Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I want to sell, and do you remember Ebay way back when?

Well I have a scare. My full-time job, as an office manager, may not be as secure as I once felt it was.  The company has somewhat been taken over, and my boss of 5 years is no longer my boss.  A new CEO, my boss, has been appointed.  The office I work in is a very small office, 6 employees, so who's to say our jobs can't be done somewhere else, by other individuals located, maybe where the new CEO is located, in another state.  Gasp!  This is not something I want to think about, but I have to.  I've been laid off before.  Between 2000-2005...three times.  Barf!

I don't plan to jump ship...this transition can be for the better, but with this happening I'm gonna seriously need to get my act together.  I'm divorced with two kids so I need to build a savings account for the just incase scenario.  This means I want to try to sell on Ebay and Esty.  This has been a thought in my mind for years. I have plenty of fabric on hand to make things to sell....I just need to get to it.

I got a long story to share regarding my desire to sell if you would like to take the time to hear my history.  Grab a cup of coffee, something sweet, and sit back and relax.  Are you comfy?  Because here we go. 

As far back as I can remember,....well not that far... about 1997-1998, I've wanted to sell things that I've made.  I've lived in Austin just over 15 years, and when we first moved here, my mom and sisters, we would check out the little festivals that would pop up around town.  There is this one festival that is held yearly, Eeyore's Birthday.  It's not what it sounds like.  You might  imagine the whole gang from the Hundred Acre Woods to be there; It's not anything like that, but they do have the honoree attending, a donkey, Eeyore.  In my opinion, it's not as child friendly as you would think, but children do go.  It's very hippyish, but that's Austin for you (I'm not saying this in a bad way, just a way to describe it).  My mom has always said that Austin reminders her of Los Angeles back in the 70's. 

It's been years since I've gone to Eeyore's Birthday.  At that time there were food and beer stands.  It's encouraged to dress up like if it was Halloween, and dress weird; Austin's motto is "Keep Austin Weird".  Then there is the infamous bongo circle.  The bongo circle is exactly that;  a whole bunch of bongo players unit, and beat their bongos.  There's the random few girls that would dance to the beat of the bongos, and I've seen it a few times where they were topless.  Last but not least there is the smell of the wacky tobacky in the air, which I'm not a fan of, however, the scene of it all was definitely entertaining.        

The first year or two we went to Eeyore's Birthday there would also be people selling items they made, as well as other items like candles, incense, and if I recall correctly pipes (it makes sense the smell and the pipes right?).  So as I saw these people sprawled out on blankets (not stands or tables) I was drawn to them.  I  would buy a hemp bracelet or mushroom shaped candle, but ultimately, I wanted to do this too.  I wanted to sit out on a blanket and sell something that I made.

It was in my mind, and I wanted to do it.  The following year I made a whole bunch of hemp, and that waxy string, bracelets.  My boyfriend (at that time) and I would sit and watch TV as I would make bracelet after bracelet for hours at a time; I even crocheted a couple of hemp pouches.  Then  It was time... Eeyore's birthday was here again.

My boyfriend and I gathered our blanket, snacks and headed out to the park.  At first I thought we got there really early, since I didn't see any people selling stuff from their blankets.  We continued to walk to the trail where there was the most flow of foot traffic, but as we walked we would see
someone sit down, setting up their blanket, then a cop would ask them to pick up and leave.  Of course I decided to wait and we walked some more, and we saw this happen a few more times.  Ugh!  They are now regulating something.  I don't know what they were regulating.  People were not allowed to sell there at the park.  Ugh!  Sigh...
Wax string bracelets.  (The wax string was my favorite and I wore some for years)

Small crocheted hemp pouch
We hung around at the park for a little while...then went home.  Oh how sad.  I really hoped to sell and maybe make money.  Who knows if I would have actually made money.  I didn't keep track of how much money I spent on hemp and beads, but that's not the point I wanted to see if someone would buy from me like how I would buy from others.  Oh well. 

The bracelets were eventually either given away to family or friends.  My boyfriend was even able to swap them for a replacement car window, since his car got broken into at one point in time.  I still have some reminders of that time, 13ish years later I have a few remaining bracelets.  These were the less desirable ones, but I've held onto them.  Even though I didn't get to do what I wanted to do way back then it was still fun making them, and they are a reminder that I attempted to do what I set out to do.
Assorted hemp bracelets.  (Hi Eeyore)
Flash forward a few years later, I was married and a stay at home mom (laid off two weeks prior to having my daughter, but that was ok).  Since I was gonna be at home I was gonna try Ebay.  A cousin had mentioned, not long before, that she was buying things from discount stores and reselling them at higher prices on Ebay.  This sounded like a great idea.  We had just got our first computer, a hand me down from my brother-in-law, and we had dial-up access via AOL (which at that time charged by the minute for internet use...or something like the first so many minutes were free then you were charged.  Ouch!).

Back then Ebay was not as easily done like it is now.  We didn't have a digital camera, so you had to take a picture, develop the film, then scan it into the computer, but we didn't have a scanner.  My husband (now ex) did eventually surprise me with a scanner so that was one hurdle down.  So what I tried to do was buy things I could place on the scanner so that I didn't have to take pictures of it.  Oh and you couldn't download pictures directly onto Ebay.  You had to register with another website, download the pictures there, then export the pictures to Ebay. A long, time consuming process....remember on dial-up.

This Ebay venture didn't last long.  My daughter didn't do well out and about shopping, at restaurants...just out in general.  I breast feed her for six months, and she did not take a bottle... at ALL.  So I had a very small window of time I could be without her, and out with her.  If she got hungry while shopping I would go out to my car and sit in the backseat while I fed her.  Ugh, and there were times where she got super fussy.  If she couldn't see me, while facing the back of the car when in her car seat, she would scream bloody murder.  Ear piercing screams that made me think she was in agonizing pain.  I would have to pull over to see if she was ok, and as soon as she saw me the biggest smile would form on her beet red face.  The look of relief that I was still there would be in her eyes; she didn't loose me (OMG!! she's still like this, but a little less dramatic).  That was the death of my desire to sell on Ebay... then.  I did sell a few items at that time, but it wasn't worth it...the time and stress was not worth it. 

Over the years I have sold a few things on Ebay.  It's easy now.  I have a digital camera, that downloads straight to Ebay, and high speed internet. (Where is my flying car?)  The items I've sold have been nothing spectacular.  Most recently I've sold some school books for much more then what the school would have bought them back for.  That was a major bonus.  However, I've wanted to sell more, but I haven't found the niche of what people want.  How do you know when you are out thrifting what something will sell for?  How do you know it's even worth buying to resell?

Now, as I have been stalking blogs, I have had some little insight to what might sell.  Ultimately I want to sew items to sell, but as of right now I'm looking for what I want to make, obtaining patterns, and test driving the patterns.  Yes, I do know some patterns have rights to sell, and I am looking at the ones that give permission to sell on a handmade level.  Also I do know it will take some time to build up stock to keep my Etsy or Ebay store filled.

The point here is that I haven't let go of what I wanted to do so long ago, and for some strange reason it feels like that possibility is closer, more possible.  Both my kids, 11 & 7, are pretty much self sufficient.  So that means I have some time to do things, while at home.  They let me sew...sometimes.  They're kids so they will get into their helpless T-Rex pose; where their arms are too short and they can't manage to do, grab, get things on their own, and at these times I have to surrender the sewing machine.

The last few weeks I have done some thrifting, and I think I've done good with my small finds.  My focus has been vintage sheets.  I've collectively found a stack of vintage sheets, that I've showed you in a previous post, including two super cute receiving blankets.   Also a really cute Tracy Porter, hand painted, tea cup, non-vintage.  I think I done good job.  I've somewhat steered away from the Goodwill since their prices seem
to be much more expensive then some of the other thrift stores I've gone to.  Like four times more expensive.  Yikes!  Have any of you noticed that?  
Hand painted Tracy Porter tea cup.  Love it, but will eventually sell it.
Super cute vintage receiving blankets. (I want to sell these too)
Up close pic of receiving blanket.
Stack of vintage sheets
I would like to use the sheet to make a few projects and maybe sell the rest off as fat quarters, and with Easter around the corner I would like to sell the receiving blankets.  Maybe just another few more finds and I'll open my own Etsy shop.  Baby steps though I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I do need to work fast.

Any thoughts or fears I should be aware of when it comes to your very own Etsy shop?  Do customers ever not care for the handmade items they've purchased and demand refunds?  If you run an Esty shop do you absolutely love it, and do you do well with it?  At least make back what was spent on what you sold?  Of course my goal is to make money, but ultimately I don't want to loose money.  You know what I mean?

It's all so nerve racking.  I just don't want a repeat of what happened with my bracelets.  I don't want to be shopping and sewing, and into the grove of things and have no one there to sell to.  Is this a normal concern?

Any and all comments/advice would be greatly appreciated.  Anyone else on  the looooong venture of wanting to sell, but haven't plunged in yet?

$3 garage sale find.  SCORE!  Retail price $18.99

**Update April 2013.
That March 2011, I did open an Etsy shop, and 10 months later, January 2012, I was laid off from the above mentioned job. My position was dissolved (technically transferred to the main office in another state).

Did I foresee this or what?  I wish I could do the same thing with lottery numbers.

Unfortunately without finding or creating awesome money making items I didn't have the cash stashed aside that I had hoped for. I was unemployed for 11 months.  However, just before I was laid off I had become a member of an awesome craft group, Austin Craft Riot, and literally the day I lost my job I received a notice from the Austin Flea that I was accepted to be a vendor at their market (I cried, it was happy/unexpected news to receive on such a terrible day. Especially since I just inquired about being a vendor since applications had already closed for that particular upcoming event).  I was a vendor at every Austin Flea last year, and sold at a few other markets.  Austin Craft Riot was a huge help along the way, with support and inspiration from other like-minded crafters/sellers.

Now these markets, for the most part, weren't big money makers, but these two entities, Austin Craft Riot and Austin Flea, I feel kept me involved, gave me something to look forward to, and helped me through what could have been a very hard/dark year as I looked for a new job (you know how the commercials go) which was "priceless". 

**Update July 2014
Recently I started a new "temporary" position, my second job since my layoff (this one is temp to perm, yay).  I am still running my Etsy shop (not as full speed as I probably should/can), and seeking that money making handmade item or ancient garage/estate sale find that will make me a millionaire. I'm still a proud member of Austin Craft Riot, and even though I haven't been as involved as I would have liked (since I was previously working d 6 days a week) I once again have something to look forwards to by getting back in the swing of selling at markets.  My first show on the calendar is the amazing Austin Craft Riot Summer Show.  I'm so excited and can't wait!   


  1. Oh I so know what you mean...I have sold things in the past from home years ago and I have had my own shop too
    just a few years ago...I started selling things on
    Bonanza.com cause it doesn't cost to list things on there and it doesn't have a time limit on how long your stuff stay on there....sold a few things there and still have some stuff there but just recently I have been selling on ebay...love the 100 free listings that are for .99 starting items....this week has been real good too with sales...we live on a very low fixed income so I had to do something that was for sure....and yes Goodwill is getting way to high...we have a community center that has a sale once a month and mostly everything is .25 we go there alot and finds all kinds of things to resell...
    I buy alot of stuff that I like myself and sometimes I don't want to sell it....lol we go to library books sales too and they do well also I had a book listed yesterday for .99 and it sold for 9.10....my MIL that is all she sells on ebay is books and she sells lots and lots of them....I did sign up for esty but with a .20 I think listing fee I haven't put anything on there...this selling online is new for me too....
    I say go for it and Good luck...
    Have a Blessed day

  2. I know exactly what you mean about Goodwill, and you're right - everything is way more expensive than it should be (unless they don't know what it is).

    I have an Etsy shop and have sold a few things, but I wouldn't bank on making a LOT of money from it. Some people manage to do well, but I've noticed it's like car salespeople: some people could sell dirt and make a profit.

    I know of an Etsy seller that makes gobs of money on things anyone can readily get at $1 Tree for cheaper. She just shows ways to use those supplies on her blog, and everyone goes and buys them. But she's a "big name" in her crafting niche world, so she gets away with it. I'm sure I couldn't, nor would I want to because it feels like "cheating".

    So ... the long and short of it is this: When you're starting out, don't make anything to sell that you can't use if it doesn't sell. Almost everything in my shop will either find good use in my sewing room or on my gift lists if it doesn't sell, so I'm not "out" much if it doesn't sell.

    Also, don't charge an arm and a leg for things if you can help it. When you're starting out, aim for a fair price, but don't expect to make what the "big guys" are making for the same thing.

    I hope all of that helps. I wish you the best in your selling ventures!!

  3. Thanks for sharing this post.
    Twice I wrote a long response but Blogger rejected it, so let me say find your target audience, where do they shop, and how can you stand out?

  4. Thank you, DogsMom, for the advise.

    I follow some blogs that sell on Etsy, and I'm observing what they do to see how they promote their Etsy shops, but you know sometimes you want immediate results. I know it probably took them some time to take off to the point where they are now so I'll be patient, and learn.