published Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Chattanooga family launches eBay and Craigslist hybrid

Jean Harris works in her office Thursday afternoon at her home in Hixson. Harris is the COO of her family's new business venture, SellBuytheroom.com.
Jean Harris works in her office Thursday afternoon at her home in Hixson. Harris is the COO of her family's new business venture, SellBuytheroom.com.
Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse.

Name: SellBuyTheRoom.com

Contact information: Britney.Valas@sellbuytheroom.com

Products/services: SellBuyTheRoom.com tries to be a cross between eBay and Craigslist, allowing users to buy and sell their items through auctions or set price listings. Listings can be searched by regions as sweeping as “South” and as specific as “Athens, Tenn.”

Age: The website had its full launch Thursday. The site had been up for live testing since Jan. 3.

Startup investment: Nearly $70,000

Target market: Tennessee to start, but Chief Operating Officer Jean Harris in Hixson hopes the site will catch on across the country and, eventually, the globe.

Biggest hurdle: Striking a balance between the number of buyers and sellers in the site. Recently, the 15 items sold all at once. “We were so excited we sold those, but not even taking a breath we said, ‘Now we’ve got to find 15 more items,’” Harris said.

Biggest reward: Getting closer with her family. Harris’s son, Cole, started the business. Her daughter, Britney Valas, runs the marketing end and her husband, Michael, is responsible for some of the technical computer work. “The bonding experience for our family has been amazing and priceless,” she said. It’s often difficult to get to know family members in a professional sense. This venture has allowed them all to know each other in different settings.

Lesson learned: Brainstorming sessions are important. At the early stages of the business’s development, the family would bounce ideas off one another to get new perspectives, improving ideas and avoid problems. “We often remind ourselves, ‘Oh, thank God we did that. If we hadn’t done that, we would have had a lot more challenges,’” Harris said.

If you have an idea for a small business feature, contact reporter Carey O’Neil at coneil@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6525. Follow him at twitter.com/careyoneil.

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