How two working mums made a million from selling lingerie on eBay

It’s happened to the plus size cheap lingerie best of us. The clothes are off, it’s time to get down to business. Then it all comes pouring out.

Working in a lingerie shop, it was an occupational hazard for entrepreneur Clare Haines.

“I love customers,” she says. “But often they feel like they have to tell you their life story just because they have taken their clothes off.”

Read moreHow online marketplace Etsy is supporting female entrepreneursHaines briefly flirted with bricks and mortar after launching Lingerie Outlet Store in 2009 on eBay from her garage in Swindon. But the naked customers proved too much to handle and she quickly switched back to selling exclusively through the online platform.

“It’s just more efficient. With online customer service, they only tell you what you need to know,” she says.

Haines is one of a growing number of eBay millionaires in the UK – defined as a business registered on eBay.co.uk with a turnover of £1m or more. The number has risen by 50 per cent since 2013, from 443 to 663.

Her business has ridden the wave of booming fashion sales on the online marketplace, jumping from sales of £51,000 in their first year to a projected £8m by the end of 2017.

For someone who claims not to know the meaning of ‘profit margin’, eBay’s user friendly platform was an ideal starting place.

“When I started the business eight years ago eBay was the only place I could sell the product online and get instant, transparent feedback from customers,” she says. “I didn’t have the confidence to start with a bricks and mortar store. The great thing about starting on eBay is that I learnt as I went.”

With a background in advertising and little business acumen, Haines kept the business chugging along but found herself hitting a growth ceiling without knowing why. In 2015 her best friend Melissa Burton joined the business as an equal partner, bringing with her 20 years of wisdom from working in blue chip companies and telecoms. Since then, the firm has grown by 2,000 per cent.

Read moreIvanka plus size cheap lingerie Trump and World Bank to start fund for women entrepreneursGender gap narrows among entrepreneurs as women excel with start upsFemale entrepreneurs are leading a work revolutionHaines credits Burton with turning the company into “a grown-up business”, with spreadsheets, cashflows, and “other things that make me go ‘aaaah’.”

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