It’s the sign of true entrepreneurial ingenuity when you start a business without putting a dime into it. It feels good but it’s also challenging. It’s another thing that it makes headlines too, one day. The world waxes eloquent about many companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Dell because the founders of these behemoths grew from hostel dorms, garages, and friends’ attics. They are our heroes, no doubt.
We also have underdogs — heroes who aren’t visible yet. We have entrepreneurs who started simple ecommerce businesses starting from marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon and making it big. If you are just starting out – or still dreaming about entrepreneurship – you can very well relate to these stories. Here are some of them:
Black Milk Clothing
James Lillis sold his first legging for $10. He founded Black Milk Clothing in 2009 and grew it into a multi-million dollar company staffed by about 150 people. The company distributes products globally. Yet, the company started with nothing. James doesn’t spend on anything for his marketing. Armed with about 80 Facebook groups, a strong presence on other social media networks, a unique product, and good old word-of-mouth, his tribes of customers spread the word and make business happen.
James shares views on an Interview published on Shopify and insists that it’s not always about selling. It’s about being authentic, accessible, and storytelling.
We are listening.
You would think that entrepreneurs who started out typically with the “Mail order” type businesses wouldn’t be able to catch up with the hustle that Internet demands. You’d be wrong. Marvin Sternberg has been in business for about 22 years advertising a wide range of products as a mail order retailer. He dealt with watches, fine China, and Luxury Crystal. Something similar to a website only came up in 1999 and eBay happened in 2001. Today, Marvin’s eBay store — JomaShop — features a better template, uses tools to make business processes smoother, and is planning to add more products and offerings on their store.
You can read more about Marvin and his journey on eBay pages.
Danna Crawford is on eBay’s Hall of Fame. She is also an eBay trading assistant and a certified business consultant trained by eBay. Of course, she didn’t start out with roses on her path. She started off on the Beanie Babies craze in the 90s. She learnt how to drive traffic to her eBay store, grew her quantity of listings, and also focused on selling internationally when no one else was considering at that point. She also donates a part of her profits to charity through eBay giving works.
By the way, we love the way she brands her eBay shop. Just saying.
Buy big From Brandi
Little do some people know that they weekend pursuits of ways to make some extra money could push into the halls of entrepreneurship. Brandi Tolley is one of those reluctant entrepreneurs who runs an eBay store named Buy Big from Brandi. Her beginning was a leap of faith though. In 2003, she goes out buys a lot of 75 Tommy Hilfiger shirts for $3 each. That launched her into business and she still makes a good living out of her business, which made about $200,000 in sales for the year 2011.
What can a 22-year old college drop out do? A lot, if you think about it. Apart from the impressive 30 entrepreneurs under 30, there are more young people doing a lot more today than ever. Sophia Amoruso was living with her step-aunt and working on a $13 per hour job checking student identification. That was interesting enough for her and hence she looked for vintage clothes to sell on eBay. Fast forward to six years and she now runs Nasty Gal with a 7,500 square foot warehouse in California along with a 500,000 square foot fulfillment center in Kentucky. Also, she made about $100 million in sales in 2012.
We plan to add more stories to this list here. Do you know (or did you hear about) anyone who made it big in ecommerce? The unsung heroes, if you will? Please do let us know.