profile 6

Designer Athletic

Mike Shelton helped put an extra $500,000 on his former employer’s books—money made exclusively on eBay—before going into business for himself.

Shelton is a plainspoken Southerner with an entrepreneur’s eye for business and a knack for turning a good idea into big money. In 2000, the golf course pro shop where he worked bought huge lots of overstocked, used, and refurbished golf gear to resell. Shelton was the guy responsible for auctioning off that merchandise on eBay. As he watched the prices mount on auction after auction, Shelton’s own wheels started spinning.

Through his business contacts and friendships, Shelton knew of many retailers who were languishing in “dead stock,” and he figured he could sell that on eBay just as well as golf clubs. In October 2003, Shelton founded Designer Athletic and registered the user ID “designerathletic” to sell through the online auction site.

The company gets its inventory—retail closeouts—directly from stores and wholesale brokers, but never from manufacturers. “The manufacturers really won’t sell to you unless you have an actual store,” he says. “You just sort of have to hunt around and find deals where you can and get stuff that way.”

Occasionally, Shelton will buy current merchandise—the newest model of Air Jordan basketball shoes, for example—and auction it off on eBay. That helps lure customers to the company’s web site and its other auctions, Shelton says. But so-called inline merchandise costs more and ...

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