Articles - How to succeed with an eBay Business

Interview with Dominic Nowell-Barne

Dominic Nowell-Barnes is an entrepreneur from West Yorkshire. He started to trade on eBay at a young age and now, at the age of 25, he runs Posh Flooring, a multi-million pound company.


When did you decide to start your own business?

When I was 16 I developed my interest of buying and selling via eBay and I had this as a side-line business alongside studying my GCSEs. I became infatuated with making money online, I couldn’t get a job past minimum wage in my local area but through the internet the possibilities were endless, I was hooked. 

A family friend was a wood floor wholesaler in Newcastle supplying some of the biggest retail stores in the UK. He mentioned that he had a number of pallets of stock he needed to sell quickly. I photographed the product, priced it competitively and waited for my phone to ring. I saved the money for each pallet sold and after six months, working seven days a week, I had enough money saved to try to source a continue supply.

How did you identify a gap in the market?

My strategy was simple: I looked at what was selling well online. On eBay this was straight forward, pick a category and eBay naturally has a ‘best match’ search algorithm which means it puts the bestselling products to the top of your search. From there, check how much they sell again available on eBay and then contact suppliers on to see what price you can import the product for, not forgetting all shipping and taxes. Do some comparisons and pick a product you will enjoy selling.

Why did you start your business on eBay?

eBay allows anyone to start a business instantly with a basic understanding of how to list products.  I didn’t know how to build websites, I didn’t have the money, I couldn’t have accessed payment taking facilities such as card machines and even if I overcame all these obstacles, without a large investment into online marketing nobody sees your website and your business fails. eBay allowed me to access a huge market of people instantly.

No one would handover £1000-3000 on a wood floor to a 16 year old but with eBay it is possible. eBay gives the buyer protection and so the seller has to meet certain guidelines which ensures the transaction is safe and should complete without issue.  

What challenges have you come across starting a business on eBay?

Ironically given my story, the biggest issue with eBay is the ease in which other people can setup similar businesses to compete with you with little to no overheads. eBay is creating a generation of back bed room sellers which is fantastic for those starting out but as you become established in the market place, your costs increase as you try develop a better product and business and as a result can find the new starters on eBay willing to work off unrealistic margins and low profits, driving prices down.               

One other issue is that eBay constantly changes its policies, you have to stay on top of what they do and don’t like or you can find yourself logging in to find your listings have been removed which could cost you considerable money.

What advice would you give to people starting their own online business?

In order to achieve anything you need to be determined and be willing to work very hard, but in order to succeed you need a balance. 

Set goals on a monthly basis but make sure they aren’t just financial goals.  Set goals in all areas, long and short term. Put a realistic deadline on them and why you want them. With balanced goals you will not only be motivated each day but it means you are achieving in all aspects of your life and not just majoring in one such as business which is a mistake many people make.

What advice would you give to people who want to start a business on eBay?

• Make sure you do your research into buying and selling prices to ensure you can compete.

• Take good pictures. I have always invested in professional photography for my products as I know customers will often drop out through lack of confidence buying over the internet.

• Be ethical. Your feedback is everything on eBay and look after your customers.

Do you believe the internet is vital for new businesses?

It comes down to how big you want to be, if you want immediate access to a global market I would say the internet is vital.

Lastly, what advice would you give to people who want to start their own business but don’t have a degree in in business?

• Benchmark

Find people who have the business or life you want and copy what they do. Benchmarking is the quickest way to learn and get what you want.

• Get a mentor

Even with a degree when you enter the business world you only know ‘theory’ it takes years to build practical experience in business. Fast track this by finding a mentor, it may cost you but the experience they have will help you move forward quickly and potential avoid costly mistakes they have experience in.

• Work on yourself to make yourself more valuable

This is the most important thing I have learnt in life not just business. With more skills you become more valuable to the market place, the economy and those around you.

Dominic’s story shows that university isn’t always the only route to a successful career. You can succeed working hard and being determined but don’t push a high value on becoming successful: put your own personal happiness first. 

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