How I made millions on eBay
WITH three children under five, a mortgage and a salary of just $522 a month, Janine Dutton jumped on every opportunity she could to make a few extra dollars.
She and husband Glynn, now 43, were regulars at their local car boot sale in the UK, selling everything from children's clothes to toys, books and crockery.
Janine, then 27, had never even heard of eBay when, in 2003, a friend suggested she tried selling her wares online.
Now, 15 years later, the 42-year-old mum-of-three is one of Britain's 1,000 "eBay millionaires", and her company, Belle Lingerie, is one of the largest independent lingerie and swimwear retailers in the UK.
"eBay seemed like a good place to sell more expensive things," Janine explained.
"It was winter at the time, so we bought some cheap ski wear to sell as a test.
"Then we bought some very cheap underwear from an outlet, bralettes and knickers, and sold that, and I soon realised that I could make a living out of selling on eBay."
Janine started by going into outlet stores when it was sale time and buying up cheap items to sell on.
"We had a Gossard [British lingerie brand] outlet and I went there and we bought some suspender belts for about 90c, and they would sell for $20," she recalled.
"It took off very gradually. I can remember at each process I got more and more excited about it.
"You'd sell 10 items in a day, then 20, and obviously the more that you put on the more you're going to sell.
"As stock built up and the money built up, we could put more items on."
After a year, having made around $17,500 Janine gave up her day job to focus on building up her brand.
"I came home from work and told my husband I'd handed my notice in - I didn't actually discuss it with him!" she said.
"But he's really laid-back, he wasn't that bothered. It was a risk, as I've never claimed benefits or anything like that, so we didn't have any support and it did mean we were living off Glynn's wage.
"But I had confidence in eBay. I knew there was something there and I knew we were one of the first lingerie sellers.
"The customers were there, and we did a lot more auctions at the time so you could almost guarantee an income because you knew you were going to get some money back."
Janine has never taken out a loan for her business, and risked putting $14,000 on her credit card when she made her first order with Panache, one of her most popular brands.
"Thankfully I was actually able to sell $14,000 worth of stock before the bill was due," she said.
"We launched our website in 2005, and now we work with over 30 brands, and we are looking for some more.
"With eBay, you've always got turnover, you've always got money coming in, as long as you're buying and selling the right things.
"It's all been able to pay for itself, as when we sell stock, we get our capital back and then reinvest into buying more stock.
"The wider your product range, the more customers you're reaching out to.
"There's a customer waiting for every product that's available - you can have a size extra small and a XXXL, and you probably wouldn't be able to have that sort of stock in a shop as you wouldn't get the foot fall, but eBay reaches out to that customer, internationally as well, and that customer is there."
Having started the business from her kitchen table, Janine told how she quickly outgrew their modest three-bedroom home.
"When I ended up having to move all my children into one bedroom, I realised I probably needed to expand into different premises," she joked.
"We needed somewhere to store everything, so I went to a storage place, hired a room, then very quickly hired two.
"Now we've got two warehouses, and we've been here for six years.
"We've got four offices and we've had to keep building them. There's a marketing department and customer services, and then we've got a management office, and then my office.
"In the early days, my dad left his job to come and help me - he used to go to pick up the stock, and I'd then pack it in the living room then take it to the post office!
"That was 12 years ago. He retired about seven years ago, but my mum also left her job to come and work with me, as did my husband.
"She's still here one day a week - she should have retired two years ago but I begged her to stay.
"We've got 18 full-time members of staff, and we like to advertise student jobs throughout the summer because that's our busiest period. We've also got four temps, so there's about 29 people working during the summer.
"Two of my sons help out in the warehouse and my eldest works here - as does his girlfriend - while studying for a marketing degree. Everyone I know works here - it's a proper family business!"
Last year Belle Lingerie turned over $6.45 million - and that's expected to rise to $8.7 million in 2018.
"We usually expect around 10 per cent of that to be profit," Janine explained.
"We've seen a 30 per cent year on year growth rate, and we're still seeing that now. It's based on what you sell - if you're putting 30 per cent more product on, you probably will get that.
"We do reinvest a lot of our money back into stock and ranges and improving systems, as there's constant changes."
While the business has changed their lives as a family, Janine said they're still the same down-to-earth people they've always been.
"I wouldn't ever want to change, but it has given my children better opportunities," she said.
"My son can go to university, I very much doubt I would have been able to fund that for him before.
"We have a bigger house than I ever imagined, and we are moving again this year. It feels great."
* All monetary values have been converted from British pounds.