When Linda Bottino lost 40 pounds in 2006, she was left with a lot of clothes she couldn't wear anymore. Knowing that millions of people visit eBay every day, looking for a variety of items, including new and gently used clothes, Bottino posted a few of her garments on the auction site. They sold!
"From there it blossomed into selling what I love"—vintage pieces, says Bottino, who, together with her husband, Roy Aldous, owns The Eclectic Resurrection on eBay.
The couple has long had a fondness for items from yesteryear, and "love, love, love" to attend estate sales, Bottino explains. It wasn't long before they began scouring these sales for retro inventory they could sell on eBay.
"I love kitchenalia, home décor and clothing. My husband loves books and vintage vinyl records," she says.
They decided to make selling online a full-time gig after Bottino was "downsized" from her job in the finance world. Today the sellers receive about 100 orders a month, and typically have 60 to 90 items listed in their store on any given week.
"I am not making as much as I used to make… yet!" Bottino says. "In time I will make even more, and I'll enjoy the journey I'm on, getting there."
It's like we are foster parents to things we love, and we find them good homes and let them go to someone else, who will also love them
The Eclectic Resurrection is filled with retro items, like housewares, prints, books and more. The couple focuses mainly on mid-century modern products.
Estate sales have proven to be profitable sourcing grounds. But the couple enjoyed these long before they started selling on eBay. Why? Because these sales allow people to get a glimpse into others' worlds.
"It's like being privy to a complete stranger's life," Bottino says. "You get to see how people lived, how they decorated, where they raised their children. It is truly a snapshot of a person's home life."
In the couple's years of attending estate sales, it's hard to pick one treasure as their favorite, but a hot pink Coach bag from the 1960s that was designed by Bonnie Cashin—the mother of sportswear—comes to mind. So does a first edition Jack Kerouc On the Road novel, and a mid-century wall divider the couple kept for their home.
Being able to spend time with her husband and attend the estate sales the couple enjoys so much has made selling online a treat for Bottino. The couple gets to uncover gems and then share them with others who will be as captivated by the vintage items as they are.
"We send them off to a new home, where they will be appreciated," Bottino says, though she admits it's sometimes hard to say "goodbye" to a find. "It's like we are foster parents to things we love, and we find them good homes and let them go to someone else, who will also love them."
Sorting through challenges
Bottino and Aldous visit about 30 estate sales each month. On Fridays, the couple travels 50 miles each way to the nearest largest city, where they attend estate sales. On Saturdays they stay local, visiting local sales and thrift shops.
The inventory from these shopping trips makes staying organized tricky. Though the duo has a room in their home where they store their inventory, Bottino admits it often gets full with a mixture of estate-sale treasures they want to keep for themselves and items they've purchased for resale.
"Another challenge is finding the right size boxes," Bottino continues. "We sell things of all shapes and sizes, and try to use as much recycled packaging as possible. It's better for the environment and the pocketbook."
To find the right boxes, the couple uses venues like Freecycle.org and online classifieds. It was through one of these sites that they met a local business owner, who now saves her boxes just for them. They also shop on eBay for harder-to-find boxes.
One of the biggest challenges, though, is investigating why a product isn't selling, and making the necessary adjustments to a listing to help it move. The first adjustment the couple makes is price. But if they think a product is already priced well, they'll change the title's wording. They'll make adjustments three or four times before deciding to remove an item from their store and donate it to charity, Bottino explains.
"Sometimes, if we feel an item is very good or very valuable, and just hasn't found its buyer, we'll skip a couple weeks and then try it again," she says. "Or sometimes the item becomes ours and we enjoy it ourselves!"
If you are thinking about selling, stick to things you actually like, as this will make your business fun for you
Doing business their way
The Eclectic Resurrection still has a way to go, in terms of reaching the sales volume the couple would like to achieve. Still, beginning an online selling venture has been very positive for both Bottino and Aldous.
"I used to work in finance, and was never truly happy," Bottino says. "Now I work at something I love, every day."
But just because the couple works together, doesn't mean they do things the same way. Each of them has their own way of listing. They both create good descriptions, but Bottino says her husband is a great writer, with perfect grammar in his descriptions.
"I write more like I'm having a conversation with someone, and my sense of humor comes out," she notes. "I think I am a bit better at taking pictures, although I have a better camera. I like setting a mood with my pictures, creating a little vignette with other things to showcase the item I am selling."
The couple brings even more personality and vintage charm to their listings with eBay templates from Auctiva's library of 1,800+ designs—each one carefully selected to capture the appeal of the individual item. A matching Scrolling Gallery lets them showcase other items they have listed, in a professional yet eye-catching way.
Words of wisdom
Combining their strengths has helped the couple grow their business, as have several other approaches—and they have suggestions for new sellers. Among them are using keywords in listing titles to attract as many buyers as possible, and providing accurate shipping costs. Shoppers hate surprises, Bottino explains, so sellers should supply a zip code and the actual weight of the item (including shipping materials), so shoppers can calculate how much they'll spend on shipping.
"Customer service is key to being successful," she continues. "Treat everyone as you wish to be treated—and as if they were standing right in front of you, and you are looking them in the eye. It takes no extra effort to be polite, so you should do so."
Sellers should also never be afraid of taking "too many photos," as a quick review may show that what looked like a good photo was, in fact, a bad one. But above all, it's important to "educate yourself as much as possible," Bottino says. And one last bit of advice:
"If you are thinking about selling, stick to the things that interest you, things you actually like, as this will make your business fun for you," she says. "I always think of Oprah's advice about figuring out what you love and then figuring out how to get paid for it."
Visit The Eclectic Resurrection on eBay.