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Do Their Bidding

Auction help for eBay novices

What: professional broker listing service that deals through eBay
Who: Perry Dodd of AuctionMeThis
Where: Vancouver, Washington
When: started in 1997

Seven years ago, Perry Dodd won the jackpot. But his jackpot came in the form of a dilapidated, wooden jack-in-the-box hidden amidst a box of goods he bought at an auction for $10. Dodd had slim hopes for the toy when he posted it on eBay, but cashed in big when bidders raised the final price to more than $700. He later discovered that the run-down toy was a German-made original from the late 1800s.

Fascinated by eBay, Dodd was inspired to assist others who didn't have the time or the know-how to benefit from the online auction. Advertising in local newspapers, he started collecting other people's items to sell on eBay. In exchange for a percentage of the final selling price, Dodd completes the entire process, which includes photographing, listing and shipping the merchandise.

The light bulb had gone on, but he didn't invest fully in the idea until 2003, when he moved his homebased business into a Vancouver, Washington, storefront. Initially, the idea was novel and therefore confusing, so in addition to the $15,000 startup cost for the store, advertising was necessary to educate customers. "People would come in because they saw the name, and they would think 'Where's the auction?'" he says.

In April, Dodd, 43, opened a second location, in Las Vegas, and now boasts an overall success sell rate of 99 percent. Before posting merchandise, Dodd researches the value of each item. Sometimes, he leaves it up to the bidders to decide: Says Dodd, "Vintage African masks or a vintage African child's coffin-you have no idea who in the world would want to buy these things, but they do, and you have no value to really be able to assess."

This story appears in the September 2004 issue of Startups. Subscribe »