Start a Ten-Figure, Big, Bad eBay Business Now
After graduating college in 1999, Joel Boblit didn’t want a regular job. So he started a business based on a hobby: buying and selling vintage toys on eBay. But he didn’t do what most people that seek eBay fortune do. He didn’t go into the junk business, reselling commodity products for miserable mark ups. He was smart enough to recognize that he could do less work and make more money by focusing on high-end collectibles which could fetch mark ups of 100% to 1000% and more.
In the case study that follows, Jason Holland explains how Boblit started his Big Bad Toy Store and grew it to $10 million plus in seven years. He’s got a stage three business now and is ready to take it to the next stage.
If you are interested in replicating his success, read this case study and then my best selling book, Automatic Wealth for Grads. Also keep an eye out for my next book, Ready…Fire…Aim, out in January 2008. Pay particular attention to Boblit’s insistence on great customer service. It’s the secret to entrepreneurial longevity. And also for his commitment to finding the next tipping point product.
Do you remember that Star Wars toy you bought for $2 in 1978? Joel Boblit does, and he’ll even sell it back to you…for a price. His company, Big Bad Toy Store, brings in 8 figures in annual sales by selling nostalgia for a premium, satisfying the insatiable needs of the collector.
In the late 1990s Boblit was a college student making a few extra bucks by buying and selling rehabbed Transformers (if you don’t get that reference, ask someone between the ages of 40 and 5) on eBay.
After graduation in 1999, unwilling to settle for a regular job (at least right away), Boblit took it full-time to see if he could make a living. A long-time collector himself, he knew from experience that there are people out there who will pay as much or more for a cherished toy from their childhood as they would for a month’s rent. Today his most expensive product, a 1/3 scale highly-detailed statue, is priced at $1,750.
As the orders started pouring in, he never looked back.
At first, he bought big lots of vintage figures on eBay and then sold them individually for 100 percent+ profit margins. He was making money, but after six months he realized that it would be easier to open his own online store.
His brother built the Web site and he also expanded to retail sales, opening an account with a major toy company (the first of many). The company doubled and tripled sales for several years. It’s since leveled off to 35 percent, a growth rate many companies would still kill for.
It took sacrifice. Eighty-100 hour weeks were the norm for the first five years. His family was involved in financing and running the business in the beginning and to keep costs down they still do everything they can in house. Any new hires have to demonstrate self-motivation. Boblit isn’t interested in doing a lot of managing.
“We’ve never used consultants, or outsourced anything at all, other than tax prep,” says Boblit. “This gives us complete control over every aspect of the business and we can make the changes immediately if needed.”
Boblit credits his ambition and commitment to great customer service (an antidote to other online merchant’s sketchy reputations at the time) for his company’s rise from a one-man operation to a multi-million dollar company. He’s also maintained great relationships with vendors, forgiving their mistakes, even big ones, because he knows he’ll be remembered when an exclusive product comes on the market.
Boblit is always looking for more.
“Ambition and a sense of competitiveness are very important, no matter what we achieve I’m always looking for the next big thing, or something new that we can do better than our competitors. I’m proud of what we’ve done, but I’m never satisfied and always want to sell more or work out bigger deals,” says Boblit.
Right now, Boblit is facing a challenge common to many successful entrepreneurs – how to make the business less dependent on his direct involvement. He is delegating tasks he used to handle, which he says used to be almost everything, to qualified people he trusts.
“After living through the hellish hours, and knowing what it’s like to drive a nice car, I now am working towards having a bit more free time, trying to get away on vacation every once and awhile. Of course, I am still very driven to succeed in business, but now I have a better handle on trying to balance work and personal life.”