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Careerography (part 2)

The following summer, I went to study abroad in Italy…wow, best summer of my life. It really opened my eyes to just how big this world is, how many people are in it, and how much there really is to see and explore. I could really spend months talking about this, but that’s not the goal here. The trip also gave me an idea…

That school year I worked at Parking Solutions, a local valet company. The job was pretty great because the pay was incredible, and it was sort of fun (driving great cars, running around). I also obsessed over the business model, and couldn’t believe at how simple it was and how much cash was involved (tons!). I also knew that I would rather work in something I could learn in, even if it meant less money…

So that summer, I went back to my cold calling “intern” technique and sought out an internship with a different sort of startup in Columbus, something more “creative.” That’s when I found Sparkspace, and called…repeatedly over a month or so before finally getting a meeting with the owner/founder Mark. He said he had considered an intern, but never got around to pursuing it and was happy I called. He hired me the next week for the exciting internship I wanted, in a startup environment where I could learn a lot and make a difference. He let me run wild with marketing ideas, showed me the thoughts and concerns going through an entrepreneurs head, and taught me some of the tricks needed to be a successful business owner (especially the power of networking, this is a lesson I didn’t really absorb until recently, but I recognize him showing me that repeatedly while at Sparkspace). Most importantly Sparkspace reinforced my hunch that my ideas could be valuable, and possible…which brings me back to the Italy trip.

I had recognized the inefficiencies of the Italian computer market while abroad in 2002, and following my summer of work at Sparkspace, I finally did something that knowledge. I saw that a pda I could buy from best buy here in the US, could be sold on Ebay Italy for nearly $150 more. All I had to do was choose a model to sell, one I knew I could get, then get a picture of it and put it up for sale on eBay Italy. Now I can’t read or write Italian really (other than basics), but google translator can so I typed up the description, translated it to Italian and posted the listing. Then I waited. It actually sold for a $142 profit! So I bought the pda (I had just sold) from a website on the internet, and shipped it to the buyer in Italy. I was definitely on to something. Utilizing my dad’s credit card, I ramped up my sales and started making some good money just in time for Christmas that year. The business picked up quickly, and I started to move into a wholesale arrangement where I would take orders from ebay sellers in Italy and Spain then send them multiple unit shipments. It was definitely a nightmare trying to figure out how to get that many pda’s overseas, but ultimately we found the right size boxes and made it work. We did multiple orders of $5,000 or more, and ended up doing well over $70,000 in sales in year one (when I say we, I had my roommate Ryan helping me a few months in). While fun, and exciting, I ultimately burnt out on the whole business, as well as faced increased competition (bigger distributors here in the US starting doing the same thing, with lower prices). So I slowed down business, and kept it on the side for a little income stream (mistake, I’m working on exiting things when I’m finished, instead of keeping them around).

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