The story behind eBay success story Hooked Online & Sinker

Recently I interviewed Paul Nieuwenhuys of eBay success story Hooked Online and Sinker, who founded and runs the most successful fishing tackle store on eBay Australia. In the lead up to the interview I asked Paul for a short bio on himself that I could incorporate in to my introduction.

Well, I quickly learnt that Paul doesn’t do things by half. His zealousness for what he does is infectious. Here’s exactly what he sent me. It not only tells a great story of the birth of a business, but it’s full of marketing and business lessons along the way …

G’day Tim and thank you for giving me the opportunity to participate in The Small Business Big Marketing Show. My name is Paul Nieuwenhuys, I am a painter by trade, 43 years old and have been self-employed since I was 18.

I have been involved in many businesses including owning my own painting business, owning glass bottom boats in Vanuatu, boat hire on the Gold Coast and now selling online as well as via a bricks and mortar retail outlet.

My inspiration has come from my brother, whose online success couldn’t be ignored.

Twelve years ago he started a business called “Cheap Chips”- an online store which sells memory cards. He has since sold this business and now runs “Adore Tea” – an online and retail tea outlet.

I saw the potential and convenience of buying online when he needed my help due to his rapid almost overnight growth and expansion of his business.

Whilst I gave him a hand over a week I was blown away at what was involved in selling online – the constant customer’s demands, the time involved as well as the money to be made!

I asked him how do I get a piece of this ?

He replied just sell what you know, be passionate, honest and have a genuine interest in meeting customer’s demands. Pick, pack and post as advertised, offer a service unmatched by others and be prepared not to sleep, it will take time!

And it did! No one believes in what you’re doing at the start and that that’s the hardest part!

At the time I owned and operated a hire boat business in Jacobs Well, Queensland. I saw the passion and spending trends of fisherman and women. It dawned on me then that selling fishing tackle online was the way to go.

Being a consumable, the customer always need to come back.

I just had to gain their trust, offer a unique and personalised experience.

After 3 months of vigorous research and support from my brother, I started “Hooked Online”. My aim was to provide quality brand name fishing tackle at realistic prices delivered Australia wide on a daily basis.

I could see the need for the recreational and professional fisherman to easily obtain brand name recognised goods within Australia, from a reliable source.

Products that are actually in stock, dispatched the day of purchase and delivered within days. Also providing a no nonsense exchange and returns policy.

As I am passionate not just about fishing but about customer service, I love the challenge of exceeding all customer expectations. Going beyond the norm to rectify any problem that may arise.

I have an uncanny natural knack for knowing what the consumer wants and expects. I am a very demanding and pedantic customer myself and expect exemplary service wherever, and whenever I spend my money.

I am extremely conscientious and critical in my business decisions.

I started on eBay just over five years ago with a handful of items, much to my brother’s disgust. He had never advertised on eBay and had a fancy website as well as 40 staff to back him up. He said eBay will never work, you have to learn about e-commerce first and establish a name and website, bla bla!

I went ahead with starting my first eBay store, just to test the waters and gain some online experience. I believed in eBay, the feedback system and the apparent selling power. I thought what better way to start and learn? It would be easy to see if I was going to fail with the honest feedback system.

I sold a pack of sinkers within hours, I was excited! I couldn’t believe the buyer was only 25 kilometres away and had automatically paid including postage! I packed and sent the item straight away, I was even more stoked when I received glowing positive feedback the very next day. This was enough proof for me and I was Hooked!

I have dedicated at least 12 to 18 hours a day, 7 days a week for the past 5 years to build not only our online presence, but researched and listed 1000’s of new items.

Every cent that has been generated has gone straight back into new stock and a small amount into infrastructure, warehousing, computers, Neto cms, website design etc.

To keep costs to a minimum, whilst expanding our range I have kept my weekly wage very minimal.
This ensures all capitol goes directly back into the business, but allows me to feed my Family!

I listed 500 products in the first year. This time last year we had 2500 items listed online. I now have just over 3600 items on eBay and our website, with sales of 750k on eBay alone last financial year.

This financial year we anticipate a turnover in excess of $1 million , with an expected turnover of 1.25 million for the 2015-2016 financial year. This figure is based on our current growth trend, and without adding any new stock. I have to date completed over 80000 transactions, and turned over more than 2.2 million on eBay alone.

All this was achieved within the last 5 years.

I now employ 2 full time and 3 part time staff. My manager Lucas, come I.T guru, warehouse manager/picker/packer, sales and marketing expert as well as a great friend. Brett runs our retail store 7 days a week and comes with a wealth of knowledge, being involved within the tackle industry for 23 years. He is also an avid fisherman. My awesome wife come bookkeeper/picker/packer/postman (in the early days) accountant, etc. She is also an inspiration to me and a super mum. Rachel has been listening to, and believing in, all the crazy sales predictions until ridiculous hours of the morning nearly every night for the last five years! Grant from News Corp and Clinton – both part time resident I.T. gurus who are always ready to lend a hand. Of course there is also all my mates and family who have helped out and spun out when sales have been crazy!

I attended PeSA for the first time in 2013, solely relying only on family and friends for advice. As well as my own online research, it is amazing what you can Google and Terapeak these days! That first PeSA conference certainly opened my eye and confirmed my belief in e-commerce and the amazing benefits and phenomenal growth potential.

What I learned and the contacts I made were truly astounding, I was fortunate enough to have been invited into the eBay deals program, within a month business grew by 50%.

I also met with Phil Leahy, an energetic and inspiring mentor whom has taken the time to stay in touch since that first PeSA Last year Phil and the PeSa team invited me to pitch my business to Jonathon Garris, Adam Hersch and Shaun O’Brien, all ecommerce gurus in a Shark Tank type presentation, I won!
Winning this at PeSA has generated more contacts and an amazing friendship with Shaun. Shaun who owns Selby Accoustics asnd president of PeSA has become yet another mentor. Shaun has even taken the time to see my operation and gave some great advice, I also visited Shaun’s operation in Melbourne earlier this year.

To date our sales record in one day is 500 orders turning over more than 25k. 95% of those orders were paid for by 2pm, picked and packed with love, and posted the same day! Australia post loves those days, well the owner of my LPO does! We had 3 full van pickups that day. It was an awesome sight, something I now want to see everyday. I know it’s possible by increasing items listed, and more eBay promotions.

The recent launch of our revamped website as well as a new mobile shop and Facebook shop will certainly ensure an even more impressive level of growth.

Last year, I built a new warehouse on my property of 250 square metres at a cost of 80k, I also put in custom steel shelving at a cost of 25k and a custom built packing station. This streamlined our operation as well as maximising the space.

Within the last 12 months, due to our phenomenal growth and product expansion, we have almost outgrown the new premises. Due to our established cult-like following, as soon as new items are listed they sell immediately.

There are multiple reasons for the continual growth and success of Hooked Online.

  • The invaluable experience I have gained over the last five years to make this happen.
  • New friends/contacts via PeSA
  • Listening and understanding my Mentors
  • My understanding of the trends in the sports fishing category.
  • Our impeccable record and desire to not only stay competitive but to deliver as advertised and provide a warm, fuzzy memorable online experience to our valued customers.
  • Our proven track record on eBay.
  • Being able to understand Terapeak’s research power.

With lots of hard work and sheer determination to exceed all customer expectations has ensured our success.

I now would like to focus on further growth with Hooked Online, expanding our product range and even more personalisation, and customer re-targeting.

Today’s e-tailers and retailers need to concentrate on numbers not margins whilst displaying an exemplary style of genuine service.

I believe our name, our proven sales record, marketing, customer service, warehousing automation as well as strict staff training and a strong ethics protocol in place, we are destined to continue our amazing growth.

Our retail store and warehouse is located in Jacobs Well, the gateway to Moreton Bay and boasts the busiest boat ramp in Queensland.

Hooked Online is totally debt free and has an outstanding track record with all suppliers.

The HOOK of our business is our unique attitude and genuine desire to please people, as well as our product knowledge. Due to my natural understanding of human nature, we ensure a pleasant and memorable experience from the initial contact and personalised service, to the rapid delivery of the product. Staff are carefully selected and trained to ensure that this infectious enthusiasm continues.

One day I would like to concentrate and pass on my knowledge and all I have learnt along the way to other up and coming e-tailers and entrepreneurs.

I can show, and trust that I have proven, that Hooked Online will continue its consistent growth and returns, as I believe with our brand, knowledge and streamlined system the sky’s the limit.

I hope you enjoyed reading my bio!