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2017 SHINE Awards Rising Star Winner Katy Z.: Finding Success by Putting Buyers First

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Last Edited 02:22:44 PM

When Katy Zilverberg left her traditional 9-to-5 job for a career in small business consulting, she began selling on eBay as a way to supplement her income as she grew her new business. Two years later, selling on eBay is her business, and her full-time job is running her eBay store, A Boutique for Him.


Katy won the 2017 Rising Star SHINE Award, and it’s no surprise—she’s a shining example of how to find success by putting customers first. Katy says she always keeps the customer’s best interests in mind. “This means I make my decisions and design my policies with the goal of making it as easy as possible for buyers to purchase from me,” she says. For Katy, this means offering free shipping on lightweight items, 30- and 60-day returns, international shipping with no country exceptions, and making use of Best Offer on all listings. “Many sellers handicap their own success and growth by trying to find solutions to problems that don't actually exist, and in the process create more problems for themselves. eBay has allowed me to be confident in my business and my buyers, knowing that all buyers have value and eBay will support me as a seller.”


Her philosophy is clearly working. Katy’s seen incredible success, including 50% year-over-year growth last year. We talked to Katy about her experience as a SHINE Finalist at eBay Open, and her approach to putting the customer first.



Tell us your impressions of the SHINE Awards? What inspired you to submit your story?

I love the idea of sellers getting recognition for the work that we do. It can be an isolating business, particularly for sellers like myself who are a solo operation with no employees. We have to make more of an effort to reach out to build a sense of community. I was inspired to submit my story because I fit in more than one of the categories, and I felt like my journey was interesting and unique, something that could inspire other sellers or people who are just thinking about getting started.


How did you campaign for votes during the public voting phase?

At the time of the voting phase, I was involved in a large facebook group of over 30,000 members, so I had access to a lot of eBay sellers who were eager to support me and vote daily.


What do you think made your application stand out and made you a finalist?

First, there were my numbers, which show that in a relatively short period of time I was able to build a very successful, thriving eBay store. Beyond that, I think my overall approach to selling is appealing; I am very positive, follow best practices, focus on providing the absolute best buyer experience, and I'm always looking to improve my performance. On top of that, my involvement in the seller community and my work to help other sellers excel and lift each other up makes me stand out.


As a finalist, you received a VIP experience at eBay Open. What was your favorite part about being a SHINE finalist at eBay Open?

I loved meeting the other finalists and learning their stories. Everyone has a different journey, and I find the details fascinating. I would say my absolute favorite part was getting to know 2016 SHINE Winner Laurie Wong from Reflections of Trinity and 2017 Finalists Denise and Patrick Martell. I love the work we've been able to do since eBay Open to create the Share The Light fundraising campaign for Laurie. It's been a great experience and I hope we can do more to come together as a community to help each other.


Why would you recommend other sellers attend eBay Open?

eBay Open is a very special experience. The content is great, there are awesome workshops, and the main stage talks are super informative. The best part for me, however, was the community aspect, getting to meet and interact with other sellers from all over the world. Everyone who comes is so excited and proud of the work they do. They are eager to get to know each other and learn from each other.

RW40_100417_PQ_Blog_1160x748_2.jpgOn top of that, the access you have to eBay employees is off the charts. Getting to form relationships with eBay staff is invaluable. Every single interaction I had with eBay folks was positive and inspiring. It was clear that they were interested in getting to know us and hearing what we had to say about eBay. I think there tends to be too much of a separation between sellers and eBay employees out in the real world. There's a real tendency for sellers, when they get frustrated or are having a hard time, to see eBay as the “other,” a company that maybe doesn't have their best interests in mind. In reality, I think we are all partners, and I think eBay as a company and eBay employees are very committed to treating us as partners. We just need to be open and willing to build those relationships.


The eBay community is outstanding, but it's not just sellers or just eBay staff; we're all in it together, we can all grow together, and we can all be excited about what we do together. eBay Open oozes a positive community spirit, and I think everyone should experience that.


What are you going to do with the prize money?

I have a number of goals when it comes to my prize money. I've already hired a CPA to get all my finances and taxes in order and take care of my monthly bookkeeping. I also need to add to my inventory storage solutions, as my inventory is growing. Then, I will be doing some equipment upgrades, such as a new listing laptop and thermal printer for labels. Lastly, I will be using funds to invest in more inventory.RW40_100417_PQ_Blog_1160x748.jpg

What’s your single best tip for being successful on eBay?

Always be learning and improving. If you aren't satisfied with your sales or your performance, look internally at the things that are within your control to change. It's a waste of time to externalize your problems; no one but you can make you successful, so if you aren't doing as well as you'd like to, think about what you need to change. Keep it positive and don't forget we're all on the same team.


What eBay tools do you make use of most, and what benefits have you seen from utilizing these tools?

I use Markdown Manager. I have my store pretty much constantly on sale, cycling between 35%, 40%, and 50% off. I also use promoted listings for all of my listings. I think both of these tools result in a lot more sales. I've seen a big jump from promoted listings in the last month or so.


What motivates you to keep selling on eBay?

I love the independence it affords me. I like working for myself, being completely responsible for my own successes and failures. I love the hunt, the challenge of finding that next treasure and then making the sale. I love the diverse community of sellers and eBay employees. I love being a part of it, bringing positivity to it, lifting up my fellow sellers, learning from everyone, and helping people when I can.


congratulations Katy!  and welcome to 2002.   


eBay was the best site on the web 15-20 years ago.  Too bad they have methodically and relentlessly squeezed the sellers more and more every year, while destroying 'Search' functionality and cluttering the site with silly nonsense.


Congratulations Katy ! This is nothing against you Katy, but it's a question for Ebay...   I'm curious to know how she has 100% feed back BUT she has had 3 neutrals over a year...  ????  I thought your score went down if you received either... Am I wrong ?? 

by pinuphoneynut · Adventurer | Updated


by artattik · Adventurer | Updated

Interesting, and good luck to you. I do not know why it is not happening to us. Every single call to representative has been three or 4 times transfer  to out of coutnry and nightmare . Ebay loosing so many customers and putting pressure on sellers. It used to be a good place to sell, not anymore I have been with them for over 12 years never been more unsatify with all these pressures on the sellers and changing rules everyday. TTheir commision has becone ridicules, they juice the seller ,Great that you don't feel it.

by 3soleila3 · Adventurer

Congrats  Katy on Your Sucess!


by vermonter53 · Scout

You said................"I use Markdown Manager. I have my store pretty much constantly on sale, cycling between 35%, 40%, and 50% off. I also use promoted listings for all of my listings. I think both of these tools result in a lot more sales."...............

I was always pretty good in math and  your numbers don't seem to add up. If you are constantly running sales at 35-50% off and then are paying promoted listing fees on top of that and then Ebay and paypal fees on top of all of that, you are either losing money or are buying elcheapo product and/or your initial prices are way over inflated prices to be able to say you are 35-50% off and still make money.  I use the mark down manager but refuse to buy into the promoted listing scheme which basically means I would be paying them more and pocketing less. Seems like every time we turn around Ebay is changing something which means more money for them and less for the sellers for more work by the sellers.  I sometimes feel we are working together but most times not because many of their "policies" defy logic or common sense and when a person tells me, after being on the phone with 3 different people for roughly 3.5 hrs and proving there was a software error on their part, "the computer did it so there is nothing we can do about it" that is not working with me, but against me, and using the many many computer glitches ebay has, as a cop out for the fact that most cs reps have very litte power to fix or change anything. I could go on for hours but there is no point. If Ebay had a level playing field for all sellers, so our sucess was based more on what we did than on Ebay's "policies" it would be a much better place to sell on. As I have said before and to them as well "If you take care of your sellers, then your sellers will take care of you! They don't seem to get it though.


I Think Ebay need to rethink feedback policies 


ebay give you 3 chances for a certain amount of time to send negative feedback removal request to buyers


my question is if the 4th or the 5th buyer is happy and we have worked with them

to fix the problem or issue then why would ebay not allow a seller to send a 4th or a 5th

negative feedback removal in the same period


specially since  both the buyer and seller have worked out the issue


this is very unfair to sellers

by vermonter53 · Scout

You say in your video... "in complete control of it. I love it"... When working with or selling on Ebay, you in no way have complete control of it. I'm surprised to hear that, because on a whim, Ebay can restrict your selling ability at any time and you have no control. They can delete listings because of "perceived violations" of their "policys" They can completely stop you from selling and no amount of logic or reasoning with them will fix it because as I mentioned in my last post...."the computer did it so there is nothing we can do about it".... I was shut off from selling for seven days and even though I proved to them that their software caused a so called "policy violation" and it was nothing I did or had any control over, the above quote is the answer I got. I believe that many relatively small sellers on Ebay are daily living in fear of what Ebay can do to there income. I ran my own business for over 30 years and have been cutting back and trying to semi retire and have enjoyed buying and selling on Ebay but trusting that they are there for me and always backing me up would be a serious mistake on my part. I know from personal experience that things can go well but also can change for the worse because it seems that ebay is only looking out for ebay in the end. And by doing things the way they have been recently, I feel they are cutting off their nose to spite their face.

I do wish as I said before that our sucess at selling was dertermined more by what we do/did I. E. listings, descriptions, pictures, SEO etc. I hate the fact that Ebay can manipulate searchs to our detrement if we don't do things the way they want them done for them but not in our best interest.


I'm happy for  you and your sucess here Katy and I hope for you it continues. You certainly have a great attitude which does make a huge difference in any selling venue.


I, however, was somewhat puzzled by the put customers first idea (not sure I understand what was being said there) as I have always done so with excellent customer service both before during and after the sale.


I would especially love it if Ebay would display the same thinking, I.E. put their good sellers first and take care of us better. In the long run, I believe, they would make much more money which is their main objective in the first place.


Congratulation Katy,  I also run my ebay business alone but my question is how do you handle your business when you go on vacation ?  

by urraff · Adventurer

I honestly don't see how many Americans can even afford to sell on ebay these days, while ebay is allowing China to undercut everyone, and making it luck for US sellers to make a profit with trying to sell the same items coming out of China, where the Chinese government is paying shipping charges that enables Chinese sellers to ship for free, when an item only cost .99cents, and still make a profit. An American seller would be paying the customer, to their products, in the same situation.


Seems like, the only way US sellers are able to do OK on ebay, as of late, is to do what Katy is doing in, finding, and purchasing unique items to sell, that can't esily be produced and sold from China, at much lower prices. It is too obvious that ebay is giving China sellers preferential treatment with selling everything, and anything they want to sell, but will penalize US sellers for selling the exact same things.