We mean business

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2008, 12:00am

Think before you throw out your old sneakers; they could earn you a fortune online.

Rony Chan Ka-wai, 21, and her schoolmate Tracy Wong Siu-yee, 23, like other young people, wear sneakers as part of their daily uniform.

However, they never dreamed that changing from buyers to online sellers of the shoes would make them rich and successful.

They achieved a total turnover of US$90,000 in less than three months, and won the eBay Young Entrepreneur Contest.

The success story began with a pair of worn-out trainers.

'I visited Europe with some of my friends last Christmas and my shoes were really worn out, I just had to get a new pair,' Rony said.

'But the trainers in Europe were so expensive, they cost almost three times more than in Hong Kong.

'Then the idea crossed my mind, 'why don't I just sell them online to the overseas market?''

Rony returned to Hong Kong inspired by her business idea. She discussed her plan with schoolmate Tracy - both are studying e-commerce at the City University of Hong Kong - and the pair decided to make a business plan.

They started by doing online and market research into the prices of sneakers.

As well as their own research, they attended workshops hosted by eBay to learn about the contest and how to run their business.

'We realised time was a critical factor so we worked 24 hours a day to ensure we achieved the best result,' Rony said.

The pair then started targeting the overseas market. They did not run out and buy loads of sneakers. Instead, they posted pictures of their products online and waited for orders.

Rony said this was a good way to test the market before investing capital in the business. After the bidding ended on shoes, they bought stock from Mong Kok's Sneaker Street.

'We learned the more postings you have, the more of a reliable seller you seem to be to the buyers, and they have more faith in you,' Tracy said.

Once their sneakers business had become successful, they realised that electronic items such as laptops and mp3 players were sold at much higher prices overseas.

In some places, prices were more than 30 per cent higher than in Hong Kong. Seeing another great opportunity, the two took advantage of it and began to sell these items in the same way.

First, they would post the products online and once they had accepted bids they bought the stock and sent it to their customers.

Despite making such a success of their first business venture, the pair said they had had to face obstacles.

One of these was the lack of positive feedback from buyers, which acts as a reliability guarantee for prospective customers.

Also, some of the items were lost during shipping to the buyer, which meant they either had to send a new pair of shoes or lose the deal.

Fortunately, these incidents were quite rare, which meant that they did not lose a lot of money.

The eBay Young Entrepreneur Contest started in 2006 and is open to all full-time university students in Hong Kong.

This year, there were 80 group entrants and 50 individual competitors.

The competition aims to encourage young people to learn marketing and business skills and start their own companies.