Wednesday, September 1, 2010

From Small eBay Seller to Successful Entrepreneur

By Vangie Beal
August 25, 2010


More than 10 years ago Jennifer Kirk discovered eBay and realized she could make money on eBay by selling her children’s used brand-name clothes. For Kirk it was an easy decision to use eBay – she realized she could make more money selling the clothes online than she could at a garage sale.  
As is the case with many successful eBay sellers, Kirk started out using eBay as a way to clean out items not being used in the home and earning a little extra spending money.  Also , like many part-time eBay sellers, Kirk realized the novelty of listing on eBay to earn a small income tends to wear off eventually.
“I spent a lot of time learning how to use eBay”, Kirk said. “But after four years of selling my children’s used clothing on eBay I really started to get bored with it. ”
After watching her four daughters play dress-up with the family’s two pet Chihuahuas for hours on end, Kirk said she saw an opportunity for a new online business.  With some initial market research and encouragement from her husband and family, she decided to start selling upscale dog clothing and accessories instead.
Outgrowing the Need for EBay
Kirk’s success story echoes the position of many eBay sellers.  While eBay produces sales, it also leaves sellers paying too many fees to different sources, for example eBay and PayPal. The online marketplace also imposes a slew of restrictions on vendors using eBay as a selling channel.  
She also said that running the eBay business on her own was time consuming and she felt that too much time was being spent in trying to get assistance through eBay support when she needed help.
In deciding to launch Posh Puppy Boutique, Kirk said that finding the right e-commerce platform and shopping cart was the most difficult task.
“I can’t recall how many hours I spent  online searching for a cart – or the number of carts I downloaded, tried, and didn’t like,” she said.  
The biggest issue Kirk stumbled upon while looking for an online shopping cart was that many cart providers, like eBay, wanted a percentage of everysale she made online.  To her this meant daily fees racking up when she had wanted to invest more profit in new inventory.
In 2007, Kirk switched Posh Puppy Boutique from eBay to Volusion’s e-commerce platform simply because the company offered more support than anyone else. Not having a lot of technical experience and knowledge, Kirk found that with Volusion support she could make the transition from eBay to her own online store in a short amount of time.

The Challenges of Going Off-eBay
Kirk says one of the biggest challenges she faced in launching the new online store was  doing market research.  Another was  learning how to run her own e-commerce website.  As she researched, however, she realized that some e-commerce platforms were robust enough to guide her in other areas of running an ecommerce website, such as inventory management, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, live chat and other functions that are a must-have for any online business today.
Kirk said that when she found Volusion’s offering, she watched a couple of tutorials the company offered on its website and realized that this was a solution that would fit her online business needs. A big selling point for Kirk was in realizing she would retain all revenue and not need to pay transaction fees to the vendor.
Other challenges Kirk initially faced were finding wholesalers and suppliers for Posh Puppy Boutique.“This isn’t a problem now as we have people submitting requests for us to carry product, but in the beginning it was difficult to get those sources and I was constantly being turned down,” Kirk explained.
A Bright Future for Posh Puppy Boutique
Currently Posh Puppy Boutique is working with a parent company – a separate entity – to launch an online doggie consignment venture in the very near future. According to Kirk this is an under-served market online and this new site will allow dog owners who love to accessorize the opportunity to sell their old items and take the cash or earn gift certificates for buying new clothing and accessories at Posh Puppy.
Also, Posh Puppy Boutique was recently  enlisted to help outfit characters for a major feature film due in 2011. While Kirk was unable to comment specifically on the film or the movie production company behind it, she did say this was something else that she wouldn’t have believed would ever happen to her when she first started out by selling on eBay as a hobby.

Vangie Beal is a veteran online seller and frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.com. You can tweet with her online 
@AuroraGG.
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