For many eBay users, that first venture into online sales is life-changing. But for Karen Peters of InnerCityGoods, the endeavor may have been life-saving, as well.
After undergoing the first round of aggressive treatments for advanced cancer in 2006, Peters was both physically and financially devastated, and unable to hold onto her long-time management role at a government agency. As the medical bills piled up, it became necessary to find some way to bring in extra cash. "I started looking around to see what we could sell on eBay," she recalls.
Then she discovered Auctiva's free eBay listing management software, and everything fell into place. Now more than a year past the average life-expectancy for her illness, Peters has never looked back.
"It's given me something to keep my mind off of being sick; I really thinkand even my oncologist thinksthat getting involved in all of this has made a huge difference in my surviving," she asserts. "I've realized that this is what I always wanted to do, but I never could because I had to depend on my job to pay the bills and help support my son, and all that. I couldn't just quit and go off and pursue my dreams. But with cancer I was forced to quitI didn't have a choice. So I said, 'Well, I'll give [eBay] a try,' and it's been just amazing."
"I had no idea it was going to turn out to be as big as it is now," she laughs.
With the help of her husband, Berndwho has a full-time career in ITPeters launched InnerCityGoods on eBay in 2007, and has grown the venture into a $65,000 a year enterprise, selling a variety of new and exclusive merchandise such as mouse pads, key chains, necklaces and tote bags. At this writing, she has approximately 15,000 active listings through Auctiva, and aims to increase that number to 50,000 within six months. At any given time, she is running between 200 and 350 auctions.
If it weren't for Auctiva's tools, we'd be selling so much less and we couldn't keep up this volume
Between Karen managing the day-to-day business, and Bernd helping out when he can, InnerCityGoods is a 12-hour-a-day, 7-day-a-week operation. "If it weren't for having Auctiva's tools, we just couldn't do it," Peters says. "We'd be selling so much less and we couldn't keep up this volume. We probably wouldn't even have been able to get started, because we just didn't have the money."
Even after she started using Auctiva, Peters says she continued to investigate other third-party services but found them to be unsatisfactory. "They offer a lot less and they charge a lot for it. Some of these services, with 15,000 listings, we'd automatically be paying a couple thousand a month just to have our listings on. We wouldn't have any profit at all," she explains.
Years of chemotherapy has left Peters with permanent memory loss and nerve damage in her fingers. So the organizational features and point-and-click ease-of-use of Auctiva's tools are just the help she needs to manage her templates, images, inventory and sales reportsand still keep up with the 100-plus e-mails a day she receives from customers. And she looks forward to adopting more Auctiva features as her online business expands.
One feature she is anxious to try is Consignment Manager. Having grown sales of drop-shipped merchandise beyond her wildest dreams, Peters is gearing up to launch a consignment operation, selling used clothing, vintage items and unique décor pieces that were donated by friends and relatives to help fuel her eBay business.
"Now we've got this whole room full of stuff to sell, and that's all got to go through Auctivathere's just no other way to do it, the way I see it," she says. "And the fact that Auctiva has consignment is just perfect, because some people are going to get income from the things they give us to sell."
By entering text on the Scrolling Gallery frame, Peters advertises shipping discounts simultaneously on all of her listings
Peters has found the Auctiva Scrolling Gallery to be extraordinarily helpful, beyond just its cross-promotional purpose. By adding a line of text directly on the gallery frame, she is able to advertise shipping discounts simultaneously on all of her listings, without having to go in and edit each one.
She has recently joined Auctiva's KickItBack rebate program, which she hopes will serve as a good marketing tool for her eBay business, as well, as more eBay users join her referrals circle.
And having purchased a domain name for her Auctiva Store, Peters plans to utilize the site's blog feature as a way to keep new and repeat customers informed about product lines and other plans for the business. "It's a great way to communicate with customers and get the word out, without having to pester anyone with e-mails or answer everybody individually," she notes. "We can just sort of refer people to the blog or to put [the URL] in our signature line when we answer e-mails."
"The more features Auctiva gets, the more that's going to be something we use a lot," she says. "It amazes me it's still free."
Exploring new avenues
As she expands her product lines to include more one-of-a-kind pieces and items with higher profit margins, Peters plans to use those listings as a way to raise awareness about breast cancer. Utilizing eBay's Giving Works charity auctions in conjunction with Auctiva's "pink ribbon" template, she hopes to inspire others to help in the search for a cure.
But Peters says the recent spate of changes implemented by eBay has made it difficult for many sellers to remain on the platform, and the uncertainty has spurred her to explore other sales environments in order to maintain control over her online destiny.
For example, she has dabbled on sites like eBid, and for a while she maintained a storefront on iOffer under the name B&K Bargains. Now, with help from Bernd, she is developing a standalone e-commerce store, independent of eBay. However, she acknowledges that building the site and loading items into the store is labor intensive, and it's been slow going. "If Auctiva ever gets a deal where they can interface with e-commerce sites or other sales platforms, that would be fantastic," she asserts.
Though every day brings physical challenges, Peters says she's having the time of her life. Would she ever consider going back to the workaday world, even if all her health concerns disappeared? Not a chance.
"A lot of people ask me, 'Are you expected to live long?' And I feel like, you know, I have to," she laughs. "Because now I'm having fun!"