It occurred to me that many of you don't know my story. I've been doing a lot of thinking lately as I'm in my 20th year of online selling and my 34th year in retail. First thing I think is holy smokes how did that many years slip by me? Then I think, gosh what do I want to be when I grow up? I grew up in the back of a thrift store. Well not really, but I spent 2 weeks of my summers there with my favorite aunt who lived in Carpinteria, CA. If you have never visited this little city on the beach just south of Santa Barbara, I highly recommend it. My Auntie Lynn was a volunteer at a little thrift store on Linden Ave. We would go there every morning and bring in all the donations left overnight. There was a back patio area where all the donations were first brought to, in order to keep them clean and safe from the elements. Then there was a hallway lined with boxes and bags of incoming goods. Walking through that entryway used to make me giddy with excitement!
We would go into the main sorting room where on one side was a mound of clothing and a large table for sorting. On the other side was a long table area for sorting all the non-clothing goods. This was where the fun stuff came through! One of the perks of being a volunteer was being able to see everything first. My mom always says we were the best dressed kids on the block because my aunt would send boxes of amazing clothing! Now before you go thinking anything bad, yes she absolutely paid for everything she took and some. Each time she would visit us in Orange County, a couple hours away from Carpinteria, she would come with a car load of stuff for us to go through.
This was the time I really discovered retail. I learned to deal with customers and count back change. I learned how to price incoming items and how to merchandise them. I could have spent every waking minute in this store. I loved the array of things and the mystery of never knowing what the next box or bag would unveil. To this day, I am really incapable of going shopping and paying full price for anything! I know the bargains are there in those thrift stores.
I learned early on I was an entrepreneur. On my way to school I would pass by the local 7-11 store. There was this boy who worked the morning shift and we would talk each day. I remember thinking how incredibly cool it would be to own a store. I managed to get asked out on a date with said boy... then another... and another. Six months later we were engaged and I was going to be the future owner of a convenience store! I was only 17 and look back at how naive I was then. We married and I became the manager at the store. It wasn't long before I was creating systems for organizing the cigarette cartons and creating a re-ordering system for the candy section. Remember this is before the days of computers and the internet... yeah I'm feeling old now!
A combination of immaturity, crazy family and other irreconcilable differences caused a divorce just two short years after I married who I thought would be the answer to my dreams. I don't recommend picking a mate based on their employment and family business ownership status... just sayin'. As a single mom I entered into the real world of working and went through a variety of jobs including throwing a newspaper, waitressing at Bob's Big Boy (the one that was across from Disneyland where I also did a short stint). I even acquired my real estate license and thought I would make it rich in that industry, did I mention this was now the early 1989? This was the beginning of the big real estate recession, a beginner agent didn't stand a chance. I did manage to list and sell one house, but it involved 7 day work weeks and calls at all hours.
I began playing around with different direct marketing companies such as Fuller Brush, Watkins, Amway and Electro Lux vacuum cleaners. These were the days of going door to door and doing demos. I got so good at the carpet cleaning demo I managed to sell a vacuum system! The problem is I sold it to myself. Then along ca
me Avon. I understood being frugal! I could sell this stuff. I quickly climbed the chain and became a President's Club member and then Honor Society. I wanted to do more and found a way to bulk mail the catalogs vs walking them door to door. I soon discovered I was spending a lot of time delivering orders and taking lots of phone calls. I found a little commercial space for rent on Whittier Blvd in La Habra, CA. It was perfect as it was right across the street from my grandma, Mimi, who could watch my daughter while I worked.
At the time Avon had a policy of no retail locations, no kiosks in malls etc. With my district manager's blessing I opened the first Avon Showroom. This was a place my customers could come and smell, see and test the products and place their orders in person as well as pick up their orders. My sales grew to multiple six figures in a short time and it was a very successful endeavor. The powers that be at Avon decided they need to control me a bit more and created policies that ultimately made my business impossible to continue. To this day they have the wording in their contracts that you can not open a showroom.
About this time I met my future husband and after a whirlwind romance we married. I had a love of animals, especially horses, and so my engagement ring was actually a horse. I named it Rocky since he was my "rock" (aka diamond). Well then we got another horse and realized for the cost of boarding two horses in Orange County, CA and paying rent on a home, we could move out to Riverside County and have our horses in the backyard for the same price. This was where I discovered auctions. There was a local livestock auction in town we would attend each week. We bought so much stuff there we were soon VIP's with a permanent bidder number and the ability to be in the ring while the auction was taking place. We purchased saddles, tack, boxes of farm equipment, you name it! If the price was right, we bought
it and so my reselling business began. We also bought horses. Think of those flipping shows where they buy a house with issues and do some repair work then turn around and sell it for a nice profit.. that was me with horses. We would get some pretty sad cases. Neglected and poorly trained equines can get turned around fairly quickly with some TLC and a round pen. It was also extremely rewarding to give these magnificent creatures a new lease on life with someone to love them.
Long story short (I know too late) we bought a larger property that was a boarding facility so we could make some income and have all the facilities we needed for raising and training horses. I wanted to change the way the horse racing industry operated. I wanted to stop the catastrophic break downs that are happening far too often. They happen due to a lack of physical training and a lack of understanding the physiology of a horse and how they are designed. I won't go off on a big tangent here, but if you ever want to talk horses hit me up on Facebook I love talking about it! I actually got to work with one of the other trainers in the industry who felt the same as I, Tom Ivers. He wrote several books on the topic including The Fit Racehorse. It's a fantastic read.
Now we are in 1998 and I am out in my arena grating it by pulling a large chunk of fence along the ground to smooth things out. I have the radio on my country station and the news break comes on and starts talking about this new company that just went public on the stock exchange, eBay. I finished up and excitedly went in the house to check it out. Here was a site that appeared to be made just for me! I had been doing yard sales, going to swap meets and flea markets and doing word of mouth to sell the items I was purchasing... now this eBay thing could let me sit right there at my desk with my super powered computer with the 40 megabyte hard drive and sell stuff all over the country!
This is where a whole new chapter of my life begins so I will leave you here and continue this story tomorrow.... find out about my early days on eBay and what were the first items I sold.