How I Ran a Business Out of a Shoebox & Made $10,000

[Please welcome Brent today, as part of our Side Hustle Series. You probably didn’t see this one coming! ;) ]

Google started their search domination from a garage.

I started my niche domination from a shoebox.

I’ve had many side hustles over the years, and this one might just be my favorite.

You might think that it’s one of my favorites because I realized over a 600% return on my investment… but you’re wrong.

You might think that it’s the fact that I dominated this niche on eBay for more than a year, but again… wrong.

Then it has to be the $10,000 in profit… wrong again.

The reason this has been one of my favorite side hustles is that I was able to run it out of a shoebox from anywhere in the world.

That’s right, for a little more than a year I was a SIM card mogul.

It All Started On The Golf Course. Literally.

Brent Golfing but Thinking about Side HustlesOne day while I was playing behind a group that was playing a little slow (and while I was waiting on the tee box to bomb a drive), I was searching eBay for a SIM card to buy and drop into my unlocked iPhone to avoid the high costs of roaming while traveling.

While I was searching the listings, I noticed that there was one seller who was offering 50 SIM cards for $150, or $3 each. The rest of the sellers were offering a single SIM card between $7 and $14.

My entrepreneurial eyes lit up as I saw an opportunity to buy these SIM cards in bulk and then resell them one-by-one for a nice profit. What happened next, I would have never guessed.

I contacted the seller who was offering this bulk buy and asked how many SIM cards he had for sale. His response was “more than 700”. I quickly wrote back offering $1 per SIM card for all 700+ SIMs.

The seller agreed to my price and I sent over the money via PayPal. I was officially in the SIM card business.

Over the next year I ran this SIM card business out of a shoebox filled with SIM cards, envelopes and stamps, and sold close to 1,500 SIM cards for a return on investment of over 600%.

The low price point, small space commitment (shoebox!) and the profit margins made this an awesome side business.

I was making 600% ROI but I could have made even more had I not made some big mistakes along the way.

I often find that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes, so I’m going to focus on the mistakes I made and how you can learn from them in your business or side hustle.

Mistakes That Cost Me Money

The first mistake was that I didn’t put enough effort into my headline and ad copy.

Yes, “copy” isn’t just a word used by Don Draper on Mad Men. It’s a very important part of selling anything using words.

I figured that a SIM card was a SIM card was a SIM card and you either needed one or you didn’t. The SIM card was a commodity, and the buyer was going to pick the cheapest one available on eBay.

With that mentality, I would price my SIM cards $0.01 less than the cheapest competitor. Yes, a penny honestly made a difference. I would know almost instantly when someone undercut my prices, as my orders would virtually dry up.

Then I got a little smarter. I decided that I would revise my ad, so it looked different, very different, from everyone else’s ad. I went so far to use a template to make it look like they were reading my ad on an iPad.

I rewrote my headline to included some benefits that the customer would experience when buying a SIM card from me. My SIM cards didn’t do anything anyone else’s SIM cards didn’t do, but I was the only one that mentioned any benefits.

I added a sub-headline that said:

“FREE Same Day Worldwide Shipping. Experienced International Shipper.”

I also went to great lengths to highlight early on in my ad to show that I was a trusted SIM card seller having sold “more than 200, 300, 400, 1,000, 1,200+ SIM cards” with “more than 200, 300, 400, 500, 600, 700, 800 positive feedbacks”.

I highlighted my international shipping experience by listing all of the countries I’ve ever shipped something to and I even created a map with a star for many of the destinations.

Shipping Experience

I fully detailed the terms of the sale including any shipping charges, expected shipping times, shipping method, the return policy and more.

The result was that I was able to consistently sell my SIM cards for more than other sellers.

I had successfully broken the bond between my SIM cards and the price of the commodity.

This was a major win, as I was able to sell my SIM card for a buck or two more than most people on eBay, but I still knew that I was leaving money on the table.

This leads us to my next mistake.

How To Make More Money From The Same Amount Of Customers

Before After Customer ValuesThis was a low priced item that sold for an average of around $7. My margins were incredible, but at the end of the day a 600% ROI on $1 is only $6.

Sales volume did add up, but there had to be a way to make more money from the same buyers. I knew I had to figure out another product or service I could sell them.

The majority of the SIM cards I sold were being sent internationally. I had to assume that these people were buying a SIM card for their upcoming trip.

I decided I wanted to find an item that complemented their SIM card purchase with the hope that I would be able to increase the average value of my customers.

Since my customers were buying SIM cards, I decided that I wanted to offer them prepaid credits.

I started off by contacting each seller through eBay to let them know I could buy them prepaid credits and send them the PIN via email so they didn’t have to go buy them when they arrived.

When I remembered to email the buyers, I actually sold a few prepaid credit PINs, which validated the idea. The problem was that I wasn’t diligent enough and didn’t email a lot of my customers to see if they wanted to buy the credits.

Then I got smarter again.

A few years ago I had successfully automated the majority of the marketing for my rental properties. I followed this lead and connected my PayPal account to my Aweber account (an email service).

When someone bought a SIM card they would automatically get added to my list and get a request to confirm that they wanted emails with updates about the item they purchased. Although not everyone granted me permission to email them, I did get a number of people whom I could email about my offering.

Sure, I could have contacted each manually, but I felt my time was better spent on other things, so the automated route made sense.

I didn’t want to blast them with a sales email right off the bat, so I crafted copied a variation of Derek Sivers’ “Best Email Ever” so I started off by sending them a funny and entertaining email. Here is what that first email said:

Just a quick update to let you know that your SIM card has been hand selected by a team of experts and has been carefully placed into a form fitting protective envelope.

The best quality assurance engineers I could find from around the globe have each individually inspected your items to ensure that it was in mint condition before it was shipped.

Our packaging department leader, who by the way has a 3rd degree black belt in parcel packaging, wowed the onlooking crowds from the marketing and labeling department as she placed your SIM card in a one-of-a-kind, form fitting, envelope that would give up it’s own life to keep your SIM card safe.

We all gathered around the loading dock and threw a magnificent party to celebrate your SIM card finding a great home.

Traffic on the streets of [whatever city I was in at the time] ground to a halt as the Police department provided a 4 cruiser escort to keep the crowds at bay to make sure your package was placed in the mail box before the end of the day to make good on our promise of same day shipping.

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed your shopping experience with me on eBay. I know I sure did and I’ll never forget you as I have placed your picture on the wall as “Customer of the Year”.

I can’t wait for you to come back and see what else I have for sale at eBay so we can do this all again!

Your caring eBay seller,


(The above is based on a true story but some of the events and character may have been made up, changed, or embellished slightly. What is 100% true, is the care and attention I took in creating my ad and fulfilling your order. And yes, even SIM cards that sell for under $10 receive the utmost care and attention.)

I did link to the other items I had for sale in this first email, but the reason for this email was to make them laugh and make then want to open the next email I sent them. A day later I sent them this email:

Hello and thanks again for buying a SIM card from me on eBay, I really appreciate your business!

Since you bought a SIM card, I wanted to ask if you’re coming to Canada?

Whether you are coming to Canada on business, vacation, or even just live in Canada, I wanted to let you know that I can buy prepaid mobile credits and email you the PIN.

By having your PIN before you arrive in Canada, you can activate your account and use your cell phone (and new SIM card) the second the plane hits the ground.

I have purchased prepaid credits for lots of my SIM card customers and I would be more than happy to purchase and email you credits as well.

If you would like me to purchase credits for you, please simply hit “reply” and send me an email letting me know how much credit you’d like to purchase.



This email sold more prepaid credits than I ever thought it would, and put more money in my pocket.

I was surprised that people would pay a premium to have someone go to the store and buy their credits rather than just finding a 7-11 when they arrived. My guess is that because these people were on vacation, a sacred time for most people and they preferred to spend a little bit extra to have someone else do the work for them.

I was more than happy to be that person.

Major Take Always That You Can Use In Your Business / Side Hustle

Entrepreneur Eyes: The first major take away from this successful side hustle of mine is to always keep your entrepreneurial eyes WIDE open. Opportunities are everywhere you just need to look at things a little different to see the potential profit.

You don’t even need to be able to source screaming deals like I did on these SIM cards. I’ve made more than $30,000 in profit selling an item that I purchased at full retail and then resold for a profit. But that’s a story for another day.

Headlines and Copy Matter: The headline and copy of your ad can make a huge difference on price and sales volume. Take the time to craft a really really really good ad that draws your customer in, erases all their fears, answers all of their questions and helps nudge them over the finish line.

Small little changes can make a big difference. By adding an image with the locations I’ve shipped to solidified my position in the market place as the international shipping expert. Do you think that someone from Mongolia or Qatar would be more comfortable buying from me or someone who doesn’t mention that they’ve shipped to either of those countries, let alone internationally at all?

A side benefit to a well crafted ad is that you don’t spend nearly as much time answering questions from potential buyers since all of the FAQs most people have are already covered in the ad copy.

Line Item Extension: It took me awhile to figure out that I could increase the lifetime value of a customer by offering my customers prepaid phone credits before their plane hit the ground.

Not only was this profitable for this side hustle but it has changed the way I look at all my ventures. I’m always looking at my businesses and am trying to figure out what else makes sense to offer to these same customers?

For example, would my rental property tenants like to have a vending machine in the laundry room? I’m toying with this idea and will be sure to report the results back if I end up trying it.

You would be surprised at how much money is being left on the table by businesses all over the world. Sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees when you’re so focused on selling your main product or service.

Automation: If I would have implemented the automated follow up sequence to promote my upsell right from the start, who knows, I might have made twice as much than I did.

However, with great automation comes great responsibility. Just because you can use tools like Aweber to set up an automated email follow up sequence doesn’t mean you should bombard your subscribers with offer after offer after offer. Take some time to add value (even if it’s just purely entertainment value like I did with my first email) before and during the time you’re also looking to upsell or cross sell your customers.

Just look at how successful my first email was at getting my customers to open up the second email (you know, the one where I pitched my service):

Open Rate

If you don’t have any experience with email marketing, you might not think that 54.9% open rate is very good. Just take a look at these benchmarks where the average is closer to 20%-25% open rate.

Always Be Testing & Questioning: The only reason I made as much money as I did with this side hustle was because my entrepreneurial mind is always asking “is this the best way?”, “what can I change to improve profits?”, “what else can I sell these customers?”, etc.

If I wouldn’t have taken a look at my ad and decided to change the format and copy, I’m sure I would have ridden the price of this SIM card commodity down to a $2-$3. Instead, I was able to consistently charge more than my competitors and essentially put a floor into the pricing because when they lowered their price I didn’t lower mine.

Final Thoughts From A Shoebox Entrepreneur

Although I’m no longer a SIM card mogul, I think back on that time very fondly.

I loved hearing the “cha-chings” sound the eBay app on my iPhone made when I made a sale.

More importantly, the mistakes I made led me to make profitable changes to my SIM card business and many of my other businesses as well.

These lessons learned while working a side hustle are very valuable, yet often overlooked.

Of course, you’ll want to focus your time and efforts on side hustles that have good earning potential, but don’t overlook the value of trying something out that, on the surface, might not look like you’ll make that much money.

Some of the best ways to make money start with a small initial sale followed up by offering your customer a complimentary product or server at a much higher price.

What’s your current side hustle? Are you leaving any money on the table? Do you have any ideas on how you could make more money by offering a complimentary product or service to your customers? I’d love to hear from you so please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

Brent blogs over at – Verified & Organized Strategic Advice – and is one of my newest blog buddies. He’s a super smart (and nice) guy, and I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post by him :)

PS: Have a side hustle of your own you’d like to share? Drop me a note.
PPS: Want to see 50+ others we’ve featured here? Click this: Side Hustle Series

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  1. Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies May 7, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    This has got to be the best of the side hustle series here. Such an awesome business model, and hilarious, to boot!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 9:32 AM

      Thanks so much for the kind words! Don’t think for one second that I haven’t already taken a screenshot of your comment and forwarded to to my Mom & Dad! Glad you enjoyed the post and share a couple laughs.

    2. J. Money May 7, 2014 at 4:08 PM

      (I agree Mrs. Pop :))

  2. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog May 7, 2014 at 7:45 AM

    Great article! Well done!

    This is one of the most unique side hustles I have seen and I love it! I really agree with your takeaways. Headline and copy are so important! And there is my favorite…automation! Automation is my favorite tool in business, finances and especially with things I hate to do. Constantly testing and questioning is also important.

    Good read! Thanks for sharing, Brent!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

      I have to agree with you that automation is one of the best ways to take control over your personal finances and even parts of your business.

      Thanks for your comment, I’m really glad you enjoyed the side hustle!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:49 AM

      Thanks so much for the kind words! Thanks for reading and leaving a comments.

  3. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life May 7, 2014 at 8:43 AM

    Wow, Brent, this is quite impressive. I’ve made a few attempts at selling things on ebay, not quite as regimented as this, more as an attempt to make some profit on my “crap”, and I failed miserably. I’m also impressed that you were able to make such a cheap item so worth your while after considering all the fees and shipping costs.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM

      Stefanie, I use ebay to “sell my crap” as well and this is how most people dabble with eBay. The time required to set up an auction usually means you end up making a few dollars per hour leaving you wondering if it’s worth it. This is why I like to try to sell a whole bunch of the same item on eBay so I only need to set the ad up once and let it sell the same item over and over and over.

  4. Brian@ Debt Discipline May 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    Awesome! What doesn’t use a SIM card these days? Love that fact that you could keep you’re entire e-bay inventory in a shoe box.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:51 AM

      The shoebox was my favorite part too! When I traveled, I would take 50-100 of them wrapped by an elastic band and send them out wherever I was. I fulfilled orders from California, Hawaii, Florida, Illinois and in Canada.

  5. Jon @ Money Smart Guides May 7, 2014 at 8:44 AM

    The best part of this was that opportunities are everywhere, you just have to change how you look at things. As we grow up we tend to put blinders on and see things on only one light. By changing our perspective and looking at things differently we will see the many opportunities that are all around us.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:54 AM

      The ability to have “entrepreneurial eyes” is something that can be learned and honed over time. It’s just a matter of keeping those entrepreneurial eyes open and looking for opportunity. Keep asking yourself, “how can I make money from that? What can I bundle that with to add value? Etc.” You won’t believe how many items I’ve purchased a full retail value and then resold for a profit by bundling it or adding value in some way, shape or form. Thanks for the comment.

  6. John @ Sprout Wealth May 7, 2014 at 9:00 AM

    Very nice Brent! This is just proof again that there are opportunities everywhere, you just need to keep your eyes open to them and be willing to take the chance. Working in marketing myself, I could not agree more about headlines & copy. You want to draw the reader or customer in and if you don’t then you’ve lost an opportunity.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:58 AM

      As a engineer I used to think “a good product sells itself”. Although that can be true in some rare cases, I’ve leaned over the years just how important a few words here and there can be. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment, I really appreciate it.

  7. Greg May 7, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Wow. Long time reader, first time commenter. That was an awesome post. One of the best posts of all time on budgets are sexy. Very well done. I like how you broke down the lessons learned to share with the rest of us common people. Great post! Definitely in the top 5 ever!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:56 AM

      Wow, this positive feedback is amazing! You Budgets are $exy fans sure do know how to make a guy feel good! I’m glad that you enjoyed the post, thanks for reading and letting me know your thoughts!

    2. J. Money May 7, 2014 at 4:09 PM

      I think most of the top posts on this site comes from people that are not me, haha… But hey – at least it means I have good taste!

  8. Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 7, 2014 at 9:20 AM

    Awesome work Brent! That is how you start and run a business. You can’t complain with those profit margins. Even if it is just a few dollars, when you throw it into a percentage, it is quite massive!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 11:03 AM

      No kidding! Although the nominal dollar amount was low, I always loved walking to the mailbox knowing that for every envelop I was holding in my hand it represented a $6 bill. Thanks for reading and for the reminder that 600% ROI is MASSIVE! haha

  9. Melanie@Dear Debt May 7, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    Wow, what a wonderful, unique idea! Way to go, Brent!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 11:00 AM

      Thanks Melanie! The idea evolved over time to include adding the prepaid credit upsell. Although the bump in income was great for this side hustle the real value was learning this lesson and applying to to my other businesses! I recommend that everyone sits down and tries to come up 5-10 ideas of related products or services they could offer their existing customers. People might figure out they’re leaving some money on the table by not doing this!

  10. Kim May 7, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    I love how your $700 initial investment returned such amazing profits. I think people will always pay for convenience, especially on vacation to a different country. If you told me I had to find a convenience store in a country I’ve never visited to buy phone credits, I’d probably try to buy them beforehand, even if it cost more. You certainly found a niche that needed filling. There are some great lessons here on many levels. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      Kim, don’t you wish we could turn $700 into $4,200 every time we send an investment out to play in the world?!? I know is sure do!

      I’ve read that customer service creates price elasticity as much as 20%. That’s a potentially huge bump in revenue just for offering exceptional customer service.

      I was selling the prepaid credits for 50% over “face value” after I included my time, gas, taxes, PayPal fees, etc. Many of my customers obviously saw this as a fist price to pay for continence and a laugh for a funny email.

      Thanks for reading and for the comment. Much appreciated.

      1. J. Money May 7, 2014 at 4:10 PM

        I pay for convenience even without being overseas or on vacation :)

        1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:06 PM

          Want to buy some prepaid credits?!? haha

  11. Shannon @ The Heavy Purse May 7, 2014 at 1:19 PM

    What a great story, Brent! It’s true – you need to keep your entrepreneur eyes on because you never know when an opportunity may present itself. I also think it’s easy to get complacent when you start making sales, so I love that you find another item that would be of value to your buyers to market to them too.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      Shannon, I couldn’t agree more about keeping the entrepreneurial eyes peeled. I’m always in the look out for another stream of income.

      Adopting the “always be testing & questioning” approach has really allowed me to make more out of existing customers and traffic. I’ve founds it’s WAY easier to get an existing customer to buy from you again than it is to get a new customer. I see too many people focused on acquiring new customers while ignoring their existing customer base.

      Thanks for reading and for the great comment!

  12. Drew May 7, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Awesome. Thanks for sharing! I love the idea of being able to take this business with you anywhere you were traveling. For many of us that’s the ultimate dream – make some very Nice side Cash with no location restrictions.

    Also I too have used the eBay cha-ching app. For me it was a great little motivator. CHA-CHING.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      Drew, I have to be honest… There isn’t much that I like better, business wise, than relaxing on the beach with amazing friends and loved ones, between surf sessions and hearing the sale notifications chirping on my phone. CH-CHING!

      Now, don’t get me wrong… A lot of hard work goes into creating any passive / semi-passive income stream but the reward is worth the efforts!

      Thanks for stopping by to read my post!

  13. Brian @ Luke1428 May 7, 2014 at 2:07 PM

    Great story Brent! This just goes to show that ideas for making money can be found anywhere. All we have to do is get our heads out of the sand and recognize opportunities that come our way. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:34 PM

      Here’s to no more ostrich entrepreneurs with their heads in the sand!

  14. Bobby May 7, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    This is such a unique idea, and you perfectly illustrated that you can make an opportunity out of anything with a bit of creative thinking.

    I honestly have to say that this is one of the best stories have read in a while about creating an extra income. You took an idea that was there and gave your own twist on it to make it something different and provided an excellent service at the same time.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      Thanks for the kind words about this being one of the best stories you’ve read about creating extra income. That means a lot and I really appreciate it!

      A mentor of mine told me many moons ago that “there’s always a better way… Keep asking the right questions.”

      His point wasn’t to make us all sad and depressed that we could be doing everything better, he was just trying to illustrate that it’s always possible to improve. This thinking has attributed to many of my successes over the years.

      Thanks again for your comment!

      1. Bobby May 8, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        I will apply that same principle, not that I try to do sub standard work.

        Asking the right questions is also brilliant. I recently started to learn about asking better question, because better questions will give you better answers. Better answers equal better results.

        Unfortunately do not have a mentor, but I sometimes approach people I know to give me their opinion on certain things. When they say that what I did is a complete mess, then I am actually happy because then I know to improve it and they can tell me what needs to improve. If they told me that a few years ago then I would have taken offence, but that is the only way to learn I guess.

        1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 8:49 PM

          A great tool to help find yourself a mentor is… wait for it… a cup of coffee.

          Seriously. Identify a handful of people who you look up to and thing would be a good fit as a mentor and ask if you can buy them a cup of coffee. If they agree, show up prepared with some great questions to ask about how they became successful, etc.

          Let me know how it goes!

    2. J. Money May 7, 2014 at 4:12 PM

      Agreed, Bobby. Especially since Brent was so willing to take all the time to explain it all with pretty pictures and everything.

      For all you guest posters out there – this is how you do it! :)

      1. Greg May 7, 2014 at 7:31 PM

        Is Brent willing to do another guest post?

        1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:07 PM

          I’m always up for sharing with J$’s community of amazing people here at Budgets are $exy!

  15. Even Steven May 7, 2014 at 3:19 PM

    I run an eBay business as a side hustle and I’m definetly going to review some of what I’m missing, I love the email response for shipping, that’s perfect for my sense of humor as well.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 3:42 PM

      I have to give credit where credit is due. That email, as I mentioned, is all Derek Sivers with a slight twist.

      It worked like a charm. I had so many replies from people thanking me for the laugh.

      I really wish I would have crafted a funnier story-sell for the follow up email looking back on this now. Probably would have improved the conversion rate!

      Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts. Best of luck with your eBay side hustles.

      1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 5:14 PM

        On a side note, Derek is REALLY good about emailing people back too – I came across him the very first time a few months back and we exchanged a few short emails… Great guy! And smart as hell too, quite obviously :)

        1. Brent @ Vosa May 9, 2014 at 8:00 PM

          I emailed Derek a while back, letting him know I admired how he handled the $22M sale of CD Baby. I even said he didn’t have to reply as I’m sure he was busy. Not only did he email me back but he genuinely asked about what I did saying “The more I know the more likely I am to be able to help some day.” What a guy!

  16. Holly@ClubThrifty May 7, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Awesome job, Brent! You are truly an inspiration! =)

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:05 PM

      Thanks Holly! That means a lot coming from you!

  17. Joshua @ May 7, 2014 at 6:56 PM

    Brent, that’s an awesome side hustle! Thank for the inspiration!!!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      You’re welcome! Thanks for reading!

  18. Lance Cothern May 7, 2014 at 7:05 PM

    That’s awesome that you were able to use arbitrage and a lot of hustle to make so much money. The best thing is you can apply the things you learned from this low risk investment to much bigger things!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      Completely agree that sometimes the lessons learned while running a side hustle are more values than they cash.

  19. S Arun May 7, 2014 at 8:33 PM

    Great job and great article. It always good have multiple income to secure the financial future. Lots of my friends think it is hard to do business in ebay and they also think it is too late to start.

    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      A wise man once said:

      β€œNever depend on single income. Make investment to create a second source.”
      ~Warren Buffett

      It’s never too late to do anything. That include carving out a niche to dominate on eBay.

    2. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 5:19 PM

      Lots of people are that way… Also because they’re just lazy ;)

  20. Brian May 7, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    Great idea! I’ve toyed with the idea of selling things like this on ebay, but have a concern with electronic like this in case they don’t work.

    Did you run into any hassle’s with returns? If so, did you pay for the item to be returned, or did the seller?

    Long Term Brian

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 4:22 PM

      Check out my eBay checklist as I share more about my return policy.

      Ii sold around 1,500 SIM cards and I think I had to replace one that didn’t work.

      I had the odd person tell me it never showed up. In those cases I would just send them another one. The $1/SIM cost allowed me to eat a few of those.

      All in all, I did not have to deal with many returns / exchanges. Thanks for reading.

  21. Eric @ Money Cents May 7, 2014 at 10:12 PM

    Fantastic, thorough article. eBay can be a great way to make extra money (as you have obviously found out!).

    I just bought a SIM card a few weeks ago for $6 or so. Someone’s making bank! Thanks for the article and for the many tips. Much appreciated.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 7, 2014 at 10:40 PM

      That’s too funny that you just bought a SIM card a few weeks ago. Someone likely made $4-$5 off of you but the real question is… “did they then try to upsell you on prepaid credits?!?”

      I tend to find that people poo poo eBay these days. They give me the attitude that “it’s so 1999”. Not sure why it’s fallen out of favor?

      I’m not as active on eBay as I have been in the past, focused on other projects, but check out this page where I share screenshot from my PayPal account where I grossed $24,644 in a month by selling on eBay.

  22. Kemkem May 8, 2014 at 1:12 AM

    Very impressive!!! The email is a great follow up..very funny and love how it sets it up for the kill. I would have bought the credits as well. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 10:55 AM

      Thanks Kemkem! Nice to know I would have converted you into a repeat buyer ;-). I had a lot of fun with that email, had lots of people write back telling me they had a good laugh after reading it. Some even mentioned it in their feedback! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  23. Dave Lalonde May 8, 2014 at 9:39 AM

    This is incredibly impressive! I like how thoroughly broke it down for us. Random question, did this take a lot of your time or was it just another side hustle for you? Thanks for the post!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 4:10 PM

      Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed it!

      The day-to-day operations took less than 30 minutes once I streamlined them. I would have big stack of my “thank you sheet” (that would thanks them for buying, direct them to my other items for sale on eBay and encourage them to leave positive feedback and 5-star feedback), envelops, stamps and retire address label handy making the packaging easy. I then copied and pasted their shipping address from paypal to excel and printed their shipping label. A quick 5 minute walk to the mailbox and I was done.

      I would wait until the end of the day to batch process all of my orders from that day into one consolidated session.

      On days where I had 15-25 order it would take a little longer, maybe an hour. But at ~$6 profit per card the hourly rate was still very good.

  24. Carrie May 8, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    This is a great article and very thorough. Thank you.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it Carrie. Thanks for reading it!

  25. Mike Collins May 8, 2014 at 11:17 AM

    Great post Brent! I love that you were able to see an opportunity that most people would miss simply because you had the right mindset. And continuing to tweak things by improving your copy, offering add-ons, etc. is another great business lesson.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 11:26 PM

      Having the right mindset and your entrepreneurial eyes open is more than half the battle. Thanks for reading and for your comment. I appreciate the feedback. Glad you enjoyed the post.

  26. Aicha May 8, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    WHOAA! Gotta be my most favorite side hustle post in the history of ever!
    I’m a huge fan of Budgets Are Sexy and this post is the one that made it on my entrepreneurial friends’ inbox and my facebook wall! This made my day!

    Thank you!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      Aicha, thanks so much for the kind words. I’m honored that you email this to a friend and shared it on facebook. Thanks for reading and letting me know you loved it! Now go get your hustle on.

  27. Richard Anthony May 8, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    Great tips all around, Brent. So many things worth following up on, including automation. Your advice to “upsell” existing customers reminds me of retail checkout clerks who say (or more often grunt) something like “that’s it?” or “all set?” rather than to make a specific suggestion, e.g. “Do you have enough milk for the long weekend?”

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 8, 2014 at 11:20 PM

      When I upsold my customers I specifically offered them prepaid credits that are directly related to the initial sale. Yes, it’s very important to offer them something that compliments the original purchase. I’m sure I would have had a harder time trying to sell a boat.

      1. J. Money May 9, 2014 at 5:17 PM

        “Would you like a dingy with that?” ;)

  28. Dee @ Color Me Frugal May 9, 2014 at 12:41 PM

    Awesome work Brent! I am so impressed- I used to buy in bulk and re-sell on ebay as well, but I was doing it with cosmetics so I had some items that I could “just set it and forget it” cuz I had so many, but I had a lot of individual listings to create. And I’m pretty positive that my ROI wasn’t 600%!! I also did not get as creative with the add-ons. Thanks for the inspiration my friend!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 9, 2014 at 8:04 PM

      I’ve sold a lot of “one-off” items on eBay as well. They do take more time, but I always start with my standard ad (based off of my checklist) and then tweak it for the item I’m selling. It does cut back on the time it takes to list a new item. Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment!

  29. Nick Loper May 9, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    Love the hustle, and the various lessons and iterations you went through along the way. Awesome business — thanks for sharing all the details!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 9, 2014 at 9:39 PM

      Thanks, I’m really glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  30. The Phroogal Jason May 12, 2014 at 5:44 PM

    Thanks for sharing your experience and pointers on how to improve. Thoroughly enjoyed the lessons learned as a SIM mogul. It’s interesting how a bit of copy change and helpful email can drastically change the response rate.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 12, 2014 at 8:28 PM

      Thanks for stopping by to read and leave me a comment. Yes, it amazes me when a few words can dramatically change the conversion rate. I did one test on another one of my businesses where I literally changed 2 words and sales fell off the face of the earth! Needless to say I reverted back to the original copy. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

  31. Karen @ Money Saving Enthusiast May 15, 2014 at 4:06 PM

    What a smart idea. I never would have thought of that. I guess you do have to keep your eyes and ears open for those types of opportunities. Glad it worked out.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 18, 2014 at 12:38 AM

      They are all over the place. You just have to always be thinking “how can I make money from this?”

      The more you practice this the easier seeing the opportunity becomes. More often than not, for maximum profits, you need to add value or change the offer in some way. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

  32. Mike Carlson May 17, 2014 at 2:19 AM

    Thanks for sharing all the good and bad points you experienced in your business. I hope I could be as successful as you in business.

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 18, 2014 at 12:40 AM

      You’re welcome. There’s no reason you can’t be 11 hundred thousand times more successful than me. The first step is getting yourself to believe in yourself. Then it’s all about trying and trying and trying. Thanks for commenting and reading my post. Much appreciated.

  33. Davey Pockets May 19, 2014 at 7:17 PM

    Hi Brent,

    Love the story and even better yet the wording “side hustle” lol! How did you link your automated email to send out once someone bought from you? I’ve got to try that.

    My eBay side hustle has always been video games. Entire chain stores GameStop, disc replay, etc have been built off of buying back peoples old video games. I typically hit up yard sales, craigslist, and Facebook.. Tons of single moms selling their kids old games they don’t play anymore that go for a nice amount on eBay!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 20, 2014 at 7:36 PM

      Hey Davey, thanks for reading and for the comment. Great work on flipping video games that you pick up at yard sales and resell on eBay. I would really suggest you look into using an automated follow up sequence where you can promote other things to your past customers. There are so many complimentary products of services you could offer to past buyers of your video games. Even if you just sent them a weekly / bi-weekly email letting them know you have new games for sale. I used Aweber to manage my email follow up sequence. You will need to link it to your PayPal account but it’s easy to set up. Let me know if you need any help getting it all set up.

  34. Kim May 28, 2014 at 8:38 PM

    Brent, thoroughly impressed! Congrats on seeing a great opportunity, moving on it and constantly improving it. I love reading stories like this. Cheers!

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 29, 2014 at 3:15 AM

      Kim, thanks for reading and letting me know that you enjoyed the post.

  35. Jeffery Johnson May 30, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    I really enjoyed your post and hope to be able to come up with creative lucrative side hustle as well

    1. Brent @ Vosa May 31, 2014 at 12:57 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Keep your eyes open and try lots of different things (make sure you validate them before you invest too much money!) and I’m sure you’ll find a successful side hustle. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  36. I.Biervliet July 27, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    Hello Brent,
    I’m very intrigued by your story and even more so about the reason you stopped selling SIM cards. It would be something I would totally get into. Is there a fundamental difference between the usage of SIM cards in the USA and Europe (I live in the Netherlands). The only type of SIM cards we have here are either subscription or prepaid.



    1. Brent @ Vosa July 29, 2014 at 1:20 AM


      Thanks for the comment. First off, I live and worked in The Netherlands for a while and LOVE it! I talk a little bit about my time there in this post. I miss riding my bikes (yes, multiple bikes) everywhere!

      Back to your question, the biggest reason I stopped selling SIM cards was because my supplier realized I was selling them for WAY more than the $1 they were charging me and they decided to just sell them one-by-one on eBay rather than in bulk to me.

      The SIM cards I was selling could be used to activate a plan on a contract or a pre-paid plan. I would suggest that 99% of my customers were buying them to use the SIM with a pre-paid plan as everyone I know got their SIM card for free when they signed their contract and got their new phone.

      All in all, it was a great side hustle as I made a decent chunk of change and learned a few valuable lessons along the way!

  37. I.Biervliet July 31, 2014 at 2:29 PM

    Hi Brent,

    Thank you for your reply,
    I also lived in Utrecht for about a year.
    I eventually moved to Maastricht, a place you would love if you like old cities like Utrecht :)

    1. Brent @ Vosa July 31, 2014 at 7:41 PM

      Awesome! I’ve added it to my “to visit list”. I’ll look you up when I get there ;).

      1. I.Biervliet August 31, 2014 at 12:27 PM

        Let me know and I’ll show you the best places!

  38. Dominique C. September 11, 2014 at 5:14 PM


    I stumbled upon your article for the entrepreneurial advice, but I have a side-question. I too, am traveling to Europe and my Sprint service has crazy international fees for data, particularly. I did some research on buying a sim card, but I’m not sure if it will work on my locked iPhone 4s. Do you have any advice or resources that can guide me?


    1. Brent @ Vosa September 21, 2014 at 1:58 PM

      If you phone is unlocked then it should work with any SIM card. I would just go to the local convenience store where you can usually buy a pay-as-you-go package with a SIM card. Sometimes you’ll need to buy the SIM card before you get to where you’re going and (obviously) eBay is a great place to buy one. Hope this helps.

  39. Sabine March 29, 2015 at 5:14 PM

    Hello I am new to this side hustle stuff. All I know is that I want to live better then just paycheck to paycheck. Loved your article it gave me some inspiration! My challenge is trying to find an idea that is new. So many people sell the same things. I think how do people make money then? Why don’t you still do the SIM cards anymore? I am reading, listening and watching as much as possible to learn as much as possible and I hope to be successful as you and others I have read about. Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Brent @ VOSA April 17, 2015 at 2:45 PM

      Sabine, thanks for the comment and for reading my post. I want to stress that you don’t need some amazing new idea to make money on a side hustle. In fact, almost everything that people are doing has been done before.

      I encourage you to try to think a little differently. My favorite ways to come up with idea on how to make money are:

      1. How can I add value to that product/service?
      2. What can that product/service be combined with to add benefits to the customer?

      Using the SIM card example above, there were TONS of people selling SIM cards and everyone was offering the same thing. 95% of theses sales were international sales so by detailing my vast international shipping experience I made more sales. More initial sales gave me more customers to them sell by add-on product of the pre-paid credits.

      Another example would be Dollar Shave Club. Razors have been around for a long long long time. There is nothing new about selling razors to me. What Dollar Shave Club did was: (1) make the experience of shopping for a razor run with a great viral video. (2) They made their business model a recurring revenue model where they send you the replacement razor blades rather than you having to go to the store to buy them. This is an added benefit to men who are buying razors because they don’t have to leave their house to get blades and they’ll never run out because they get replacement blades shipped to their house every month. By being a little creating with the delivery of the razors, Dollar Shave Club did around $60 million in revenue 2014.

      My last example is Jonny Cupcakes and their packaging. They sell T-shirts but their brick and mortar stores look just like bakeries. Then they package their shirts in very creative ways rather than the standard plastic bag like every other T-shirt company out there. Check out some of these awesome images: They’ve created a unique experience around shopping and buying t-shirts and they sell like crazy!

      So, I encourage you to start trying to look at things with a different angle. What can you do to make the buyer’s experience better? What can you do to add value to the product? What two (or more products) can you combine to make a bundled offer that makes it easier for the customer to buy from you rather than three different places?

      Trying to find something “new” to make and sell is really hard.

      I’m here for further discussion if you’d like.

  40. Nicole Barnes October 2, 2015 at 2:56 PM

    Are we talking micro sd cards?

    1. Brent December 11, 2015 at 4:03 PM

      It was a mix of SIM card sizes. Thanks for reading and for the comment.

  41. Scott S November 15, 2015 at 1:34 PM

    Hi Brent,

    Thanks for your awesome guest post. Your entrepreneurial spirit is so inspiring and I can only dream of one day doing something equally as cool! Selling SIM cards from a shoebox; who would have thought it?!

    Do you have your own site? I would love to find out if you have any other stories which are equally as inspiring!

    All the best,


    p.s. I’m a huge fan of yours too Jay! I particularly liked your piece about Acorn and other such companies. I can’t wait for them to start operating in the UK!

    1. J. Money November 18, 2015 at 3:11 PM

      Glad you’re enjoying our blogs!

      Here’s Brent’s:

      Maybe you can convince him to start blogging more as he’s FULL of genius ideas – especially in entrepreneurship – but his time is always being eaten up by them… which of course is a good problem to have :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      1. Brent December 11, 2015 at 4:07 PM

        J. Money, thanks for the kind words my friend and for the constant encouragement to get my ideas onto “paper” for the world to see. 2016 is going to be a big year. Stay tuned.

    2. Brent December 11, 2015 at 4:05 PM

      Hey Scott, thanks for the kinds words and I’m glad you found the post inspiring.

      Don’t dream of one day… make that day today! Start with something small that has very little money risked. Validate your idea and, if it works, scale it.

      Keep an eye on my blog (J Money linked to it below) in 2016 as there might be a lot more coming soon.

      Thanks again for reading and the nice comment.