Junior starts Instagram reselling business during the pandemic

May 12, 2021 — by Serena Li and Minsui Tang
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In July, junior Amy Li purchased a pair of shoes for $130 from an Instagram shoe seller to resell on her own Instagram business page, @sneakerinca, where she sells “hyped” items, from shoes to streetwear brands. 

Li expected the shoes to arrive in two to three weeks; however, the shoes were nowhere to be found even after four months later. She continuously attempted to contact the shoe seller, but the shoe seller brushed it off saying that it was stuck in delivery. 

Finally, in November, Li heard from the seller that the shoes were not going to be delivered. Li was refunded $100, and lost $30 in this exchange and considered herself the victim of a scam.

This is just one example of the challenges Li faces in running her Instagram business. 

Li started the page at the beginning of quarantine in April of 2020 after seeing similar pages, such as @lucidsupreme, on her Explore Page. With extra time on her hands due to online school, Li decided to start the account to develop a new hobby and make money. Currently, the page has 2,150 followers and she has made around $10,000 total.

Li gets her items from various resellers on Instagram who sell them to her for a cheaper price. She then gauges the market and resells the products at a slight markup, but still prices the item about $20 to $30 below the actual market value. Then, she creates either an Instagram story or post to advertise the item, captioned with the item’s description and the new price. 

“I usually decide what to sell based on what I have, what I can get from other stores and hyped items at the moment,” Li said. “Sometimes I also put up Instagram polls or Q&A’s to see what my followers want, and I’ll try my best to get those items.”

Her customers are primarily high school students or adults who directly message Li to negotiate a price. Once a mutually agreed price point is reached, Li packages the item and mails it to her customer. 

Sometimes, Li runs into customers who flake, or agree to buy a certain item but turn back on their decision at the last minute. Li finds this frustrating, but she’s learned to move on quickly and not let these people hinder her sales. 

Another challenge Li has learned to overcome is identifying scammers. When looking through another seller’s information, Li looks for their “reference,” the first post on their Instagram feed. If an account is legitimate, customers will often leave reviews or feedback under their posts’ comment sections, but if comments are turned off, the account is almost certainly a fraud

This method is not foolproof, however. Some scammers work together to help comment on each other’s posts in a “reference for reference” and “feedback for feedback” structure. Others do selective scamming, in which they only sell unfairly to certain customers.

“It’s really complicated, but once you start and you look around, you can tell which accounts are scams or not,” Li said.

For Li, she requests from her sellers to GUA, or give upon arrival for products, which means that she only pays after she receives the product to reduce the chances of buying from a scammer.

As communication between customers and sellers is crucial for making a successful deal, Li has learned to negotiate with others and brush away her frustrations.

With her business running and profits in hand, Li is planning to host a raffle for her followers and donate the money she earns to charities. 

Li intends to find out who will be interested in participating in the raffle and get products that will be the most popular among the participants. Her goal is to donate around $100 to $200. Because the event is still in the brainstorming stage, Li is unsure of where she will donate the money to.

“I think this is a great way to give back to the community,” Li said. “In the future, I hope to open a company and sell more items. This experience helped me to learn a lot about business and how to manage money, and it’s been an invaluable experience that I would never forget.”