For breast cancer survivor Cindy Monaghan, selling online has meant being able to bring in a second income for her family while working at her own pace.
Monaghan was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005, six years after she began selling on eBay. After three surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the seller was pronounced cancer free, though she continues to be treated with hormone therapy.
Going through such a recovery, it was tough to hold down a "regular" job, says Monaghan, owner of eBay Store CinDesign. Luckily, with eBay, the Top-rated seller could be her own boss and determine her schedule.
Monaghan's niche is decorative charms for cell phones and rear view mirrors, key chains, backpack clips and bookmarks. She makes these items herself from hand-cut crystals and playful charms like handcuffs and apples. Monaghan has spent "many, many" hours perfecting her charming designs, which were an "offshoot" of some of the designs she created when she previously sold jewelry, she recalls.
Customers take to her charms
Back then, she sold bracelets, necklaces and anklets, but when she introduced her clips and charms, customers wanted those instead.
"The lower sales price—under $10—seemed to be a big draw, and the pieces turned out really, really well," she notes. "I also think that most of my other designs were being bought for teens and tweens, and these clips can be attached to a key ring, purse, etc., so more adults are buying them for themselves."
We took the attitude that 'If this is what the customer likes and wants, let's focus on what they want'
Monaghan became cin_design in October of 1999. Before that, she sold her items under two eBay IDs, but found it hard to manage both accounts. Seeing the popularity of the charms, she decided to close her other account even though it had more than 2,000 sales on it with 100 percent positive feedback.
"We took the attitude that 'If this is what the customer likes and wants, let's focus on what they want.' It seems to be working well so far," she says.
A change for the better
Letting go of a high feedback score was tough, but in the long run, Monaghan knew it was best for her business, allowing her more time to focus on charms. The seller gets about 80 orders each month for her charms and key chains. She keeps a steady selection available to customers with between 90 and 100 items listed at any one time on eBay. Shoppers can't seem to get enough, she happily reports.
"I have customers who buy every item I make and then tell their friends, and they purchase, too," she notes.
She continually bounces ideas off her husband and finds inspiration for designs in books, movies, shows and customer suggestions. Monaghan says she's always listened to customers, and keeps the line of communication open with them, letting them know about orders every step of the way. This is especially important when it comes to shipping, an area that can be worrisome for some merchants.
"Sometimes the mail service and shipping internationally can be a bit frustrating, but only occasionally do the items not show up as promised," she says. "The biggest way I have found to overcome the issues is constant communication with my customers. Most issues can be resolved amicably if everyone is in the loop as to what is going on."
It can be tougher, though, to pull herself away from her computer for a day of R&R, since Monaghan wants items to reach their destinations as soon as possible to keep shoppers happy.
The seller not only wants customers to be happy with items when they buy, she also wants to wow them with her packaging. Other sellers should strive for this, too, she suggests.
"Wouldn't you expect that what you purchase would show up looking like you thought it would, quickly and well packaged?" she says. "I think that should be a definite 'Yes.'"
Auctiva is an integral part of our success—and will continue to be for a long time to come
Keeping this in mind, sellers should do their bests to represent items in their truest form, Monaghan notes.
"Nothing is more disappointing than to purchase an item only to find it really wasn't what you thought," she adds.
Monaghan takes time to provide customers with clear, detailed photos that show items as accurately as possible, and ships as soon as possible after receiving payments. Auctiva's free image supersizing helps her provide detailed photographs of her charms and key chains without incurring any additional costs. Auctiva's listing templates allow her to present her goods in an attractive, professional manner.
"We are really pleased and proud that as many people like what we do, and Auctiva has been a part of our presentation for quite a while now," Monaghan says. "Auctiva is an integral part of our success—and will continue to be for a long time to come."
Getting ready for the holidays
As the holidays approach, Monaghan has been stocking up on packing and mailing supplies, knowing she'll be shipping a lot in the next few weeks. However, she plans to reduce the number of items she offers two weeks before Christmas Day to help reduce the chances that items meant as gifts will arrive after the holiday.
"I hate waiting for a package to arrive at the last minute that is supposed to be under the tree—and I don't want my customers to be disappointed," she explains. "So I slow down my sales about two weeks before the holiday to make sure everything gets there."
However, she will give shoppers the option of paying for priority shipping to speed up delivery.
Monaghan's battle with cancer is still very much in her mind, and she does her best to give back. In October, she donated part of her profits to the American Breast Cancer Foundation.
"As I make a donation for each breast cancer item I sell, I think the 'giving back' also brings people back," Monaghan says. "As a survivor myself, I can truly say that it means a lot to be able to contribute, and I hope that others can see that my efforts in that direction are sincere."