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You Bought What on eBay?!

Need an even simpler solution to the franchise buying process? How does an online auction sound?

Ebay has become the world's gathering point for buying and selling mundane and unique items, everything from old clothes to Kurt Cobain's childhood home. As its notoriety grows, entrepreneurs have been considering how to best use this Web site to benefit their own companies.

Jeff Sinelli, CEO and founder of Genghis Grill Inc., a Mongolian barbecue franchise, thinks he may have found the connection. "One of our guiding principles is to use technologies to increase our presence, prosperity and profits," he says. "We looked at how we can achieve these objectives, and I shouted out, 'Why don't we sell a Genghis Grill on eBay?'"

Though the remark was made half-jokingly, the franchise team took Sinelli's idea pretty seriously. The plan was submitted to lawyers, who agreed it was feasible, then presented the idea to eBay at a restaurant convention last May. "They said it was a great idea they wanted to support," Sinelli says.

With eBay's blessing, the project went back to the lawyers to ensure sales would comply with all state and federal disclosure laws. Genghis Grill plans to post all its disclosure documents online so most of the transaction can take place on the Internet.

Regular businesses are up for sale on eBay, too. Learn more about it in Bidding War. Then, visit our eBay Start-Up Center.

Sinelli is hoping to launch the world's first online franchise auction this quarter. Start-up fees for a Genghis Grill franchise will most likely be on the block, but Sinelli envisions eventually auctioning off territories, build-out and equipment via eBay.

Even though it'll be months before they can gauge the success of this project, Sinelli already believes it's a wise move. "It's never been done before," he says. "It's an original idea that really fits our culture."

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This article was originally published in the January 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: You Bought What on eBay?!.

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