opens many doors to online
Alan Zisman (c) 2007 First published in Business
February 13-19, 2007; issue 903
High Tech Office
’s 2006 book The Long
is sub-titled Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More. He
suggests that in the past, businesses succeeded selling a relatively
few products to a mass customer base. Think network TV, the Big Three
automakers, Top 10 radio.
Now, however, the Internet has shattered “the mainstream into
a zillion different cultural shards.”
better known as an auction website is the world’s largest
garage sale, but it has quietly provided online opportunities for
entrepreneurs seeking to serve many of Anderson’s
One such niche has been filled by local businesswoman Marilyn Bild
named eBay Canada’s 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year. A casual
of eBay since 2001, she was researching possibilities for a home-based
business that would be unique to Vancouver. To work from home, she
needed a product that was small and easy to store and ship. She had
been researching opportunities for about six months, looking at a wide
variety of local businesses to get a sense of what was working.
She saw a local TV news story highlighting Main Street’s
Market area, noting that it was one of the largest East Indian shopping
districts in North America. Back at eBay, she concluded that no one in
North America was offering high-end saris and East Indian fabrics and
after contacting local wholesalers, decided to give it a try.
Through eBay, she was able to set up an online store (www.totallytextiles.com
offering products she describes as “individually
ensure you get exquisite merchandise at exceptional value.”
Currently, she’s listing 59 items online, each as an item for
auction, with (as is common but not required on eBay), an option to
“Buy It Now” by meeting her pre-set selling price.
Some vendors on eBay start their auctions with a low minimum bid but
with a hidden reserve below which they won’t sell. Bild
doesn’t do that, preferring to set a higher starting bid that
reflects a more realistic selling price.
She has found eBay an attractive alternative to running a traditional
bricks and mortar shop, noting that she has flexibility to travel; she
can get away by simply not scheduling any auctions, and lacks the fixed
overhead of a physical retail location. Fewer than 1% of her thousands
of transactions have been a problem. Build says she can count the
number of insurance claims on one hand.
“eBay all works on trust,” she notes.
blown away by how well it works. I think the Net is as secure as
traditional transactions if you’re an informed
She suspects that Americans, however, are still more comfortable than
Canadians about buying online. eBay customers can post feedback about
vendors. Totallytextiles has received more than 3,800 feedback postings
and had only two negative comments, an overwhelming message from
customers that they’re satisfied with their transactions.
A home-based online business such as this may not be for everyone, Bild
notes. Building a successful online store can be labour intensive. For
example, every item has its own colour and design requiring four to six
photos and a unique description.
For interested potential entrepreneurs, she advises: “Find a
product niche with limited competition. Of course, on eBay, nothing is
unique. You’ll have to do better than your competitors. The
to repeat business is customer service. Answer e-mails promptly and
ship merchandise as soon as it’s been paid. Start slowly,
becoming comfortable with the eBay platform before trying to list large
quantities of items.”
Marilyn Bild is offering classes on successful eBay selling in
Vancouver and Delta. More information is available at totallytextiles.com