Profile: Accidental Entrepreneur

Chance eBay sale provides springboard to successful online niche.

by staff writer
- Aug 19, 2008

Two years ago, Auctiva user Lisa Sturycz never dreamed she'd one day be running a successful Internet business—let alone making it her primary occupation. But serendipity changed her plans.

"This all started by accident," Sturycz muses. "A few years ago, we purchased one too many baptism outfits on eBay for our son. I resold one of them on eBay for about three times what I paid and I thought: 'This is cool. I wonder what else I can sell.'"

That single happy turn of fate has spawned Personal Impressions Boutique, a chic baby gear and children's boutique, featuring designer baby slings, travel accessories, maternity wear and accessories. Originally opened with three baby carrier product lines, the store grew to more than $50,000 in sales in 2007. With the addition of five new product lines and international shipping, Sturycz hopes to double her revenue this year.

There are a lot of things I wouldn't have been able to do as well if I hadn't found Auctiva early on

Sturycz started out by researching popular items in her spare time while working full-time as a business analyst for a computer company. She soon found her niche in hip, brand-name baby carriers such as Hotslings, Maya Wraps and Lucky-Baby.

The challenge, she says, was locating vendors of posh merchandise that would allow their products to be sold on eBay—and provide them at a low enough cost that she could have some pricing flexibility. Due to vendor requirements, most of Sturycz's items are fixed-price store listings, but she is able to take advantage of the auction format to sell items that have been discontinued or are part of a special promotion by the manufacturer.

She also operates an eBay ProStore to market items that she can't or doesn't want to list on eBay. But while eBay policies don't allow her to direct buyers from eBay to the ProStore, she uses pay-per-click advertising to drive traffic to her site, and includes the URL on her business card and in her signature on every eBay-related e-mail.

Sold on Auctiva

These days, Personal Impressions Boutique is Sturycz's "full time plus" job. She doesn't have any employees yet, but she does enlist her husband Eric and their two sons, ages 13 and 8, to help with packing and shipping.

Although it's not easy juggling a booming online enterprise and the day-to-day needs of a young, energetic family, Sturycz says using Auctiva's free auction management tools has simplified her life considerably—and made the cost of running a business much more affordable.

Like many Auctiva users, Sturycz says she was instantly sold on Auctiva's image hosting for eBay, an indispensible feature that allows her to more fully represent the items she lists for sale at no additional cost.

"There are a lot of things I wouldn't have been able to do as well if I hadn't found Auctiva early on," she says. "I don't even know if I would have stayed in the business. A lot of my listings need so many pictures, and the cost of doing it is so much through eBay."

She has also recently begun experimenting with the blog section of her free Auctiva store. "I'm feeling it out to see if there are any changes in traffic," she says.

But Sturycz admits her favorite feature of Auctiva is the customizable eBay templates. When she initially signed up with Auctiva, Sturycz used the free stock templates. However, an eBay representative suggested that she use the same template for all her listings to help create a brand image for her online store.

We're constantly taking on new lines and trying to make it a bigger and better place

Taking that idea a step further, Sturycz decided to customize an existing Auctiva template, so that her listings would not only be consistent, but unique to her store. Though Auctiva offers custom template design services, Sturycz chose to use her background in computer programming to write the code herself, and she stores her custom templates on Auctiva.

"That took quite a bit of my spare time just getting it to look the way I wanted it to look," she says. "But I just love being able to have my own templates within Auctiva."

Sturycz is so pleased with the eBay selling tools and services Auctiva provides that she eagerly endorses its products to other eBay users. "I have a relative who is just starting a business on eBay, and of course I couldn't wait to introduce her to all the Auctiva stuff," she laughs. "I told her 'You've got to try the templates, you've got to use the picture hosting!'"

Expanding into the future

Sturycz says Personal Impressions Boutique is in a perpetual state of expansion. "We're constantly taking on new lines and trying to make it a bigger and better place that offers more to whatever customers stumble upon us," she adds.

Even as Sturycz is busy expanding her product offerings, she's also expanding her business into a new segment—one she calls "celebrity marketing," helping promote the products of work-at-home moms who are trying to get established on eBay.

"When starting out small, it's hard to advertise yourself affordably on the Internet," she says. "So we're opening a marketing division where vendors send us their products and we distribute them in the form of gift baskets to A-list celebrities. The marketing benefit of celebrity feedback on your product—or better yet, being spotted with it in a trendy magazine—can be huge!

"We are planning our first baby-themed gift basket to go out, hopefully, by next February. Then we plan to follow with gift baskets of all types," she adds. "We've just begun working with interested vendors in reserving spots for upcoming baskets."

And the opportunities for growth keep coming. "I'm just trying to squeeze it all in," Sturycz says laughing. "There should be five of me doing what I try to do."

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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