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A Picker’s Paradise

Antiques 'addict' leaves nursing career to sell on eBay, Etsy.

Suzanne Owens is a “hardcore picker” and an artist. One look at her online businesses, Killer Auction Deals on eBay and Awesome Art Glass on Etsy, and you won’t doubt it.

The hardcore picking started about a year ago.

“The feeling [of picking] is like feeding an addiction,” she says. “In my case, it feeds my buying addiction, only this addiction pays off.”

Owens visits estate sales and local auctions several times a month. She’s also become a regular at area yard sales. She now sells her finds on eBay—in fact, she’s been selling on eBay since 2005, originally offering her own art glass creations.

Today, her eBay listings present an array of antiques, vintage toys, flatware, new clothing and accessories, and many other finds. Meanwhile, she has moved her art glass business to Etsy.

“I found [selling on eBay] to be more work than profitable,” she recalls. “That is when I switched gears and began selling my art on Etsy, and items from around the house and outside on eBay.”

“I have to remind myself several times a week, ‘Sell it. You are in the business to make money and pay the bills'”

Pieces have a timeless appeal

Owens says she’s drawn to the quality of the antiques and vintage pieces she sells. “[They] were made right and sturdy,” she explains, adding that many antiques tell a story and remind buyers of the past, for instance, of their childhoods.

“For this reason, I love antiques, and they are sometimes the hardest for me to let go,” she admits. “I have to remind myself several times a week, ‘Sell it. You are in the business to make money and pay the bills.'”

Her creative side is also strong, having a bachelor’s degree in art and being the previous owner of a tattoo business for more than 20 years.

Owens admits that making her glass pendants takes time and a lot of patience, but it’s something she loves. “I have always been drawn to things that will outlive time or me, such as glass, metals and steel,” she explains.

Every glass piece is hand cut, ground into the desired shape then fired in a kiln at more than 1,600 degrees for more than 12 hours. Finally, pieces are slowly cooled to room temperature before they are removed. Then Owens paints her pieces and adds more glass, grinds them and then fires pieces again. The process can take weeks.

Sales empower merchant

Still, Owens says her sales are strong. She gets between 200 and 300 orders a month on eBay and between eight and 15 a month on Etsy. Sales started picking up in October and “never let up,” she says. She attributes the momentum to investing more money into her inventory—an accomplishment she’s very proud of.

Making enough sales to reinvest in her business has been “empowering,” the seller tells us.

“To know you could basically buy anything you want, knowing you have enough cash in your pocket to not only negotiate, but to also bundle your negotiations and leave making the seller’s day as well—that is a great feeling,” she adds. “Knowing I can help the seller out at the same time [is great].”

Before selling on eBay and Etsy, Owens was a nurse with a 45-minute commute to work. Now she works from home when she has time, and gets to spend more time with her children. She admits that she never thought she’d make her living selling online.

“[Computers] can be very confusing and aggravating,” she explains. “But sometimes you have to use what is at your disposal and go with it. I had to pay bills, and this was a tool to make it happen and, honestly, it pays more than the 9-to-5 job.”

Plus, selling online lets her enjoy all the finds she comes across in her picking.

“I enjoy the purchase, the deal, the game of negotiating and winning,” Owens says. “I take my new item home, photograph it, list it and—by the time it sells—I am over the newness and attachment to it because I’m on to the next thrill. It’s like recycling with an ongoing goal. It’s really the perfect solution for all the pack rats out there: catch and release.”

“Never get greedy; if you ask too much, or start your price too high, you will pay to list that item week after week”

Seller insights

Owens loves what she does. In fact, she contacted The Online Seller, to share her story, wanting to share what she’s learned over the years with fellow sellers.

Her advice: Anyone can sell online.

“You do not have to be a computer wizard,” she notes. “Start off small and keep your overhead low to none.”

She suggests sellers start by listing products they haven’t used in the past six months and saving their profits in the beginning to buy additional inventory.

“Buy low, sell higher,” she adds. “Never get greedy; if you ask too much, or start your price too high, you will pay to list that item week after week. Take a chance and gamble with your listings, if you’re doing auctions. You didn’t need the item anyway, so let it go!”

Shipping estimates can be tough when online sellers ship, so she suggests weighing items before listing them, and stating a shipping cost.

“Shipping costs can sink you if they are not correct,” Owens notes. “They need to be accurate. Asking too much for shipping will cost you the sale!”

The seller admits that there are some challenges with having an online business. The process is a learning experience, and the biggest challenge is maintaining a professional demeanor at all times.

“Not all buyers are gracious,” she explains. “[It] can be really tough. I sometimes have to take a deep breath, think about how a professional person would deal with the situation and move forward accordingly. I remind myself that 98 percent of the time is good to me. I pick myself up, and keep moving forward. Remember, most buyers are honest; they really are.

“But when you come across someone trying to scam you or rip you off, it becomes work,” she continues. “Never forget to be professional.”

Visit Killer Auction Deals on eBay and Awesome Art Glass on Etsy.

About the author

Olga Munoz
Olga Munoz is editor of TheOnlineSeller.com. In addition to writing news and feature articles about e-commerce, selling trends, online marketing and other topics of interest to online sellers, Olga manages the site's social media efforts. A journalism graduate of Chico State, Olga says her favorite part of being a journalist is learning interesting facts that help put stories into perspective, attending industry events and meeting interesting people "that leave you smiling, even in tough situations." Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.



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