In late 1999, Michael was managing a shipping store called Pkg’s in Wellesley, Massachusetts. The internet was gaining popularity and many of today’s internet giants were just getting started. Individuals were just beginning to sell items online, and Michael was too. He began selling Y2K t-shirts on eBay and shipping them from the store. He and his coworker, a local artist who helped design the shirt, were selling and shipping merchandise across the country before and after the new year. This new concept of developing and selling products to customers worldwide as an income stream was intriguing to Michael, and he began research and development.
Internet commerce and shipping was quickly becoming an everyday practice. During this time, Michael was approached by an entrepreneur who had started a company a few months prior called MyEZsale, which sold items online as a service. They were almost ready to launch to the public and had a handful of employees working from a basement office in Framingham, Massachusetts.
After meeting with the founder, they soon joined forces to open the first public eBay drop-off service location in Wellesley, Massachusetts on July 19, 2000. A co-founder of the company, Paul Royka, was an appraiser on the well known series Antiques Roadshow. In the beginning, software development was the main focus but the need for customer service was growing rapidly . Michael helped develop policy and procedure manuals as well as planning logistics for the roll-out to the public.
After a few pilot locations, MyEZsale got the attention of Softbank-affiliate I-Group HotBank New England, who funded the company $10M and celebrated by inviting the entire company to their Boston Mansion Headquarters for a launch party. The company then moved from the small office in the basement with just a few employees, to a high rise office building in Braintree, Massachusetts where the company quickly grew to over 45 employees.
They soon opened more than 100 online selling service kiosks in shipping stores such as PostNet, PakMail, Postal Center, AMPC stores and Mail Boxes Etc. The stores were mainly in Denver, Phoenix, and New England. Michael worked his way to becoming National Sales Director, traveling to local shipping stores across the country to perform ongoing education and training classes for store owners. Helping to reassure the company affiliates of the opportunities in this new and emerging market, Michael became the corporate face of the company, and was considered to be the “boots on the ground”.
During this time, Michael was given the opportunity to present eBay Selling Service Kiosks to Kwik Kopy Business Center and Parcel Plus store owners at the International Center for Entrepreneurial Development in Cyprus, Texas. ICED has been in business for 27 years and generates about 42 million dollars in annual revenue. Michael’s meeting with the founder and ICED Chairman Bud Hadfield was a great honor, as Bud had been a business leader since 1967, and was a business legend.
Online marketing efforts continued while Michael was on the road helping to organize public events called Appraisal Days, where the public would bring items in to be looked at by the in house appraiser. The events were broadcast on local news stations which included live TV spots and radio commercials that were produced and aired.
High corporate operating costs and an intense burn rate eventually lead to the demise of the company. With tremendous success comes tremendous failure, as investors chose not to reinvest. Even with a team of 45 people working together, the company was unable to stand on its own. It was a difficult time and a challenging defeat, as employee layoffs began and cubicles were being sold. MyEZsale was shutting down operations. Michael handled the logistics of liquidating the remaining assets of the company and settled all auction transactions with customers. Along with the COO and the CFO, Michael was one of the last three employees of MyEZsale.
In 2002, out of his home in Connecticut, Michael started his own eBay selling service called OASIS, an acronym for Online Auction Service and Internet Specialists. Making house calls and selling high end items for private clients proved to be a better strategy for this type of service. Michael handled fulfillment by shipping some items that were warehoused on his property and by arranging for shipments directly from sellers to buyers.
This service was best for valuable collections, rare antiques, and even cars that normally would not be held in inventory or shipped through traditional methods. Large collections and large items were also a good fit for the service, such as a 100 piece Betty Boop collection that sold for over a thousand dollars as well as a few horse carriages that were used in the movie Amistad.
Working with small businesses like a local store called Matt’s Music, Michael started selling unique and collectible instruments, but eventually added most of the store’s inventory and developed an eCommerce website which enabled the business to sell online. Some of the unique items that were auctioned off included two huge Marshall stage amps that sold to a buyer in Japan for $6000 plus $2000 for shipping overseas to Japan.
In March 2003, Michael moved OASIS back to his hometown in New York to open the first dedicated brick and mortar eBay drop-off store on Long Island with his business partner and long time high school friend. Their first office had a great location near the Hicksville train station, where thousands of commuters would pass by and see their store signage daily. Soon they were selling items for clients from Manhattan to Montauk. The volume helped them develop a streamlined system for scalability and a model of efficiency for the auction process.
On December 15, 2003, OASIS was featured in Newsday, Long Island’s largest newspaper, with a 2 page spread and the front cover of the Business section. This caused the phone to ring for the next 6 weeks into the New Year with an abundance of new customers. The Newsday article got the attention of other media outlets, such as LI Tonight, a local television news program, which featured the company on their evening news and highlighted the auction of a baseball signed by Mickey Mantle.
TV Tokyo, a New York City based television station, contacted Oasis about filming a live segment in their second store location in Huntington, New York with customers and their items. They produced a feature on OASIS in a 6-minute segment that aired live in New York and Tokyo, Japan simultaneously. Watch the video here…
After a year and a half of operating an eBay drop off store on Long Island, Michael noticed another store called QuikDrop had opened up a half mile away. Where some may have found this as competition, Michael used this as an opportunity to connect with the eBay franchise owners, which then led to an invitation to visit the corporate headquarters in California.
The founders of the franchise were two entrepreneurs that offered satellite internet service to subscribers. They gave Michael a tour of their headquarters, during which they showcased their proprietary auction management software, which managed all customer transactions. After meeting with them and discussing the opportunity, Michael accepted an offer to work for the company and moved to California in October 2004 as Vice President of the QuikDrop franchise.
Michael worked to develop policy and training manuals as one of the first steps to growing the company. Creating a franchise sales DVD and producing television commercials for the service were among the top priorities.
Week long training seminars were held each month for new franchisees from across the US and Canada, and each week ended with a ceremonial graduation dinner.
Soon after joining the team Michael was promoted to President of QuikDrop. He toured many of the franchise locations and met with store owners across the country. During these visits, the opportunity for growth in the industry was apparent, such as at one location, where the documentary ‘The eBay Effect’ by CNBC’s David Faber was being filmed and included Michael in the show. He also visited eBay headquarters in San Jose to meet with eBay executives about the business.
The rapid growth and success of QuikDrop was also due to aggressive marketing and regular attendance at the Annual eBay Live Conference, where the company would present the opportunity to top eBay sellers and vendor partners.
Growth was also attributed to being an exciting new concept at the International Franchise Expo. It was such a new idea, as there were only a handful of other franchise opportunities available for this type of internet selling service.
The QuikDrop team would present the franchise opportunity twice annually at the IFE show and had extensive interactive marketing throughout the expo including creating the first registration display ads. All 36 show registration terminals had the franchise opportunity presented to the customer before even entering the showroom floor.
The excitement around the industry created many opportunities for partnerships with companies such as the United States Postal Service, which Michael worked with to create co-branded Priority Mail boxes that were distributed to all franchise locations. The success of the program lead to an invitation to meet their sponsored NASCAR driver in the pit row tent with USPS executives.
Competitive shipping negotiations took place with large companies such as UPS, FedEx and DHL. Negotiations with many other great vendors were commonplace at the height of the industry for products and services such as supplies, store build out, signage, and leasing contracts.
Michael also created a company intranet to facilitate and streamline logistical operations. The intranet provided access to training manuals, marketing materials, and shipping supplies as well as many other resources for franchisees.
Producers from the Discovery Channel reached out to Michael to help coordinate a nationwide televised auction of pop culture items called Pop Nation. Michael went to The Discovery Channel headquarters to meet with producers of the show, Discovery Channel executives, and eBay staff to discuss the series.
They held four public events in convention centers in Maryland, Washington, Texas, and California where people would bring in items to be appraised and sold online. Some of the items that came in during those events included the mechanical crocodile from the movie Crocodile Dundee, MC Hammer’s limousine, and various collectibles from The Beatles, Elvis, Disney, and many other items related to the pop culture era. The pilot episode of the show aired between Christmas and New Years but was not picked up as a regular series due to strong competition from other shows such as Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, and American Pickers.
Ultimately, executives from The Discovery Channel and eBay could not come to an agreement on co-branding. All of the items that were brought to the events and stored at franchise locations were returned to their original owners.
QuikDrop opened its first eBay drop-off stores in February 2003. Michael helped the company grow the franchise from 10 stores to over 100, including locations in Canada, China and Australia. The franchise sold a combined total of 50 million dollars worth of items, serving over 57,000 customers, and has processed over 300,000 auctions on eBay.
While at QuikDrop, Michael was contacted by Verizon Broadband Stories, a collection of interviews with people who make a living using the internet. Michael discussed his experiences of creating a livelihood through the internet. The interviews were posted on their website during the promotional time and visitors to the website could choose to see videos of people who made a living using the internet. The interviews were featured in an app which allowed them to be played on a digital billboard displayed in New York City’s Times Square. It was a great honor for Michael to be interviewed and recognized for his success in eCommerce by Verizon Broadband Stories.
Facing many struggles with the long-term survival of the franchise, Michael met with Ken Sully the CEO of ISoldIt. They were the leading eBay drop off store franchise at the time. The company had gained exposure by having their coupon included in all copies of the DVD The 40 Year Old Virgin. Ken agreed that more awareness would help all the franchisees, and used the phrase “high waters helps all ships float”. He was a smart man with a background in the Postal Connections and Mail Boxes Etc. franchise models. In April 2009, Kenneth Sully tragically died in a motorcycle accident in San Diego, California.
The franchise business model did not prove strong enough to support the cost of renting retail space in strip malls. Some retail model franchises and warehouse operations still exist today, but largely all of the eBay drop-off stores have closed, including QuikDrop, which closed its corporate headquarters in December 2007.
Shortly after QuikDrop, Michael consulted with another eBay franchise operation in Florida, The Online Outpost, which was also short lived. They had a few locations throughout Florida reselling CD’s and DVD’s, but never really got off the ground.
After working with franchises, Michael went back to working with private clients and was contacted to auction off a rare oil painting of King Louis XVIII. The massive painting was 10 by 8 feet, and the owner was asking a million dollars. Once previously listed at Christie’s Auction House, this painting was considered authentic but was not painted by the King’s official painter at the time and was removed.
Helping private clients with high value items and hard to sell items became Michael’s specialty and he has been assisting businesses selling items online since his departure from the franchise world.
He’s currently working on an upcoming auction event featuring Antique Bolt Action Rifles and Bayonets from WW1 & WW2. If you have an interesting, unique or outrageous items to sell, get in touch with details about your items and we’ll help you sell them.