Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bootstrapping Knowledge, Not Money

I just became an ebay powerseller! And, based on my customer feedback rankings, I am in the top 10% of all ebay sellers.

I started this business when I was recovering from an illness, when I couldn't really concentrate enough to read or write. It's been interesting to figure it out, the ins and outs of how this works. I got a market research package and learned how to make more money on given listings. I upgraded my listing pages with a funky 1960's "summer of love" theme. I run a slide show of photos for each listing.

But last night I was thinking that just plain buying and selling loses its charm for me after a while. I sell new coach purses and used women's clothing. The new purses are much more fun...they are a good product that people love. I really enjoy selling nice new things.

But just to change things up, I am buying 10-15 used coach bags and reconditioning them for future sale. I'm getting them from individuals on ebay who don't really know how the market works so are selling inexpensively, and bags that have stains that I think can be cleaned up. I'll see how this business works.

I actually like the process of figuring out the business end of things. When I started, I was thinking, wow, how can I sell $500 a month, that would be awesome, I had no idea how to do it. But I gradually figured it out...and now sell about $1100 a month. It feels great to have this tool in hand. I'm about to set up a coach blog (and myspace page) with an ebay widget so people can find my listings from outside of ebay. This I like, gradually figuring things out.

But something is really unsatisfying about the "used" element of all this. It is a familiar and too comfortable space for me...but it is not really satisfying. Instead of wanting to sell these various bags, I keep thinking that I would like to give different ones to different friends and relatives. It just seems too small scale. I never saw myself as the purse lady or an online flea market vendor or yard sale entrepreneur. Yes, we do these things when we have to....but I want more complexity.

Nonetheless -- I now understand the online world in a way that I never could have had I not started small like this. I guess this is bootstrapping knowledge (not money) -- I took what I knew and leveraged it into something I didn't know, but now do know.

My goal was to create an additional income stream for us. I learned that online searches for coach products spike in the fourth quarter (back to school and christmas, no doubt). I also learned that most of the searches originate in Asia; I've had a customer from Malaysia and Singapore, and bidders from Japan. So I am thinking that I can upgrade my presence and see what I can do over the christmas season.

There is something rewarding about simply earning a living like this. But the used, flea market stuff doesn't float my boat so much....I see this becoming a real business.

1 comment:

sharon said...

susan, this is really great. I would love to hear more about how you figured out how e-bay could work for you.

And I really love the Bootstrapping Knowledge....I honestly think you could write a whole book on that topic....interviewing entrepreneurs and community leaders and heads of foundations....about the knowledge they had and how they bootstrapped.

A lot of people think they need money but if they knew that knowledge is just as valuable and maybe more, what a great message!

Sharon Duffy