In early 2006, I began an e-commerce business utilizing eBay’s selling platform. At the time, eBay was at the height of its buzzword status and everyone seemed to be making a fortune on eBay. I wanted my piece of the pie. The journey started easily enough. Since Billy Blanks and I never knew one another on a first name basis, I felt like any type of return on investment on my “like new” collection of Tae-Bo DVDs would be more immediately beneficial to my pocketbook than a tax deduction from Goodwill. The DVDs sold instantly. I was hooked and began seeking out odd items to sell.
The next time I hit a book sale, I saw a few vintage religious books with unique covers. I knew from my husband’s interest in religious books that many older volumes were expensive, and these seemed nicer than even his overpriced study books. I snapped them up for peanuts and raked in a tidy profit. At this point, I knew I had found a new calling. I read books devoted to selling on eBay and gleaned so much information from them that I didn’t realize there were thin spots. No book can cover every aspect of everyone’s business, and there was one key lesson I had to learn alone: eBay doesn’t care about me.
I was naive when I went into my eBay business. I was aware of eBay listing, final value, and Paypal fees. I thought that paying these fees, earning a Power Seller badge, and maintaining exemplary feedback made me an important part of the eBay ecosystem. I felt these things afforded my business and the businesses of others a bit of consideration when corporate eBay tossed around new ideas. It took my finding out about the special deals eBay crafted with Diamond Sellers such as Buy.com for me to realize my eBay days were numbered. My dual-listing all inventory, not just valuable items, on Amazon began in earnest after this and steady exploration of emerging sites became a constant in my life.
This migration kept the business solvent, but it never afforded me the opportunity to save, spend money freely or not spend an entire day listening for the sound of an e-mail click. I moved on from eBay, left my inventory on listing fee free Amazon and branched out into freelance writing. My current self is reticent to depend on any one stream of revenue ever again. I write for multiple clients and own/operate ten active websites, a monetized YouTube account and seize every additional opportunity I see.
I love books, and I loved my book business. Finding vintage prayer books new homes and putting obscure texts in the hands of students writing research papers was fulfilling, and, at times, I can’t help but illogically resent eBay for unnecessarily altering its business model and robbing me of that feeling. In recent months my writings have begun to give me the same feeling of connection, and I will take every step possible to ensure that no single entity can make an arbitrary decision that permanently alters my new small business reality.
In the end, I feel that the most important lesson a small business owner can learn is that taking charge ideally means breaking new ground. If you have to set up shop on settled land first, do so, but break out the bulldozer at the first opportunity. Take control of your destiny.