Following Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, Jon turned to e-commerce to use his jet ski expertise and build a business. Now he has built a global business in a competitive field—and gets to do it his way.
Q: Why did you first start selling on eBay?
A: I began selling on eBay in 2010 and really it was due to necessity. My past business, which was a beach vendor and jet ski rental business, was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Years after rebuilding our homes and lives and finally getting some normalcy back on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, I was preparing to open back up on the beach in the Fall/Winter of 2009. In the Spring of 2010, another disaster hit with the BP oil spill and wiped out my business again. Realizing I could not wait the years it would take for the beach to recover again, I began to look at different ideas that could not be wiped out again.
I had an epiphany: there was one small item that I had purchased several times at the local jet ski dealer and realized that it was underpriced and that the part sold for 15 times more online at every outlet. The item was a flush end for a jet ski and I knew it was not only great markup, but a "disposable" item. Knowing how many times I had lost the part, everyone else would too. I decided that I would give it a shot online with eBay. Within one day it sold, then the next day, and soon I was sending out 5-10 of them a week. I remember at that moment thinking that this was my way forward and from that day on, I have gone ‘all in’ on eBay. I had told my wife “if only I could only come up with 10 more ideas like that!”.
Q: How has selling on eBay impacted your life?
A: The biggest change is being able to see my family much more and allowing them to feel like they are getting the attention they deserve. When I was hit with another obstacle in life with the BP spill, I was again out of a job and my wife was a teacher. We had a newborn in 2009 and again in 2012 and bills were getting tight. When I started selling on eBay in 2010, that saved our situation we were in and not only saved it, but in hindsight, we would not change it for the world. Fast forward to present day and now my wife is also able to stay at home and be with our family. For the last three years we have all been able to spend every day together!
Q: Can you share a fun fact about yourself/your business?
A: I started my jet ski rental business when I was 19 years old in the summer after my freshman year at the University of Illinois in South Mississippi in 1995. It went so well the first summer, my identical twin brother quit his lifeguarding job the following summer and teamed up with me. That business was so much fun and successful I continued to run it even after college graduation and did so until Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Q: What gets you excited about selling on eBay?
A: Selling on eBay is the excitement. It is an adrenaline filled experience and becomes self-perpetuating. The excitement of waking up and seeing how many sales you have, going to the seller dashboard, and seeing your numbers compared to last year is always a rush. Another thing that I think most sellers can relate to is the feeling when you come up with a new idea or product line and place it online. The anxiousness and thrill finally when you see the first sale of a new idea. It is like having your first sale on eBay all over again and knowing that you have something that is going to sell and make money never gets old.
Q: How has the ability to sell globally impacted your business?
A: The ability to sell globally minimizes the ‘lows’ of my winter time sales. We are of course, as a watersports business, a very seasonal business and as we cool off, other parts of the world warm up and sales actually peak in many other parts of the globe and hedge my sales all year round. Not only has this helped with the inflow stability, it now accounts for almost 30% of my total sales. Also, the ease of international sales has gotten so seamless that it is just as easy to sell overseas as it is stateside. I remember the days of having to run to the post office to ship internationally or to get insurance for certain international sales, to the point of where I stopped selling overseas all together. With the eBay global shipping program, not only am I back to selling overseas, I hardly even noticing the difference.