Small business in Canada is huge. They represent most of the country’s businesses and contribute to our communities’ economic and social health. Tens of thousands of Canadians have been following their passions and finding success growing their businesses or becoming “accidental entrepreneurs” by turning hobbies into a business with eBay.
General Manager, eBay Canada
Diversified market is good for business
“Our mindset from the beginning has been to democratize commerce. It used to be that you had to be a massive company to sell globally; now small businesses can reach a global market,” says Rob Bigler, General Manager, eBay Canada. “Canada has a population of 38 million people, but 135 million people around the world purchased something on eBay this past year, which creates a huge opportunity for Canadian small businesses.”
Selling on eBay allows companies to diversify their sales. Some businesses are seasonal, so instead of shutting down, they can play the hemisphere game. In the offseason, the Canadian selling sailboat parts can find a buyer in the Caribbean, while the ski shop can sell to skiers in South America or New Zealand.
eBay differentiates itself from other platforms in that it doesn’t hold any inventory and doesn’t compete with sellers. eBay has also built up a quarter century of trust — with sellers and buyers. “We only succeed when our sellers succeed,” says Bigler. “We do many things on behalf of our sellers, including digital marketing and making sure their inventory gets seen. We take on the complexity of running an e-commerce site, so they can focus on their business.”
Small business success
And small businesses are finding success with eBay. In a recent survey of small businesses, 71 percent said that eBay had helped them start their business, and approximately 80 percent said eBay had helped them grow their business. Almost one-third of respondents reported that their business wouldn’t be able to exist without eBay. That partnership is mutual because nearly three quarters of sellers strongly believe eBay wins when sellers win.
eBay doesn’t simply give a seller an account and walk away. Instead, they nurture the success of these small businesses by offering tools to get the most out of eBay’s global marketplace. This includes its accelerator program Up & Running, a free service for sellers that offers powerful advertising tools and insights, virtual learning and development opportunities, and real-time advice and inspiration from other sellers and eBay staff.
“I hear of people who lost their job, and they’re now selling on eBay or a hobbyist who quit their boring day job to pursue what they love. It’s fun to empower these accidental entrepreneurs,” says Bigler.
Meet Three Small Business Owners Who’ve Seen Success Thanks to eBay’s Global Marketplace
Marco Knows Hockey
Marco Thorne, a former teacher, is passionate about hockey and sports equipment. His business, API Hockey PROS, started decades ago when he designed and manufactured a protective ankle insert for hockey skates, which received interest from some NHL teams. Two decades ago, he listed that item on eBay. It was his only product. Over time, he discovered the potential of online retail for his equipment store.
Today, he’s a fixture in Cornwall, P.E.I., where he operates a shop and now has an extensive list of products on his store’s website. Approximately 25 percent of his sales are on eBay. “It’s been a good addition. Without eBay, I might not still be doing this because there aren’t a lot of small, independent sports stores anymore.” His online customers, who otherwise wouldn’t know about him, come from North America and Europe. “The popularity of eBay is a big help. And they take care of everything so you can run your business.” In 2020, Thorne was recognized by eBay as a Hall of Fame seller. His advice for anyone considering becoming an eBay seller? “Go for it, but love what you’re doing because there will be some long days.”
Taking The First Step With eBay Was Easy
If you love shoes, you’ll want to meet Karina Bogle of White-Balmer Shoes. Bogle worked at this Stratford, Ont., store when she was in high school. It was her first job, and she fell in love with footwear. After school, she left the store and went to work for a footwear distributor. She maintained a relationship with the owners of White-Balmer and three years ago bought the store. Six months as an owner, the pandemic forced her to close the store. “I wanted to keep shoes moving and money flowing, so I launched an e-commerce site for my store. It was super easy, and my online store connects directly to eBay’s platform. I’ve seen an increase in sales.”
While Bogle sells primarily to people in North America, access to eBay’s global market has been great. She recently sold sandals to someone in Australia, a sale that would be difficult to make during winter in Canada. “eBay has lots of resources and forums for people to learn how to grow your business. I’d encourage anyone considering it to give it a shot; it’s easy to get started.” Bogle was awarded eBay’s 2021 Emerging E-Commerce Entrepreneur of the Year award, something she appreciates, as it recognizes the hard work she puts into the business and reassures her that she’s on the right track.
Tapping Into A Global Market
The collectibles sector is a multi-billion-dollar market made up of hobbyists and small business owners. Christian Kentie, the owner of The Frugal Dutchman, is one of those. His shop in Ridgeway, Ont., a small Lake Erie community, gets a lot of foot traffic during the summer months, but to keep his business going in the offseason, he began selling online. Kentie sees an even split between his brick-and-mortar store and online sales; last year, he recorded his highest sales revenue. And today, 75 percent of Christian’s eBay sales are from international buyers. “The transition to eBay was easy. It’s an accessible marketplace with great training tools, so you don’t have to do a lot of the hard work,” he says. “It’s well-known and has a variety of sellers.”
Kentie was humbled to be recognized with eBay’s 2022 Micro-Multinational of the Year award. “When a company like eBay recognizes me for my global sales, it means a lot, not only for me but also for our small town that is barely known. It’s good to support small businesses in places like Ridgeway.”