When I launched EventsWholesale.com in 2006, my goal was to make enough money to quit my full-time job and build a family with my husband, Andy. We had only a few hundred dollars in personal savings we could invest—so I had to be frugal.
My inspiration came from reading about a woman who launched a wedding favors business from her basement. She invested just a couple hundred dollars in products and a website and ended up building a multimillion-dollar company. I figured if she could do it, so could I.
Today, EventsWholesale pulls in thousands of orders a year from customers around the country. It’s become a destination for both professional event planners and people planning their own parties—and it all started with just a few hundred dollars of upfront investment.
Starting a business on eBay
My foray into online retail began on eBay. I was selling items that I would find online or by wandering through AmericasMart Atlanta, one of the largest permanent wholesale trade centers in the world. I also spent a lot of time researching other eBay vendors to see what they were selling. After a few months, it became clear that there was steady demand for event supplies, such as table decorations and linens. So I decided to focus on that.
Because I was still working full time as a web designer, I didn’t need income from the site. So, every penny I earned in profits was reinvested back into the business to buy more merchandise and increase my product line.
When my eBay sales started really picking up, Andy suggested that I build my own website. Spending $30 a month on website hosting felt like a big investment at the time, but he pointed out that if it didn’t work out, I could cancel it in two or three months. I gave it a shot—and we never looked back.
My first website was very basic, and today there are ecommerce templates available that can help anyone start their own online business. As the business has grown, though, we’ve brought in outside web designers to help us keep up with user demand.
For the first few years, our website’s growth was completely organic. We didn’t spend any money on marketing or buying ads. Most of our traffic flowed through eBay, but after a while we started seeing more buyers coming in through search engines. That’s when we started paying for Google search ads. Since then, we’ve added more social media, including a Facebook page, but most customers still find us through eBay or search engines.
Hitting growth mode
Since launching 14 years ago, the company has posted average annual revenue growth of 20% to 25%, and in 2019 we served about 5,000 customers. Andy and I now both work full time running the business. Even with five other employees, though, we sometimes have a hard time keeping up with demand.
We’ve continually expanded our product line by keeping an eye on what customers are looking for and finding suppliers who can provide it. Most of our new products are added based on specific customer requests, but I also stay in touch with our customer service representatives. They keep their own lists of trends and product requests. As our sales grew, we were able to start buying some items in bulk, which helped us negotiate better prices with our suppliers.
Today, about half of our business comes from wholesaler buyers, such as wedding planners, event planners, corporate meeting planners and the hospitality industry, including caterers. They generate the volume we need to keep prices competitive for our individual retail customers.
Not skimping on everything
I’m proof that given the right products and strategy, anyone can build a successful business without a lot of startup capital. That said, there are things I’ve found that no entrepreneur should skimp on. For example, it’s important to get legal and financial advice to ensure you’re setting up the business correctly—from your trademarks to deciding which business structure to use. We started out as an LLC in 2006, but in 2008 our accountant recommended that we incorporate to gain some tax advantages.
Of course, the entire events industry has been hard hit by the global pandemic. By starting small, keeping risks low and growing my business organically—without having to take out loans or take on outside investors—we’re well positioned to ride out economic upheavals.
How did you fund and grow your business? Share your insights in the comments section below.Print this article