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Jonathon Papsin is the co-founder of Tagsellit.com and a graduate of Concordia College in Bronxville, New York. Since graduating, Jonathon worked in the private asset management industry until leaving to pursue his passion for a Real Estate career in Manhattan as an Agent.
Tagsellit.com is home to the largest community of tag sale enthusiasts. Tagsellit.com offers a free service enabling users to quickly and efficiently advertise their yard sales on the site, as well as create virtual garage sales, an ideal solution for folks who don’t physically have a front yard or garage to host a physical sale. Once an event, item or sale is posted, the user can easily share their link with their favorite Social Networks that they belong to.
MO: What problem is Tagsellit.com solving?
Jonathon: Tagsellit.com is an awesome solution for people who need to de-clutter their homes but are limited from having a physical tag sale because they don’t have a yard or garage, or are restricted by a community regulation against garage sales. Tagsellit.com is a free service, and is a brilliant alternative to auction websites and e-classified websites with geographic search limitations. Listing an item on Tagsellit.com allows the seller to instantly reach a nationwide audience with the items they wish to sell. Buyers can search items by location or by category on the website. With the addition of our mobile apps, we’ve made it very easy for smart-phone users to locate garage sales, estate sales and flea markets wherever they are from the palm of their hand.
In addition to our core concept of virtual yard sales, we’ve opened our site to professional services in the second-hand sales industry. We have four membership-based directories: Consignment Services, Estate Sale Services, Pawn Shops and Flea Markets. Each of these directories allows professional service providers to list their businesses and the services they provide. These have proved to be a great resource for people looking for these types of services, while at the same time, Tagsellit.com is a perfect site for these professionals to use to post some of their items in inventory for sale on the site or list and advertise their sale events.
MO: Have you always possessed an entrepreneurial spirit? Who have been your mentors and sources of inspiration along the way?
Jonathon: I don’t think I realized my entrepreneurial sprit until I broke away from the traditional “9-5” job that I was working in the finance industry. I was happy to be making money, but I wanted something I could call my own. I’ve always had great leadership abilities, which I think is important for an Entrepreneur to have. I became an Eagle Scout when I was 17 and in college I held several high-ranking office positions with the Student Government Association and Business Club. I’ve studied, looked up to and learned many things from successful individuals who I’ve met in life through personal acquaintances or through networking.
I’ve had the great fortune of having some tremendous mentors in my life who have been influential in my success. When I was in college I had a terrific business professor who also happened to oversee the Business Club activities. She was a great mentor to me and she was the person I could go to with any problem or question and together we could figure it out. When I worked in real estate in Manhattan, I had the great privilege of having a Broker who happened to be one of the most successful rental agents in the city. I made a point to meet with him on a weekly basis and learn as much as I possibly could, and even when things starting going really well and I still made a point to meet regularly. Having a mentor you can go to and meet face to face is an invaluable opportunity and it should always be a learning experience for both people.
As for sources of inspiration, I’ve always looked up to and done my best to network with successful people. Even when I haven’t had the opportunity to meet them in person, (for example, Donald Trump or Steve Jobs) I still do my very best to read their books and learn whatever I can from their TV appearances, interviews and how they conduct themselves professionally. As long as you maintain your good character and individuality, it doesn’t hurt to model these people and learn from their life experiences.
MO: What were the main challenges of taking a type of business is that is usually transient in nature and transferring it to an online platform?
Jonathon: One of the biggest challenges I faced before we even got our concept off the ground was finding someone with the financial resources and confidence in me to see this vision though or to meet someone who shared the same passion and vision who I could partner with and build our plan from scratch together. Fortunately through a mutual friend, I met my business partner, Matt Dorman, who had the incredible talent of building award-winning websites and mobile applications, and had the desire to start a fun business.
With Tagsellit.com, we wanted to keep the idiosyncrasies of this transient type of business true to what makes them so fun and exciting for people. We had to design a website that would give the user the same thrilling experience of finding something for sale on our site as they might at a flea market or consignment shop. With Tagsellit.com, you can literally shop garage sale-like treasures 24/7, from coast to coast. For those who were using the service to sell items from around their homes or offices, the challenge of designing a user experience that would be user-friendly, fun and something they would refer their friends to, was huge. Since it’s a free service, it’s a win-win for all of our sites’ users. Fortunately we were also able to study some of the success and failures of the well-known sites in our arena, and more importantly, overcome the challenges of how to stand out in a good way and make our users’ experience appealing.
MO: You’ve managed to get an impressive amount of press coverage so far. How have you managed to gain such traction since launching in 2008 and triple your revenues year over year?
Jonathon: We’ve always been proactive in getting our name out there. In 2009 we hired a PR firm to help us get started after our short beta testing phase in 2008. Unfortunately the company we hired over promised and under-delivered, but that did not deter us after our contract was up. It was an incredible learning opportunity because it gave us a good insight into the world of PR and the ability to see what worked and what didn’t. Currently we contribute to many reporter queries on a regular basis and have become a leading interview source for the garage sale industry by providing information for Television programs, Blogs and Magazine articles. Through networking, we seek out and meet similar professionals in our industry and structure strategic business alliances that are mutually beneficial.
We foster a fun social media network on our Facebook pages and we’re quite active on Twitter. With the evolvement of our professional service directories on the site, we’ve been able to provide these users with tailored services, which in turn help our business grow when they recommend us or their competitors list their services with us.
MO: Startups typically need to pivot and evolve their business model over time, especially as customers start to use the product or site. Can you provide some advice or lessons learned to entrepreneurs on pivoting while keeping your business moving forward at the same time?
Jonathon: A fun book I read for a business class that I was taking in college was “Who Moved My Cheese.” In short the book was a fun tale of a couple of mice that succeeded by adapting to a changing environment. Adapting and incorporating changes to our website and business model have been an important success factor in the growth of Tagsellit.com. As an entrepreneur, I think that anyone who is resistant to change isn’t doing themselves or their businesses any good.
With the speed of information and the global village we live in today, it’s important to have the capability to be agile. A proactive approach is always better than a reactive approach. If you do something and screw it up, at least you know that method doesn’t work and you can fix it. Entrepreneurs need to have the courage and flexibility to try new things. Most importantly, any leader needs to be able to admit to their screw-ups. We’re human and we make mistakes, but part of becoming better at what we do is being accountable and fixing the errors. With Tagsellit.com, we’re constantly trying new things and we encourage honest feedback from our site users. That’s how we become better and make our customers happy. Lastly, don’t let anyone take advantage of you, be firm but fair.
MO: What advice would you give to a friend who wanted to start a business? I am especially interested since your friends weren’t initially as supportive as you would have expected.
Jonathon: It’s funny you ask that because a lot of my friends still use the bigger players in the second-hand sales web services such as Amazon, Craigslist and eBay to sell their items or find cool things to buy. Those household name sites all have a decade of web presence on us and huge teams of professionals working for them daily. It’s tough to get friends to try Tagsellit.com because they’re resistant to change or just want to stick with what they know, but when they read about our achievements or use our site, they’re astonished at what my business partner, Matt Dorman, and I have accomplished in under four years. We have a niche-focused business and don’t pretend to be something we’re not, but with our ambition and energy to constantly improve and grow, we confident we have a business that will be around for a long time. Our goal was to create a business with a model that would be successful in any economic climate.
The advice I would give to a friend who wanted to start a business would depend on what type of business they wish to start. Generally speaking I would say their ambition level, goals and dedication to building a business are paramount to their eventual success. It also helps to be passionate about the business you want to start. For us, we enjoy going to flea markets and garage sales, it’s just a fun American pastime, and my love for building and managing a business was the perfect foundation for starting Tag Sell It Inc.