Profile: A Journey They Treasure

eBay pastime evolves into a prosperous second career.

by staff writer
- May 08, 2009

Full retirement was never really an option for Gerald Morrison.

"Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur," he explains.

That's why after more than 30 years of business ownership, when the time came to slow down and sell the company, he started a new one on eBay.

"eBay was a way to keep my hand in the business world—it's in my blood," says Gerald, who along with his wife, Sue, operates Treasure Journeys, a gift shop that specializes in healthy and organic products. "It started out just selling stuff we'd collected over the years, and snowballed from there. Now it's taken a whole new direction."

The evolution of Treasure Journeys has indeed been a journey. When the site first launched in 2004, it was a place for antiques and trinkets. The Morrisons even opened a storefront in a local antiques mall in Arlington, Texas, which they cross-promoted with the eBay Store.

But over time, the product mix shifted toward retail "gifty" items. So when the economy dampened the local antiques market, the Morrisons decided to officially change their focus. Combining the couple's earth-friendly lifestyle and Sue's aesthetician background, they decided to concentrate on certified-organic botanical bath and beauty products and all-natural gourmet foods made by small, family-owned-and-operated businesses, much like their own.

About a year ago they left the antiques mall and opened a new boutique in a retail center more in line with their niche. And earlier this year, they opened another Treasure Journeys shop on Auctiva Commerce.

So much for slowing down.

"I didn't really plan for it to get this big," Gerald says. "But I did want to eventually get my own Web site. When I saw that Auctiva was coming out with the Commerce stores, I thought, 'Oh wow, if it's anything like the eBay listing part, it's going to be great.' I think I was one of the first to sign up."

When I started using Auctiva Commerce, I was absolutely impressed with its abilities. There were a lot of things I wanted to do that I couldn't do with the other platforms

Rich platform

Prior to opening on Auctiva Commerce, Gerald operated sites on eBay's ProStores and Yahoo Stores, both with limited success—and a lot of frustration. Many of the cross-sell and up-sell capabilities he wanted to employ were either unavailable or too difficult to figure out for someone with no programming background, he explains.

"When I started using Auctiva Commerce, I was absolutely impressed with its abilities. There were a lot of things I wanted to do that I couldn't do with the other platforms," he says.

For example, with promotions such as "buy a fragrance lamp, get a free bottle of lamp oil," the capability is there to create a page displaying the free options and "hide" it from view until the customer makes a qualifying purchase. The page can be further customized so that only one free item can be selected at a time.

With other items, such as gourmet foods and bath and beauty products, he can build a single page where customers can choose from among different flavors and sizes, rather than create a separate product page for each variation. Additionally, he can promote related items on the same page, and offer gift packs, volume discounts and shipping discounts.

He also appreciates the ability to offer coupons through his store newsletter.

"It's saving me time and making all of these tasks easier to do," Gerald says. "When I think about all the promotional things we can do now, my mind just runs wild—so many options and so little time!

"I couldn't do any of that on ProStores without knowing programming," he adds. "Auctiva Commerce is a much more approachable platform.

"I would like to really compliment the developers at Auctiva on the thought and work that has gone into developing Auctiva Commerce," Gerald continues. "I am really impressed with the ease-of-use, and with the thoughtfulness of these people in putting together an e-commerce tool that makes it easy for non-techie people like me!"

We're a small mom-and-pop, trying to live the American Dream and we enjoy it

Good fortunes

Even in the down economy, Treasure Journeys sold more than $60,000 last year, with revenue about evenly split between eBay and the brick-and-mortar shop. The new Auctiva Commerce shop has also rung up a few sales.

"You can count 'em on one hand," Gerald teases. "But it's like anything else—it takes some time and effort to get things going. People think it's so easy to go on Craigslist or eBay and sell something. But if you want to make it a continuing thing, it's work.

"We use Constant Contact to send out newsletters and promotions to our customers. There's a sign-up box on the Auctiva Commerce store, and we have a customer list at the boutique," he explains. "So the boutique and the Internet sites sort of feed each other. But I'm looking to Auctiva Commerce to be the main venue going forward—and I'm betting heavily that it will be."

Currently, Treasure Journeys serves a predominantly female clientele, but the recent addition of the spicy pecans, mustards and jellies is starting to bring in more male traffic, Gerald notes. And plans are underway to introduce more products specifically geared toward men.

For now, Gerald relies on Sue's insight when it comes to sourcing and promoting the bath and beauty products. "You know, I'm a guy—I look at that stuff and it's just foo-foo to me," he laughs. "Sue knows skin care products, so she gives me a lot of direction."

A wealth of opportunity

Gerald still finds time to work a few days a week as a contractor, just to stay active in his former trade. But more and more, Treasure Journeys is becoming his main profession.

"We're a small mom-and-pop, trying to live the American Dream and we enjoy it," he muses. "We're just scratching the surface of where we're going and what we have to offer. We've got things in the back of our minds that'll keep us busy from now until forever."

Visit Treasure Journeys.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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