How 2 eBay sellers turned over 1m on the marketplace
Business Advice speaks to two small companies finding success on the auction marketplace to find out how eBay became so crucial to their business and what it takes to become a successful eBay seller.
Nick Hopkinson’s grandfather opened Hopkinson Cyclesin 1970 and with it created a strong family legacy. Before finding eBay, Nick struggled to keep up to date with the modern changes to retail, particularly dealing with changing customer behaviours and the shift to online retail. At times it felt that legacy was competing with the modern retail landscape, so much so that Nick was even faced with closure.
In 2008, Nick started to list on eBay and was able to keep the authenticity of his family business whilst finding a space to directly communicate with his customers. Hopkinson Cycles went from 10 initial eBay listings to an annual turnover of 1m.
How did you get started?
Hopkinson Cycles has been a family run business since 1974 and was set up by my Grandad Howard Hopkinson. To start, he bought and combined a couple of houses into a bicycle showroom and repair centre. His sons, my uncle and father, Allan and Paul Hopkinson continued the business, selling the bicycles and accessories on local market stalls whilst doing mobile repairs on the market. It was approximately 10 years ago when we took our first step into online mail order.
What was the biggest challenge of growing your business?
The bicycle industry hasalways been a challenging marketplace. Previously with our physical store, the challenge was getting peoplethrough the front door. This was particularly difficult in such a small village we only had our local residentsto rely on. We decided as a family to try and extend our reach; to go out and find the customers.
We did this by using local market days around the area, and at one point we had market stalls in Leeds, Huddersfield, Selby, Ossett, Wakefield. However, the challenge only persisted as customers? shopping habits began to change to online avenues and we had to find other channels to sell our products. This brought us to try eBay.
How has being a seller on eBay helped you expand your business?
It took time to build up our eBay sales but we found that after we had established ourselves, the sales were what we called a “snowball effect”. Because of this, we expanded our business by sellinga wider verity of products through eBay. We started eBay with a handful of bicycle products on auction and we now have around 1000 listings, with approx 200-500 sales per day.
The customer reach that eBay and the internet gives us is amazing. We went from a small reach of a few thousand people in the local area to millions of people globally.
eBay’s Global Shipping Program has also really created us an easy, fast and professional’selling experience. It takes all the stress out of dealing with an international sale, plus it’s a competitivelypriced postage cost for the buyer.
We are also a part of eBay’s conciergeteam which regularly give us one-to-one advice and business experience that is second to none. They can help with any issuesand also help increase sales on our products by looking at them to see what can be improved.
As a business owner, what are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt?
Business, in theory, is simple, but in reality, the market is never simple. There always new trends, or in some cases retro old trends. You have to constantly change and adapt to keep moving forward. If you stand still for too long, you’ll get left behind.
What one piece of advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Know your product, and your marketplace. If you research what works for your business, as well as having the correct costs, then you can’t go wrong.
What’s your vision for the future?
Expansion keep moving with the trends and the times!wed possibly move to a larger premises and hire more staff to accommodate any extra sales and to keep our dispatch times fast.
It’s a family business and I have a 6-month-old son, let’s see where we are in 18 years time to see if he can take the lead.
Schott Packaging Ltd
Tom Schott is proof that you make a flourishing business from the most unlikely objects, even inanimate objectsaround you.The daily grind as a web developer had really started to get to Tom. Jaded, he left his job and started doing web development for his father’s removal company. It was that seemingly unremarkable move which changed his life. One day, Tom made the small observation that there were always lots of cardboard boxes left over from all the removal jobs. Purely to clear space, he listed the boxes on eBay and noticed a clear demand for packaging in its various shapes and sizes.
Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.
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