Ellen Bloomer with Luke's Challenger
They say man's best friend is his dog, but for Ellen Bloomer, one of her best buds is a spotted horse named Luke's Challenger. They go back 12 years.
"We've done a lot of trail riding," she says. "We don't do as much anymore, he's gone blind, but he's still my buddy."
She loves her four-legged friend so much that he was the first to benefit from her eBay sales—even before she did.
"I'd make a little money, and I'd buy something I liked for my horse," she laughs. "Later, I started buying a few things for me."
The bond between the two is evident throughout Bloomer's eBay Store, Spotted Horse Trading Post, which offers a variety of vintage saddles, riding equipment and collectibles featuring horses, dogs, cats and other animals. A photo of Bloomer and Luke's Challenger serves as the store's logo.
"I love animals," she explains. "I love collecting good, vintage and used horse tack. This led me to start selling it on eBay. I get a kick out of the hunt to find good saddles, etc. at auctions and sales."
Visitors to her store are greeted with: "Thank you for stopping by… Happy trails to you."
I have a custom page in my store for comments and photos my customers have sent me
The right pasture
Bloomer sells everything from antique dishes to figurines, to what started it all: used riding equipment. Throughout her eBay selling career, help from others has been a key to her success. Her husband, himself a part-time seller, taught her the ropes back in 2004. And an eBay consultant helped Bloomer set up a business plan to turn her hobby into a business and reach PowerSeller status.
She was overjoyed when she reached this milestone, she says, but working with good customers who like her products and get to enjoy her items is the most fulfilling part of her eBay business.
"I love seeing my saddles or bridles on someone's horse, or a photo of a saddle that someone restored that they bought from me," Bloomer says. "Recently someone bought a Rapala coffee mug that was going to replace one that he knocked into the lake that was his fiancée's deceased father's. You never know what happens with your items, so it's really nice to hear where and why they went somewhere on occasion. I have a custom page in my store called Customer Showcase for comments and photos that my customers have sent me."
Over the years, Bloomer has learned there's a lot to know when it comes to eBay, and that connecting with other eBayers—especially other sellers—is very important. They not only provide a sense of community and selling tips, they can also help sellers keep up on new policies and help them reach their selling goals, Bloomer says.
She first realized this after talking with her neighbor, another eBay seller. "I'd tell her something, and she'd say something I didn't know," she recalls.
This got the two women thinking about the benefits of having an eBay selling group, so they decided to form the Fox Valley eBay Sellers Club. Gradually the club grew to include more than 40 sellers. Members meet once a month to discuss new eBay policies, hear from guest speakers—including eBay Radio's Griff—and share their own eBay experiences.
"You're going to have a lot of ups and downs and keeping up with the changes is almost impossible by yourself," she admits.
Traveling the eBay trails
Auctiva's tools have also helped Bloomer on her eBay trails. From the beginning, Auctiva's listing templates and image hosting for eBay caught Bloomer's eye, allowing her to display listing in an attractive manner and helping her save on fees.
"For a long time I was able to put 15 pictures on the listing without being charged so I could show every side of my saddles," she says.
Auctiva's templates add a 'wow factor.' I like to add a little something special to my listings
She continues to use multiple images in each of her listings and often includes Supersized images to give shoppers a detailed view of what she has to offer. The templates also add a "wow factor," she notes, which can be very enticing for buyers. She knows this from personal experience.
"When I see listings that are all text, in one font type, where they don't use anything with a little pizzazz, I think the product is a little boring," she notes. "I like to have a little something special."
One of the most helpful things she's learned over the years on eBay, is that sellers need to set up "rules" for their businesses.
"Have an idea of the price you might sell an item for when you purchase it," she suggests. "You might have a rule that you won't buy an item unless you know it will sell for at least three times what you have to pay for it."
Looking to the future
Bloomer, a landscape designer by profession, wants to apply what's she's learned during her time on eBay to her design business.
"One of my goals is to somehow combine our landscaping business with eBay," she says. "Many of the things I have learned on eBay I have applied to our business.
"eBay has been instrumental in teaching me many business related topics that have carried over into our landscape design business, Earth Design," she continues. "I've also started selling some products and outdoor furniture through this company because of my knowledge of Internet marketing, which I gained through eBay, Auctiva and Fox Valley eBay Sellers Club. I hope to expand on this and maybe someday join these ventures in some way. I love selling on eBay and Auctiva makes it easier."
Bloomer has begun to use Facebook to promote her landscaping business and she's added a Web site for the business, where people can get quotes for their projects. She's already sold a few plants on eBay, but many sellers offer these, which can result in a low sale price.
"Once there are a lot of people selling them, the price goes down," she says. "We sell them, but I think the unusual things do best. That's why I sell vintage things, but it's harder to find these things."
Visit Spotted Horse Trading Post on eBay.