You can turn trash to into gold! Just ask Eireen Diokno-Bernardo, who runs 5 eBay stores with her husband. As a power seller and one of just two Certified eBay Specialists, Eireen is the go-to person for people who want to sell their stuff online. Read our interview here and catch her at the Money Summit & Wealth Expo.
1. When and how did you get started in eBay?
Actually it was my husband who started buying and selling on eBay. Our first eBay store was Dekada Collectibles registered September 2000. He was all alone when he started selling. Two months later after being overwhelmed with the demands of international buyers, he asked my help to organize and manage clients and deliveries while he sourced more items for sale. Six months later, we became one of the Filipino power sellers stationed in the Philippines.
In 2004, we incorporated our eBay business and set up four more eBay stores. Each eBay store specializes on specific categories or items. Ninety percent of the items we sell are related to the Philippines – produced, manufactured, pressed, branded, crafted, or found in our country. We capitalized on being Filipino on eBay, researched about the historical significance of the items we find, present it online, and eBay does the rest to make us visible domestically and worldwide. During the time we started, we did not have Paypal; we had to set up dollar bank accounts and several local bank accounts. It was really difficult during that time; we had to wait 45 days for foreign check clearance before we could actually have a good cash flow for our online business. It was capital intensive.
During that time we did not have anybody to advice or coach us with our eBay business. No one had that much experience who can help us with our custom problems, lost or return deliveries, buyers not paying, overseas online scammers, eBay fees, Web page layout, computer maintenance, viruses, and technical glitches. And to top it all, I was not even computer literate during that time. We had to learn everything through trial and error.
Now it’s easier to start and set up an eBay business. You can withdraw Paypal payments to your local bank. Before it was 45 days for us before overseas payments became funds we could access. Now bank products like UnionBank EON helps us with our cash flow, and turnover is faster, allowing us to sell more.
Before nobody had that experience to coach us how to manage our eBay business; now there are a lot of people willing to share their expertise. There are online venues that you can go to like eBay University where you can find an eBay specialist to help you start your eBay business. eBay has webinars, or online seminars that help online sellers develop their eBay stores and understand online trading. Compared to seven years ago, there are a lot of available tools now that could help you start an eBay business.
2. What would you consider your first biggest sale?
Oh, we had a lot of phenomenal eBay auction turnout or sales. We consider an item an outstanding turnout depending on how much we acquired it. Like for Filipino artist abstractionist ZION FOS Kamagong wood collage sold for $62, actually he just gave the art piece to me. The salakot traditional Filipino hat I bought in Divisoria cost me P200 which sold at $18 each. Even the local Philippine market is a lucrative market to sell online. Recently an eight-year-old boy named Micheu Leliel Reyes sold his oil pastel painting on eBay.ph for P1,388 and to think he was just playing around doing this art piece.
I can go on and on with these rare finds ending up on eBay auction and giving us extraordinary returns, but I will stop here.
3. Who do you consider your mentors and what’s the most important thing you learned from them?
I was already asked this question before. I realized nobody really mentored us. We learned everything through experience, trial and error, our own research, perseverance, and patience. Not that I do not want to attribute our small success to anyone. When we started, we just had no one to ask and it’s just that most of the time we are the ones being asked to help.
4. Which books, websites, and other resources do you recommend for beginning eBay sellers?
You know I can redirect you to a lot of books and resources, and they are available on eBay, but better go to eBay University or any Filipino eBay affiliate, so the coaching or mentoring on how to start on eBay is in the context of Philippine e-commerce. The eBay.ph home page can give you step-by-step information to get started.
The eBay community board is also a great venue to seek help and advice. There are a lot of successful local and international eBay merchants who can help you with problems you will encounter in the process of doing business.
5. How much can one expect to earn in online auctions?
This is a very subjective question. There are a lot of variables and factors that is involved in an eBay auction, especially in international eBay sites. Although it is not that difficult to understand or to factor in, it’s just that it will vary depending on your categories or items you like to sell. To project possible earnings, it will depend on where on eBay you would like to sell, currency and banking considerations, eBay and PayPal fees, how you are sourcing your items, the size of your business, government compliance, choice of courier service or delivery system.
It would be easy for me to exaggerate returns, being of one the specialists of eBay University. And if you will look at our listings, it may appear easy, but actually if you engage in this business without the right concept, affiliation, and foundation, it’s possible you will be losing more by trial and error. If you will start right, it is very possible to earn $3,000 to $10,000 a month without leaving your family for abroad, and working in the luxury of your own home and working in your own time.
6. What are three different ways one can earn money in eBay or online auctions/sales in general?
There more than three ways to earn on eBay. Basically, the most obvious way to earn is to do retail import and export as an online merchant. You can teach and help people start up their eBay business by being an affiliate or an eBay Specialist. You can be a trading assistant or a drop post for eBay, one who can sell for other people, or a source of materials or inventories for sale, or earn as a consignor.
You can be a realtor, car retailer, or professional offering your services through the classified ads. You can be a lister or a webpage designer for an online merchant, a delivery service supporting online sellers with their logistic requirements, a loan facilitator or a capitalist offering start-up capital, or investment for business expansion for the existing power sellers. There are more and more ways in earning on eBay not just by offering items for auctions; you can explore and specialize on a specific area, and earnings will follow.
7. Per your experience, which of these strategies or investment models gives the highest chances of succeeding? Gives the best returns?
Per our experience I could say it’s selling online or exports that gives us excellent yields, either using auctions. I am always asked what to sell and how to source out goods. eBay itself is a great source of items you can resell. You can import and resell items locally.
In the Philippines, part of our culture is patronizing foreign brands. If you browse on eBay, you would see top selling branded items that start with an auction price USD0.99. This is a great opportunity to source out such items, bid and try to win them, study the shipping options and customs requirements, import then, then sell it at the local eBay.ph site. This way of doing business is somewhat capital intensive, but if you know how to use your credit cards considering interest rates and when due dates, and if you can tie up with shipping affiliates in the U.S,, Canada, U.K., or other countries, then sell these items at the local eBay.ph site, the chances of successful sales are higher. If you know your numbers and how to control your risks, the best return with minimal capital is just in front of you.
8. What are the risks involved in investing in selling on eBay? And what can one do to mitigate those risks?
There are two types of sellers on eBay – one is just occasionally selling, or what we consider hobbyists, selling online only when they have a rare find, or when they have stuff they don’t like anymore, or only when they feel like it, perhaps we can conclude there is no business risk for this type of eBay seller. Although we can say occasional sellers are still charged with eBay fees, a considerable cost or risk to take, for something with less value and for a small effort for a possible cash return.
The other type of eBayer is being an online merchant, a seller with inventory lined up for sale on eBay. If you do not have enough sales on eBay and you do not know how to use eBay to your advantage, that would spell eBay fees and a waste of your time.
As an online merchant, you will also come across buyers who will be disappointed with the items they bought from you, or items they did not receive even though you shipped it, either lost mail, custom hold, or return to sender issues – these are situations in business that if you do not know how to handle and happens frequently will put your eBay business to great risk.
Unlike traditional trading, the risk of selling online can be more manageable. You don’t get a lot of uncollectible or bad debts, because in this business you need to be paid first before the buyers get the items they bought from you. The overhead can be controlled – you can do it at home and at your own time. The risks can be managed if you study first the business. Just like any traditional businesses, you need to create a feasibility study so you won’t get surprised with eBay fees, PayPal fees, currency exchange rates, and other incremental expenses. You prepare your inventories and start right. Be aware of all the underlying costs including time, then factor in a reasonable margin and check if your final price is competitive by studying online market forces.
With unhappy buyers disappointed with the items they bought from you and want their money back, you can minimize this risk if you have mastery of your items and if you have good communication skills. You can make your clients agree with you, and you end up being friends despite their initial disappointment.
The best way to mitigate risk with delivery issues is to be affiliated with a good courier company like Xend Express. Be aware of the rates and different domestic and international shipping options.
9. What would you consider your worst business mistake? What lesson have you learned from that experience?
The biggest mistake I have done so far in doing this business is hiring too many people for operations.
10. For the beginning eBay seller, what advice can you give to get started?
Don’t just plunge in to selling on eBay, start right. Do not learn eBay by trial and error; read instructions posted on the site. It may appear easy but the economics of it needs research and right guidance. Ask help from experts who have done this business in the Philippines who can help you create a feasibility study or a plan of action the can set and guide you in the right direction. Have the right affiliation with a good bank and an experienced courier company that understands e-commerce. Don’t be afraid to spend and shell out money to get set up. There are a lot of free offerings online, but starting right is also knowing what the most effective tool is or program you should use. Experimenting is not a luxury you have to set up a business; research and preparation should be considered part of your initial investment.
ABOUT EIREEN DIOKNO-BERNARDO
Ten years ago, Eireen Diokno-Bernardo’s husband bought truckloads of antique soda bottles and auctioned them off and sold some on eBay for three times their worth. That started Eireen’s passion for eBay, selling collectibles, antiquities, art, etc. all over the world. Within a year, they became an eBay Power Seller.
She and her husband currently have over 3,000 items on five stores on eBay – Ratratan Valley Fashion (apparels), Dekada Arts Philippines (art), Dekada Collectibles (collectibles and memorabilia), Dekada Music (music) and Maria Makiling (portraitures and musical instruments). She also runs eBay stores for other businesses.
As an eBay Power Seller and one of only two certified eBay Education Specialists in the Philippines, Eireen holds regular workshops teaching other people how to do business online. In her talk, Eireen will share the secret behind her success not just in selling on eBay but building a lucrative home-based business that keeps on growing.
Step 2: Watch Eireen’s videos on YouTube, including…
…her interview on eBay Radio
…her workshop at Phoenix One
…her interview with QTV
…and her primer on linking PayPal with UnionBank EON
Step 3. Learn from Eireen as she shares how to set up and sell successfully on eBay at at the Money Summit & Wealth Expo this July 2-3 at the RCBC Plaza, Makati City.