Business & Financer

How I Started a Small Business with Some Scotch Tape

This post is written by Warren Smith, who runs an online reselling business from his home in Atlanta. He enjoys sharing his story and providing tips related to business, marketing, and personal finance.
If you’ve ever thought about starting a small business, you may have read stories of overnight success where entrepreneurs went from rags to riches almost immediately. While in select instances this may happen, most small businesses start off slow and steady and chances of success are less than guaranteed. If you do the right research and throw some creativity into the mix, however, it can be done. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, read on to learn how I started my own venture with not much more than a roll of Scotch tape.

1. My Innocent Start
My wife graduated college a few years ago and she never really did much with her old college textbooks. I knew they were worth some money because I paid for them, so I decided to look into ways to get some of my original investment back. I first looked at selling them to college textbook websites, but those payouts were not very attractive. I then checked to see what they were selling for on Amazon and decided that would be the best route.

I never had a seller account before so the entire process was new to me. After entering a little personal information, linking a bank account, and creating a name for my company, I was ready to go. I listed all the textbooks I had and was shocked at how quickly they sold. Since I didn’t have much money at the time, I used paper grocery bags and old boxes as my shipping supplies – that and a few rolls of Scotch tape. By the time all was said and done I had almost $500 in revenues.

Since I had so much success with the textbooks, I started to look around the house for other items to sell. I found a few outdated cell phones, some of my son’s old toys, and a large stuffed animal. The cell phones sold in fairly short order and eventually the toys and the teddy bear did too. By this time I was pumped up, and I knew that I had a chance to turn this into a small business.

2. How I Expanded
I decided to take that $500 plus a good chunk of my emergency fund and I began the hunt for even more merchandise. To my surprise, after a lot of Internet research I found that I could actually purchase items (mainly small electronics) from online retailers and in brick and mortar stores when they went on sale and then list those same items on Amazon. Though there was a bit of trial and error involved, I eventually got very comfortable with the process. I even found a few websites that did much of the investigative work for me. Both SlickDeals and FatWallet are deal sharing websites where subscribers list discounts available both on the web and at traditional retailers. I signed up for email updates from those websites and posted the deals I found on my own, as well.

3. My Business Today
Just a few years ago I enjoyed close to $40,000 in sales. There were still a few bumps in the road, like buying items I eventually lost money on and having to deal with customer returns, but overall it’s turned into a steady and fairly reliable source of income. This has certainly made dealing with monthly bills and saving for my long-term goals a lot more doable.

If you’re considering making a similar move, my advice to you can be summed up in three words – awesome customer service. Pack and ship your items quickly and securely. Respond to all questions and requests in a timely fashion. Include a detailed description of each product you list so your customers know exactly what they’re getting, especially for used items. This advice holds true for any small business venture you get involved with – stellar customer service is one of the main keys to success.

Have you recently started your own small business? If not, what’s stopping you?