When Tommy Howard’s younger brother added a £35 Nerf gun to his birthday wishlist two years ago, Tommy figured out how to buy it in bulk for less. This “aha” moment led Tommy to realize he could start a business by selling toys on eBay.
Tommy needed to find a quick way to make money to fund his first batch of inventory—a seemingly daunting task for a beginner seller living in the remote English countryside. But the middle-schooler found a simple solution: sell eggs from his parents’ farm. He bought his first set of Nerf guns from his earnings and reinvested it into buying new stock. What he couldn’t have guessed at the time was that his eBay business would become so lucrative.
After two years of selling on eBay, Tommy has more than 1,000 products in stock, sells an average of 10 items per day and ships to customers in over 70 countries. His secret? With some help from his business teachers and his own sales manager, he quickly learned to find products that had good margins, sold well and would meet customers’ needs and preferences. This meant branching out from Nerf Guns to offer up-and-coming toy inventory, spanning everything from sand and Play-Doh, to unicorn products and bubbles. With updated inventory, Tommy launched his rebranded eBay store “Dog in a Box” (coined after his pet Shih Tzu) in 2018, bringing in £6,000 profit in the first year alone.
“I’ve always wanted to start my own business and have something that I owned myself and that allowed me to have confidence and pride in,” said Tommy. “And I quite like the whole warehousing and logistics side of things and the fact that any money that I make, I make for myself.”
From contacting manufacturers to liaising with wholesalers, Tommy does it all. On a typical day, he has only 30 minutes when he arrives home from school at 4pm to pack and label his products before jumping on his bicycle to meet the local postman at the town mailbox, half a mile away.
“The only thing I have to do is put my name on the paperwork for legal reasons,” said his father Charlie. “Apart from that, Tommy does everything himself.”
What’s more, this one-man show has no plans on slowing down. “Eventually I’d like to have my own licensed products,” he shared. “I want to continue expanding my business and have warehouses all over the country.”
Looking for a unique selection of children’s toys? Shop Tommy’s eBay store here.