Why information is not the answer

The truth hurts sometimes.

It dawned on me this month that if some wealthy psycho felt like buying up everything in my Ebay store tomorrow, not only would I have some extreme shipping to do for 62 items, I'd only make about a gross profit of $1,211. Factor in shipping and the cost of the items, and we're looking at even less.

I don't think I ever tricked myself into thinking this was a get-rich-quick scheme. That's not why I do it. While it's definitely easy to make some money, making enough requires hustle.

What is my goal after all? That's the $100,000 question. I was also a bit disappointed this month to hear that one of the regular resellers I like to follow on YouTube (Ralli Roots) make their six figure income as a reselling couple primarily through wholesale. That's an option I haven't even begun to research. Don't get it twisted, I didn't kid myself that buying vintage t-shirts and video games at garage sales would make six figures, but I guess I also didn't fully think it all through.

What I want is to make this my career. My $100,000 question is a $5,000 question. How do I make my reselling business into my full-time gig? Or, more specifically, how do I make $5,000 every month?

What following another YouTube channel, Daily Refinement, made clear were the numbers - specifically consistent listings, consistent sales, and knowing your average sale price.

If I wanted to make $5k every month, I would need:

  • 250 sales with $20 profit / 8 sales per day, or

  • 500 sales with $10 profit / 16 sales per day, or

  • 1000 sales with $5 profit / 33 sales per day

If I was hawking furniture at a $100 profit margin, I would need only 50 sales per month, or 1.5 every day.

None of these routes is easy because it never ends. There is always the challenge to find new products and put them out there. It doesn't happen without you working. Plus, what's not immediately visible in the numbers is the exhaustion. Buying is the fun part, even when it's not a walk in the park. Now add on cleaning some items, inspecting, photographing, and then filling out all the details on Ebay, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, etc.

Plus, I'm competing in thrift stores with dozens, maybe hundreds, of other resellers to find profitable items. The idea of finding eight $20 items in a thrift store is not likely. And to multiple that by 30 days a month, no way.

All this is good stuff to know, but, as author/entrepreneur Derek Sivers once said:

If information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with six-pack abs.

I need to make more money. How do I do that? Sell things faster or sell them for more money. Preferably both.


With that, I need more than one avenue. More than one action. It's not going to be one thing, so let's ponder some ideas:

List everything - I promised myself I'd be better at it after years of cleaning other people's hoardings. But, it's true, I have a death pile - a collection of things I bought and have yet to do anything with. If I'm sitting on something, I'm not selling it. Even for only few dollars more than I bought it. Get it together and get it out there. There is always more product to buy and flip. More specifically: I'll be listing more on Instagram, on Facebook, and on this website.

Discontinued grocery products - Right now, I'm most intrigued by the concept of discontinued grocery products. Jennifer (IG: thrifttotravel) is my favorite. She is a sweetheart located in the Pacific Northwest. In a competitive marketplace, where money-making information is sometimes held tight, she readily shares everything she learns with her community. What does she know? There is a whole marketplace out there for people that love a certain product and will pay good money when it's not readily available near them. Some examples I've seen...

This is a grind and a weird type of memory game. You need to check dusty discount grocery stores and know what product of the thousands to seek out. A company like CVS doesn't have the time to know a certain kind of hair dye on their shelves is going for triple on Ebay.

Book scanning - I tried to get this started months ago and ended up buying a refurbished and broken bluetooth scanner. The seller was sweet enough to refund me completely, no questions asked, but I'm back to square one. You'd think books are a dime a dozen but when you visit enough thrift stores full of donated stuff, you realize some gold can be hidden between those pages. Someone somewhere can't find the book they want, and you're standing in the aisle scanning it. Sure, there is competition but there are local honey holes to visit too - libraries, local pickup, etc. It feels like a no-brainer to start scanning books and selling on Amazon since I'm wandering through the stacks in my favorite thrift stores anyway. And whenever a local book sale happens, I can't help but think I'm missing out.

Toys - Who doesn't want to capture some of their childhood now that they're a millennial with disposable income? Or an adult with children of their own! Judging by my purchases, I feel like toys are a missed opportunity for thrift stores. The prices are pretty good because, I imagine, most thrift store pricers don't know the value a child (and their accompanying adult) can place on finding the right toy, or a lot of them! Less competition, more fun. At the moment, I have a mountain ready to go - My Little Ponies, Ugglys, Lincoln Logs, Littlest Pet Shop, Fisher Price Little People, and Mr. Potato Head, of course.

Furniture - Seems like it's straight forward in value - people love decorating their nest. Of course, the hurdles are plenty. Furniture can be heavy. They require muscle and storage and transportation and a little bit of know-how. My sister has a double garage available but is that enough to compete? Is it worth the sweat and time? The sales numbers are tempting.

Conversation pieces - Before I started reselling, I was curious about home decor and design. Finally trying to make my apartment less of a slapped-together bachelor pad, I found the hunt for the right kind of decor exciting. Sometimes you just need that unique piece to sit on the shelf. That's where the idea for a conversation piece came in. Mixed with my marketing ideas from last month, I thought I could become the go-to person for curating unique home decor, or conversation pieces to enhance your Ikea lifestyle. Think Pyrex mixing bowls, or old wooden barometers. My inspiration has been That's So Loopy on Instagram - his style is clear.

Magazine art - not quite reselling but the idea that started it all. Why not cut up some old magazine pages/ads and frame them? They are unique decor, and something easy enough to advertise, sell, and ship in the meantime.

Honorable mentions:

Host parties/events - The hard part is getting eyeballs to see my flips, and consider purchasing. Why not throw a party?

Make friends with interior decorators - Simple enough. They need things, I have a bunch.

House clean-outs - An option from my past. It's hard work and I haven't quite figured out how to offer the service and successfully feed my inventory. I don't want to get stuck in a basement full of wet carpet or concrete piles.

Liquidations/wholesale - Bulk buys at a decent price would save me the hassle and time of thrift store wandering. This is a relationship game, I just need to keep looking for opportunities.

Antique marketplace - Still hoping the girls I met during my Porta event last month will launch their antique marketplace in Harrison, NJ and I can sell out of there.

By the numbers

What's happened this month? I made $703.05 in net profit! What makes the total even better was that I took a few Sundays off from sourcing and managed to spend way less - $234.33.

What Sold

Looking back at the items this month, the wins and the fails, something is becoming clear - buying in bulk is the way to win.

Wins

Started the month strong when I found a few local buyers for 2 Marlboro backpacks and an Epson photo printer. The Marlboro bags were $10 from a garage sale and sold for $45. The Epson printer was $23 from another garage sale, sold for $100 almost as soon as I finally listed it.

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Totoro DVD

I found a brand new sealed copy of the classic Japanese animated flick Totoro at my favorite church rummage sale. Apparently it was a discontinued widescreen version. A $2 purchase turned into a $89.99 win.

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The Romance Angels Tarot Deck

Found a big box of tarot card sets for sale on Facebook marketplace, so I started researching. The older woman was asking $15 for about 10 sets and I was floored! I knew from a previous purchase that tarot cards could sometimes be decent money, but I couldn't have expected this. On the very first set I decided to look up, I struck gold. Unfortunately, though, the woman must have been bombarded with messages because she quickly changed the price and let me know she found out she could get them for more. Luckily, she said I could take a few (not the whole box) for $5 each if I wanted. I leapt at the chance and snagged two sets - one was discontinued and sold almost immediately for $99.95

Ma helped me stumble on a big box of Skylander toys at one garage sale. I almost missed it! I knew the toys were collectible and big with the youth. The mother running the sale said her son didn't want to play with them anymore and they were in great condition. I made my offer - $20. She sighed and eventually said yes. 123 pieces! And to this day, I've sold a bundle of crystals (net $42), Master Starcast ($18), Sickle Sensei ($12 net), and a bundle of trophies ($18 net). Grand total: $90. And dozens more to list!

At an early morning garage sale, I was floored to find a box of Sega Genesis games. I asked how much and she said $10 for the whole box. SOLD! The funny part was I felt duped later on when I found that about nine of the cases were empty. I got a good laugh again later on when I found that empty cases sometimes sell better than games! Threw a few different bundles up on Ebay for my first ever auctions and ended up with $60 in profit.

Not every win is a selling win. But one will be in due time. My sister's sister-in-law's friend has a brother that ran and closed down an electronic store. Some of the product had been sitting in their garage for months, to the point that the brother's sister wanted it gone. My sister's sister-in-law told her I was in the reselling business and the meeting was set. I saw some photos beforehand and did some research. When I arrived, I made a nice pile and asked the price. She said make an offer and we'll work from there. I lowballed - $50. She winced. She said she was hoping for more because some of the pieces could definitely sell. I said $75. She took it. I threw in $5 more. What was the haul? 3 Lorex security cameras, 2 Garmin GPS units, one iDJpro setup, one electronic board, and one HDTV antenna (for my sister to get free cable). Estimated profit: $400+

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Fails

On the flipside, I've noticed quite a few sales where I ponied up a dollar and made a hard-fought $10 or less. It's still a great felling to turn a dollar into more, but it just doesn't scale. Think about all the effort I mentioned earlier.

Plus, it was another month without any Amazon movement. I've been paying $40 every month for nothing! I could be sending product off and shipping it around the world, but, honestly, the struggle has been understanding how to load paper in a salvaged printer. Now that that hurdle has gotten out of the way recently, I hope to have better news next month.

Other highlights:

Because I upgraded to an Ebay Store, I can list up to 100 items without any insertion fee. It made me think I should be doing this more consistently and so I did. I was able to list 60 items in the month of September! Not quite 100 but it was a great eye-opening experience. The more I listed, the more the potential for cash!

My Ebay rating continues to rise without any negative reviews - 92.3% from last month is now 94.6%

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Flipshark in the wild

Mallory, my first & arguably best customer at the Porta event last month, shared her Flipshark finds on Instagram. How cool!

Going forward

Nassim Taleb popularized the term "antifragile". In his book of the same name, he wrote, "Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.” The things I sell and ship won't get better with shock and stress, but I will.

Uncomfortability can give rise to strength and skill we didn't know we could possess. It's a good reminder as I continue to try to grow this business that it'll require some challenge. It's not just buying and selling, it's dealing with the uncertainty of the marketplace. Every day is a test.

Information is not the answer. Let’s take some action.