Small Business Saturday Blog

Monday Seller Success with eBay: That Vintage Football Shirt

Monday, November 28, 2022 at 14:23
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

That Vintage Football Shirt (TVFS) sells genuine vintage football shirts online through both their own website and ecommerce platforms including eBay.
TVFS buys the shirts in bulk, by the ton, and the top 15-20% of those are then processed, authenticated, listed and sold online by their dedicated team. Their shirts sell for prices starting at around £19.99 and going all the way up to £400-500 depending on the item.
The company’s football mad owners sold shirts in bulk through the wholesale market for ten years before launching as That Vintage Football Shirt in 2015 in order to supply the retail sector.
Their relationship with eBay started in 2020. They listed 40 shirts on the platform in January 2020, followed by another 80 in February. By April or May of 2020, they were selling 400 shirts.
TVFS’s director, Michael Wheatley, told us that they process a lot of numbers, and their margins are good because they buy in huge amounts. He told us, “The good thing about putting the shirts on eBay is that you’ve got such a huge audience, so as long as you get your key words right in your description, your customers will find you pretty quickly.”
Michael told us that the selling process on eBay is really simple: you just need a photo and a description and then you’re ready to sell.
His top tip is to communicate with your buyers. He told us that one way in which eBay stands out from other platforms is that you have far more communication with your customers than on any other site. He told us, “They message you and they ask questions, and that’s a positive thing because it means that they want to buy.”
In terms of growing the company, Michael says that they need to increase their input, whether that’s buying more stock or employing more staff: the bottom line though is how many shirts they can make available for sale. They are constantly adding new stock to their listings for their loyal customers to enjoy.
Michael told us, “As a company we have a great work ethic. We utilise ecommerce with eBay and our own website, we utilise the wholesale sector, and we just try to bring as much revenue in as possible. That way, if one stream is slowing then another will cover it.”
Visit That Vintage Football Shirt on their website here and find their eBay shop here.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Purrfect Cat Gifts

Monday, November 21, 2022 at 09:25
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Purrfect Cat Gifts supply and deliver premium cat-themed gifts, homeware, accessories and cards for cat owners alongside cat toys, cat collars and cat-related accessories for cats, and enjoy sourcing new and unique cat-themed products from around the world. Based in Halstead in Essex, they have a loyal base of customers all around the globe, including in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Canada.
The business started when Luan Hockley and her husband, Neil, tried selling a small selection of Christmas ornaments on eBay. The sales went remarkably well and they decided that they wanted to reinvest the money and sell more, but they wanted to find something less seasonal that they could sell throughout the year.
They began by visiting the NEC Spring Fair in Birmingham. Luan tells us that it was huge, and they walked for hours without really knowing what they were looking for. Eventually they sat down for a break and realised that the answer was obvious: cats!
They did some research on the way home, and found there was a market and not much competition. They came up with the name and registered it there and then. Purrfect Cat Gifts was launched in early 2016 with a handful of cat-themed ornaments – initially with a stock of just three or four of each item – but they sold well and the business has grown gradually from there.
Eventually, they approached manufacturers in China and India directly about creating their own bespoke range of products, which they sell under the Fabulous Felines brand. This means that they can now buy in larger quantities and there’s no danger of the product being discontinued.
The business has become a family affair: Neil is both Luan’s business partner and the company’s website and marketing guru, and Luan’s sister, Amber, helps with picking, packing and posting. But arguably the most important members of the team are their four cats, Charlie, T.J., Funny Face and Funny Nose, who are always on hand to test out any new cat toys.
They still sell their products on eBay as well as through their own website. Luan told us, “We wouldn’t be here today without eBay: it’s how we started our business and it continues to be our biggest selling platform.”
Luan continues, “I just love eBay. They look after their sellers. I can pick the phone up and talk to someone if I need to, they’ve made my business’s eBay shop look awesome, and, perhaps because of the way that eBay started, it’s all about community. We definitely wouldn’t be trading today without them.”
Her top tip for other small businesses this winter is free postage, which they offer on everything: she says, “Just work your postage prices into the items, and make sure that your profit margin is big enough to include it.”Luan told us, “My aim is simple: to provide my customers with the best selection of unique and unusual cat-related gifts, toys and accessories that are all high quality but also excellent value for money. If you can find something you truly are passionate about, you’ll make it work; and as long as I continue to be passionate about it, it will continue to grow.”
Visit Purrfect Cat Gifts online here.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Hampers by Lauren

Monday, November 14, 2022 at 10:17
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Hampers by Lauren sells a huge range of bespoke hampers that cover everything from new baby and mum to be gifts to hobbies such as gardening or golf to cancer care packages – or even personalised hampers if you can’t find anything you like.
Based in Banstead in Surrey, they’ve shipped packages all over the world: Lauren told us, “Being digital and having access to platforms such as eBay allows you to reach different people. I’ve sent packages all over the UK, to America, to Australia, all over the world.”
She set up her business during the first lockdown in the UK, when her contract came to an end and everything shut down. In the circumstances, Lauren wasn’t optimistic about finding work. She’d been thinking about starting her own business for a while, but in June 2020 she decided to take the plunge, and hasn’t looked back.
As a new mum herself, Lauren wanted to create hampers that would make it as simple as possible for other new parents, with different packages to reflect a growing child’s different developmental stages.
All of her baby, toy and mum hampers are based on personal experience. Often she was gifted toys that she wouldn't have thought to buy herself but ended up loving, and has carefully sourced the same or similar high quality products for her hampers.
The other bespoke packages followed after careful market research, and are designed to be as useful as possible while adding an extra touch of luxury. Every hamper is made to order and put together personally by Lauren, and can be tailored to the specific needs and budget of any individual or company.
She also tries to think about her impact on the environment as much as possible, for example reusing boxes and packaging, and trying to source her products from businesses that are based in the UK.
Lauren has worked in customer service roles for many years and prides herself on providing a high quality personalised service for every customer. She told us, “Platforms like eBay make it so easy to rate you, so you’ve got that inbuilt trust. People know if anything goes wrong, you’ve got eBay there to help out.”
She attributes her success so far to hard work and persistence, excellent customer service, and being as visible as possible across social media and digital platforms such as eBay, which help her find new customers.
In the run up to Christmas, Laurent’s advice for other small businesses is to be prepared: she told us, “If I order something, I’m excited about it and I want it now!” In her own business, Lauren aims to despatch items as fast as possible so customers have them as soon as they can.
For the 10th anniversary of Small Business Saturday UK, Hampers by Lauren will be taking part in a Christmas market surrounded by lots of other small local businesses – and maybe doing a little bit of Christmas shopping of her own.
Visit Hampers by Lauren online here.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Top Dog

Monday, November 07, 2022 at 09:37
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

As you might guess from the name, Poo-ches®, based in Maidenhead in Berkshire, sells quality products for man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

The business was founded by Steve Taylor and his partner, Michelle. Steve originally set up the business as a side hustle while he was working full-time to try to create a second income, with a plan to build the business up and then leave his full-time job. They spent two months researching the marketplace, sourcing potential suppliers and choosing a strong brand name before launching their first product.

However, when the pandemic struck, Steve was made redundant and now runs the business full-time, with the hope that Michelle will eventually be able to join him. Steve told us, “It was actually a blessing in disguise because it pushed me to set the business up, and I’m so pleased because it’s going from strength to strength.”

Poo-ches started out with a single product: dog poo bags. They deliberately chose a good quality consumable product so that consumers would come back again and again, and their strategy has paid off. They have now added more products under the brand name, including fully compostable bags, which are more sustainable for the planet, alongside super quality harnesses and matching leads, which have proved to be a great success. Steve told us, “Being able to add to our range is important to us to continue to build our brand.”

Steve started out selling exclusively on eBay, although they have recently set up their own website as well. Steve told us, “We have found eBay to be a fantastic partner since joining the platform – always on the end of the phone if there are any queries and they really understand the issues small businesses face. Although we are working for ourselves, we never feel we are by ourselves.”

He ascribes the secret of his success to sheer hard work and being stubborn enough never to give up! Poo-ches provide top quality products that customers love, combined with great customer service. Steve told us, “We believe top quality customer service is the key to success. We try and go the extra mile for our customers – for example when a customer orders one of our dog harnesses, we always pop in a few free bags too. From the feedback we receive this does not go unnoticed and often they will come back to us and order one of our other products and become long term customers.”

Their top tip is prior planning and being prepared, whatever happens. What are you going to do if you have a bad spell of weather or a postal strike? Have you planned properly so the service you offer is still what the customer wants and deserves? Steve suggests planning now to ensure you have enough stock for what is usually the busiest and most profitable quarter for many businesses: he says to stack the cards in your favour by being prepared for any eventuality.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Handpicked Penrith

Monday, October 31, 2022 at 06:00
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Handpicked Penrith is a second-hand clothing shop based in Penrith, Cumbria selling designer & high-end women’s clothing. As well as selling second-hand clothing, we also offer a selling service to help customers sell clothing they no longer wear.
The impact fast fashion is having on not only the environment but also on the workers within the industry is now out of control. It is so important that we find ways to shop for clothing in a more sustainable way, and it is true that the only sustainable item of clothing is the one you already own. At Handpicked Penrith, we wanted to help people find a way in which they could shop sustainably, selling on clothing they already owned but no longer wear, and buy quality ‘new to you’ items which are going to last. Updating your wardrobe is important, shopping for clothing is fun, and many people enjoy it as a social activity as well. That is why we wanted to create a space that is familiar and just as fun as shopping for new. You should never have to consider or worry about the condition of an item of clothing as all our items are thoroughly checked, freshly washed and pressed to ensure exceptional quality every time. And we offer a space where you can shop in comfort, try on and take your time deciding on your purchase.
Before Handpicked Penrith opened as a shop on the high street, we offered the same excellent service online. We chose to use eBay as our selling platform when we started out. They offer many tools to help you build and grow your business and a shop front so you can showcase your brand. We also loved how easy and safe they make selling online, with the seller protection in place should you have any issues and their friendly support team to help and advise you.
eBay allowed us to sell to customers not only here in the UK but right across the world using their global shipping plan. We still sell using eBay, but we also have a website and Facebook and Instagram shop that runs alongside our in-store shopping.
In the last three years, we have grown from an online shop to a shop on the high street and we have only been able to do this by remaining true to our values. It is so important that we ensure we offer the same excellent service to each and every customer and that all the items we stock are of exceptional quality that are going to wear well and last.
The community here in Penrith has been amazing, and through listening and growing in a way that meets our customers' needs we have been able to continue to go from strength to strength with our business. The selling service was introduced to help people create more circular and sustainable wardrobes and also help people get money back for items they no longer wear. The service has grown so much this year and we are always trying to find ways to make it easier and more convenient for people to use. We also moved into a larger shop space in August to give customers a better shopping experience. Now with three changing rooms and more space for stock, we are able to give customers a more comfortable and familiar space that feels just like it would if you were shopping for new.
As we move into winter this year we are going to see the impact increasing living costs are having in the way people spend and budget. It is important for small businesses to listen and work with customers to support them and ourselves. At Handpicked Penrith, we are increasing the range of items we stock to suit all budgets to help people spend within their budgets. It is also so important never to underestimate the value we can give for free by just offering excellent customer service and making sure customers feel welcomed, valued and heard.
Handpicked Penrith is so excited to be part of the Small Business Saturday this year. We will be taking time to show our support online using our social media platforms, shouting about other small businesses within the area and those also taking part in Small Business Saturday across the UK.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: The game is afoot

Sunday, October 23, 2022 at 19:44
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Red Herring Games is a murder mystery entertainment company that stocks a huge range of small group dinner party games and the widest selection of large group murder mystery games you will find anywhere on the internet. Their services cover the full spectrum from conception through to completion, providing custom writing, manufacturing, retail and wholesale of games, scripts, subscription boxes and event services both nationally and internationally.
The business started quite by accident. Founder Jo Smedley wanted to set up a coffee shop, but the bank refused her the start-up loan. Some friends suggested that she try to sell the murder mysteries she had been writing for friends and her church in order to raise some capital (Jo’s first novel, The Missing Witness, is available on Amazon), and Red Herring Games was born. Jo told us, “Needless to say, I never got to run that coffee shop, but it’s lovely to be able to take something like writing that I never thought would pay and turn it into a business!”
Red Herring sell their games through a wide variety of outlets, including their own website, ecommerce platforms such as eBay, social media, and distributors, as well as at trade fairs and markets. They told us, “It’s really important to be available and visible in the same places your customers are looking for you, so we sell through as many digital channels as possible. Every now and again, we even get a walk in sale – and when that happens we all run around squawking like chickens, because it just isn’t the norm!”
They’re grateful for the support of other small businesses, whose support, encouragement and advice has helped them go from strength to strength. A local business networking group helped Jo learn the business basics and also gave her the confidence to take the little steps, which in turn gave her the confidence to take bigger steps. Being able to get free and informal advice allowed the business to take flight.
Jo told us that after attending the eBay Business Roadshow, they signed up to the eBay 12 week training package to get some 1-2-1 support. They weren’t expecting much and thought it might just be a series of videos. However, they were delighted to have their very own marketplace advisor, Laura, who talked through everything step by step. Jo said, “There is no other market place site out there that offers this kind of 1-2-1 support from a real person and honestly it’s been invaluable, not just with what it’s taught us about selling on eBay, but also because we can apply some of the same information to other areas of our business to improve sales there.”
What’s the secret to their success? In part, it’s being exceptionally good at what they do, and because they provide such great customer service that people have turned into repeat customers and have been happy to spread the word.
However, Jo is always aware that half of everything is luck. She told us, “I’ve always believed you make your own luck. There are hundreds of businesses out there doing something very similar and sometimes it really is just luck that lands you where you need to be, right place right time. However making sure you are the person in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the luck when it comes your way – that is the secret. Treating customers like royalty, responding really quickly, giving them your best 100% of the time, and then going the extra mile – that is what puts you in the right place to get lucky.”
Unsurprisingly, one of Jo’s top tips in the current market is to work together with other small local businesses: she suggests finding businesses with the same customer base and working together on joint marketing. “We all have customers who aren’t feeling the pinch quite so much, so we just need to pool resources and work with other businesses who have similar clients and introduce them to each other.”
Red Herring are hoping to release a new escape game to celebrate the UK’s tenth Small Business Saturday, which will be free to play on the day. Watch this space!
Final word goes to Jo: “If you had told me 15 years ago I would be holding my own in the international market and be the first name big brands thought of for their office parties, I would never have believed you!” We can believe it – there’s nothing fishy about that.

Monday Seller Success with eBay: Meteorite Man

Monday, October 17, 2022 at 12:52
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Martin Goff tells us how an interest in fossils sparked a passion for rocks from space which segued into a business selling meteorites online, how selling online has helped him grow his customer base, and why knowing your customer is key.  

Tell us a little about your business. 

My business is based in Rossendale, Lancashire and is called Msg-Meteorites. I sell rocks from space, known as meteorites, and also associated items including books, jewellery, cards, and space-themed gifts. 

Around 40 tons of extra-terrestrial material lands on earth every day. It’s blasted off the parent body, such as a large asteroid or planetary body, and occasionally it intersects with the earth’s atmosphere and lands here as meteorites. 

I enjoy the history and cultural impact on people and places that these rocks from space leave behind, as well as the science involved. It’s the interweaving of all these different aspects that makes collecting meteorites such a fascinating and engrossing hobby for me. They certainly provide a strong sense of place in this world we live in and show us how insignificant we really are in the scheme of things. 

I do tradeshows and also sell to museums and institutions, as well as private collectors and the general public. 


How on earth (no pun intended) did you get started with your business? 

I started out collecting fossils. Back in 2007, one of the dealers that I bought fossils from had a few small meteorites for sale. I was astounded that you could buy a meteorite! so I bought a small Campo del Cielo crystal (which of course I still have) and that was the seed that started me off.

I am in awe of these rocks from space: just being able to hold something in your hand that is older than the Earth that we live on still blows me away every time. The feeling of wonderment and sense of perspective that this gives you never goes away and in fact only deepens as your knowledge increases. 

The transition from collector to dealer was very fluid. I used to exhibit at shows where I would put items out on display and visitors were constantly asking if they could buy them from me. I knew that the interest was there and saw an opportunity to develop it into a business. I started the business in 2015. 

I made my very first ad hoc sales of meteorites directly to other collectors through online forums and mailing lists. But my first regular sales were made through eBay. I had used eBay to sell a few things before and I found it easy to set up to sell in more volume. From there I also then sold on other online marketplaces and also set up a web shop on my website. 

I scaled my business relatively slowly but surely. I still work full time as a Police CSI so fit the business in around that and my family. However, my plan is definitely to move to run the business full time as I do not have the time at the moment that I need to grow it further. 

What channels do you sell your products on? 

I sell online via my own website and shop, along with eBay and other online marketplaces. I also sell via social media (FacebookInstagram and Twitter) and at various astronomy and science shows and fairs in the UK and abroad. 

I developed my store and business by using social media and using different sales channels. I started with eBay for example but now also sell on ETSY and directly via Facebook and Instagram and other social media. I was well known as a collector within the meteorite community, but those varied sales channels and social media are helping to spread the word further. I am passionate about meteorites and really do enjoy talking to people to spread the word. I find children especially are often fascinated by space and meteorites. So, the science and Astronomy shows that I attend in person really help to showcase my business and I really do enjoy attending them too.

What has helped you grow as a business?

Selling online has been really important for me. It’s been far easier for me to reach a greater number of people through platforms such as eBay than I would have been able to through my own marketing. As I’ve become better known, I will get repeat customers directly through my website, but those customers originally found me via online markets such as eBay. 

Having a variety of different avenues for selling also means that when they differ in their sales volumes, I can get through any lulls more easily. 

Monday Seller Success Story with eBay: Giddy Goats Toys

Saturday, October 08, 2022 at 20:58
Monday Seller Success With Ebay

Each week we will be celebrating an amazing small business in the run up to 10 years of Small Business Saturday.

Small Business Saturday & eBay have visited the small & wonderful businesses of the UK to hear how they started, scaled their business and share their success.

This week we would like to introduce you to Giddy Goats Toys based in Manchester, founded by Amanda Alexander:

Like many people I fell into running my own business having worked initially as a Customer Services Manager and then General Manager in the watercooler industry for 10 years, but then children came along, and I didn’t want to work long hours. I did a variety of low-level boring admin jobs before going to work for a friend who had an online toy business helping her pack orders. She then took on first one shop then another and eventually I bought one of these shops off her. I learned a lot from my friend about running a business and about the toy industry and will always be grateful to her for starting me on the path to where I am now at the helm of my own toy shop – a job which I absolutely love.

In the early days most of the takings were ploughed back into stock. I had a few part time members of staff but paid myself a pittance of a wage so that I could invest in the business and so took on another job doing data entry part- time to make ends meet whilst I built up my stock. (The irony is not lost on me that in trying to reduce my hours post children I was working two jobs but that said it was still hours to suit me and not the crucial tea-time/bath-time/story-time/bed-time shift).

Five years on and I had paid off the bank loan I had taken out to set up Giddy Goat, given up the extra job and started to pay myself something nearer approaching the minimum wage and we had a good loyal local following of customers. However, at this point I was also struggling with health issues and I had a few years of battling chronic fatigue - which anyone with chronic fatigue, ME or long covid will know is both debilitating and depressing. Not only did I lack energy, but I lost my Tigger bounce and became more of an Eeyore. I could get through the day but then would flake out when I got home. I never once had to close the shop but there were a few occasions where between customers I had to go lie down in the stockroom, scrambling to my feet when I heard the door opening. This dragged on for a few years but happily I did make a full recovery and by 2020 I was ready to do Couch to 5k and I’m now fully recovered and as my kids don’t need my time anymore (just my money!!) I can now not only run the shop but consider other challenges as well – both personal and professional - and I’ve a cracking bunch of friends in the same boat with almost grown-up kids who are up for nights out and weekends away.

So here we are celebrating 10 years. We’ve survived covid (so so grateful that I’d already started selling on some marketplace platforms when lockdown happened and was moving us onto a big girl epos system rather than our 1960’s push button fisher price style till) so we were able to move to being an online retailer, which essentially kept us going through the long long covid lockdowns (and bear in mind Manchester was closed down and in Tier 3 for months on end – remember the mind boggling tier systems on top of everything else we had to figure out). So, despite everything the last few years have, business wise, been good years. The downside was the isolation which came from having to furlough all the staff and work alone in my closed shop, so it was really lovely to be chosen as one of the 2021 Small Business Saturday’s SmallBiz100 and feel a sense of connection and community. I’ve enjoyed engaging with other small businesses on Facebook and at the networking events at the House of Lords and the recent Blue Tie event plus it was just lovely to get that recognition and support from such an amazing organisation. The information provided from the Small Business Saturday & Small Business Britain team via emails and webinars is fantastic and after attending the eBay Business Roadshow in Salford I joined eBay and we’re on their new seller programme where they work with you to develop your online shop and already seeing steady sales coming in.

The new seller programme is perfect for helping you move onto eBay as you are assigned an account manager to talk you through the process of uploading and then optimising your products. Our account manage was incredibly attentive & patient with us, there is a lot to navigate when setting up on eBay, so having someone on hand was invaluable. Our eBay sales started almost from day one of uploading our products and have grown steadily since. As a small business it’s really hard to get found online and this is where a platform like eBay comes into the fore as they are putting your products in the front of customers.

I think the two main differences in selling online vs offline are that you don’t have the same rapport with your customers. I have had some customers who have been coming into my shop for years, I know them by name and I can order products in especially for them and you have a relationship with them and that creates customer loyalty. It’s difficult to get that with online customers. I genuinely feel the customer service we give to our online customers is as good as to our shop customers, in as much as it can be with limited contact, but it’s simply not possible to engender the same relationship when it’s a digital transaction.

I think that’s one of the key things of running your own business. You can’t ever sit back and think ‘right that’s us, we’re doing well’. You can’t ever take your customers for granted, you can’t take anything for granted. The last few years have demonstrated that only too clearly. You have to be actively seeking new sales channels, new customers, new ways of selling, new ways of engaging with potential customers or new business opportunities. But the good news is there are lots of people, organisations and communities who are able to help and who want to see you succeed and Small Business Saturday is definitely one of them.


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