When I first started selling on Ebay, I had very little start-up money. Going from 2 incomes to 1 was a tough adjustment financially. Luckily we had some money in savings to get us through the first few months until my Ebay business became profitable. For the first few months I was putting absolutely all my profits back into more inventory. I started my Ebay business by selling EUC (excellent used condition) items. I now sell both EUC items and new items, but I have to admit that going to garage sales and thrift stores are my favorite way of acquiring inventory. There are so many ways that you can start up your business with little or no money.
1. Sell items around your house that you no longer need.
Many sellers start their Ebay business with items around the house. Go through your clothing closets, children's toy chests, home decor, cooking utensils and the garage. I firmly believe in the phrase, "Someone's trash is someone else's treasure". There is a buyer for everything. I can still remember some of the first items from my home that I sold on Ebay...clinique make-up samples, Rachel Ashwell Shabby Chic book, new crystal photo frame (a wedding gift that just wasn't my taste), a sport themed ball-cap, and a wooden home decor bird house. All of these were things that I had lying around the house or I was tired of dusting. I have done well with many of my children's clothing and toys. Surprisingly, my husband's clothing does well, especially his jeans. My husband was a minor league baseball umpire during the first few years of our marriage. When he changed to another profession, I sold a lot of his equipment and uniform items. I mentioned earlier that I have sold Clinique make-up samples. My aunt always gives me her unused make-up samples (Clinique, Estee Lauder, Bath & Body Works)that are not her color. I have done well with listing those in my store or at auction. Work on decluttering your home and you would be amazed at what you can find that would help you start up your business.
2. Shop Garage Sales
This is where I get the majority of my inventory, especially during the summer months. I love shopping for children's clothing and toys, but will pick up anything that I find interesting and think I can sell. I love the thrill of the hunt. Going to garage sales is time consuming and can be hard when you have kids. Thankfully, my parents are very supportive of my business and help me watch the girls on the weekends. The few times that I have had to lug them around really makes for a long morning. I also try and map out my route from the ads in the paper the night before so I don't spend anymore money than I have to on gas and I get to the ones that I think I will find the most items at first. Garage sale items can be a lot of work because of the time it takes to wash and iron many of the items. I even clean and test out all toy products to make sure they work before listing. For me, buying from garage sales has been most profitable.
If you are new to shopping gargage sales this book may be a helpful resource.
Secrets of Garage Sale Bargains
3. Thrift Stores
I frequently shop thrift stores such as the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and other local charity thrift shop organizations. Many of these stores have sales or a day each week with a certain percentage off. I always try to make sure and hit them when they have a stuff-a-bag sale. My favorite local thrift store has all children's clothing priced .50 a piece. It doesn't matter what type of item it is or the brand. I search the rack for boutique or high-end clothing. Be sure to take time to check clothing items thoroughly before purchasing. I don't know how many times that I have gotten something home to find a small stain or hole. It seems that the lighting in thrift stores is never very good and I sometimes miss things. Some of my favorite items to search for at thrift stores besides clothing include vintage hot rollers, wilton cake pans, holiday themed scrub sets, Halloween costumes and character toys. Here is a link to my latest thrift store purchase Ebay sale. I bought this costume at a stuff-a-bag sale and each item averaged out to .26 each. Wish all sales were this nice!
4. Nationwide Discount Stores
Many nationwide discount chain stores offer namebrand items at a fraction of retail price. TJMaxx, Marshalls, Stein Mart, and Big Lots are a few that I can think of. I shop these stores at the end of the season when they are clearancing out their items. I always try to only purchase new with tag items once they are 75-80% or more off of the retail price. You might have to hold onto some of these items for several months before they begin selling since they are off season, but I usually list all of my items immediately. You never know when someone is going on a cruise in the winter and needs a swimsuit. A child may even be in an end-of-the year school play and may needing a costume. I also sell internationally and other countries are in different seasons.
I receive several different coupons in the mail for different stores or products. Some of these I use and some of them I do not need. I have put some of the coupons on Ebay and don't make a killing, but again it is free money since the coupons were free to me. I have personally purchased baby formula coupons on Ebay.
6. Craigslist/Local Newspaper
This is a great way to acquire inventory. Craigslist is a huge online classified ad. This is a free service. You can post items that you have for sale or items that you are interested in purchasing. For example, if you would like to get the word out that you are willing to buy children's clothing you could place a wanted to ad. Just be careful and be very descriptive about the brands and condition of the items, and price that you are willing to pay for each piece or outfit. It is also a great site to advertise your larger furniture. You can have buyers do a local pick-up so you don't have to worry about shipping it. I have sold several items on this site and they were great transactions. You can check this site out at www.craigslist.com
7. Offer your services
Do you have a special talent? Do you have a special interest in sewing, scrapbooking or writing articles? Do you have experience with html or web design? There are many people who use their talents to either sell on Ebay or build their own website. If you like to sew, make custom outfits or costumes. If you like to scrapbook, make special themed custom pages for albums. If you are experienced with HTML, make store logos or storefronts. There are many people like myself, who buy store logos and selling templates. I buy all of my daughter's hairbows from an online website www.bluemonsterbows.com. She makes beautiful custom made bows. If you don't have any HTML knowledge, there are many great website builders that you can subscribe to. One that I have heard great reviews about is www.merchantmoms.com. I have not personally used this site, but the guy who owns has great customer service and responds quickly to any questions. The sky is the limit when it comes to selling your own products or services.
Best of Luck starting up your Ebay Business! Please feel free to comment.
My Ebay Store: http://stores.ebay.com/The-Sugar-Beans-Closet