Like many new moms, after Kolina Anderson had her daughter, she found it difficult to go back to work.
"I really wanted to be able to stay home with her but, financially, I really needed to be working," the seller recalls.
Anderson had thought about selling on eBay for several years, but with limited computer knowledge, had never acted on her desire to sell online. Selling seemed too complicated.
"I didn't even know how to take the photos off the camera to get them on the computer," she explains. "I [had] also just gotten my first computer, and it all seemed like more than I could handle."
But the new mom's desire to stay at home with her baby won out in the end and, today, Anderson not only sells in her eBay Store, Obsessed with Vintage, she's reached Top-rated Seller status and has even begun selling jewelry on Etsy, a marketplace for homemade goods.
Sticking with one niche has helped me to gain so much more knowledge and confidence in the items I do sell
Beginning from scratch
Anderson had plenty to sell when she took the plunge in 2006. She frequented thrift stores, garage sales and antique shops looking for unique finds, and sometimes accumulated a little too much. So much, in fact, that she had to hold garage sales or donate some of the items she bought to free up space in her home.
"I often donated items back to where I bought them from," Anderson admits.
Learning the ropes of online selling took time. But Anderson found that taking it one step at a time was the best way to learn. She slowly taught herself to take photos, to get those photos off her camera and onto her computer, to write good descriptions, print shipping labels and so on.
Occasionally, things got tough. Like the first time she tried to print a shipping label and it didn't print.
"I had to contact PayPal to figure it out," she recalls. "Small things like that were always very time consuming to fix and seemed to be happening a lot."
But the novice seller didn't let these minor setbacks discourage her. She kept going, kept researching and got a sense of what shoppers liked, and didn't like, through trial and error.
The start of an obsession
As Anderson's eBay ID suggests, the seller is fascinated by items from yesteryear. She focuses mainly on vintage clothing, shoes and accessories. It was, she says, what she was "naturally drawn to." Her store is filled with vintage, unique earrings, funky tops and colorful dresses, and more.
Anderson's obsession can be traced back to her teen years and her first job: working at a local thrift store. Back then, vintage attire was the perfect way to achieve a unique, affordable style, she notes.
"I was constantly seeing all the great deals and fun, different finds," she recalls. "That is when my vintage collecting really exploded. Over the years, I have found so much cool stuff."
Despite her passion for vintage apparel, when Anderson first started selling on eBay, she didn't focus on this niche. Instead, "I was selling everything and anything," she says.
But researching the variety of items before listing proved overwhelming. "When I was selling things that I did not know a lot about, it was just taking up too much of my time," she admits. "Also, having such a variety of unpredictable items always left me scrounging around for the proper packaging.
"I like it now that I know what I sell, and I have been able to refine my shipping area to include only the packaging that I know I will need," she continues. "Sticking with one niche has helped me to gain so much more knowledge and confidence in the items I do sell."
A specialty in shopping
Anderson says that what has become her selling specialty is actually something she's always been very good at: buying. Years of selling vintage clothing and accessories have helped her get a sense of what shoppers like and will buy. She makes it a point to buy quality products, and tries to offer a variety of goods at different price points, she says.
So where does this treasure hunter find the vintage products she offers? The same places she used to frequent before she began selling online: thrift stores, flea markets, antique stores and garage sales.
"I find my inventory anywhere I can find used items," she adds. She admits that she's very fond of garage sales. Though they can be "hit or miss," they can be a goldmine, and the place where she finds the best items and used clothing for her daughter, as well as other household items.
I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and homemaking is really my first passion. This is the next best thing
Mixing work with home
Staying motivated to get those great finds onto eBay can be difficult, she concedes. She loves "the buying part" of her business, and doesn't mind photographing products, but creating listings can be tedious.
"Auctiva has helped to make listing on eBay a much faster and more tolerable process, but this is something that I have to schedule a time that is strictly dedicated to working, without any interruptions to get done," she says.
Still, it's worth being able to stay at home with her little girl. "I really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and homemaking is really my first passion," Anderson says. "This is the next best thing!"
If her daughter ever gets sick, or has a school function, Anderson can put work aside for a day without having to call a boss to ask for time off.
"I must say, though, that I did not realize how much was involved in working at home," she says. "I had an idea that working at home was the same as being a stay-at-home mom. And for me, it is not. Although I do have a lot more freedom and a lot more time, my business still takes me away from being able to get things done at home."
But it's been worth it.
What advice would Anderson give others who are thinking about selling online?
"I would say, 'Go for it!'" she says. "I had thought about selling on eBay for so many years before I actually started doing it, and I wish I had started sooner."
Visit Obsessed with Vintage.