If there's any doubt that things are changing in e-commerce, and business at large, consider how often you hear the word "millennial" these days. But who does this demographic consist of? What do they want from their lives? What do they buy? And how are they different from those long-storied baby boomers?
I spent many, many hours on that painfully slow dial-up connection seeking out wrestling videos and figures… I couldn't find locally
To learn more about millennials, as both buyers and sellers, we spoke with Alex Kohut, a 20-something eBay seller. Word on the street is he's in "strong growth mode."
In this first part of our interview with Kohut, we explore his start, the story behind his old-school store name, The Lost Weekend, his eBay strategy, and more. In Part 2 we'll look at social media marketing millennial-style and some of his plans for his business.
'Collect them all'
Schepp: Tell us about your start in e-commerce.
Kohut: I've always collected things. I was the kid who completely bought into the "collect them all" sales pitch on the back of toy packaging.
My family was not well off, yet my mom enjoyed collecting things, too, so she nurtured this part of me. For years, she was my willing chauffeur to comic book shops, trading card shows, flea markets, etc. I had a lot of interests over the years, but one constant was always pro wrestling. It's rarely seen as a cool interest, but I was still absorbed by larger-than-life characters, storytelling and pageantry. Given my affinity for collecting things, it's no surprise that I eventually had a sizeable collection of wrestling figures, videos and magazines.
We didn't get the Internet until the summer of 2000. While most people my age were still using the Net for instant messaging and chain emails, I spent many, many hours on that painfully slow dial-up connection seeking out wrestling videos and figures from years before that I couldn't find locally.
Surprisingly, eBay was one of the last places I bothered to check. I don't think I did so until that fall. But when I finally did, it was like uncovering this unbelievable treasure trove of videos, figures and magazines I had never imagined I would get a chance to own.
I remember having no idea what to charge for postage or even how to properly pack an item
After a year of buying duplicates, items started to pile up. We also had a house filled with things from years of collecting.
We had just gotten a digital camera, so one January afternoon, I collected a few items I didn't mind parting with, snapped some photos that were probably really awful and listed them on eBay.
I barely knew what I was doing. I remember having no idea what to charge for postage or even how to properly pack an item. A couple of those items sold, and I was hooked. I didn't need to feel guilty about not having a part-time job at the mall or something because now I could just scour the house for things we no longer wanted and generate some income that way.
As time went on, my focus shifted almost exclusively to wrestling-related merchandise.
Getting lost in wrestling
Schepp: Your eBay Store, The Lost Weekend, is kind of a throwback name. Why did you decide on that name?
Kohut: I had friends while growing up, but there weren't many kids in my neighborhood, so I spent a lot of time at home watching wrestling or playing with my action figures.
I've always been the kind of person who values his alone time, so I look back on these times with fondness. I would get lost in these activities, especially during each weekend.
I operated my eBay business under a different name for many years but was never really satisfied with it. I knew when I rebranded that I wanted to make a connection to what I sold, even if its meaning wasn't necessarily clear to others. I also knew I wanted to avoid a name that was too direct and potentially ubiquitous.
eBay just seemed like the best match for what I was selling… eBay continued to be where the most eyes were for what I sold
Every potential name I came up with just didn't feel quite right. Then one morning, I was randomly scrolling through a list of film noir titles and came across Billy Wilder's The Lost Weekend and it just clicked for me. While the movie centers on a writer's struggle with alcoholism, I felt like the title perfectly described those weekends I enjoyed as a child, lost in the activity of playing with my action figures.
eBay gets the most eyes
Schepp: You're selling primarily on eBay. Why did you decide to start selling there?
Kohut: eBay just seemed like the best match for what I was selling. There was Amazon, which I briefly used, but in the end, eBay continued to be where the most eyes were for what I sold. Even today, despite eBay's continuous policy changes, it remains what works best for what I sell.
Schepp: What sort of volume do you do through eBay?
Kohut: The business has grown a lot in the last two years. Two years ago, it was fewer than 200 items sold each month. About a year ago, it was around 250 items sold each month. Since October, it's been closer to 350 to 400 items each month. At any given time, there's a little over 500 unique items in the eBay store.
Schepp: Thank you, Alex!