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Becoming a Reseller: Getting Started 101 for Small Business Owners

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Becoming a Reseller: Getting Started 101 for Small Business Owners

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 18, 2010 Updated: June 13, 2011

From beauty products to Google Apps to reselling consignment on eBay; the opportunities for becoming a reseller are endless.

What are Resellers?- A reseller is a business or business owner who buys a product from a manufacturer, vendor or wholesaler at a lower cost and-resell' that product at a higher cost either online or through traditional offline direct channels.

While some companies require you to carry an inventory, others may ship goods directly to the end customer, with you acting as the transactional/order processing interface' which makes reselling a popular start-up entrepreneurial opportunity for home-based businesses.

The resale business model is almost limitless in its scope and opportunity, some businesses focus exclusively on resale as their main source of income. Others choose to supplement their existing product and revenue streams with resale goods (either by becoming an affiliate or channel partner of the manufacture'a common approach for small technology businesses.

There are many channels for reselling goods. Some entrepreneurs resell goods through eBay or via their own Web sites. Others sell through their stores, or direct through B2B or B2C sales channels. Some even buy from eBay and resell through another channel.

While i's somewhat of a misconception to suggest that becoming a reseller requires little up front risk-taking, training or skill, becoming a reseller does offer entrepreneurs a great way to get into business.

If you are interested in becoming a reseller, here are a few things to understand about how the reseller industry works together with some pointers for finding, assessing and securing the right reseller opportunity for you.

  • Finding the Right Fit

    Finding the right fit means starts with finding the right product(s) or service to resell. This does't mean you have to be a product expert, but you do need to be able to feel and demonstrate the motivation and emotional investment needed to make your resale business a success.

    To assess the potential success of your chosen product, you will also need to research and understand the market landscape (demand, competition, price points, etc.)' something your supplier or affiliate will hope to see you demonstrate too.

    This Market Research Guide from Business.gov is specifically geared towards small business owners and walks you through each stage of conducting market research. It also includes links to free market and demographic data.

    • Finding the Right Opportunity

    If you are looking to supplement your existing products and services with a resale relationship'for example, you specialize in computer repair services, but want to expand your offerings to include computer hardware and peripherals' you might want to consider a resale opportunity with a known brand manufacturer.

    On the other hand, if you are a start-up and are interested in becoming an Internet reseller, you may need to dig a little deeper. Read *Step One to Becoming an Internet Reseller: Choosing the Right Product in which *StartUpPrincess.com expert, Erika Wilde offers tips for not only finding the right product to sell but also how to find and approach the source of that product, whether it's a manufacturer or Internet wholesaler.

    • Avoid Scams

    Be mindful of business opportunity scams - many of which prey on home-based business owners with enticing work-at-home schemes. The government keeps a keen eye on much of this activity and through Business.gov offers advice about evaluating business opportunities, looking out for scams, as well as how to report scams.

    • Have a Business Plan

    As you start to research reseller business opportunities, start to think about formalizing your ambition with a business plan. Writing a business plan not only makes you think long and hard about the market opportunity, it will also help you build a clear view of your goals, and most importantly how you are going to reach them. It will show potential affiliates, wholesalers and lending institutions that you are serious about your venture.

    • The Application Process

    Most reseller opportunities start with an online application. Be prepared to submit information about your business profile including your company size, years in business, number of employees, region of service coverage, selling channels, Web presence, online merchant tools, and so on.

    From here the manufacturer will determine whether they believe you are a good fit for their program.

    • Understand the Compensation Model

    Resellers are typically compensated by either a buy rate or a percentage model.

    The buy rate model involves the reseller purchasing from the vendor at a wholesale price and reselling on at a retail market rate. Your net revenue is the difference between the two.

    The percentage model involves an agreement whereby the reseller sells the product at a retail price set by the vendor. Compensation is then paid as a fixed percentage off each unit sold. To ensure profitability and competitiveness, this model will require upfront and possibly ongoing negotiation on your part.

    • Read the T&CS

    Before you sign any reseller agreement, make sure you are aware of your rights. Read, or have your lawyer read, the contract terms and conditions. You can also ask to talk to other resellers or reference customers to get the bigger picture.

    • Reseller as Business Owner

    Don't forget that becoming a reseller also involves becoming a business owner. As such, there are some fundamentals of starting a business that you need to observe. Read 10 Steps to Starting a Business from Business.gov to better understand and navigate the key planning, financial and regulatory factors involved in starting a business.

    You will also need a business license and certain permits, use this Permit Me tool to pinpoint exactly what your state requires.

    • Reseller Marketing and Market Development Funds

    Reselling brand names can carry a lot of marketing weight, but this doesn't mean you won't need to pull your marketing weight too. Affiliate reseller programs and wholesale distributors often require insight and reporting into marketing activity carried out by resellers - so be sure to have a marketing plan that you can execute and measure.

    Get tips from Business.gov on writing a marketing plan.

    Some larger manufacturers support their affiliate resellers by providing Market Development Funds (MDF). Under an MDF program, a reseller receives marketing dollars to promote the product and brand that they are selling. These dollars are usually skimmed off as a percentage of net sales revenue once you reach a particular sales goal and awarded as a rebate towards an approved marketing program.

    Additional Resources

    * Note: Hyperlink redirects reader to non-government Web site.

    About the Author:

    Caron Beesley


    Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley


    Caron How does a lender get comfortable with financing inventory for an internet reseller with the inventory stored in a warehouse at Amazon? Also, can an SBA 7A loan facility be used for working capital like inventory financing? Beachmont

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