Working in a camera store wasn't Roger Knepper's dream job. But the experience formed the background for what would later develop into a vibrant business known as Photogearfinderan eBay Store focused on camera accessories and related equipment for digital and film photography.
As a high school student, Knepper had a passion for taking pictures and aspired to be a professional sports photographer. However, during a brief stint in college he discovered the travel and time demands of that career path were at odds with his plans to raise a family.
"When I realized what that life would be like, I wasn't comfortable with it," says Knepper, who ultimately got the family he'd hoped for. Today he supports his wife and their eight children with his eBay earnings.
It was in a fall-back job at a camera shop that he began learning the ins and outs of sales, procurement and inventory management. More than a decade later he got his first taste of selling online, when the store where he worked began auctioning used equipment on eBay.
Intrigued, Knepper began listing items on his own and soon, Photogearfinder was born. By 2002 it had become his full-time occupation.
The biggest thing for me is the price and the reliability. It takes a lot of pressure off me, not having to worry about whether something is going to launch when I schedule it
In the beginning, Knepper's wife's online activity contributed about half of the business, selling children's clothing she purchased at yard sales. But when they decided to expand their growing family through a series of adoptions, the division of labor shifted. "She's now a full-time mom and I'm a full-time eBay photographic accessory seller," he says, winking.
Photogearfinder specializes in new and hard-to-find photographic accessories such as lenses, filters, adapters and memory cards. Knepper made a decision early on to avoid selling camera bodies (except for underwater models), due to the extremely competitive market on eBay and the high cost of carrying inventory. The lower-priced accessories niche has served him well.
Clicked with Auctiva
With gross sales of about $38,000 a month, Photogearfinder offers more than 2,400 listings at any given time, all of which are scheduled through Auctiva. Knepper says he keeps most of his items in an eBay Store, but typically schedules 1,000 new listings every week.
"I do all my listing through Auctiva, the image hosting and everything; I don't use eBay for anything, actually," Knepper admits. "For me, the biggest thing is the price and the reliability. It takes a lot of pressure off me, not having to worry about whether something is going to launch when I schedule it. That was one of the big issues I had with another service I used before I came to Auctiva. Auctiva's service has been almost perfect for the last two or three years I've been using it."
Knepper even purchased a domain name through Auctiva, so that when people enter www.photogearfinder.com, they land directly in his Auctiva store, which has helped increase exposure to his listings.
Scheduling as many items as he does, Knepper also finds the organizational features of Auctiva to be significant time savers. For example, the ability to create shipping profiles was a big help when the postal prices changed in May. And saving listings in folders makes it easy to locate items for scheduling.
"A lot of the things I list can be used on 10 different cameras, so I just change the title a bit," he explains. "I usually schedule Buy It Now listings to end on Tuesday nights, and on Sundays I typically do auctions. I save them in folders, and I have items labeled so I know which ones I need for a certain day. After I make sure I have everything in stock that's being listed I just scroll down the page and check the ones I want to list and schedule them."
"Sometimes I'll schedule things to post while we're away from home and I don't have Internet access readily available," Knepper adds. "So it's nice that I don't have to come back and see that my listings didn't launch, which would cause me to lose money."
If Auctiva offered a listing service with someone else, I would certainly give it a try
Future in focus
When eBay's new pricing structure takes effect in September, Knepper plans to reduce his store inventory and post more items as regular fixed-price listings to gain additional exposure in item searches. But overall, he likes the change in fees.
"My sell-through rate is somewhere around 25 percent, so a lot of my cost is in the listing fees," he notes. "Even if I don't sell more, it's going to save me a lot of money."
Knepper doesn't agree with all of the changes eBay is making, however. Like the decision to eliminate money order and personal check transactionsa move he feels will diminish eBay's uniqueness from rival sites like Amazon.
Though he's hopeful that the changes eBay is undergoing will be positive for sellers in the long run, Knepper says he has, at times, considered moving to other selling venues; he previously sold items on Yahoo! Stores, and dabbles with eCrater.com, but doesn't have time to actively pursue that type of expansion. "I would need to hire someone at least part timeor wait 'til some of my kids get older," he laughs. "But if Auctiva offered a listing service with someone else, I would certainly give it a try."
For the near future, Knepper dreams of expanding his workspaceperhaps one day building a dedicated office over the garage, where he could spread out, stock additional inventory and consider hiring an employee.
"Right now to work with someone else in the room I'm in would be difficultespecially for them; they couldn't find anything," he says teasingly. "'It's behind the thing that's behind the other thing that it's behind.'"
You can visit Knepper's eBay Store here, or navigate to www.photogearfinder.com to visit his Auctiva Store.