When Denise Martell’s father Al started Al’s Snowmobile Parts Warehouse more than 30 years ago, he hoped it would one day become a worldwide family business shipping powersports parts all over the globe. That may have seemed like a lofty goal for a small, seasonally dependent business located in a town of 1,000 people in rural Vermont. But today, Al’s daughter Denise has turned his dream into a reality.
When Denise was looking for a way to expand the business and bring in some off-season cash flow, she started selling on eBay. Now, she exports 30-40% of her products to countries all over the world. “My dad's dream since the 80s was to ship snowmobile parts worldwide—and with eBay's help we have been able to do that,” Denise says. “We have had a world map hanging in a conference room for years with pins marking the countries we have shipped to. eBay has allowed us to increase the number of pin locations in the map of my dad's dreams.”
eBay not only allows the company to reach a global audience, it also helps keep business going all year round. “Being a small family business, our employees are like family, so keeping them employed is very important to us,” Denise says. “Our business used to be tied to local customers, the local economy, and the local weather. eBay allowed us to expand our market reach and helped us build global sales that defy all these local factors.”
We talked to Denise about her experience as a SHINE Award Winner at eBay Open, and how she uses eBay to carry on and expand the family business. Here’s what she had to say:
Tell us your impressions of the SHINE Awards? What inspired you to submit your story?
I was inspired to apply after receiving a few emails from eBay about the SHINE Awards, which are a great way to highlight and inspire eBay sellers. My main interest in applying was to become a finalist so I could attend eBay Open in Las Vegas and learn more about building my eBay business. I had no idea it would be so much more than that. I had so much fun being a Finalist and a Winner, and it was my first chance to attend eBay Open, which has been a life-changing experience.
How did you campaign for votes during the public voting phase?
I first reached out to family and friends. Then we expanded to our business community through social media and email. I did it daily and was consistent. I never let up, even when I thought I was overdoing it.
What do you think made your application stand out and ultimately made you a finalist?
I think it was the story of a rural family business going global. We have a unique product selling used snowmobile and ATV parts and a unique story behind it all.
As a finalist, you received a VIP experience at eBay Open. What was your favorite part about being a SHINE finalist at eBay Open?
It was an incredible experience—from the moment we were picked up by private car at the airport, to dinner and a Cirque du Soleil show at the Bellagio, to the last evening meeting the Barenaked Ladies and receiving VIP treatment at the after-party. However, my favorite part was meeting and building friendships with other eBay finalists and sellers.
Why would you recommend other sellers attend eBay Open?
Until eBay Open, I had no idea about the eBay community living in rural Vermont, the incredible people behind the company, and the awesome sellers and the wealth of knowledge that they are willing to share.
What are you going to do with the prize money?
Our employees are like family here at Al’s Snowmobile and they are strong people, some surviving cancer treatments, others with children that have disabilities. I have shared some of the money with those who assist with eBay sales. I have also taken some of the funds and implemented a Financial Literacy Program for all the employees to help them make more money, eliminate debt, and pay less in taxes through a Financial Fitness Training program to help them be successful in their personal lives.
And, I have donated a portion of the money to last years Shine Grand Prize Winner Laurie Wong’s Charity, Reflections of Trinity. They are in need of a larger truck to serve more food insecure people and we have started a Go Fund Me project with other SHINE winners and alumni to continue to SHARE THE LIGHT from the SHINE awards and continue this legacy.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known when you got started on eBay?
I wish I had known about the eBay community sooner. Even though I have been selling on eBay for 17 years, I had never even met one other eBay seller, and I was mainly self-taught. My tip for success is to connect—with eBay for Business, eBay Radio, and other sellers and groups that you have things in common with. Connecting with sellers that sell similar items can answer so many questions you may have.
What eBay tools do use most and what benefits have you seen from utilizing these tools?
Before eBay Open, I was not using many tools, except for the Global Shipping Program. The Global Shipping Program makes it very simple to open the world up to your products. The newest tool I have been using, which has helped to improve sales and my listings, is the Growth section in the Seller Hub, which we use to analyze and improve our listings.
What motivates you to keep selling on eBay?
We started using eBay as a way to generate income during our slow season, as we are a seasonal snowmobile business. It has helped us to keep our employees year-round instead of just seasonally. In a family business with 15 employees, all your employees become like family, so you want to see them succeed. Increasing our sales on eBay will help the business, which in turn will help our employees.
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