© Dennis Potokar
Elise Wetzel '92
the PTA to eBay, this alum's entrepreneurial venture is a winning
have a "marketing mind," it can be difficult to turn it off,
Elise Wetzel says.
you look, you will find inspiration for the next big thing
- even if you're a mother who has just decided to take a sabbatical
from a 15-year marketing career to spend more time with your
two small children, as this 1992 Kellogg School graduate did
stepped down from her job as a director of marketing at Unilever
to enjoy a few years at home with her kids, then ages 2 and
3. Like many professional women who temporarily leave the
workforce, the San Marino, Calif., mom was soon itching to
find a new way to exercise her skills. The likeliest outlet
seemed to be her children's preschool, which was attempting
to raise funds for a new playground.
them, 'I'm available, I'm Type A, I'm here to help," Wetzel
says. So the school put her in charge of the fund-raising
drive, which put parents to work selling candy and gift wrap.
had a better idea. Why not stage a virtual garage sale on
eBay, and direct all the proceeds to the school?
this plan, Wetzel, a veteran eBay buyer, started listing a
few cast-off items for sale on the Internet auction site.
But she soon grew frustrated with the laborious process. "It
quickly became apparent that it was a lot easier to buy things
on eBay than it was to sell them," she says.
searched for a local drop-off center that would handle eBay
sales. To her surprise, nothing of the sort existed.
was born Wetzel's idea for iSold It (i-soldit.com),
the nationwide chain of drop-off stores that is now the number-one
seller on eBay.
went through me like a lightning bolt," Wetzel recalls. "I
couldn't believe there wasn't already something like this
grad opened her first iSold It store in Pasadena in December
2003. Inspired by her husband, the co-creator of the Wetzel's
Pretzels chain, Wetzel established iSold It as a franchise
model. Sure enough, within several months of her launch, Wetzel
began receiving requests for franchises.
are 100 iSold It franchises throughout the country, with an
average of one store opening every other day. By the end of
2005, Wetzel expects to have 200 stores in operation.
building a world-class brand," says Wetzel, who draws heavily
on her academic training at Kellogg to ensure that iSold It
becomes the most recognizable eBay drop-off chain in the marketplace.
It workers photograph the items, write the descriptive copy,
answer questions from bidders, collect payment, and package
and ship the items after they are sold. In exchange, the stores
collect a commission of up to 30 percent of the item's selling
10,000 items are dropped off for sale at iSold It stores each
week. Together, the shops have completed more than 200,000
auctions on eBay.
has been beyond our wildest expectations," Wetzel says. "We
really hit a nerve with consumers. We hadn't expected to grow
it's been quite a change from the stay-at-home lifestyle she
envisioned when she decided to shift gears three years ago.
has been sort of an accidental re-entry into the workforce,"
she says. "The timing actually was great, because my son was
starting preschool when I got back into it.
I had to move quickly," she adds. "When you feel that you're
on to a big idea, it's important to chase it sooner rather
than later. Windows of opportunity do open, but after the
first movers and market leaders are established, the windows
Wetzel hired a president and CEO with whom she shares responsibilities
for running the business. "That's really helped me regain
some of the work/family balance I'd left at the door," she
children have proven to be sharp-eyed participants in their
mother's venture. In fact, the two have convinced their parents
to unload more than a few family items on eBay.
isn't much left in my house," Wetzel says with a laugh. "We've
auctioned off a lot of it."
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