How This Work-From-Home Mom Turned an eBay Side Hustle Into a Full-Time Business

With research, learnings and a major pivot, this entrepreneur and her husband left their 9-to-5s behind.

Written by Rebecca Safier / October 4, 2022
Kim Hawkins and her husband
Kim Hawkins

When Kim Hawkins first started selling beads on eBay, she didn’t know she’d end up building a million-dollar business. But after committing to her business goals—and pivoting along the way—Hawkins transformed her fledgling eBay business into a successful e-commerce company.

“We currently do around a million in sales and are quickly growing,” says Hawkins.

Not only did Hawkins’ success allow her to quit her job, but she was also able to retire her husband from his 9-to-5 job and have him join her team. Today, Hawkins sells wedding centerpieces and event supplies at EventsWholesale.com with the help of seven employees.

Inside this article

  1. Launching an eBay business
  2. Researching the market
  3. Learning from mistakes
  4. Staying afloat during COVID-19
  5. Looking to the future
  6. Growing in self-confidence

Launching an eBay business

In 2006, Hawkins was working as a computer specialist at the University of Georgia. While she enjoyed her job, she wanted to be able to stay home and start a family.

“I originally started selling items on eBay,” says Hawkins. “My goal was to get enough part-time income coming in to quit my day job so that I could stay home with my children.”

Hawkins invested just $100 into her side hustle—selling beads and “random things” on eBay.

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“I started from scratch and invested very little money to get started,” says Hawkins. “Then I would just reinvest the profit off of what I sold.”

While Hawkins made some money off her eBay business, she soon hit a wall.

“I did very well for a while, but eventually the market was saturated, and I had to find new products,” she says.

As Hawkins learned the ins and outs of selling on eBay, she looked for another niche that might be more lucrative than beads.

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Researching the market

As a computer specialist in an information technology office, Hawkins was comfortable navigating websites. She used her technological know-how to better understand eBay customers.

“I started researching the items that were selling well using eBay’s statistics and noticed that wedding supplies were doing well at the time,” says Hawkins.

To jump on the trend, Hawkins transitioned to selling wedding and event planning supplies on eBay. Her analysis of the market proved to be right, as customers started flocking to her business.

“Very quickly the business grew into more than a full-time job,” says Hawkins. “My ‘magic number’ was around double my salary when I decided to quit my full-time job.”

To grow the business further, Hawkins moved off of eBay and created her own website. As she scaled her inventory and sales, she was also able to retire her husband from his day job and have him join the business.

“My husband quit his job when we doubled his salary,” she says. “We had very good benefits—insurance, retirement, et cetera— with our day jobs and wanted to make sure that we were able to easily cover that in addition to our salaries.”

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Learning from mistakes

While Hawkins has mostly seen steady growth in her wedding and event planning supply business, she says the journey hasn’t been all smooth sailing.

“The biggest mistake I made when starting my own business was not seeking adequate legal advice,” she says.

When Hawkins hired her first employee, she shared everything she could about her e-commerce business, including her suppliers and customers.

“She had complete knowledge of confidential business practices, as well as all of our advertising keyword information,” says Hawkins. “Little did we know that one day she would go out on her own and start a competing online business!”

Hawkins now has non-compete and non-disclosure agreements in place with her employees to protect her business and advises other business owners to do the same.

Staying afloat during the pandemic

As a seller of wedding and event supplies, Hawkins saw her profits take a big dip at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I always said that weddings would always happen, but the pandemic proved me wrong,” she says. “As the majority of events were being canceled in 2020, we saw a huge, temporary drop in sales.”

Hawkins was able to draw on government assistance programs, such as a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the Small Business Administration, to stay afloat. She also used this time to safeguard her business against future setbacks.

“We used the slow time as an opportunity to prepare for when events started happening again by looking into customer financing options and improving our product offerings,” says Hawkins. “Because of this, 2021 was our best year yet.”

Looking to the future

Now that Hawkins runs a million-dollar e-commerce business, she needs to respond to global events, including supply chain issues and rising inflation.

“Due to supply chain struggles, a short-term goal is to be more intentional about finding multiple product sources for our best sellers,” says Hawkins.

She’s also had to shift her product offerings to adapt to her customers’ shifts from indoor events to outdoor ones.

“[That] changes the types of products that are popularly used,” says Hawkins. “For example, our feather centerpieces used to be very popular, but now we sell more sparklers and heavier centerpieces that would be used outdoors.”

Through it all, Hawkins remains committed to her primary goal: selling “affordable products for our customers planning events on a budget.”

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Growing in self-confidence

Although Hawkins runs a successful e-commerce business today, she didn’t always know if she could achieve this goal.

“When I started out, I struggled with self-confidence and believing that I could run a successful business,” she says.

What helped, she adds, was starting out small and having a full-time job to fall back on. She also kept her initial investment minor and reinvested her profits, so she didn’t have a lot to lose if her online business attempts didn’t work.

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“[When] I discovered that my business would be successful, that is when I gained the confidence to quit my day job,” says Hawkins.

In the beginning, Hawkins also looked to other women in business for inspiration.

“My inspiration was reading about someone who started a wedding favors business from her basement,” she says. “She invested only a couple of hundred dollars in products and a website and ended up with a multi-million dollar company.”

Looking to others who have accomplished what you want to achieve can give you the jumpstart you need to take action on your goals, says Hawkins.

“This story inspired me to start my own business,” she says. “I saw that given the right products and strategy, anyone can build a successful business even without a lot of start up capital.”

About the Author

Headshot of personal finance writer Rebecca Safier

Rebecca Safier

Rebecca has been writing about personal finance and education since 2014. Formerly a senior student loans and personal loans writer for Student Loan Hero and LendingTree, Rebecca now covers a variety of personal finance topics, including budgeting, saving for retirement, home buying and more.

Full bio

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