Henry Bishop and James Grear of The Coin Supplier were recently announced as one of the winners of the 2017 eBay for Business Awards and this is their story:
Leaving school and starting work
The idea for The Coin Supplier came about when James and his best friend (Now business partner) Henry had just left school. They chose not to go to university due to tuition fees and instead started working on a building site. At first this was ideal for the young teens (both 17 at this point), but as the weeks and months passed a burning desire for bigger and better things grew.
James had used eBay since he was 12, and had ran a range of very small businesses through it. (For example, he taught himself how to fix up and maintain push bikes. He would buy a job lot of old bikes, fix and service them and then sell them on for a decent profit, so always knew that eBay was an option if he ever needed money.
Struggling for a product idea
Both friends wanted to work for themselves at this point, but breaking into the market or finding a niche product that sells enough to support two people was not going to be easy. They spent many long nights scouring for the web, looking at what other people are selling and then seeing if they could get it cheaper, but the chances are in this day and age that if there is a cheaper or more efficient way of doing something that is has already been done.
The desire to get away from being at the bottom of the hierarchy, is what led us to their business. They had sat down one lunch time together, still looking at possible ideas. One of which was kitchen appliances, which may be a surprise to you as it is obviously a very competitive market, but they had found a supplier that could make and ship the products we needed at a cheap price, cheap enough so that they would be able to sell them for less than the other business’ on the market at that point.
It was all going well and they had talks with the supplier about the products, until they found out about minimum order quantities. The supplier had asked for a minimum of 2000 units (per item we wanted) to be ordered at any one time. This was the point that they nearly gave up, how were two teenagers going to be able to afford to buy such large quantity of stock, let alone store them?
The Coin Supplier is born
Collectively they had around £100 in the bank at the time and were struggling to keep up with direct debits for car insurance, mobile phones and other every day items that we had bought. The lack of money was the reason that the idea came about. Henry was (and still is) saving up to go travelling around the world so his budget was tighter than James. One afternoon James offered to buy Henry a drink from a corner shop and, as he got the money out to pay for it, he glanced down into my hand and saw a coin with a design on that he had never seen before.
Keeping this coin rather than pay with it James quickly eBay’ed it to find its worth. To his surprise that coin was worth 6 times its face value and the duo realised you could sell money for more than it is actually worth! Instantly the idea hatched that if they could find a way of obtaining a huge amount of cash in coins, then they would be able to slowly build up a stockpile of the ‘good’ / profitable coins.
Quitting their jobs and going full time
After a few weeks looking for a source they were able to find one that suited and was affordable. Once they started, they realised what we were onto. Stayed at work for a few more months, in the evenings they would sort through large quantities of coins, cheering whenever they found a good one. They learned more and more about selling as a business on eBay and saw a continuous growth in customers and sales.
This is when they paid decided to take it one step further and quit their jobs as the business it got to a point that they were making more money through eBay than their wages. Since then they haven’t looked back. Each month has seen a decent increase in sales and repeat buying customers. This success has driven the now eighteen year olds onto some new ideas they are just looking to get up and running.
The duo are now so busy that they have their first employee – James’ younger sister packages coins in the morning so that they have more time to sort through coins and progress with their other ideas.
All the judges loved James and Henry’s story. One of the beauties of eBay is that any one can start and grow a business regardless of how little expertise the may have at the start. The Coin Supplier demonstrates that you don’t even need money to get started… or at least in their case not much more than a few coins in your pocket and £100 in the bank. If you have an idea and the determination to see it through you can succeed and grow a business.