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Interview: Sarah Davis: Attorney Turned eBay Gold Power Seller

Sarah Davis made her first sale on eBay soon after starting law school in 1999 - some old clothing items that netted her $120. Given that her husband was still in medical school and they already had one child, the possibility of supplementing the family's income through eBay was enticing, and Davis gradually increased her sales activity.

After her husband started a residency in San Antonio, Davis looked for an opportunity in law that would allow her to practice part-time and spend substantial time with her (now) 3 children. Most firms, however, only seemed to offer that kind of "flex-time" position to attorneys who were already established at the firm, not to new attorneys from out of state. Unable to enter legal practice on the terms that she wanted, Davis shifted her focus to eBay.

Davis found she could expand her eBay sales activity with very little capital outlay by purchasing high fashion consumer items on consignment. Now focused almost exclusively on Louis Vuitton handbags, Davis' eBay sales average more than $10,000 a month, which makes her a "Gold Power Seller."

Davis has also diversified into eBay education. Through her website - Auction Princess - she offers seminars that teach attendees the secrets of buying and selling successfully on eBay.

Click below for our interview with Davis.

JD Bliss:  You’ve created an entrepreneurial niche for yourself as an eBay “Powerseller” that you perhaps didn’t anticipate when you graduated from law school.  What was your reason for initially pursuing a career as an attorney?

Davis:  Being an attorney was just something I always wanted to do.   While growing up I was around family members and their friends who were attorneys, and with my love of debating in high school and as an undergraduate at BYU I really wanted to focus on litigation.  I attended the University of Maryland Law School at the time that my husband was at medical school in the Washington, DC area.  We moved to San Antonio, Texas when he became a pathology resident at Wilford Hall Medical Center there, and I passed the Texas Bar exam.

JDB:  Did you actually enter the practice of law?

Davis:  No, largely because of limited opportunities to integrate a practice and a family.  We had our first daughter before I entered law school, our second was born during finals week while I was in law school, and we now have three children.  It was important to me to practice no more than part-time, so that I could spend time with my family.  Most firms, however, only seem to offer those opportunities to attorneys who are already established with them, not to new attorneys from out of state.  I did have the chance to do some estate planning and probate work, but it didn’t really interest me and I didn’t want to compromise the family time that I felt was so important.

JDB:  Is that when you turned your focus to eBay selling?

Davis:  Actually I started selling on eBay in September 1999, when I was starting in law school.  I knew of other people who sold things in eBay auctions, and although I wasn’t particularly Internet-focused I found the eBay site easy to use.  I tried selling some clothing items that I was just going to donate to charity and ended up making $120.  For a family that consisted of a medical student and a law student with a young baby, that was a real revelation.  I continued to expand my sales activity, which involved very little capital outlay.  By the time it was apparent that I couldn’t enter legal practice on the terms that I wanted, I shifted my focus to eBay.  It’s estimated that over 400,000 thousand people in this country make full-time or part-time livings selling on eBay, and I saw no reason why I couldn’t be one of them.

JDB:  Your eBay sales activity is hardly the casual auctioning that most people do, though?

Davis:  No, I’ve created a very specific niche for myself in high-end consumer fashion items, now almost exclusively Louis Vuitton handbags.  Vuitton bags are always in style, never go on sale and keep their value.  I sell only genuine Vuitton bags, and 90% of the other items offered on eBay as Vuitton bags are fake.  I’ve strengthened my niche because regular buyers and bidders know my reputation for quality and bookmark my auctions so they can find them quickly.  Some of my customers have dozens of Vuitton bags, and they rely exclusively on my reputation for the quality of new and older bags.  I purchase my bags largely on consignment, and they sell for hundreds, even several thousands of dollars.  I’ve made sales in every state and in a number of other countries.  I have an eBay ranking of "Gold Powerseller," which means I average more than $10,000 a month in gross sales.  It's not all unbroken success:  sometimes you lose, sometimes you only break even.  But sometimes you can really win big, and that comes from knowing your merchandise and the best pricing strategy for it.

JDB:  Does that kind of sales activity involve a lot of time?

Davis:  I could spend a lot more time at it than I do.  I try to keep my direct time to around ten hours a week – anything more would take too much time away from my children.  But that allows me the time for good customer service (including followup letters to people who purchase from me).  All my shipment and postage records are automated and recorded online.  I keep my volume manageable by getting better at turning down people and shops who want me to take more on consignment than I really have time to sell.

JDB:  Are your auctions the only eBay-related activity you have?

Davis:  Thanks to my auction success I’ve developed another emphasis as an eBay Education Specialist.  I had been giving informal presentations on my sales techniques to small groups in the San Antonio area, and used a PowerPoint presentation that showed the eBay logo and screenshots.  I wanted to make sure I would not have infringement problems with their mark so I contacted them about what I was doing.  Because my sales volume is so high, they responded by referring me to the Ebay Education Specialist program.  I received training from eBay as an Education Specialist, and use the same presentation and materials that are used in Ebay University, a series of programs which show people around the country how to buy and sell on eBay more effectively.  However, I’m independent of eBay U, and make presentations to groups of up to 100 people in the San Antonio area four times a year.  I developed my own web site,, to take on-line registrations and provide information on the latest programs.  I had my first program for 2005 on January 22, and my next one will be in April.

JDB:  You’re obviously successful at what you’re doing, but it’s a bit removed from your legal training.  Do you have intentions of returning to the law?

Davis:  Certainly I enjoy what I’m doing now.  The law remains my first love and I’d like the opportunity to enter full-time practice at some point – perhaps in intellectual property, as I’ve become quite familiar with IP issues in the context of authenticating my merchandise.  But for now my priority is my family, and being able to fulfill that responsibility while having business success and not having to rely on my husband’s limited income as a medical resident is very satisfying.

JDB:  Do you think other attorneys can draw lessons for alternative career satisfaction from what you’ve done?

Davis: I’d like to think that my experience could be applied in a number of different directions.  The steps are basic.  Find something you enjoy doing.  Do your research to make sure there’s a market for it.  Develop a niche that you know thoroughly and that can bring you word-of-mouth referrals and repeat business.  It’s a formula that applies in a variety of ways – including the law.

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