When Angie Cash of Kennesaw, Georgia, first became an eBay entrepreneur five years ago (eBay User ID: cashco1000), she was looking for a way to make money at home after the birth of her second child. But she didn't expect that her home décor items business would take on a life of its own-and need its own place to live.
"I worked at home when I started, but the business snowballed and took over our living room, dining room, guest room and basement," says Cash, 37. "Plus, we used our two-car garage and foyer as the shipping and receiving area. The business became so invasive in our personal life that my husband finally said, 'Move the business out of the house or quit.'"
Cash didn't quit. Instead, she moved the business to a 2,000-square-foot house not far from her own home. Among the perks have been a kitchen for taking breaks and a yard where both her own and her employees' kids can play. But all that could soon change. "The business has outgrown our second house, so I'm now shopping for a 5,000-square-foot commercial/industrial space," explains Cash, who projects her company's 2004 sales to reach $500,000.
Such is the power of eBay, the monolithic e-marketplace that has suddenly morphed into a retailing leviathan in a phenomenally short period of time. It's common knowledge that eBay is now the place for consumers on the prowl for the goods or services they crave. But it's not always as apparent that a lot of average people are quietly becoming eBay moguls-and that many of them are doing it from the comfort of their own living rooms or the back rooms of traditional storefronts.
You can do it, too. And the good news is, whether you want to expand your brick-and-mortar business into the lucrative world of e-tailing to boost profits or shift your eBay business's sales into higher gear, eBay has a wide variety of tools available to help you make your dreams a reality.
If you've been doing business the traditional way from a physical location, then taking the plunge into e-tailing on eBay might seem a little scary. But the fact is, eBay is a snap to use, and it's simply one of the best values around for moving merchandise. After all, where else can you advertise an item for as little as 30 cents and still compete on a level playing field with some of the biggest retailers in the United States-or even the entire world?
"The costs are so low that eBay really is an attractive alternative for people who are looking for a new sales channel," says Jim "Griff" Griffith, author of The Official eBay Bible (Gotham Books) and dean of eBay Education. "The outlay of cash for inventory, a facility and employees, plus the expense of running a brick-and-mortar business, are traditional barriers for folks who dream of owning their own businesses. But eBay allows you to start small with minimal expenses while giving you the same access to buyers as every other e-tailer in the eBay marketplace."
If you already own a business, there's an equally compelling reason to take the plunge into eBay today: It provides you with a viable outlet for moving that merchandise that's been sitting around in your storeroom or warehouse too long. Take a cue from Tom Howle (eBay User ID: thowle), owner of Sound Services, a professional audio store in Birmingham, Alabama, and an eBay user for more than five years. He has listed and sold items that were broken or missing parts (and disclosed the defects, of course) rather than tossing them, since he knew the parts might be of use to an eager buyer. "Even if you only get $20 for something you otherwise would throw away, you're ahead," says Howle, 44, whose business had 2003 eBay sales of $160,000-which makes up 36 percent of his company's total sales.
eBay provides you with yet another significant business advantage that has nothing to do with selling merchandise. It's also a great B2B channel for buying the merchandise and supplies you'll need to run your eBay and/or brick-and-mortar business.
For example, let's say you're a new eBay seller working out of your own home. Although you may initially run that business from your dining room table, eventually you'll need office furniture such as a desk and filing cabinets, as well as equipment like a copier and a fax machine. In addition, you'll need a powerful computer system with a high-speed modem or cable connection that will give you a lightning-fast hookup to eBay. But rather than heading down to the local office supply superstore to outfit your office, you should check out the eBay Business Marketplace, where you can find everything you need, from cell phones to clocks.
Need a reliable vehicle to tote parcels to the post office or drop the kids off at soccer practice so you can hurry home and post new items? At eBay Motors, you can search for great deals on new and used vehicles alike. eBay is also a great source for the packing materials, gift boxes and other supplies you'll need to serve your customers, and, like everything on eBay, they can be shipped right to the front door of your brick bungalow. In addition, since items sold at eBay are often offered at a fraction of their retail price, you'll spend less money on the tools you need to run your business, which gives you more money to purchase inventory you can sell to other interested parties.
By the way, selling to other eBay sellers is also a viable option for entrepreneurs who wish to grow their businesses, as wholesaler Gary Neubert (eBay User ID: gatorpack) has discovered. This 52-year-old Tampa, Florida, entrepreneur has been selling a wide range of packaging materials on eBay, including packing peanuts and bubble mailers, since 1999. Although Neubert won't divulge his sales, it's no secret that he's an eBay Gold PowerSeller, which means his company racks up sales averaging $10,000 over a period of three months. (You'll read more about PowerSeller status later.) His eBay business has been so successful, in fact, that he closed his commercial distribution location about six months after entering the eBay marketplace and now sells exclusively online.
"eBay has given us phenomenal exposure to the marketplace," Neubert says. "So while we're business-dependent on other eBay sellers, the market is several inches deep and miles wide. We also have a high percentage of repeat customers because we have a shipping guarantee that forces us to ship the day orders are received, or we pay the shipping costs."