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Tobacco Stick Success - Brent Burchett

When I was in high school, eBay was starting to gain popularity and I thought I
should get in on some of the action. But what to sell? Being raised on a farm, I
turned to our treasure of antiquities and accumulated piles of redneck junk in
stashed away in a barn.

I had once seen tobacco sticks for sale in a Cracker Barrell or one of those arts &
crafts tourists traps, and thought perhaps a market still existed for tobacco
related memorabilia and "country" type crafts. So I picked up an old hickory stick
used in the cultivation of our family dark-fired tobacco (valued at an unimpressive
7 cents for farm-use) and listed it on eBay.

I printed up a nice "tobacco stick history" on some old brown index size paper and
attached it to the stick with some bailing twine and took a picture with a state of
the art 1 mega-pixel camera. With much laughter and low expectations, I listed my
first tobacco stick on eBay.

It was a 7-day auction and I started the bidding at $10, feeling a little guilty
about such a blatant markup of the product. Two days passed with little interest,
until the first bid was made. I couldn't believe it, what a sucker!

Little did I know that there was more than 1 eBayer out there interested in antiques
and primitive farm goods. By the final day, 12 different bidders had escalated the
price to $58. I tried to show my friends and family, but they didn't believe that
someone would actually send me a check in the mail. After all this new-fangled
eBay stuff was all hype. There jokes and pessimism faded within the week, with the
arrival of my first check.

As you can imagine, I returned to the barn to pillage more 7 cent tobacco sticks,
and continued to sell 2 sticks a week, at an average of 25 bucks. As the demand for
tobacco walking sticks dipped, I created a new arts & craft type product with
tobacco sticks the "Genuine West Kentucky Tobacco Stick Ladder." Or practically, 3
tobacco sticks screwed together in my garage in 15 minutes. People used them as
decorative items (don't ask me I just built the things).

The first tobacco stick ladder topped out at $100 and brought in new and return
buyers every week. I began to crank out a few dozen ladders a week, unable to keep
up with demand. I continued to list the ladders over the next year on eBay for
retail prices averaging $25, but also offering bulk rates to regular buyers who were
reselling the ladders in antique and home & garden shops.

I found that the key to selling a worthless product is attaching meaning to it.
While I made fun of people who were spending money on something like a tobacco
stick, I didn't realize the significance it had to the buyer. Many of them said
they grew up on tobacco farms and that even the smell of the sticks reminded them of
home.

Over a year period I was able to make a fairly good income purchasing a new vehicle
and saving up money for college. I continued selling tobacco stick products on eBay
until I left for UK. After hundreds of hours in my garage screwing together tobacco
sticks I was sick of the whole thing. Maybe I should have kept it going on the
side, but it was fun while it lasted.