Lemons to Lemonade: Squeezing back poverty

When I lost my full time job back in 2010, I migrated to the internet, one of the relatively few locations available for the entrepreneur to set up shop with little to no outlay.

There are many of us on here: single moms, moms working from home, the retired and broke, the newly minted degreed, returning veterans, out of work tech whizzes, writers, students.

I used a telephoto focus. First, I devoted all my energy toward writing 500-word pieces for sites like Helium and Suite 101, betting on traffic payouts. I set-up a blog and connected it to Twitter in hopes of generating more readers. Well that was a penny-a-hit endeavor and although satisfying, it was not a venture that made me any money.

My next online move was to the virtual marketplaces.

In a little over two years, I’ve listed hundreds of items on eBay, Etsy, Bonanza, Webstore, Craigslist and a few more I can’t recall because they were busts. I jumped in with all limbs, encouraged by a friend (and fellow unemployed), bolstered by my love for all things old, and helped by my familiarity with the digital scene.

Doing this requires capital just like any retail business. Selling collectibles first means acquiring collectibles. So I busied myself with monthly auctions, thrift store excursions and infrequent yard sales. I set-up storefronts, paying an extra $26 a month to eBay and zero fees to Bonanza and Etsy. When the fees from eBay equaled the sales, I would close my store.

I studied. Collected a small library of books about collectibles. Read voraciously about marketing and promotion.  Started yet another blog to educate and move my store wares to a larger audience. I paid for mirror sites on Facebook.

Selling online is a tenuous and complex exchange. The digital entrepreneur must constantly evaluate, constantly promote, constantly infuse with new items, constantly check the market, and constantly monitor eBay policy and fees. There is the buying – choosing what will likely sell, planning for holidays, watching trends. There is the photography, makeshift light boxes and props for natural light. There is the research, determining whether that blue vase is genuine Delft or a knockoff. There is the writing, where detail and accuracy can make a sale or cause post sale complaint. There is the packaging and shipping, fee calculations, the search for free packing supplies (I’ll never forget my first dumpster dive for boxes; I came home with cardboard reeking of pizza sauce). There is the cleaning, the itemizing, the spreadsheets, and the search for profit. And there is the waiting.

Right now, I have three storefronts. I make a little money. I am invested in the enterprises, have accumulated a somewhat large inventory, and plan to stay in the game.

But I have no dental insurance, no medical insurance, no vacation days, no savings to speak of, and I cannot give myself a promotion or pay raise.

Still, I stay busy stirring the lemonade.


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