728_header.jpg (23748 bytes)
 Home 
 EB Blog 
 AB Blog 
 Letters 
 Podcasts 
 ABTV 
 Forums 
 EPIS 
 PR Service 
 Classifieds 
 EKG 
 Ratings 
EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2327 - July 16, 2010 - ISSN 1539-5065    4 of 4

Pattern for Success: Running an Ecommerce Business from the Road

By Greg Holden
EcommerceBytes.com
July 16, 2010




Email This Story to a Friend

When they're traveling, most people like to check out the nightlife, the shopping, or the tourist attractions. But if you're like me, when you are traveling somewhere, you have an uncontrollable urge to check out the local vintage and resale shops. You may even have wondered what it would be like to just pack up all your belongings and hit the road permanently - with plenty of opportunities to explore the highways and byways of the country and dig up some rare collectibles as well.

That's just what Tina Sutherland did a little more than six years ago. She and her husband Dennis have no permanent address. They travel the country in their RV, and while they do, she runs an online sewing patterns store called What-I-Found from it.

Dennis, you see, also has a job that frequently takes him around the country. He conducts safety inspections for amusement park rides, working primarily for insurance companies.

"Amusement rides and parks can be found in almost every town, and they all need to be inspected," says Sutherland, 54. "So we end up in major cities, big state fairs or tiny towns with a traveling show. And I shop everywhere - antique shops, thrift stores, even garage sales." She occasionally buys patterns online, but getting snail mail when you're frequently rolling down the highway is a challenge. So she sticks to shopping wherever the RV ends up. "I love finding that obscure little shop that time forgot. I often find patterns tucked behind and under things. I like the treasure hunt!"

Tina owned a brick-and-mortar antique shop in Seattle, Washington before she and Dennis went on the road. She tried to continue selling merchandise when they started to travel, but items like glassware were just too difficult to pack and ship. Then, she discovered what all auction and ecommerce sellers are looking for: a product that is easy to ship and desirable to buyers.

"One day I got a stack of patterns and they sold fast," she explains. "I figured out that they couldn't break and would ship easily. Plus, I like them. They have history and art and stories to tell."

Indeed, while she is riding in her RV, she maintains a blog called What-I-Found in which she writes about her discoveries: a letter from a daughter to a mother found inside a pattern, or ads for patterns found in Glamour and other magazines. She carries as many as 6,000 patterns in the storage bays of the RV - "with a few boxes spilling over into the car." She and her husband have data cards on their laptops that give them Internet access, even while they are driving. When Tina gets an order, she mails from whatever town they are driving through. She uses PayPal for payment, and Main Street Mall Online for hosting. Once, when a man ordered patterns to be mailed to his home in Dallas, Tina happened to be in Dallas at the time. "When he got his patterns the very next day he thought I was amazing. I just let him think that."

Of course, they aren't in motion 365 days a year. Often, Tina stays in the RV in Las Vegas while Dennis travels: Las Vegas is a convenient place to fly almost anywhere in the country. Tina adds, "We drive the RV to jobs when he'll be there for a length of time, or if we can cluster several jobs in one area. But it varies widely - we move every day or once every few weeks." Winter is the slow season for the carnival business, when Tina and Dennis head to Texas, where they visit with children and grandchildren.

What's the biggest challenge with running a mobile store? Tina doesn't mention potholes, or the price of gas, or traffic jams. She does mention the difficulty in getting everyday mail: "We have all our bills and such mailed to our daughter, and when we are in one place long enough, she forwards our mail. But if somebody is considering this lifestyle, it's a problem to figure out."

About the Author
Greg Holden is AuctionBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

About the author:

Greg Holden is EcommerceBytes Contributing Editor. He is a journalist and the author of many books, including "Starting an Online Business For Dummies," "Go Google: 20 Ways to Reach More Customers and Build Revenue with Google Business Tools," and several books about eBay, including "How to Do Everything with Your eBay Business," second edition, and "Secrets of the eBay Millionaires," both published by Osborne-McGraw Hill. Find out more on Greg's website, which includes his blog, a list of his books, and his fiction and biographical writing.

You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to EcommerceBytes.com and either link to the original article or to www.EcommerceBytes.com.
All other use is prohibited.

Sign up for our Email Newsletters

Email This Story to a Friend
Email this story to a friend.


4 of 4


Sponsored Ad