Writers are always told ‘write what you know.’ My journey from corporate America to entrepreneurship began in a similar vein in 2001 with a rather familiar task – clearing out unwanted items from my house. I wanted my son to get rid of the video games he had long conquered, and he suggested selling them to make money for some new ones. It was a no-brainer to at least list the video games on eBay – why not make a couple of bucks while we cleared out some clutter? When those games sold for far more than I expected, some quite close to their retail prices, selling online also became a natural solution to the near-universal need for more closet space. While I had many outfits that had “run their course” in my fashion rotation, they were still in excellent shape and would look great on someone who could give them a second lease on life.
Online selling started off as an enjoyable hobby of mine, one I often shared with friends, who began to ask me to sell their own items. They told me, “Linda, you know what the clothes might sell for,” “You know how to market different kinds of fashion,” and “You can get it done much quicker than I can through a consignment store.” I knew they were right, so my response was “why not?” Word of mouth referrals soon spurred growth of my store on eBay from an enjoyable diversion, to a part-time business operation, to a fulltime job.
At the time I was working as an attorney, a profession I enjoyed because of the stability it offered, but it never truly excited and motivated me. When I started selling online, I very quickly realized that I had unknowingly stumbled across an opportunity to dedicate myself to a business I was truly passionate about – and this was noticed by others around me too.
When my husband suggested he quit his job and proposed we take my business to the next level, I balked at first. We had a mortgage. We had kids to put through school. What would we do without the stability of a guaranteed paycheck and the benefits that keep people on the corporate treadmill? How far out on this limb would we have to go before we started seeing results? What would our family and friends think when we told them about our plan? But I didn’t have much time to let these doubts ruminate, because our business soon took off.
As eBay began to grow into the world’s largest online marketplace, my business and I grew along with it, evolving my business from an auction-style outlet to an online retail destination. For instance, thanks to a new “fixed price best option” buying choice, my buyers felt they were getting a bargain, and I not only converted a sale but also gained insight into just how hot or cold the market was for certain items.
I was able to adjust my inventory and my prices and deliver to shoppers what they wanted. And, the shoppers responded by buying more, but more importantly, by spreading word about my store that reached far beyond the U.S. and even to celebrities like Paula Abdul, who partnered with me in selling items from her closet for charity.
Not all parts of my story have been as exciting, and I wasn’t always prepared for what seemed like the next step. Moving into our new 25,000 square-foot warehouse was a special time for me, not only because it represented the success that had been brought on by blood, sweat and tears, but also because each prior move into a larger space had come only after a long period of resistance by me, as it always seemed to come “too soon.”
As an entrepreneur, I have realized growth will always bring new challenges and I embrace the idea my business will evolve. With the right tools, patience and a deep love for what you want to do, the possibilities for the would-be entrepreneur are endless.
About the Author: This article is written by Linda Lightman, CEO, Linda’s Stuff