Accessibility Success Stories: Rick Willison

By: eBay Inc. Staff

Rick Willison of Vancouver, Washington, is an ordained pastor and founder of Team Jesus Ministries Inc., a non-profit organization that has constructed wells in Africa and spearheaded other missionary projects.

Rick and his wife, Sonya, have operated qualitywarehaus on eBay since April, 2004. “We started with a few items we picked up from a garage sale,” Rick explains. “We took the money and reinvested it into more things. Little by little we were able to supplement our income so we could stay in full-time ministry.”

“Through our research, mostly done by Sonya, we were able to find Goodwill Outlets where we began to purchase items by the pound, which greatly increased our profit margin. We bought clothes, toys, kitchen items, household goods, books and more to resell on eBay.

Then a couple of years ago, we discovered how to buy directly from department stores and retailers. This made it much easier as we did not have to dig through bins or go all over town each week looking at garage sales, although we still do those things, too.”

From the beginning, Rick and Sonya viewed their eBay business as a family effort. However, the progressive deterioration of Rick’s vision due to a hereditary eye disease was changing the nature of their eBay collaboration.

When Rick applied to attend the pilot training class offered by the National Federation of the Blind and eBay, he said, “My hope is that I can receive training to better use eBay. Right now I struggle with listing items and the whole issue of shipping. It would be good to have a way to get the items listed, track them, invoice, ship, and complete the entire process. Right now, I have to rely on my wife to do a lot of the work as I cannot do it or do not know how to make it work in my world of vision impairment.”

During the training class, Rick practiced accessing eBay using Jaws, a program that turns visual information on the screen into synthesized speech. He also learned strategies that helped him use his remaining eyesight more effectively when searching for information on eBay.

About the class, Rick says, “I was completely impressed by the level of professionalism that exists at the NFB and by the trainers from eBay. The other students were amazing people. I am blessed to have been chosen to be a part of this training.”

Since completing the training, Rick has been able to take a much more active role in the day-to-day operations of the family eBay business. He describes it as a real team effort once again. Sonya’s intuition about what is likely to sell complements Rick’s planning and promotion acumen. Rick is now listing items along with Sonya and has used information he learned at the class to make a successful application for funds to expand the business. Whether or not Rick will be able to see the computer screen in the future, he now has the skills he will need to continue listing on eBay. “I’ve done this without seeing the screen, so I know that I can. It’s quite a transition, but I’m continuing to practice and I’m improving steadily.”

In one 60-day period after the class, Rick listed 250 items and had a sales volume of nearly $5,000. Concerning his future plans, Rick says, “I intend to be the first blind eBay millionaire. I want to be successful for myself and our ministry, but also so I can help other blind people make a living on eBay. eBay is a great way to make money while having fun.”