There are few things as heart wrenching to a new mother as the choice between staying at home with the baby, and losing income, social input, the esteem of a career and contact with the world at large, and going back to work, being well off, but coping with the guilt of separation and the fear of missing so many important developments in your child’s life. This is the choice I faced two years ago when pregnant with my first child. My choice may have been easier as I was disillusioned with my career and wanted a change of direction, but the fear of going it alone and severing the ties to financial security just when you need it most was no less real.
At the time, I had a hobby. I liked making jewellery from beads. The beads in my home town were poor quality and expensive. Initially, I didn’t set out to start a business, I just thought I’d buy a few extra on the web, and sell the excess on EBay to fund my own purchases. I had pondered selling my jewellery, but not having a business selling beads.
In the last year of business, I have heard many people sneer at EBay sellers. The assumption is that selling on EBay does not constitute a “real business”. What the business snobs fail to mention is that people make money on EBay. Real money. I was very surprised at how much money I made. So, I bought a few more beads, and sold a few more beads. Very quickly I realised that the money was in selling beads, not jewellery made from beads. At this point I had a nice paying hobby, and contemplated turning it into a full time business.
My first important realisation was that in order to make money doing business professionally I couldn’t rely on wholesalers on this country. There’s nothing wrong with wholesalers, they are a good source of products. But when you purchase from a wholesaler you are paying the manufacturer, an importing agent, customs fees, and the wholesaler’s mark up, then adding your own mark up before selling on. You will either not make much money, or you’ll be too expensive to compete. I started to research manufacturers on the internet, and managed to find some who would be willing to deal in low quantities directly with me. Finding suppliers gets easier as your business ages, as they start to come to you, rather than you looking for them.
The next step is negotiation. Ask the right questions and prices can drop by as much as a third. This is especially useful when your competitors are paying standard prices. You can sell at the same price and make more, or undercut if you wish. Be careful not to sell too cheaply however, as if something is too cheap it’s perceived to be either poor quality or a con.
In selling your product, you need to ensure you have factored in all your costs before setting a price. This seems obvious, but in the early days I forgot to add the overheads of my sales outlets, and as a result made a fraction of what I should have made. You should also set some sort of pricing structure up, as a guide rather than a specific margin.
Now I had a product to sell, and a source to get it from, I needed an outlet. Or two. I decided to stick with EBay, the home of my early successes. EBay is a worldwide community, a global car boot sale. If you have something to sell, there will be someone there who wants to buy it. If there isn’t, don’t bother. However, EBay does have its drawbacks. It’s not cheap for the bulk seller. My fees range between £200 and £400 per month just for EBay, with PayPal (their payment processing facility) on the top of that. There are steps you can take to minimise fees, such as opening an EBay store which has cheaper listing fees. But it’s still an expensive outlet. It was the expense of EBay which made me consider another outlet.