Scrapbooking has always been more than a hobby for Karen Jentry, an eBay seller of more than four years and a scrapbooker of more than 24 years.
"I'm a believer that scrapbooking can be a wonderful way not only to share family memories, but as the glue that helps hold a family together during the challenging years," explains the owner of treasuresandmemories7 on eBay. "I was the mom in the emergency room taking pictures of my kids as they were being stitched up. It helped distract me from the pain of the moment, but it also made them smile and laugh at me."
The hobby turned into a full-fledged business on eBay, where Jentry sells a variety of quality craft supplies, specializing in scrapbooking items and rubber stamps. Some of her hottest products are hard-to-find, retired supplies. But the popularity of scrapbooking, in general, has helped her store flourish.
"I have found that all I need to do is offer a good product at fair prices, with reasonable shipping, with great customer service and fast shipping, and the business has built itself," she says.
I knew people liked [scrapbooking]. I didn't know it would be that successful on eBay
Surprised by popularity
Jentry didn't always sell craft supplies. Initially, she sold items she found on sale at local brick-and-mortar stores like Staples and Kmart, and was often surprised by how quickly and for how much items sold. She assumed eBay buyers would have access to the same deals in those stores that she did, but bidders kept pushing the prices of her listings up. Soon, she couldn't find enough items on sale to keep up with demand, and she was spending a lot of time creating listings for a lot of different items.
"I thought, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful to find items I could sell over and over again?'" she recalls.
That was when her hobby came to mind. She knew scrapbooking and knew it was gaining popularity nationwide. However, she figured listing the craft supplies was a gamble.
"I didn't see how you could make a living selling something that is so inexpensive," she admits. But after listing a few craft items, she saw that there was a big demand.
"I knew people liked [scrapbooking]," she says. "I didn't know it would be that successful on eBay."
Time to be mom
The flexible hours of selling online have helped the single mom spend more time with her children. And though Jentry receives more than 1,000 orders a month, she's able to do her work when the kids are at school, or after they go to bed.
"I don't miss a single parent-teacher conference. I've never missed a soccer game or paintball tournament," she says. "I can be there 100 percent, put food on the table and a roof over their heads… eBay has enabled that."
Being honest with her buyers, offering fair prices and low shipping costs, and providing prompt service have helped the seller grow her business, but so has her persistence. Over the years, Jentry has built relationships with craft supply manufacturers by attending tradeshows and contacting the manufacturers of craft supplies she finds particularly attractive.
"If I see an item I like, I call the manufacturer and find out when they're going to stop making it and say, 'When you do, here's how many I can buy, and here's my number,'" she notes.
It can take a long time—and a lot of calls—to get in touch with the person who can approve orders, she says, admitting that she constantly has a Bluetooth in her ear to call manufacturers. But her work has paid off. Now manufacturers call her when they have inventory they need to unload.
I get so many people that say, 'Your auctions are so pretty!'
Craft transcends borders
Nearly half of Jentry's sales are international—something that, at first, caught her off guard.
"I knew [scrapbooking] was popular here, but I didn't know it was as big internationally," she says.
Jentry hasn't used social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about her items. Customers have spread the word to each other, she reports. In fact, on the day Auctiva EDU contacted Jentry, she had received an e-mail from a woman in Europe, informing her that she had received her item and would be telling everyone in her scrapbooking group about Jentry's listings later that night.
"I found success with communication," Jentry explains. "I communicate with people, and in detail," she says.
The seller answers every question from buyers, even if the answer can be found in the listing, and she's thorough in her responses. This might sound very time consuming, but it doesn't have to be, Jentry says.
She's come up with tricks. For instance, Jentry keeps a spreadsheet of questions buyers ask about items with her thorough answers saved on her computer, so that when someone else comes by with the same question, Jentry can simply copy and paste the answer into an e-mail, giving the buyer the information they need, quickly.
Find & Replace by Auctiva has also been a big help. The tool, available on eBay's Apps Center, allows Jentry to quickly update several live listings at once, in a matter of minutes. She also uses Auctiva's listing templates to give her listings a little pizazz.
"I get so many people that say, 'Your auctions are so pretty!'" she adds.
Taking time with buyers fosters trust and can turn a shopper into a loyal customer, she says. So can keeping one's word.
"If you say you're going to ship Priority Mail, you should ship Priority Mail," she says. If you don't, she warns, buyers will have expectations that won't be filled and will go elsewhere. And if a seller makes a mistake, they should "do what it takes to make it right," she adds.
"Be humble; we're all human. We make mistakes," Jentry continues. "Don't hide behind your computer."
She gives this advice to a lot of new sellers, who ask for her help, Jentry notes. She also tells them one other thing: Sell what you love.
"I've had people say, 'I'm going to get into scrapbooking; it's worked for you,'" she says. "I tell them it's better to sell what they're passionate about. You're going to get technical questions from buyers, and you're much better off selling something you know a lot about, so when you get questions, you can be the expert."