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I Bootstrapped my Business with eBay Profits

By: Lynn Schneider

There are a lot of ways to make money on eBay and the internet. One of my readers, Lynn Schneider, discovered a unique niche on eBay and used it to raise the capital she needed to bootstrap her internet business which was another unique niche she created from scratch and now supports her family. Lynn tells her story in the wonderful article below. For more about the niche she discovered on eBay, selling company logo Tee Shirts, after you read Lynn’s articles below, read my article about Company Logo and Giveaways. –Skip McGrath


Deep down, I had always wanted to start my own business – come up with a great idea and be at least modestly successful. I’d always envied other women who had done it. The trouble was I had no bright ideas -- until a few years ago. It’s funny how it came about -- not from hours of brainstorming, or from reading piles of books – but from my own practical experience.

I had been a technical writer for 15 years, but when dot-com bubble burst, many of us tech writers fell into dire straits. I had made a great living doing part-time contracts from home. It allowed me to be with my kids after school. But then the work dried up and hourly rates were cut more than half. Even if you could find work, it didn’t pay very well, or it was only full-time, on-site. Little did I know that deciding to straighten my crooked teeth would lead me to my next career as an entrepreneur!

Five years ago at age 41, I got braces (I never had them as a child). The day I got my braces, my orthodontist handed me a little baggie with some supplies: a couple of toothbrushes, some dental wax, and other goodies. I stuffed it into my purse. The next time I ate at a restaurant, I scurried into the restroom with my little baggie. I came out with clean teeth and a wet shirt. I needed better supplies, especially a folding cup.

I searched the web for a dental kit and was surprised to find nothing. I asked my orthodontist, but he just shrugged. I realized that if I wanted a functional dental kit, I had to put one together myself.

After searching from store to store for a couple of weeks, I finally found all the items I needed, including a decent folding cup. Whenever I ran into a fellow metal mouth in a restroom, they’d delight at the kit I’d put together. That’s when the light bulb went on over my head: I bet other adults and kids could use something like this.

I scoured various dental supply catalogues and sent for product samples. I looked at every conceivable type of travel toothbrush, folding cup, and dental pick ever invented. I looked at bags and cases until I was bleary-eyed. It took three months, but when I finally came up for air, I had a really nice orthodontic travel kit. I plugged the numbers into Excel, with the help of my husband, who I affectionately call “Mr. Spreadsheet.” I could actually turn a profit on this baby! After some creative brainstorming, I decided to call my product DentaKit™.

But how was I going to raise the money to begin this fledgling business? I didn’t want to raid our savings, and I didn’t want to borrow money or try to raise venture capital. So I turned to eBay, and became an eBay seller. Ironically, I wound up selling artifacts from the high-tech bust.

One day, while shopping eBay for some toys, I came across a seller who was offering polo shirts with high-tech company logos. I had seen scads of these shirts in my local thrift stores – they were abundant in Silicon Valley because ex-employees were dumping them like yesterday’s newspapers.

I bought the shirts at “half price clothing day” for as little as $1.50 each, and then sold them for as much as $30 each. I also looked around my house and sold several items that we no longer wanted. Between the thrift store items and our own discards, we raised more than $2,000 – half of what I needed to bootstrap my DentaKit business. It was so easy that I continued doing it for almost a year after I got my business off the ground.

Creating my DentaKit business utilized all the skills I’ve developed in my past careers: writing, web design, PR, marketing, and data analysis – not to mention shopping, bargain hunting, and intuition! It all came together in one place, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it!

Fast-forward to 2007: DentaKit.com has sold thousands of its Braces Survival Kits and has customers in more than 38 countries. The store now carries more than 50 helpful niche items and has become a thriving family business. Being an eBay seller helped me to develop efficient shipping and packing methods, and hone my customer service skills. It was a great training ground. I’m learning every day how to use personal and web resources, and I’m setting a great example for my kids. No matter what happens with DentaKit.com, they’ll always remember that mom had a bright idea, used all her know-how, and went for it. If that isn’t a lesson for these crazy times, I don’t know what is.
 


Lynn Schneider lives in Northern California with her husband, who already has straight teeth, and two kids, who don’t have braces (yet). You can visit Lynn’s online store at http://www.DentaKit.com, and also her orthodontic information website for adults and older teens, http://www.ArchWired.com.
 


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