From the Joy of Collecting to the Joy of Selling
Canadian sellers Craig Dawson and Rick Belanger are successful entrepreneurs who spread goodwill and create community through toys and collectibles.
Editor’s note: In celebration of eBay’s 25th anniversary, we’re spotlighting a seller every week from our global community in our Mini Stories column through 2020.
Start with a love of toys and collectibles. Mix in the joy of the sourcing hunt. Stir in some community building, then finish with a large splash of optimism and you have longtime Canadian-based eBay seller Craig Dawson’s recipe for entrepreneurial success. Based out of Toronto, Craig has transformed a lifetime hobby into a thriving online store shared with his husband, Rick Belanger — and made a business out of pure fun.
Craig and Rick’s eBay store, 2DogsDigs, was opened in 1996, but its real start stretches back to Craig’s childhood. “As an only child, I’ve always loved toys,” Craig said. Whenever the Sears Christmas catalog landed in his family’s mailbox, Craig would circle the items he wanted — G.I. Joe dolls, Best of the West cowboys, Hot Wheels cars — and “I got them all, I was spoiled,” he said, grinning.
Shortly after Craig and Rick became a couple in 1987, Craig started building on his small childhood collection, focusing on TV memorabilia like Charlie’s Angels and vintage Barbie dolls — things he didn’t receive as a child. After the pair had been living together for a few years with Craig’s ever-expanding collection, Rick asked the question that proved to be the inception point for their business: “So, what are we doing with all the toys you’ve upgraded and are now in boxes in storage?” Craig responded with characteristic good humor, “Well, I guess we should sell them — so we can buy more stuff.”
Since it was the early ‘90s, Craig and Rick sold many of those unwanted items through Usenet newsgroups, magazine ads and in-person at toy shows. When starting to sell, they saw an additional market opportunity. “We realized that there were things coming out of Canada that couldn’t be found in the [United] States, such as the Maple Beanie Baby, or the Baywatch Teresa Barbie,” Craig said. “And we said, ‘Wait a second, this isn’t just about getting rid of my stuff.” Craig immediately started hunting for more goods to sell, bringing Rick along with him.
Then, “in 1996 we started hearing about eBay,” Rick said. At the time, Craig was collecting memorabilia from the ‘60s and ‘70s, such as Barbie dolls, lunchboxes and G.I. Joe dolls. eBay proved the ideal marketplace for these types of items, a place that “gave us a worldwide audience we could sell to,” Craig said. “Over our 24 years selling on eBay, nearly 95 percent of our sales have been outside Canada.”
“Rick hated being dragged by me to garage sales to source,” Craig remembered of the numerous trips Rick patiently took with him. “But if he got grumpy about it, I’d say, ‘Remember, you get to go to Walt Disney World and Las Vegas because of Barbie and eBay.’ Or, ‘This birthday trip to London was paid for by eBay, so let’s go to the flea market while we’re here.’” Craig did the buying, and Rick was the “backup help,” he said, carrying things to the car, taking photos and assisting with packing when it was time to ship.
But Craig, with his effervescent persistence, got Rick to finally join the reselling game about four years ago. “It was a challenge to make him feel that joy in collecting and selling, but I finally started seeing it,” Craig said. A couple of sales helped, including Rick’s finding a Tiki mug at an estate sale that he bought for 50 cents and sold on eBay for $400. “He just needed a few flips like those,” Craig said.
In addition, and to Craig’s consternation, Rick has taken up his own collections. “He decided one summer to buy the ugliest vase at any garage sale we were at,” Craig recounted, “like a vase made for someone’s mom in a pottery class, and he’d buy it for five dollars just so he could say, ‘Look what we have to display now.’” At one point, they had a shelf in their home full of “the most hideous things he could find,” Craig said. Rick’s other themes now include clowns and bells. “He has an affinity for things that drive me crazy,” Craig said as Rick laughed.
The couple especially enjoys when a sale is to someone who has been looking for that “special item.” For example, they once found some toys from the ‘50s at an estate sale. In the jumble was a teddy bear, rather worn, a little forgotten. Despite its well-loved state, Craig and Rick put the bear on eBay. “It sold within a day!” Craig said. “The buyer sent me a sweet message saying this was the bear she’d had growing up, and she’s been looking for it for years and years. She didn’t care that the eyes were rubbed or it had been sewn in places. It’s huge when you can give people that spark of joy, that little memory of their own.”
Though Craig and Rick are quite different in temperament — Craig is gregarious and chatty, and Rick is his calm, more contemplative complement — the couple both share the same quality of finding the light in any situation. As a result, they decided to build community with other like-minded eBay sellers.
Looking through reselling groups on Facebook, they noticed that people were asking the same questions over and over about selling on eBay from Canada. “And we realized there’s a market to help Canadians out there,” Rick said.
So in 2017, they started the Canadian Resellers and Fantastic Thrifters (C.R.A.F.T.) group on Facebook, which now has about 1,800 members. “The whole purpose of the group is for people to learn,” Craig said. “How do you sell? Where do you source? How do you ship into the United States and around the world? Those kinds of questions.” The group allows people to trade ideas, offer help and lend expertise in their areas of specialty.
With so much experience on eBay, what advice do Craig and Rick give to others just starting out? “Start with what you’re familiar with,” Craig said. “Go look at your music collection, look in your closet or attic, do research and see if there’s anything there that has value. Sell some jewelry, a purse, an old game, clothes your kids have outgrown. Start small, and ask questions.”
Their group proved so popular that six months later, they started a YouTube channel under their store name, 2DogsDigs. “It’s all about helping people sell on eBay,” Craig said, sharing tips and best practices. “Plus, we get to have fun sharing our finds and sales, hopefully entertaining folks as they learn about reselling.” Their authentic, optimistic style has garnered them a loyal following of viewers every Tuesday night. “People message us whenever we miss a Tuesday!” Craig said. “I think especially now, there’s a responsibility in creating that kind of optimistic edu-tainment.”
Indeed, on all their channels, their aim is to stay upbeat. “We always try to be positive, and we think that what goes around, comes around,” Craig said. “The reselling world for us is fun. So we want to keep that as part of our mission.” They even make it a point to have regular “Snap Cup” posts (an idea taken from the “Legally Blonde” movies) to share great feedback from eBay buyers. “We think we should focus on the positives out there instead of the few negatives,” Craig said.
Their biggest community-building moment, however, was an in-person event. More specifically, the eBay Open in 2018. “We went there and met a ton of people, and we’re fully connected with almost every one of those people still today,” Rick said. Some of those people were also from Toronto, and the couple has even gone on flea-market jaunts with their new eBay friends.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted their life plans, as it did for so many others. “Since my full-time advertising business got temporarily shut, eBay’s been a real benefit, because I’m able to generate income,” Craig said. Due to a combination of increased buyer traffic from the pandemic, their savvy gained from years of experience spotting buying trends and their fabulous entrepreneurial spirit, Craig said they’ve experienced tremendous growth in their sales, showing over 200% growth in their store during this period. “We’ve doubled last year’s sales in the first six months of this year,” he said.
As the couple can’t go to shows or garage sales to find inventory, they are lucky to have a warehouse of unlisted items. “When you shop a lot, the benefit is you have what’s known in the reselling world as profit piles,” Craig said. Those items that are yet to be inventoried or listed will keep them going while in-person sourcing options are limited. In addition, they’ve seen interest veer more to home-entertainment options, with people ordering games, puzzles and model kits as they’re kept indoors, something they’ll be on the lookout for as they start sourcing again.
As for where they see themselves headed, they are excited about the possibilities. “I think eBay’s giving us a platform for supplementing income for the next 10-15 years plus, if we evolve with how people shop and constantly think about how we can grow and what we’re doing,” Craig said. “We look at eBay as a platform that’s going to be integral to us when we retire.”
“eBay is part of our life,” Rick said. “There’s no other platform like eBay around. It gives us the ability to sell the types of things we have and connect us to people all over the world. For us, it’s just an amazing platform to use.”
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