After losing his job 15 years ago, a single dad started flipping cellphones on eBay. He turned the hustle into a six-figure monthly reselling business and plans to retire at 40.

  • After losing his job in 2008, a single dad started reselling T-Mobile Sidekicks and iPhones on eBay.
  • He switched to reselling clothes — specifically, ‘everyday value items’ — for easier profits.
  • At the peak of the business, he says he was bringing in $2.5 million in eBay sales a year.

In 2008, weeks after starting a new job at Circuit City, Richard S. was laid off when the electronics retailer filed for bankruptcy.

The Ft. Lauderdale-based single dad, who prefers not to share his last name for privacy reasons, didn’t have a lot of options.

“In 2008, you weren’t getting laid off and getting hired immediately. We were in the middle of a housing crisis, the stock market lost 57%, people were not hiring.”

Further exacerbating his financial situation, his cellphone — a T-Mobile Sidekick — broke. A new one on eBay was going to cost him $75.

“I didn’t have 75 bucks,” said Richard, who was in his early 20s at the time. However, he noticed the same phone was going for $35 on Craigslist. He bought the Sidekick on Craigslist, listed it on eBay, and turned a profit in a matter of hours. “In my head, I doubled my money: I spent 35, sold it for 70. I can keep my 35 and essentially get a free phone on this deal. I was off to the races after that.”

He started buying Sidekicks, iPhones, and BlackBerrys on Craigslist and flipping them on eBay.

“I had to put food on the table for my son and make sure we kept a roof over our heads. It was week-to-week, month-to-month, paycheck to paycheck,” he said, but his eBay hustle brought in enough to pay the bills.

Since losing his job in 2008, “I’ve never had to fill out a job application.”

Pivoting from reselling electronics to clothing

While Richard was making enough reselling electronics to scrape by, “the cash flow was very tight.” It can be a tricky category for resellers, he explained: “You have to test them. Sometimes you have to buy a part — maybe a charger, maybe a scrolling wheel for a BlackBerry.”

However, with apparel, there’s “no testing, no troubleshooting, no parts or pieces,” he said. “It’s not going to break in the mail. You don’t need instructions to put on a shirt. At worst, if it doesn’t fit, they can send it back for a full refund.”

richard s technsports
Richard pivoted from selling electronics to pre-owned clothing. He started with what he already had in his closet. Richard S.
The first clothing item he sold on eBay was a vintage Buffalo Bills jersey that he pulled out of his closet. He said it sold the same day he listed it for about $80.

After listing more clothing items directly from his closet, Richard felt he was onto something: “The path to least resistance to filling up my bank account was getting out of electronics and gaining an expertise in clothing.”

Still, he called his eBay store Technsports.

During his rounds at Goodwill, Salvation Army, and his local thrift stores and flea markets, he started ignoring the electronics and sorting through the piles of clothes that no one seemed to care about.

“There’s a mountain of clothes on the ground. People want a dollar for it; people want 50 cents,” he recalled. “As long as you know what’s good, then you can go in there and really do some damage, so I took the time to educate myself on the brands.”

His general strategy is to buy “the staples,” brands like Nike, Lululemon, and Ralph Lauren that people wear daily.

“I’m not going out and buying Gucci. I’m not buying Louis Vuitton. I’m buying everyday value items that everybody can afford. It’s a much larger market,” said Richard, adding that it’s more than possible to make a living reselling everyday items.

His average cost of goods has always hovered around $5, while his average sales price has been around $30. After shipping and eBay fees, that leaves him with about $20 per item, he said: “If you do that 14 times a day, that’s $280 in profit a day. You can make $100,000 a year selling 14 items a day on eBay.”

Scaling during Covid, listing 250 items per day, and doing millions in sales
The COVID-19 pandemic temporarily shut down many retailers, including Richard’s go-tos for inventory. But rag houses were still open. He started shopping at these wholesale vintage recycling plants and eventually hired contractors to help with the sourcing.

After years of working around the clock to list 120 items a day, he also hired his first full-time employee. With two sets of hands, he figured he could double his output and bumped his daily listing goal from 120 to 250.

At the peak of the business, his store had over 50,000 items in stock, which he stored in a warehouse, and he had five employees on payroll: Three helped with the listing pages and photos, and two did shipping.

“We listed 250 items every day, seven days a week,” said Richard. “The best year on eBay was $2.5 million in sales.”

BI viewed a screenshot of his eBay dashboard showing $472,493 in sales during a three-month period in 2022. That’s about $157,000 a month.

The key was maintaining high-quality listing pages and products while scaling.

“You can’t just put garbage, for lack of a better term, and expect a great result,” he said. “You have to put up great items with a great listing, and eBay and the customers will reward you.”

In eBay’s 2021 Listing Quality Report, which provides sellers a performance overview of their biggest 10 categories, Technsports ranked No. 1 in each category by gross market value, including the used T-shirt category with 137,128 total sellers and the used polo shirt category with 193,012 sellers. BI confirmed these details by looking at a copy of Richard’s report.

Scaling back in preparation for a ’50-year vacation’
After 15 years of growing Technsports, Richard is taking a step back to fulfill a deal he and his partner made with each other years ago: To take a “50-year vacation.”

He says he has enough in savings and investments to live on and plans to travel the world and “see stuff that I missed out on when I was working 18, 20 hours a day.”

Richard created photo stations in his warehouse to photograph each item he lists.
The lease on his warehouse ends in August 2024, and he doesn’t plan on renewing. Over the last 16 months, he’s scaled his store down from about 53,000 items to 5,000.

“I will always have an eBay store. I love eBay,” added Richard, who plans on listing 20 items a day for fun and will keep his brick-and-mortar in Coral Springs, which opened its doors in 2019, up and running.

He also plans to grow the YouTube channel he started in 2023 to help other people make money selling on eBay.

“I didn’t come from much,” said Richard. “eBay helped me transform my life, so if I can show people that it’s possible, that you can do this, that’s my trophy.”

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