eBay working for Donegal start-ups

3 Jun 2010

Over 10pc of all online retail business in Ireland and the UK is conducted on eBay and almost 40pc of online retailers using eBay are based in rural areas, according to eBay instructor Michael Hughes.

In his opinion Donegal businesses are at the cutting edge when it comes to making use of eBay.

He was speaking as Donegal County Enterprise Board announced the latest crop of graduates of its Advanced eBay training course, which it has been running since 2008.

“eBay is a brilliant way for small retailers in Donegal to overcome obstacles that can block them from growing their business,” said Ursula Donnelly, Assistant CEO at Donegal County Enterprise Board.

“Rural businesses usually have problems getting access to a bigger customer base and are worried about getting paid by overseas clients. With eBay you can set up a virtual store in a few days, use PayPal for your payments, and you immediately have access to everyone from New York to Nagasaki.”

Each course run by Donegal County Enterprise Board has produced several new businesses as well as helping to transform existing ones.

This month’s participants included Foy & Company, MG Distributors, Kitchen Essence and Murphy of Ireland among others.

Irish Jewellers Worldwide

Helen Carr (26) from Cranford, has set up an online jewellery business on eBay called Irish Jewellers Worldwide. Her family has experience in the precious stones trade with her uncle and aunt running Rocks Jewellers on Dublin’s Grafton Street.

With a business degree from NUI Galway and a Masters in Marketing from LYIT, Carr had been helping her uncle with his online sales plans. “I began looking at eBay and could see there was huge potential there, so in 2009 I decided to set up a new online store,” says Helen. Within weeks she was building up a strong list of customers.

“One of the big differences is the spread of nationalities. For the Grafton Street shop most of our customers were from Ireland and the UK, but with the eBay store I have customers coming from all over the world – Japan, China, the US, most of Europe”.

Carr recommends doing some homework when preparing to set up on eBay. “I did some research to see what kind of jewellery is most likely to sell. For example, there’s a big demand for charm bracelets, so I decided to include that in the product range.

“But don’t get too hung up on research – the best way to learn is to get in there and start selling, to see which products work and which ones don’t”.

CEB training also valuable

Carr also found the County Enterprise Board’s training course very valuable. “They describe a clear step-by-step approach that I found really useful. For example, telling you how to go about selecting a trading name on eBay, how to present your products and how to make sure they’ll be found by potential customers”.

Regarding challenges, Helen says most of them are pretty straightforward. “You have things to learn, like how to photograph your products so they look well on your eBay store, and how to choose certain keywords to drive people to your product. But again, the best advice is to take a course and then get in there and give it a go. There are plenty of other small businesses who’ve managed to get up and running already across the county who’ll provide advice if you need it.”

Photo: Donegal Businesses going Global with eBay: Helen Carr, Rocks Jewellers, Paul Murray, MG Distributors, Sinead Mohan, Kitchen Essence, Paul Murphy, Murphy of Ireland and David Foy, Foy and Co. Photograph: Clive Wasson.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years