MANY of us sell off unwanted bits and bobs on eBay – but Patricia Otoa Ayo has used the site to build a £30,000 fashion company which she runs from her garage.
And in November, after just three years of trading, she won the site’s Big Feels award, landing herself a £100,000 marketing budget as a prize, which she hopes will eventually make her a millionaire.
In 2017, two years after Patricia and her 42-year-old husband Viktor moved to the UK from Uganda, she started selling off the unwanted clothes in her wardrobe — and the seeds of her business, OP Chic Boutique, were sown.
She now sells high-end vintage and high street outfits which she buys from eBay and makes £3,000 a month.
The 33-year-old, who lives in Bedford with Viktor and their three-year-old son James, says: “One of the first items I sold was a Zara leather jacket I paid £4.99 for and sold for £50. After that I was hooked.
“I used to go to charity shops four times a week and buy items from there but since lockdown last March I now mainly buy on eBay to sell on.
“In the day when I look after James I package up the parcels ready to send out, then when he takes a nap I do paperwork.
“I list items every day — with this kind of work it’s really key to be consistent and that’s why my business blew up.
“No matter what is happening with my day I list five items minimum and if I have more time I can list ten to 15. Now I’ve won this huge prize, I think I can go on to earn millions.”
When she was 19, Patricia started out on a career in IT in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, before quitting aged 23 to follow her dream of becoming a clothing designer.
With just £80 in her bank account she began teaching herself how to tailor clothes on the veranda at the home of her mother Anne, a retired psychiatric nurse.
She says: “I fell in love with clothes after taking part in Miss Uganda pageants when I was younger. My idea was to tailor African clothing with a twist of modern design.
“African clothing is very traditional so I wanted to give it a makeover and my business took off from there.
“Within a couple of years I had 12 employees and a warehouse as we outgrew my mother’s veranda. I decided to set up stalls outside fast food outlets so people would be drawn towards the clothes while waiting for the food. By 2013 I had four outlets in Kampala.”
But that year Patricia met IT technician Viktor, and within two years they moved to Britain.
She says: “When I moved, I had to close my business, which was such a big decision for me as it was thriving, but I knew that I still wanted to carry on over here.
“My initial idea was to create the same clothing that I was producing in Uganda, but when I arrived I knew I had to figure out how things worked here. I wanted to suss out the UK market before starting anything new.
“I’ve always had lots of clothes so my husband suggested it might be a good idea to sell some of them on eBay to make some pocket change.
“I put up a few items which sold within a couple of days, and that’s where the excitement really began. Now I price items based on whether they are new with tags or pre-loved. If an item has never been worn, I reduce the original retail price by between 25 and 35 per cent.
“But items with expensive fabrics such as lamb’s wool or cashmere can sometimes sell for approximately 30 to 40 per cent more than normal.”
When James was born, Patricia knew eBay was the way to balance work and childcare.
She says: “I’d worked since I was 19 and I was so eager to get back to my business and take care of James at the same time. But I knew eBay would be really flexible for me and I’ve never looked back since. Now on average I make £3,000 a month net income. And it’s completely changed my life.”
The couple’s first UK home was a one-bed flat, which soon had boxes of clothes piled to the ceiling, and Patricia says: “I saved up and we were able to move into a three-bed house in October 2019.
“The house has a garage which I have made my office. I can store all my clothes, steam and take pictures, and get away from the rest of the house.”
Since the pandemic hit, Patricia has adapted her business model. She says:
“I used to go to the charity shops four times a week, however Covid meant I had to change the way I shopped and I now buy a lot more in bulk online.
“But eBay is so encouraging. Last May they gave me a payment holiday for the month during the lockdown so I could pay my fees back to them later and it allows me to be a flexible working mother.”
Patricia — who previously won eBay’s Be Your Own Boss award, with a prize of £5,000, plus £15,000 towards her marketing budget — says of her latest win: “The award really is so special to me. It was a complete surprise.
I didn’t start with much money and I always say it’s easiest to start with what you’ve got, whether it’s time, money or product, and use that to your advantage.
“So many people went through such a tough 2020 and so shining a light on these small businesses should inspire and motivate others to show you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
“As well as working full-time, I want to use the money to grow my inventory, attract more customers and use social media more.
“I also want to go back to my African roots. I’ve been researching how best to market this over here — and I’m excited.”
Here’s how you can too
- Use key words to help bidders find their way to your items. Follow the language in successful users’ posts when it comes to brand and product names.
- Take quality pictures of the product for your listing, use natural light and a neutral background.
- Share as much information as possible about the item and be honest about any wear and tear. Including extra details on the fit or feel of the product will give buyers a clearer overall picture of the item.
- Opt to end listings on a Sunday evening, which is eBay’s busiest time for buyers. Choose ten-day auctions to ensure the maximum number of bids. The longer your item is listed, the more chance of people seeing it, so unless it’s time-sensitive don’t rush it.
- Be realistic with pricing, look at how much similar items on eBay are sold for and use that as a guide. Ask too much and you will frighten off potential buyers.
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