Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Matthew Fiore, a senior in high school and a long-time LEGO lover. I also turned my passion into a business. Three years ago I started Summerfield’s Toys, an online reseller of LEGO sets and individual bricks.
I’ve been building with LEGO since I was 4. I love the feel of the bricks in my hands and the creative process of recreating a model or making my own creation, whether it be spaceships, bases, or cities.
My basement is filled with thousands of bricks for me to use and imagine with. I enjoy the LEGO Star Wars, Marvel, and City themes. I build to express my creativity, work through a problem, or recharge. Best of all, I get to share that passion with LEGO lovers across the world, help parents connect with their children, allow a collector to find a missing set or brick, as well as help an adult reconnect with their love of LEGO.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When I was 14, I was looking for ways to earn money. One day when visiting my uncle, he explained eBay to me and how he found his niche of selling various antiques. I was fascinated, and eager to start. He supplied me with vintage postcards to sell. It took me a while to research and learn about the postcards and how to productively sell them, but I learned the process and started making some initial sales. However, I quickly recognized postcards weren't my passion, but I knew LEGO was. I picked out some LEGO Minifigures from my own collection to list and sell and in two months, I made $200. As a 14-year-old, this was more money than I’ve ever had!
My model although profitable, was not sustainable, I only had so many Minifigures I was willing to part with. Frustrated, I sat down with my dad, shouting “I wish I could find more LEGO to sell”.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
The first sales I made with LEGO were based on buying small LEGO Star Wars Battle Packs from Target and Amazon. If I could find the right set at about $11.99 or less, I would buy 5 of them, group like Minifigures together, and sell them together. The product was unique because if the buyer wanted all 5 Minifigures, he or she would have to buy all 5 complete sets. This way, they had a lower cost and got exactly what they wanted.
In most cases, a Star Wars Battle Pack would have 3 good figures but the 4th one wasn’t very popular and about ½ the time, the vehicle that was included was a good seller. As a result of this, finding a profitable set was challenging. The set that seemed to work very well was LEGO 75165, Imperial Trooper Battle Pack. I started selling them in November 2017 and by Christmas, I was making about a sale a day. My mom loved the sound of the shipping tape as it meant I made a sale.
Unfortunately, the product was discontinued by LEGO and it was impossible to find from any retail store and as a result, I had to find new ways to build up my inventory to sell.
Describe the process of launching the business.
Launching the business was fun. I started selling on eBay through my dad’s account and then ultimately took it over. I am still not old enough to have my own eBay or PayPal account as you have to be 18 so I am still under my dad’s account. I created the name, Summerfield’s Toys based on my favorite stuffed animal, Summerfield, that my grandmother named after the street she lived on. We created business cards with a picture of Summerfield and two LEGO Star Wars Minifigures doing battle, Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi.
In addition to eBay, I created an Instagram account and then started to expand from there. Over time, I created a Facebook page, a blog site, and then started selling on bricklink.com and Facebook Marketplace.
I also got some help from a friend of mine who created a new, more professional logo for me and a updated business cards.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
To attract new customers, I leverage the marketplace of eBay and now BrickLink and periodically through Facebook Marketplace. What I have found works best is the more I am on eBay and BrickLink the more I sell. It does get frustrating at times when I am unable to be active on sites such as when I am in school, doing homework, or just playing with friends.
Not too long ago, I started to sell internationally and my largest sale came from Russia. The person ordered three retired sets for $1,100 and it cost over $100 to ship. Shortly after receiving the sets, the customer reached out to me asking to buy more which we are currently working through the details of the sale.
In general, I find that most of my customers are new as they are looking for a specific set or individual brick. As I have expanded my distribution reach with eBay, BrickLink, and Facebook Marketplace, and started to market through my blog site, Instagram and Facebook Groups, I still find the process challenging as it is not my area of strength.
Get help from others. There is just so much work to do to make a business successful, you will need to rely on others with different skill sets to launch and grow a business.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
My business evolved. As mentioned earlier, I started breaking sets apart and reselling them in unique combinations. Over time, when I can find a good deal, I will take a used set and resell it but this is very time-consuming as I have to take apart the entire set, count all the pieces, rebuild it, take pictures, and then take it apart again for shipping.
Most recently, I have started buying and selling brand new sets and found that to be the easiest as there is no work other than to list the set and leverage my customer base and distribution network to make the sale. From one recent purchase of new sets, I struck a deal with an individual who was looking to sell his entire collection of 500 new sets. This has been a great partnership for both of us as he gets to sell his collection with no sales work on his part and we both make money.
Sales have grown exponentially this year due to a change in the mix of products and the partnership to sell the person's collection.
Sales and Profit Margin since I started is as follows. This profit includes all costs including eBay and PayPal fees along with shipping fees.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
There are a few things I have learned through this process in addition to running my own business.
I found that since I still love LEGO and I get to make money at it, it is a double win for me- plus the money I get from the business feeds my desire to buy more LEGO sets for my personal collection.
Customer Service has been the key to my success. I am currently at 100% customer service rating for both eBay and BrickLink which helps when someone is looking to see if they are going to purchase, they can see from other customers that I am reliable, can ship quickly and the product is as stated.
For about a year, I made the eBay Top Seller Program but recently lost that designation due to a few shipments arriving past the stated requirement. My goal is to get that designation back as it will help put me higher up in the search process.
I have also found that I need to rely on others, mostly my family for help. My dad helped me buy inventory and set up a spreadsheet to make sure I was profitable for each transaction, especially with the large fees that eBay and PayPal take. My mom has been key for me to try and stay organized as well as edits all of my blog posts. I have even enlisted my grandmothers to help sort LEGO pieces to list on BrickLink.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Each of my distribution channels has its advantages and disadvantages. eBay is great for sets with a large available customer base and I may be able to get a few more dollars than on BrickLink. BrickLink customers are strictly fans of LEGO and I will sell sets but most of the sales are individual pieces. Facebook Marketplace works for sets but the transaction is manual with a lot of back and forth with the individual vs. eBay and bricklink which are automatic.
From a cost perspective, eBay is the most expensive to sell through at over 12% per transaction, BrickLink is just over 7% with the PayPal fees, and Facebook is just the cost of the PayPal fees which is just under 3%.
I try to cross-reference all of my sites and it gets a bit overwhelming at times with the website, Instagram, and Facebook all while trying to find products to sell as I don’t have a standard source of inventory.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
One of my favorite books I read was Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I spend most of my time reading other LEGO blog sites and have a good pulse on what is happening and the trends within the LEGO community.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
The best advice I can offer other entrepreneurs is to do something you enjoy and get help from others. There is just so much work to do to make a business successful, you will need to rely on others with different skill sets to launch and grow a business.
It is also critically important that you set up a spreadsheet or another mechanism to make sure what you are selling is profitable. The distribution fees through sites like eBay change over time and identifying and making those adjustments can mean the difference between a profitable sale or one at a loss.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I am not trying to hire at this time but trying to figure out a different problem. I am planning to go away to college next year and don’t believe I can effectively store the inventory in my college dorm room. As a result, I am trying to determine if I can augment the business or just put it on hold until I am back home during the breaks.
Where can we go to learn more?
You can learn more about my business through the following sites.
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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