My wife graduated college several years ago. As I pondered how to help pay off her student loans, I looked at her towering stack of accumulated textbooks. Knowing we'd receive an unacceptably low price, we chose not to sell them back to the campus bookstore. I also investigated some websites to sell used college textbooks for cash, and while the payouts seemed decent, I felt that I could get more.
Eventually, I opened a seller's account on Amazon.com. The textbooks sold quickly and for more money than I would have made otherwise. I used paper grocery shopping bags to wrap the books, and sealed them with Scotch tape.
Little did I know, I had just started my own small business.
After this success, I looked around the house and found more items that I thought might sell. I listed a used digital camera and a digital photo frame and hoped for the best. I knew the textbooks would be in high demand, but I wasn't sure about the more frivolous items. To my surprise, both sold within the first few weeks.
A friend of mine suggested I check out daily deal websites to see if I could find other products to sell. It was a puzzling concept -- it had never occurred to me you could buy items online and then resell them at a profit. But I looked into it, and to my surprise, I was able to find many products that I could sell at a profit. I looked at the purchase price, researched what the particular item was selling for on Amazon, and if it appeared I could make a profit, I bought the item.
For the most part, I bought and sold products with which I was familiar. Due to a retail position I once held, I am pretty knowledgeable regarding small electronics, so that's where I focused my efforts. And it soon paid off: In 2010, I grossed $40,000 in sales and netted nearly $6,000.
Starting a small business is not as daunting as it sounds. I'll admit, in my case, there was a little luck involved. But by partnering my knowledge of small electronics with enthusiasm and a keen business sense, I launched a venture with nothing more than a paper bag and a roll of Scotch tape. Today, that side business generates solid, steady streams of income.
David Bakke continues to run an online reselling side business. He also blogs about personal finance topics like smart spending, budgeting, and entrepreneurship on Money Crashers.