Lack of “Canadian Experience” Made This Brilliant Woman

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It happened nine years ago and changed the way I envisioned my work life.

Up until then, I was working 9am to 6pm, had one hour for lunch, a boss and everything else that comes with a regular job in a big company.

Yes, the money was good and the benefits even better, but there was no flexibility and for someone who loves to speak her mind, I often had to swallow my words back.

That’s why, I did not mind too much when, nine years ago, I immigrated to Canada and was not very successful in finding a job in the marketing & events field.

Even my MBA degree was not enough to convince employers in Canada. They all wanted “Canadian experience”.

I had lots of free time and was spending much of it doing my hobby: making tiny scenes using dollhouse miniatures that I brought with me from Brazil.

Soon, people started making comments about those unique pieces that were so well handcrafted. My husband came up with the idea to start selling them online. I did some research on the internet and found that dollhouse miniatures were one of the biggest hobbies in the United States and that collectors really appreciate unique handcrafted pieces.

Soon, I signed up with eBay and started listing my products. The success was almost instant. I had several orders in the first day and soon realized I could not keep up with the pace without putting in bigger orders from the artisan suppliers back home in Brazil.

It was a great way to stay connected with my roots and also an excellent chance for the artisans to show their spectacular work in places they never imagined they could reach.

I did several trade shows in Canada, but it sure doesn’t compare to the level of sales I had over the internet in all those years.  After all, EBay is a gate open to the world.

Today, I have more than  four thousand customers and over 98% positive feedback.  I have even achieved “power seller” status on Ebay several times, the status granted only to the best sellers of the site.

Building a successful business online

People often ask me how to build a successful online business. Here is my advice to them:

1) Study the market to find out which products you can bring from your home country that will sell in Canada. Remember you have two powerful tools: you know the language and the negotiation tactics specific to where you are from.

2) This is the time you can think small! Small items are easier and cheaper to ship.

3) Find reputable sales and payment websites to start with. (I use eBay and PayPal – yes they do charge fees, but in my opinion they are totally worth the “world” of business it can bring to you).

4) Calculate your costs and check if the profit still makes sense.

5) Be accessible and fast to answer emails and inquiries from customers.

6) Put yourself in your customers’ shoes – how would you feel if you paid for something that is taking a long time to arrive, your purchase arrives damaged or it never does?

7) Make sure the customers understand your position as a seller and explain that not everything in the chain depends on you (you are not responsible for the way the mail system works, for example). However, be available to answer all the questions and offer your help with whatever you can.

Working from home

Working from home is not easy. You have to have lots of discipline to not lose your focus from your working activities while other things are going on inside your home. On the other hand, making my own schedule, being my own boss and having time to spend with my family are great benefits.

Nothing is more valuable than being able to drop off and pick up my kids from school, have an hour in the middle of the day to go with them to the park, cook nutritious meals from scratch for them and see every little development they made in their first years of life.

The recipe worked so well for me that, four years ago, I gave my husband the incentive to leave his regular job in a big company and pursue his dream, starting his own company and working from home. But that is another story…