Kid Businesses: Selling Lego Sets
Why Sell Online?
You've stumbled over Lego bricks in the dark. You've wondered why you ever bought another set. You may have even poured over the instructions in hopes that you could somehow finish that creation.
Now the Legos are sitting on a shelf somewhere and you are wondering: Should I trash them? Donate them? Find an unsuspecting parent I can dump them on? (Who owes me?). Believe it or not, there is a better answer: have your kids set up a business to sell used sets and bricks online!
Do People Buy Used Lego Sets?
You may think this is a crazy. Who would buy? I was certainly reluctant and unconvinced when my son, Brendan, approached me a year ago with the idea of selling his used Lego sets online
However, 13-year-old boys can be very persistent. Brendan had researched how to set up a store, but he needed my assistance as a co-store owner as an adult with a PayPal account. Finally, I sat down to look at what was required and realized that if he sold some Lego, we might actually get some space in his room.
He agreed to do everything to set up the store. My job was to monitor emails from customers, make PayPal arrangements and do the shipping. When he priced one of his Batman sets at $350 dollars (he’d gotten it on sale for $20), I figured there wouldn’t be much work for me to do.
How Many Lego Sets do you Own?
Mom Was Wrong
I was wrong. After six months, Brendan had sold out his almost his whole store and made about $900. Not bad for a thirteen-year-old kid. Moreover, he continued to sell all over the world. Over half of our orders have come from Europe or Australia.
On top of learning how to run a business, Brendan enjoyed getting to know people in other countries. We've discovered that these collectors are a talkative and enthusiastic lot. One young father from England bubbled over with his excitement at buying some Batman figures as collectibles for his newborn!
Do You Have Valuable Mini-Figs?
What Kids Learn
My husband and I are thrilled he has learned how to run a successful business, but we are even happier that he has also learned some lessons along the way. One customer wasn't satisfied with the mini-figure he received, declaring that the “mint” condition listing proved to be incorrect when examined by a magnifying glass.
As a thirteen-year-old boy, Brendan had never gone quite that far in his quality control efforts with his Lego, but he still didn't really think the mini-figure had the crack the customer claimed. Was the customer trying to cheat him? Or was he right in claiming that re-selling to collectors required the piece to look new under magnification.
Like all small business owners, Brendan had to make a judgment call. Because customers at Bricklink can offer negative feedback which can affect whether future customers choose to buy from you, Brendan decided to go by the maxim, “the customer is always right” and refunded the money. In another instance, he dealt with a customer complaint by giving a partial refund. In both situations, the customers were fully satisfied and left great feedback.
Moreover, their complaints helped Brendan to learn how carefully he needed to be in describing the condition of his merchandise. My husband and I could have spent a lot of time lecturing him on these concepts but real life business experience taught him more about honest advertising and handling customer concerns more than anything we could have said, and probably more than he would have learned by taking a class in business.
How to Start
Bricklink requires that store owners be adults, so parents will need to set up the store and also set up a PayPal seller’s account. Although this will take a few minutes, once your account is set up, your child can put items in the store and handle preparing the sets, pricing, sales and shipping. When a buyer decides they want something on Bricklink, they will place it in their cart and Bricklink will send you an email.
You can reply to them either through Bricklink or directly through your email account. If you agree to their purchase, you will tell them how much it will cost to ship the item and then give them the total amount they need to pay your PayPal account. Once PayPal has verified that you have received your money, you ship them the item.
I liked the fact that I was able to keep track of what Brendan was selling and help him decide about the shipping. It helps to either have a scale to weigh the items or take everything you want to put in your store to the post office and weigh it so you will be able to estimate shipping costs. We also stocked up on the free shipping boxes at USPS and used the online shipping services to estimate and mail items. However, for some overseas packages, you will need to go to the post office to mail the package there and fill out customs forms.
No Start-up Cost
It doesn't cost any money to start a store selling online. So your child can start this business without it costing you any money. They can learn all the lessons of running a business without having to risk costs. If they get further into the business, they may want to invest in buying Legos with their profits (maybe from friends or garage sales) but to start with, they don't have any start-up costs.
How Much Can You Make?
Not sure you want to part with your sets? Frequently, E-Bay has great deals on huge lots of bricks. I'm putting some samples of deals on the side for you to see. Since all Legos tend to either retain original value or go up in price, they make a good E-bay purchase.
You can either start a Bricklink Business or expand it by buying bricks in bulk on E-Bay, cleaning and sorting them and re-packaging them for sale. Another tip: Since sets sell for a higher price than individual bricks, you can buy up a lot of mixed sets, put them together (using the instructions available for free on the Lego website) and buy any missing parts on Bricklink to have a full set.
What Mom Learned
Better than the money he has earned, Brendan has learned how to run a business.He learned how to research the competition, evaluate buyers, handle customer complaints, and create customer loyalty (by giving “freebies” with his orders).
None of those skills are taught in school and all of them will serve him well in any future career. I was a reluctant participant at the start of Brendan's business venture, but now I'm eager to see what he decides to do next. I've seen him mature in this process and learned a lot of lessons that I could never have taught him any other way. It was well worth my time!
Update 2017: Since his first venture in business, Brendan has been selectively buying Lego Sets at local sales and at garage sales. He estimates he has an inventory of over $2000 dollars, even though he has only spent about $300 in buying the sets. Since he is now over 18, he can run his store on his own to help him pay for college.