How to start an eBay business

Could starting an eBay business lead to cyber success? Get started with the Startups' step-by-step guide to becoming an eBay entrepreneur

Useful links:

What is eBay and how do you start a business on it?

Internet auction website eBay is one of the biggest retail phenomena of our time. The opportunities offered by an eBay business stretch way beyond the chance to sell unwanted bric-a-brac, or discarded Christmas presents.

eBay was started by Pierre Omidyar in September 1995 as a result of his wife’s desire to add to her collection of sweet dispensers; not even in his wildest dreams could Omidyar have predicted how far his venture would go. The simplicity of setting up on eBay has persuaded millions of people who would never previously have considered going into business to start out for themselves, and millions more have established healthy second incomes by buying items and selling them online for profit. According to statistics released in June 2011, eBay had 96 million active users and 233 million customers worldwide.

As any user will know, eBay features just about everything for sale, from the weird and wonderful to the plain and practical. With thousands of UK customers looking for an eBay bargain every day, it’s unsurprising that many entrepreneurs have decided to take advantage and use the website to generate a full-time eBay business. An independent trade body, the Professional eBay Sellers Alliance, or PESA, has been set up exclusively for these people; PESA claims its members’ total sales amount to over $400m a year.

Need a loan to start your eBay business? Find out more here

In addition, starting an eBay business can represent a quick route to international trade, and UK sellers in particular are taking advantage of this opportunity. A recent study conducted by the US site found that the UK is leading the way in eBay exports, with UK businesses exporting to an average of 39 different countries each – more than anywhere else in the world. Fashion accessories represented the most widely-exported products from UK sellers in the first quarter of 2014, with vehicle parts and mobile phones also presenting lucrative export opportunities.

Julie King, from Newcastle, gave up her job as an IT consultant after she found she could buy and sell designer shoes and handbags on eBay for a profit. Her eBay business, Killer Heels, based on buying shoes and bags from wholesalers and selling them on eBay, soon grew into a £6,000-a-month operation.

Action point:
See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start a business idea
(external site, opens in new tab)

Amid all the wacky eBay stories that regularly invade the press, such as the housewife who put herself up for sale for £25,000, there are plenty of thriving businesses taking advantage of the eBay phenomenon. One such business is The Gathering Goddess, a vintage clothing company run by Wilmamae Ward, who says:

“I had been buying beautiful vintage clothes on eBay for several years and had amassed a huge collection for which I no longer had room. I decided to sell some of my collection back on eBay. I was amazed at the prices achieved, so I began to sell more and more and it just snowballed. eBay allowed me reach many customers

“I soon decided this was a business I would love doing, as I was able to indulge my fashion obsession and make a great living at the same time. It also enabled me to work from home and make my own hours.

“In addition, unlike a bricks and mortar shop which has to rely on passing trade and extensive marketing, eBay provides all of this on a global basis – without the overheads. “Starting an eBay business was quite easy, I think the most important thing is to find a niche that few other people are competing in, if you can do this then this is probably the best way to start an eBay business.”

Ready to get started? Find out everything you need to know about how to start your own business here.