Mitzi Swisher, Vintage Goodness
Like many Internet merchants who left behind the corporate world to seek their livelihoods on eBay, Mitzi Swisher has learned that success in the online marketplace doesn't come easily. In fact, it can be quite labor intensive, she says. But for her, it's a labor of love.
"It's a fun business to be in, but it's not for the faint of heart," says Swisher, a self-proclaimed "vintage geek" and proprietor of Vintage Goodness Flea Market on eBay. "You have to be passionate about it because if you don't love it, you're going to be miserable."
Swisher is passionate about the vintage items she sells, which typically include dinnerware, kitchenware, books, knickknacks and assorted décor. She fell in love with collecting as a teen, when her grandparents would take her along on their flea market treasure hunts.
Later, eBay became a favorite site to search for items to fill out her collections, and occasionally to put something up for auction.
"When I first started selling on eBay, it was really just to feed my habit," she laughs.
I feel like I'm reuniting people with items they have a real attachment to
It's the thrill of the find
It wasn't until the former advertising professional learned the newspaper she worked for planned to "outsource" her entire department that Swisher even considered eBay as a full-time career.
"I thought, 'Well, I'll have six months of severance pay—why not get paid to start a business? '" she recalls.
These days, Swisher rarely gets to keep any of her flea-market or estate-sale finds because almost everything she buys is purchased with the intention of selling it online.
"What do I collect? Anything that's chipped or cracked," she laughs.
"I still get the thrill of finding it, and now I have the added job satisfaction of sending it to someone who really wants it," Swisher says. "I feel like I'm reuniting people with items they have a real attachment to. For example, I sell a lot of dinnerware to people who are replacing broken items, like a plate that matches their grandmother's china pattern."
Swisher also sells on Etsy, an artisan-oriented site that has a growing community of vintage dealers. However, Swisher insists that eBay is—and probably will remain—her primary venue, due to the site's predominance as a destination for seekers of antiques and collectibles.
"I don't think anybody can touch eBay's traffic for that type of item," she asserts.
Tools of the trade
A devoted blogger, Swisher's Vintage Goodness blog serves as a hub for her online business—which, in addition to eBay and Etsy shops, includes an online directory called The Vintage List. She uses the blog to tell of her "junking adventures," feature other collectors, provide vintage decorating tips and promote her eBay auctions.
To create the feel of a flea market, all my store listings have a Best Offer option
"I get a lot of clicks from that," she says. "I also do Facebook and Twitter, and I link them together so that when I post a new blog, it gets sent out to my followers on the other sites. It's hard to make time for the social media part because my sales are so labor intensive. But when you automate it the way I do, it really cuts down on the time you have to spend at it."
Swisher typically keeps about 800 items in her eBay Store. "That's about all I can hold in my house," she quips. But she swears by auctions as one of the best devices to get visitors into her store. Each week, she uses Auctiva's listing tools to post anywhere from 30 to 100 auctions. On average, a third of her auctions end in a sale. What doesn't sell goes into her eBay Store, with a suggested price and an invitation to haggle.
"My store is called Vintage Goodness Flea Market, so to create the feel of a flea market, all my store listings have a Best Offer option," she explains.
Swisher's listings also make use of Auctiva's Scrolling Gallery—another tool she says is indispensible for helping to create interest in the hundreds of items she has on eBay. She considers all of Auctiva's tools essential for her eBay business.
"I don't use any of eBay's tools. I only use Auctiva," she notes. "Having a tool like Auctiva really helps me because I can automate so many things."
She was initially drawn to Auctiva's image hosting service because in the antiques and collectibles market, one image is never enough. Even though eBay now offers free extra images for some of the categories she sells in, Swisher still finds many of Auctiva's features—such as professionally designed Listing Templates and shipping insurance Auto-Purchase Rules—to be attractive and well worth the monthly fee.
And Swisher likes that every one of her listings is saved indefinitely, so they can be reused to create similar listings or just serve as a point of reference.
"With the amount of items I have listed, organization is very important," she says.
I'd like to expand my store inventory… with smaller items, like paper
Finding a happy place
After nearly three years as a full-time online seller, Swisher has found a sense of satisfaction, not only in the treasures she peddles, but in the knowledge that, come what may, she is ultimately in control of her destiny.
Regrets? She has a few—mainly that she didn't move to a bigger house before launching a home-based business. And if it were hers to do over again, she would have started off more gradually online, and kept a foot in the working world to build more of a financial cushion.
"I'm now at a place in my business where I make enough to live where I live and pay my bills," she says. "I'd like to expand my store inventory, but I can't house 3,000 items."
Undeterred, Swisher does plan to expand by dealing in smaller items. She recently acquired a lot of vintage jewelry to auction on eBay. And starting this year, she's delving into paper items—which are very compact—and will market them to crafters on Etsy.
"I'm getting that going during the winter because it's a slow season for yard sales," she says. "I'm trying to do that and still maintain a certain level at eBay."
Visit Vintage Goodness Flea Market on eBay, or read Swisher's blog to learn about her latest vintage discoveries.