in 2005. Belinda, 33, was searching everywhere for a birthday dress for her young daughter but couldn't find anything to suit her in her Bellevue, Nebraska, area. After much searching online, she found one--and saw a great opportunity for a business on eBay selling special-occasion apparel for young girls. Former restaurateurs, Belinda and Jacob had the vision of combining great customer service, as one would expect in a restaurant, with an online retailer, and Sophia's Style (eBay User ID: sophias*style) was born.

"We developed our business strategy around what the customers want and what we do to [put] them at ease," says Jacob, 34. Fast shipping and great communication were essential to making customers comfortable buying from their eBay Store early on. A professional look with a great logo and page design also helped cement their brand.

Another way the Norths succeeded was by maximizing their product titles to hook customers. "Having somebody find you is huge," says Jacob. Now running their eBay Store in addition to their website, sophiasstyle.com, Belinda and Jacob expect 2007 sales to reach $1.4 million.

A well-built eBay Store is a great marketing tool. "It really helps you build a brand identity," says Lisa Rosato-Donahue, senior manager of eBay Seller Marketing. And don't forget the power of a good old-fashioned sale in your eBay Store. Rosato-Donahue suggests using eBay's Markdown Manager and cross-selling complementary items. If you're selling a poster, for example, you can use your eBay Store to cross-sell a frame to go with it. --Nicole L. Torres

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