Michael Swoape is the Chief Operating Officer of one4silver. With over 25 years of sales, marketing, and management experience, Michael currently oversees One4Silver’s day-to-day operations and leads a team of customer service-driven professionals. Under Michael’s leadership, One4Silver has grown from a business born on eBay in somebody’s basement from a one-bedroom apartment to a 31,000-square-foot facility that sells on multiple online marketplaces and employs six full-time employees.

The Seller Community Podcast from ⁠List Perfectly⁠ is the e-commerce resource for the seller community across all platforms and a hub for information on growing your business. Find out more at ⁠thesellercommunitypodcast.com⁠, leave a message, or ask a question at ⁠anchor.fm/sellercommunitypodcast⁠, or email us at podcast@listperfectly.com.

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Community and Seller Advocacy with Michael Swoape of One4Silver

Trish: Michael Swoape is the Chief Operating Officer of One4Silver. With over 25 years of sales, marketing, and management experience, Michael currently oversees One4Silver’s day-to-day operations and leads a team of customer service-driven professionals. Under Michael’s leadership, One4Silver has grown from a business born on eBay in somebody’s basement to a one-bedroom apartment to a 31,000-square-foot facility that sells on multiple online marketplaces and employs six full-time people. He’s also very connected to eBay. He runs a big seller meetup in Akron, Ohio that I’ve been to before. And with all of that, welcome Michael to the show.

Michael: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

Trish: Of course, we’re happy to have you.

Doug: Yeah. Thank you so much for taking the time. We’ve been wanting to have you on for quite some time, so we’re excited to have you here.

Trish: Tell us about One4Silver, what they do, and how you got involved with them.

Michael: Sure. So One4Silver is a small business located in Akron, Ohio, and we specialize in high-quality flatware, crystal stemware, and China.

Our company has been around for just over 35 years, but we started selling on eBay 25 years ago. When the owner of our business realized he could turn his passion for going to estate sales and auctions into a full-time business. While our business started in the basement of a one-bedroom apartment like Trish said, we now occupy a 31,000-square-foot facility, employ six people full-time, and sell on multiple marketplaces.

I started with the company 12 years ago. So the owner happens to be my best friend. So it’s helpful. And when he was working out of his basement, he said, Hey I’m working 16-hour days to keep up with my eBay sales. Can you come to help me out? When I started working for him, he was still handwriting his shipping labels.

So my first task was to optimize the business and bring it up to be a little more efficient. And once I did that we’ve just grown from there. So in the last 12 years, we’ve really experienced a lot of growth as a company.

Doug: So was it One4Silver that got you into silverware and flatware, or were you collecting or selling before that?

Michael: Before I started working for One4Silver, I knew nothing about flatware or China or tableware. So I thought it was an interesting business for sure. But the owner, it’s definitely, it was his passion for sure. And when I joined, I, I started learning pretty quickly. And now I would say I have a very wide breadth of tabletop knowledge, but still nothing compared to the owner of the company. He’s like an encyclopedia of tableware, definitely his passion more than it is mine. But if you told me, I always tell people, if you just say, if you told me 20 years ago, I’d be selling spoons for a living, I’d have laughed at you. But sure enough, that’s what I do today. And I really love it.

Trish: So One4Silver sells new and used. Vintage and Modern. So how does that work? What’s the balance of that?

Michael: In the beginning, we didn’t have any connections to major brands, so we started selling just what we would find at auctions and estate sales and garage sales and thrift stores and collectible shops and whatever we could find in the area, but when I joined the team 12 years ago, I thought, We already have all this knowledge and we’re very good in the tableware space.

Let’s look at bringing on a brand. And see if we can’t become an authorized retailer for a brand. So part of what I do here now is manage our portfolio brand. So when we started, I remember telling the owner, I wanted to approach a major brand in tabletop and see if we could sell for them.

And he said they’re going to tell you no. And I was young and energetic and confident and sure enough, they told me no. And they told me no for two years. So I would go to every industry trade show there was for tabletop. Like five times a year, there are different shows across the country and I would see these brands at every show, and I was just persistent, and I would approach them at every show and dazzle them with my knowledge of their brand.

And the owner would sometimes go and show him what he knew about their brand. Eventually. It’s funny, the first company that took a chance on us said we’re going to let you sell our stuff, so you’ll stop asking. So I always say that’s how we got started with our major brands and new products we started with one brand and we’re now 30 plus brands strong in our authorized portfolio.

Trish: So what I got out of that is annoying.

Michael: Yeah, sometimes just be persistent. Always be professional but be persistent. And I think sometimes they’re willing to just get you off their call sheet.

Trish: Go away, Michael! Go away!

Doug: So what are some of the top challenges as a seller that you have in your niche?

Michael: Yeah, so tabletop is certainly a niche under the home category, right? So we don’t sell linens or bedding or anything else at home. We focus more on the home. Primarily on, on flatware, China, and crystal stemware, things that go on your table for the holidays or when you’re gathering with relatives for a meal.

Some of the challenges I see in our industry now are largely what we sell our luxury goods. People consider them luxury items. You can eat with almost anything. When you want to buy high-end tableware, it’s a treat for yourself. The economy kind of plays a role in what we sell and right now our economy is unstable.

So I see some pullback of people buying high-end luxury goods right now, especially people with moderate to medium incomes. So it’s it just depends. That’s the biggest challenge right now is we want to bring high-quality items to people, but at affordable, value-driven prices so that they can still purchase from us.

Trish: I was at your facility, and I met your CEO. The facility’s beautiful, and your CEO seems very amusing. But he still goes outsourcing at garage sales and at estate sales. I find that fascinating.

Michael: Like I said, largely his passion. And now that we have some employees and some of the day-to-day, I’ve taken over a lot of our day-to-day responsibilities. He doesn’t have those on his plate anymore. So it allows him to live his passion a little bit which is wonderful. So he can find us.

And the thing is, we still bring some of our best values to our customers from those auctions and estate sales and liquidation fines. It’s his passion and he enjoys it, but it also helps our customer base.

Doug: Oh, that’s great. And from a selling standpoint, so One4Silver on eBay, I know you’re on Walmart.

Where else do you sell?

Michael: Yep. We also sell on Amazon and our own web store at one4silver.com. And I don’t want to say yet, but we’re looking to bring on additional marketplaces and we’re working with our channel partner, channel advisor, to bring those on board.

Trish: Yeah. Good for you. So you are what’s referred to as a niche-selling category like Doug said before. Do you mind just giving us a little piece of advice? I know you already did about being persistent, and I think that is, that’s, Great. But can you tell us about some advice you would have for other niche categories, like other niche sellers?

Michael: Yeah, I always say, if you’re going to sell something, try to know a little bit about what you’re selling or be passionate about what you sell. If you’re going to try to turn it into a business, definitely know your product and know your niche. I think that one of the reasons One4Silver has been so successful over the years is that we are very invested in the tableware space.

We know the products we sell very well. All of our team members handle these products every day in our warehouse. We fill all of our orders ourselves. We don’t outsource any fulfillment. So everything that happens for a transaction happens in-house here in our Akron, Ohio facility.

When customers call in with questions or customers write us with questions, we can just go look at the product and answer their questions or take additional photos or give them additional information that’ll help complete that sale. So I always say. Really understand the product you’re selling and hopefully, you can find a category where you can sell something you really enjoy or love and are passionate about.

I think that passion will often shine through in a listing or in the photographs or in the way you describe or detail an item and ultimately, it’ll help you sell the item better.

Doug: So do you sell personally, Michael?

Michael: So I used to up until a few years ago I tell you my day-to-day. My day-to-day operational job here keeps me pretty busy. In addition to that, I do quite a bit of advocacy work for eBay. It’s hard now to manage my own sales. I find that I don’t really have the time anymore. I’m too busy managing One4Silver.

Trish: And you just mentioned advocacy work for eBay. So I’d like to talk about that for a minute. You’re really well-connected at eBay. You’ve gone to Open, you’ve spoken at Open they, you’ve been with oh, what was it called when they went to Akron and did that?

Michael: Retail Revival.

Trish: Retail Revival. Thank you. I had a little bit of a brain fart there for a second, you are very involved in government relations. Tell us, a little bit more about that.

Michael: Yeah. So I love eBay and eBay is really how our company got started selling online. So we like to give back to both eBay and the community by being involved with different programs at eBay that help the seller community as a whole. And they also allow us to help other sellers thrive.

So in addition to doing the local meetup, as you said, I’m part of the government relations team, the small business ambassador network with eBay. I’ve done some advocacy work in Washington recently on the 1099k tax policy and ShopSafe Another issue that’s coming back around on the table. So I anticipate doing some future advocacy work regarding that issue.

eBay is only as successful as its sellers. One of the things they do right is that they turn to sellers for assistance when it comes to advocating for tax policy or advocating for governmental change. They involve sellers because nothing matters more to a legislator than the voice of the seller and the voice of their constituents.

eBay is a big tech company, and they often get lumped in with that whole tech sector where individuals and sellers can really advocate the small business voice and explain to legislators, how they were essentially, eBay helps create accidental entrepreneurs.

Trish: and not only is that completely true, that statement, but I also think that eBay does a really good job, and this, comes from my own personal experience, but eBay does a really good job of recognizing that we’re all little businesses. We need some people who need more support.

Some need less. Some people are full-time, some people are part-time, but we’re, but they do a really good job at acknowledging that they’re individuals, whereas there are other platforms that get lumped into one big thing. You don’t ever feel like an individual. And I think eBay does a really good job at that.

Michael: Yeah. I gotta say we, as a seller who sells on multiple platforms, I feel like eBay is my partner in business. And I don’t feel that way about any of the other platforms I sell on. eBay really has done a great job of cultivating community very much like List Perfectly has over the years.

And I think that sense of community is what drives eBay sellers. Every day, and often buyers. One of the things I look at is customer satisfaction and customer service. And I noticed just in general, eBay has a happier group of buyers. They just seem happier in general, overall. And I think it’s because eBay has common sense policies that protect both buyer and seller and make the transactions seamless.

Trish: I agree with you on all of that.

Doug: No, that’s great. That’s definitely a great way to put it. All right. So you obviously have a lot on your plate. Sure. Plate. We’ve been waiting for you.

Trish: No one’s ever said that to him before.

Doug: And so one of the super cool things you do, and by the way, I was at the first retail revival in Akron, Ohio. Have you heard that story?

Michael: I was there, so I have heard it, yes.

Doug: The other story is we went back to the hotel at night, and it started to flurry, and I got super excited, and I was outside making snow angels and stuff. And then it started to snow more, and it was a really big blizzard and I got stuck there.

Trish: It was a really big blizzard; it was three whole inches.

Michael: That is Akron, Ohio for you. It can be beautiful one day and then you’re snowed in three hours.

Doug: I should have stayed and gotten to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame museum.

Michael: I would say, my advocacy journey with eBay really started at Retail Revival. eBay’s government relations team actually reached out to me. prior to the launch of that program and said, Hey we’re thinking about doing this amazing initiative in your hometown. You guys are the largest seller in your county and you’re doing everything right, already. And we’d like you to come join us and maybe help do some education for other sellers and give your perspective. And we were excited to do that. And from there, I made a whole bunch of connections with government relations and Brian Burke. And it was my first time meeting him at that event. And he’s an amazing resource for eBay sellers. And me and him do tons of work in the community now. So I really enjoy all the executives that I’ve met over the years working with the eBay leadership team.

Five years ago, I started doing meetups and then COVID hit. We had to take a break from in-person events, but now we’re back to full swing and normally get between 20 and 40 people now at our events here in Akron, and like the kickoff party we had for open, we had 61 people.

So it was an amazing time. We always have good food and courtesy of the company I work for. One4Silver provides food and beverages at all the meetups. Come join us, learn a little about eBay, and tell us your story.

Trish: Yeah. And it’s great. Cause you’ve got a beautiful setup there and you can go, and he gives tours at the end if you want to do a tour, it’s really awesome, but give us some advice. I know you do this every time at your own meetup, but give us some advice for brand-new sellers, just starting out.

Michael: Get 10 things from your house and put them online. Like that’s the advice. Sell something. I know it seems so daunting and challenging, but the quicker you do it, the quicker you realize, Oh my goodness, somebody wants to buy this stuff. And you’re going to hear that cha-ching on your phone and you’re going to be addicted.

And then, my other advice is to join a local meetup in your area. Sellerevents.ebay.com will give you all the local meetups across the country. So find one that’s close to you and go and even if you’re intimidated by in-person events, just listen just listen to what’s going on in the room, hear, what other sellers are talking about. Most of these events are held very kind of low-key. Mine is too, like it’s just a conversation with sellers and we have a lot of fun and I learn as much as I teach at those events.

So I always go into it thinking I’m going to help another seller, but sometimes they help me. So that’s one of the real benefits to meeting with peers is that you get to learn from each other.

Doug: I know that you’re a huge proponent of customer service. So tell us how important you think that is.

Michael: So it’s long been my focus and kind of my passion for this business. One4Silver is a very customer service-driven company. We make sure that everybody is happy with their transactions with us. We go out of our way to provide excellent customer service, whether that be through text phone, or email support. I think customer service is a lost art in the e-commerce industry a little bit. And that people think, oh, everything just gets done through the platform and I don’t have to really talk to my customer.

But it’s amazing how far that will go if you just give that little bit extra to somebody. So I always say, people shop where they feel comfortable and safe. And part of making them feel comfortable is communication. And people sometimes just need that extra reassurance that there’s someone on the other end of the computer and giving them that will go a long way in, in gaining their trust and confidence.

And you’ll see them return over and over. I think that’s one of the most surprising statistics for me about our eBay store. We have a 10 percent customer return rate. So 10 percent of our customers have shopped with us before, which is pretty high.

Trish: Anything else you’d like them to know, like to say, any words of wisdom you’d like to put out in the universe?

Michael: I guess just get out there and sell and really just do your best. Nobody’s perfect. And sometimes we learn as we go. And that’s okay, but you gotta make mistakes to learn from them. Take the advice of other sellers, go to these meetups, and listen to wonderful podcasts online from other experienced sellers, Including this podcast.

Yeah. Join Trisha’s Mastermind group. That’s my advice to everyone is. It’s almost like a fake it till you make it. You can do it.

Trish: When you and I started selling on eBay, there wasn’t as much information as there is now. Now there is a plethora of information.

You can find stuff out. There are people. There are Facebook groups, there’s, a million different things. So things have really changed.

Michael: When we started selling on eBay, it was almost like other eBay sellers closely guarded their secrets. And it was like, Oh, we can’t give you too much. And now I really think the people, that thrive and do the best are the ones that share.

And That’s part of why I do, I, somebody posted online, and I agree with it. They said the people at the bottom are competing and the people at the top are collaborating. And I think that’s true. I think if you just take it in the sense that you’re learning from each other and you’re helping each other grow, there’s enough room in the eBay pie or the marketplace pie for everyone.

There’s absolutely plenty of room there for everyone to be successful and make money.

Trish: Michael, thank you so much for joining us. Chief Operating Officer of One4Silver, again, selling on eBay, Walmart, his own website, and maybe soon some more. He’s an eBay advocate and a huge customer service proponent, and we really appreciate you being here with us.

Michael: Thank you so much.

Doug: Yeah, thanks so much. Always great to talk to you.


Trish: Thank you for joining us on The Seller Community Podcast from List Perfectly. You can find us at the Seller Community Podcast.com https://thesellercommunitypodcast.com 

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