As you saw in Part 1 of our two-part series, Maida and Bill Webster of Connectibles decided retirement would not mean hanging around the house looking for the next project. The two long-time successful professionals decided to dive into their eBay business in their retirement years, and they've never looked back.
"I don't know any couple our age who is having more fun and bringing in a second supplemental income as a bonus," Maida notes.
I don't know any couple our age who is having more fun and bringing in a second supplemental income as a bonus
The perfect working relationship
The couple has created a life that is both balanced and clearly defined. Each has individual strengths to bring to their enterprise, and each respects the strengths of the other. Working with your spouse after so many years in such disparate work lives can be a challenge, but Maida and Bill have just the right mix.
Maida is largely responsible for photography and creating listings. Bill handles the packing, shipping, inventory management, accounting and tax work.
"Our house is set up where we basically don't see each other all day," Maida says. "Perhaps that's why it works so well."
If it looks like Bill has more on his to-do list than Maida, remember this couple sells collectibles, and that means a lot of work for the photographer and listing person.
"In some ways, selling collectibles or vintage items is the hardest thing to do because every item is a 'one-off,' meaning you make a listing, it sells, and you are unlikely to ever find another one of this item, or use the listing and research again," she says.
eBay is still the place
Despite the challenges, Maida and Bill say eBay is the best marketplace for selling collectibles, and the collectibles section of eBay is the first destination for collectors from all over the world.
"In my opinion, it is the best of why eBay exists, to offer the unique and the unusual vintage and antique items to a broad collector base," Maida adds.
Tapping into this broad base of collectors, Maida and Bill don't shy away from international sales. "Approximately 25 percent of our sales are international," she reports. "We love our overseas buyers."
There is no other venue that has the worldwide customer base that we can offer on eBay. If it's good enough for Lucille Ball, it's good for all our items
Not only has the duo been open minded about building their successful business and taking on international sales, they are exploring new ways to use social media. Bill recently branched out to Pinterest, and he maintains the couple's blog.
"His technology experience is coming in very handy," Maida proudly boasts.
Finding the right inventory
The couple has one part of their business they always share: sourcing. Although both admit collectibles don't represent the easiest and most efficient way to run a business, that hasn't dampened their enthusiasm.
"It's the most fun you can have if you love the quest for fascinating inventory, which we do," she explains. Although Maida confides that the couple avoid yard sales because neither loves the early mornings, they find plenty of things at weekly auctions they attend.
"In the New England area there are many consignment live auctions every week where they sell individual and box lot items," Maida tells us.
Every week they find an abundance of vintage, glassware, pottery, art, clothing, dolls, toys, books, jewelry and many other unexpected treasures. Bill and Maida attend auctions once or twice a week, and they've discovered that each has an eye for different and specific things.
When we spoke, Bill had purchased a box lot of estate pipes for $10. The pipes looked odd and strange to Maida, who would not have bid on them. By the time we spoke, they had sold more than $250 worth of those pipes and the sales were still coming in!
"Two sets of eyes are always better than one," Maida admitted. Every week they fill up their SUV in one evening or two with enough items to list for weeks.
Star's daughter seeks couple out
Now that the couple have built a solid eBay business, they don't always go looking for their next source of inventory. Three years ago, Lucie Arnez, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez' daughter, hired Bill and Maida to bring her personal collection of "I Love Lucy" memorabilia to eBay.
"She had been disappointed with one of the top New York auction houses," Maida explains. "We were convinced that the Lucy fan base would be much more eager to participate in eBay auctions, and I had confidence that we were the right place for her."
Each new change requires new skills. As a senior, I'm not very adept about social media, but we are learning from our colleagues and our granddaughters
That sale was a success. The final sales total tripled Bill and Maida's pre-auction estimates! "The fans came out in record numbers and were thrilled with the opportunity to be part of such a historic event," she says. Lucie was also thrilled and last year brought more items to the couple when she decided to downsize her collection even more.
They had about 75 items from that sale listed when we spoke, and those sales were still going strong. Maida and Bill called that sale beyond their wildest expectations.
"There is no other venue that has the worldwide customer base that we can offer on eBay," she says. "If it's good enough for Lucille Ball, it's good for all our items!"
In the years since they began their eBay business, Maida and Bill have continued to learn and grow with the times. In asking them what they know now, they still turn back to the best advice any of us can follow in business: "Basically, just keep the customer foremost in your mind, and do the right thing," Maida advises. "Keep learning and improving."
That may seem hard if applied to the stereotypes our society tends to place on people of retirement age, and Maida admits that some things can be especially challenging. "Each new change requires new skills," she says. "As a senior, I'm not very adept about social media, but we are learning from our colleagues and our granddaughters."
More than anything else, Maida recommends, "keep having fun!"