Interview with Ben Pagel

Many of us like to think about having a supplementary source of income, but few actually move forward to do something about it. But, what if you turned your interest into a side business, while getting the girl of your dreams a proper ring, and becoming a successful reseller!

Join us, as we ask Ben Pagel from a couple of questions about his entrepreneurial journey to launching and maintaining a successful Ebay book store.

  1. What was your initial inspiration to sell these books? Did your love for books contribute to your business venture?

I have been an avid reader all my life and began collecting books in early high school. The hobby grew through college years and beyond until I had quite the substantial collection that I was hauling from apartment to apartment.

I met my wife in 2011; she was teaching English at the time and was also a very active book collector. On our 4th date, we joked about me starting a bookstore someday where we would sell old books, wine, coffee, and local honey and I could call it a “buzz” bookstore.

When I was eager to propose but facing already significant credit card debt, I decided to jump off a ledge and use that idea to build an online store, turning my love and knowledge of book collecting into a business with a singular goal (buy a ring!). I did buy that ring and then kept on growing the bookstore to be what it is today.

  1. You found your first batch on Craigslist; did you have any difficulty in establishing a supply chain? If possible, can you give us an insight into your supply chain?

Stocking a highly-curated collection of antique and rare books takes patience and individual effort. While the bookstore started as 2,000 mixed books from a storage unit, it was evolved to be highly-focused on rare books and titles of my own interest. Every single book I sell is personally chosen by me and purchased for resale from a large variety of (secret) sources.

  1. You are running this as a side business. What is your current annual revenue?

I would rather not be specific here. I will say that it is definitely not enough for me to quit my day job but it has allowed me to pay of 5-figure credit card debt, buy a wedding ring, fund a house down payment, and (hopefully) put a new HVAC system into that house soon.

  1. How long did it take you to break even?

From my initial inventory purchase of 2,000 books for $400, I broke even within 3 weeks of launch. That being said, I was storing those books in a studio apartment at the time so I had very low overhead and setup costs. The single largest cost in this business was and will always be my own time.

  1. Networking plays an important role in promoting any business. How has your experience been in this regard?

I actively participate in a few online networking groups for online retailers and entrepreneurs, where I have been able to share ideas, tips, and tricks. Through these groups, I have been introduced to many online tools to increase productivity and reach.

  1. Is social media an effective tool to increase your outreach?

Social media has been the single most effective tool for increasing my brand reach. Buzz Bookstore currently has 88K followers on Twitter, which has been the primary platform. I have increased that community over the last 3 years through curated and original content that is relevant to my potential consumer, as well as through engagement activities like the current Buzz 154 Project.

This project aims to collect crowd sourced videos of literature lovers reading each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets (one per person). The project launched 5 days ago and has already attracted 92 volunteers and delivered 20 videos for the Buzz Bookstore YouTube page. I am also active on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest with brand pages.

  1. Lastly, there are many aspiring entrepreneurs out there, who are facing difficulties in bringing their products/services to the market. What would be your advice to them?

Build a brand, don’t just sell a product or service. Put a human face on your brand as often as possible. Create as many individual connections with potential users/consumers as possible and carve out a space in their hearts and minds. Don’t push too hard for the sell; they’ll come back to you when they are ready. But most importantly, be patient. I don’t expect that Buzz Bookstore will ever be a million dollar brand but it has grown steadily through patience and hard work.

Oh, and keep very strict records, fill out a Schedule C, and hire an accountant if you need to.