How did I use the startup mindset to successfully sell everything before moving abroad?

Some weeks ago, my life was about to change completely and I needed to sell everything from our apartment 😢 as soon as possible.

I was hired to go to work in Berlin, but before going me and my wife needed to sell everything, because we couldn't carry them and we had just one month before leaving. Then started the run!

Website Landing page

In the beginning we tried some famous sell-everything-sites, shared on our facebook accounts the items, facebook community pages, … , but nothing was converting. The first two weeks we tried hard, but we didn't sell not even a little napkin. Then on a blessed-sunday-afternoon I stopped, took a deep breath and though: damn, I must have learned something about startups from all these years than can help me to sell all these nice items. Let's think and let's invoke the spirits from the startup-guru-gods Eric Ries, Benjamin Yoskovitz, Alistair Croll, Peter Tiel, Steve Blank, Gary Vaynerchuk and tree points. And started organizing:

  • What do I want? Me: Sell all my adorable things
  • How fast do I want? Me: Well we don't have so much time, maximum 3 weeks
  • How much do I want to spend? Me: Spend? Please… Ok, not so much or in the last case 10% of the total value
  • Lean startup on life? Me: Always
  • How will I convert them? Me: Hum..

And there came the question we needed to solve: How will I convert them? Or what would make people interested on what I have? And luckily that was the right question on the right moment.

Ok, so maybe the problem that we can't sell is because we are selling more-of-the-same items of the internet. You enter online and you have the same blender, chair and microwave for the same price or even lower. Why people would prefer us instead? And that was indeed the success about our turning story.

Why are our products nicer, cooler, more charming than the other? Well, they are not, but we probably have something that maybe the others sellers don't have: We are selling things that we love, have amazing memories, are quite new, and the most important: we didn't want to sell, but we have to. And we started thinking how to show this feeling.

We decided to make a website that tried to transmit that: we are young, we are happy, we love our things, but unfortunately, we need to let them go. And that was what we did. In a warm Brazilian afternoon, I decided to make the website that would help us to sell our things.

And following the Lean Startup practices I tried to:

  • Build an experimental product.
  • Measure how people respond to your experiment.
  • Learn whether your experiment worked or not.

And in my case the MVP shouldn't take so long, but should have the essential to make people interested on my products and buy then.

In that afternoon, I chose o build my own website using a fast tech stack, because I tried a lot of ready site generators, but none of them would capture the caring, lovable and unique feeling we want to transmit.

After some hours the site was finished and also with an intercom plugin to chat with the user. During the next following days my wife took photos of everything we had and also uploaded the photos to our platform. I needed to teach her the basic of a JSON file, because the input was directly on the DB #keepSimple #beLean #geekYourWife

And then after some days, we went online. Yey! Just after finishing it, we shared on our Facebook account. And then Intercom didn't stopped ringing anymore until we had for the next days almost everything sold!

And from the first day we made some changes on the platform to try to convert more the users. Why they ask about some products and don't buy? So we used to make some hypothesis and try to validate them: New ways of displaying the products, new flags of the items, new way of showing photos, new way of contacting the users. We were trying to make some experiments and testing them. Some we noticed that really helped, some others didn't change anything. But in the end, everything went well.

The new way of trying to sell was successful and here are the things we learned from it:

  1. Make business about things that matters to you: We first shared a sell-everything-website ad, nobody gave any attention. Then we shared our personalized website and we add our touch to it. People went crazy. So, transmit your love about your business, people will notice it and will tend to engage much more;
  2. Try new ways of doing the same: if you are not reaching your goal, change, keep changing and testing until you reach where you want; We tried the ready made old way of selling, communities, they didn't work for us, but we simply didn't wanted to wait, we moved and made something that we believed more.
  3. Take fast decisions: If something is not working, try something else and keep an constant eye on your target; If we were waiting the ads to convert, maybe we would still have everything in boxes now occupying my parent's house.
  4. Don't worry about failing: Try whatever passes on you mind to reach you goal. If it doesn't work, it's ok, you will learn a lot with it. I could have wasted my afternoon programming my own website, but in the end I would at least learn some new techs.
  5. Be lean: use startup ideas on your life and all possible occasions. It's a nice way to live and solve problems, no matter about what.

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Flávio H. Freitas is an Entrepreneur, Full Stack Engineer, Tech lover, Dreamer and Traveler. Worked as CTO in several startups in Silicon Valley, Europe and Brazil.