My Time as a Flea Market Dealer

Books during a flea market.
Image via Wikipedia

Growing up I was always trying out different business ideas. When I was 16 I became a flea market dealer. The model was simple: I mostly sold new and used CDs, along with a few baseball cards.

To get the CDs in an affordable manner, I ordered them through the BMG music service. The BMG music service was a program where you signed up for an account, received your first seven CDs for the price of one, and then received a new CD every month at full price. BMG’s goal was to build a recurring revenue business with a monthly service. For someone like me, since it didn’t require a contract, I’d get my seven CDs for the price of one and then cancel the service. After doing the service with each family members’ name at different addresses, I had amassed a reasonable number of new CDs. The used CDs came from friends and family that no longer cared about the music.

As for the baseball cards, since I lived in North Florida, there was an arbitrage opportunity around the Atlanta Braves and the Florida Marlins. Those two teams, including players like Chipper Jones, were the most popular in my area so I used the Internet, especially news groups and eBay, to buy regional team players from people in other parts of the country where the cards weren’t as desirable. With those cards in hand, purchased at 40% off the Beckett price, I’d then sell them at the flea market for full price.

After four weekends at the flea market I had had enough. It was a great experience doing retail sales in a heavy negotiation environment outside in the Florida heat. Everyone should do a sales job, and this was my self-made sales job. I ended up making about $200 each weekend — a better hourly rate than my friends working at Publix, but didn’t warrant the effort and inventory risk.

Looking back, I’m proud of my time as a flea market dealer, and while it wasn’t financially viable, the experience was priceless.

What else? What odd entrepreneurially endeavors have you done?

8 thoughts on “My Time as a Flea Market Dealer

  1. Love it! Agreed that some form of sales experience can really help out. After all, we’re almost always “selling” something, to our teams, investors, and of course, our customers.

    In the past I’ve been a Christmas-tree salesman, waiter at Macaroni Grill, internet poker player, dug ditches with a construction crew (always reminds me of Caddyshack- “Well, son, the world needs ditch-diggers too!”), worked in a warehouse in high school, and at college was a cashier for a spell. With the exception of maybe the cashier job, each gave me some interesting insights and experience that have helped shape who I am, and in turn the way I’ve been shaped as an entrepreneur.

  2. sold Kirby vacuum, and steak meat in rural Alabama and Mississippi! That was real tough, but I made 3G one summer doing it.

  3. I waited tables at a super busy, popular restaurant right out of college (while working on a startup). Truly a great lesson in customer service, sales, and in general dealing with people of all sorts. As an engineer/programmer, it was a fantastic experience.

  4. In elementary school, I started a recycling business that I ran for 5-6 years. I would pick up neighbors recycling, load it into my parents car and take it to the recycling center.

    In college, when Xboxs were first released, I would camp out all night at the store and buy several consoles. I made a nice profit on ebay.

  5. Traded baseball cards, sold gum and candy in middle school. Also used BMG music club, but to build up a CD collection, not to sell. Would get the 7 for 1 deal, cancel, and then resubscribe. Guess they didn’t track customers that well.

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