An immigrant from India who took the risk of diving into online auctions, a Quebec-based musician with a knack for blending social media tools and a couple with nearly zero computer skills, bagged eBay Canada’s top awards.
The awards which are in its sixth year now, honours eBay Canada’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Innovator of the Year and Family Business of the Year. All three winners receive a $500 reward towards their business. The Entrepreneur of the Year also takes home $2,500 in cash, and the Innovator of the Year and Family Business of the Year winners receive $1500.
Virendra Rajawat left India for Canada in 2004 with high hopes of continuing his career in the medical diagnostics field. Between job hunts, Virendra, on lark, tried to auction on eBay three of the handicraft items he brought in from Jaipur and happily recoup his investment by making no more than $50.
When suitable jobs failed to materialize, Virendra made a bargain with his wife Kusum: “Let’s give eBay six months, if it doesn’t work, I’ll go back to looking for a job.”
Research help eBay seller prosper
When he began, Virendra was frequently bogged down by taking photos and posting descriptions of the items he was selling. It took him about seven hours to post five items.
Automation helped him speed up the process and free up his time. Researching on Google and eBay itself, he found free online listing tools such as Turbo Lister and Toaster Poster that enabled him to posts more items in a shorter time period and scale up his business. With the help of these tools, he and his family can posts more than 100 items in seven hours. “Research helped me a lot. Thru online discussions I found out what works and what doesn’t. Researching eBay I found the going prices for item”.
Virendra also found that detailed information about products help move the item.”Photo need to be clear and people want to know as much as they can about the item,” he said.
With the help of Kusum and his teenage children Mahak and Rajjwal, Virendra began ordering jewelry and precious stones from Jaipur and posting them on eBay. Today, his, store rakes in more than $185,000 in sales each year. Virendra is eBay’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
Social media salad strikes cord with Quebec seller
Between gigs, musician Antoine Viel of Quebec City used to work as a salesperson for a local musical instrument store. It was sometime in 2004, when he discovered that the store had an unmanaged and nearly forgotten eBay sellers account.
“I wanted to bump up my sales numbers so I asked the store owner if I could handle the eBay store,” he told ITBusiness.ca.
Soon enough, his online sales equaled his in-store sales. An avid guitar fan, Viel remembers that among his first auction sales was a 1979 Gibson Les Paul which was purchased for $1,500 and sold for around $25,000 to a buyer in Japan.
“That was the sort of reach that eBay gives you. You have access to buyers around the world,” he said.
In 2009, Viel decided to set up his own eBay store. He works with a number of friends who provides him with a steady supply of collectible musical instruments as well as manufacturers who deliver other sale items. Even the musics store owner continues to provide him with supplies. Last year Viel’s eBay store made around $250,000.
The boost his online presence, Viel, spiced up his posts with YouTube videos of the musical instruments he was selling so that buyers can hear them play. “In the music store people want to touch the instruments and hear them play. Online they can’t have that so I offer the next best thing”.
Other eBay sellers do this, but most of them offer only links to a YouTube channel. Viel incorporates the videos right on his eBay store. Viel is also building a community of buyers. He set up a Facebook page where his buyers can discuss their passion for music and instruments. “The relationship doesn’t end with the sale. It goes on long after that and I find I have many repeat customers,” said Viel.
The social media connections help create a “long tail” effect where previous customers continue conversations with Viel and other customers and recommend his products and services to other friends.
Team work makes Beans Antiques grow
Ron and Sheri Walker had a thriving antique shop called Beans Antiques and Collectibles n Victoria, B.C. which they ran since 1996 when a friend first broached the idea of selling online.
“It was an experiment. We had this Winston Churchill lapel pin which we got for about $5 that our friend put on eBay for us. In about seven days the pin was snapped up for $500,” said Sheri.
In less than a week the couple ordered two computers and set out to start their eBay store. “We didn’t even know the first thing about computers. The delivery person didn’t tell me where the start button was and I had to wait for Ron to turn it on,” said Sheri.
Today, the Walkers are based in Middleton, Nova Scotia where Beans Antiques and Collectibles has a bricks and mortar store and a growing eBay clientele. “It’s amazing. I can’t help but wonder what the original owner of an item like a tobacco tin dating back to the 1800s would think if he knew it was now being seen by thousands of people around the world and would be eventually bought for a price far more than he paid for,” said Ron.
Ron, takes cares photos of the products and writes the descriptions and handles shipping. Ron says making sure photos are clear and item descriptions are accurate and comprehensive is important. “In a shop they can see the patina of age on items, the details of design and they imbibe the allure of antiquity. You need to recapture that through photos and descriptive text in your eBay post.”
Sheri handles the customer emails and questions and does some shipping to. Ron and Sheri can’t do it all alone, so they also rely on the help of their three-year-old son Ethan, who helps sticking labels on items and accompanies them to the post office when they need to mail items out.
“We don’t really do anything special. We just work at it hard and really on team work,” said Sheri.
The Walkers now make a comfortable $100,000 a year out of their eBay store. They won the Family Business of the Year Award.