Husband and Wife Team Jettison Lucrative Big City Careers for Full-Time eBay Selling in Montana
Colleen Rast was a city girl from Philadelphia. She and her husband held down high-paying corporate jobs in the city. She was a project manager at a very large mortgage company. He ran a small mortgage company with branches across Philadelphia.
When Rast’s husband showed her a job he was offered in a small Montana town called Kalispell, their lives changed forever.
“We’d never been to Kalispell, Montana or to the state of Montana for that matter,” said Rast. “We had to look up the city on a map. It’s a beautiful area.”
Rast started to take stock of her life and lifestyle. “I was setting up budget management offices for this mortgage company all over the world,” she said. “I was traveling to Japan, Ireland and all over Europe. There came a point where I didn’t want to be away from my husband and family anymore.”
They made the leap, and moved out to the frontier in 2001.
Her husband stayed in the same industry. He was just in charge of a much larger area. Rast, however, had no job prospects. “We didn’t know how rural Montana was,” she explained. “There was no major corporation in my field. And not working was not an option for me. I’m a Type A personality.”
Like many eBay newbies, Rast got a bit stir crazy and started plowing through her closets, looking for things to sell. “I immediately saw that if I can sell stuff out of my closet, I can easily sell other things,” she said. Rast set some modest sales goals and found she could double her sales volume in just six months. Early on, she hit the usual estate sales and local auctions for used clothing but quickly found that she could develop relationships with clothing manufacturers and have a constant supply of brand new designer apparel.
When her husband’s mortgage company closed down in the 2007 financial disaster, he joined her efforts, and they hired two employees and moved into a 6,000 square-foot warehouse.
“We had a choice,” explained Rast. “We could move to the east or west coast and get jobs in corporate America or take this little company to the next level.”
Taking it to the Next Level
The Rasts took it all to the next level. They found and leased a 6,000 square foot warehouse, hired two employees and never looked back. Almost all of clothing they sell, aside from a few vintage pieces, is brand new. Mr. Rast specializes in weird and unusual collectibles.
The Rasts and their employees bring their dogs and cats to the office every day. That’s one of the requirements in their interview process, in fact – “Do you like dogs and cats?” Everyone shares breakfast and lunch together in the break room as they go over projects and goals.
They store all of their items at the Montana shipping warehouse. “We don’t do any drop shipping,” said Colleen. “We like to have stock here that we can look at and verify the quality. We ship same day, so we’re confident that it's getting to our customers quickly. We make sure there are no flaws on the clothing, can take measurements and photos, and when buyers ask specific questions about the clothes we have them right here. All of it helps us maintain our top seller status.”
Customer Communication - Buyer Stories
The Rasts place a lot of importance on customer communications, answering any and all questions that come their way from prospective buyers.
“This one woman asked me ten questions about a cheap coffee mug we were selling,” explained Colleen. “She ended up purchasing it after what seemed like a waste of time for a $10 item. I answered all her questions, and she sent me an email apologizing for so many pesky questions.” It turns out the woman wanted to make sure it was the exact pistol-handled Longhorn Ranch revolver coffee mug she was looking for. Her son, who passed away years earlier, had bought the same coffee cup from the Good Will and gave it to her husband. The husband broke it and was distraught. “The new replacement cup was the best present she’d ever gotten her husband,” said Colleen. “You just don't know what the customer is going through. That’s why I always answer everything politely with care. You'll make friends for life who you've ever met.”