Anything But Ordinary: Bonanzle Aims To Be the Social Site for Buying and Selling Niche Items

4/1/09Follow @gthuang

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marketplace that fosters an environment around those weird, niche items. And add on the social experience.” (The target market is different from Valu Valu, another Seattle-area online marketplace startup, which focuses on “scientific pricing” of used video games and other standardized products.)

As for the inevitable eBay comparisons, Harding says his site is “simpler to use, easier to use, more powerful, and more interactive…People are a really important part of the equation at Bonanzle. You get a sense of the person’s personality. As a buyer, when you see that store, you can ask questions and shoot the breeze with the seller.” What’s more, he adds, “eBay is competing with Amazon on commodities, and we’re trying to go the opposite way, as far away from commodities as possible,” he says.

Bonanzle makes a commission of three to five percent on each sold item, and also offers premium subscriptions whereby sellers can get more placement for their goods on the site. The startup is already profitable, and now has two full-time employees and four contractors. As for further growth, it sounds like investors have been beating a path to Harding’s door, and the entrepreneur has been fielding their calls with cautious interest.

“Right now, the economic climate is just so terrible that the valuations I’ve heard for many reputable, successful companies are far lower than six or 12 months ago,” Harding says. “Given we are profitable already, and our growth trajectory has been quite good so far, we’re listening to offers, but we’re taking the stance of, all right, we’ll have a conversation, but we’re waiting for someone to make an offer that shows us they understand the vision of Bonanzle and will work with us to make a plan.”

Harding’s peers in the startup community have been raving about the company lately. “Bill showed me the site, and I was really impressed,” says Dan Shapiro, the co-founder and CEO of Ontela, a mobile software startup in Seattle. “There are people who want to talk about what they’re selling and buying. And they actively discourage that on eBay and Craigslist.” As for Bonanzle’s not needing to take outside investment, Shapiro (who has plenty of experience in fundraising and choosing partners) says he supports the strategy so far. “If you’re profitable in this economy, good Lord, don’t screw up a good thing.”

But rather than trying to build a mass-market site like eBay, Craigslist, or Amazon, Harding says his long-term vision for Bonanzle would be something more like Etsy, an online marketplace devoted to handmade goods. “They’re extremely successful. They dominate the market,” he says. “Their traffic isn’t huge, but they’re successful at creating this place in buyers’ minds.” With Bonanzle, it looks like Harding has at least begun to create that space for buying and selling long-tail merchandise—and connecting with like-minded people.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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  • http://www.thebonz.com/memawscollectibles Sherri

    This site is a wonderful site with caring owners, and friendly helpful people. I love it there and support it with monthly contributions and by helping promote it. The article is right, its the sellers who have promoted and helped build the site to its present site of #4 on the Power Sellers Unite list! We are working on crumbling the mountain that is just in front of us, and we are doing it listing by listing. Thanks guys for the wonderful selling site!

    Sherri Smith

  • http://a-night-owl.com/ ANightOwl

    Bonanzle is the most friendly venue I have ever sold on. Bill has created a site that really is unique. It’s easy to use, uncluttered and is actually fun to be a part of.

    I have been there for nearly 6 months, and have seen it rapidly grow from a quite small site to one that is profitable for me as a seller. As as a buyer I am pleased with the variety of unique merchandise I can find.

  • Bonanzlefan

    Bonanzle is by far the best site I’ve been involved with. The community is very friendly and supportive.

    As a seller I’m able to have complete control over how I promote my merchandise.(keyword being MY merchandise) The more I promote the more I sell. Other sites tend to believe they are in control of your merchandise.

    The Bonanazle site foundation is set for greatness in e-commerce. So glad I’m a part of it!

  • UknowUneedAnother

    I’ve only been with this venue for a few weeks. It has a very upbeat and positive feel.

    It has a wonderfully easy to navigate home page and great variety.

  • http://www.happysafebaby.org HappySafeBaby

    Bonanzle is such a friendly place with very helpful people. It has so many places throughout the site for people to discuss what they are selling and buying that it truly makes Bonanzle a fun place to be.

    In many ways, Bonanzle is nothing like eBay. It has the concept of booths like a convention, where you can interact with your customers in real-time, something you can’t even do with eBay. It gives Bonanzle a really neighborly atmosphere. Booths allow a seller to show off all their products, which is very hard to do when all your items are in individual, separate auctions like in eBay. And of course, unlike eBay, Bonanzle is free to just list your items.

    There’s a lot more, such as the incredible help Bonanzle provides booth owners in helping booth owners sell their products. Importing all your existing items from eBay, Craigslist and your own Inventory file. And, last but not least, the web site is incredibly simple, fast and easy to use.

    Selling is fun again.

  • pishposh59

    Well-written and accurate article. Bonanzle really is a great place to buy, sell, or just browse and visit. I’ve found some incredible things there. There are catagories and hand-picked lists that make shopping fun and easy.

  • http://Bonanzle Griffengarb

    Absolutely the very best service on Bonanzle from the owners and a super site! Owners response to questions/issues is fantastic and prompt! The sellers are friendly and helpful. The features offered are adequate and easy to use.
    Super site!!

  • Whittaker3

    I agree with all of the above comments. A seller friend told me about Bonanzle. It is easy to use with features that empower the sellers.

    Buyers need to come look around all the booths. The selections are vast and the prices are great.

    It makes online buying/selling a pleasure. You get to know your buyers and they get to know you as a seller.

  • liberty925

    Thank you for a great write up on this fabulous site.

    Bonanzle is such a wonderful combination of fun and serious business! Fun in that there are such interesting things to do there — pursue handpicked lists, look at items marked exceptional, plus there is a very friendly forum. Serious business in that the owner’s take the users requests and comments to heart and are incredibly responsive. These are only some of the reasons the site is growing like a mushroom in the Washington rain forest.

    Many of the Bonanzle users wish that they could be investors there — myself included! It is a winning package, for buyers, sellers or anyone involved in the site.

  • milieu

    So nice not to have to repost items each week to sell here. Can’t wait for the inaugural “BonanzleUp” meeting in Seattle on May 16th!

  • Dianne Ulery

    Great Place to Hang Out, Meet People, Buy Unique Items and Sell My Jewelry. I have a booth there and spend more time there than my Facebook. There is a Chat Room in every booth, and lots of Forums about every subject.

    Now I can Socialize & Sell in the same place. Thanks Bonanzle~!!

  • http://Bonanzle Katherine

    This site is truly a pioneer in the on line selling arena. With their innovative ideas such as live booth chat they can’t go anywhere but up.
    This site and it’s owners are very dedicated to the sellers and the customers in that they are determined to give both the seller and the customers a wonderful environment in which to carry out business.

    They just recently hired a person to take care of tech issues and to keep an eye on the stores opening and ward off the sellers that are marketing the fake knock off merchandise that is virtually taking over some of the other selling sites like bluejay and others.
    This is as far as I know one of the only selling sites dedicated enough to realize this problem and take a definitive stand on stopping it in their website.
    I believe that Bonanzle will become the next “big thing” on the internet and a force to be reckoned with.

  • kashmir31

    Great article! Bonanzle really is fun and easy to use whether you are buying or selling, and both the members and the owners of the site are friendly and helpful.

  • Peggy

    I agree with all the above comments. I’ve only been a member of Bonanzle for 2 months, but it’s, by far, the best site to sell. After 5 years of being on another site, I gave it up. Then I found Bonanzle. What a difference! I’m, once again, having fun! Bonanzle is the best, and only place to be.

  • http://www.hughesteesandgifts.com hughesteesandgifts

    Bonanzle is the fastest growing, most positive, most wonderful, most friendly & best selling venue out there. Not to mention it is FREE to list your items there & FREE to own a booth!

    I have been a member of Bonanzle for about 5 months now & I have to say it really is the bst out there.

    Not nearly the negativity, & when you ask for help, you actually get it, wheather from fellow bonanzlers or the Boyz in charge.

    If you send an email to support, you ACTUALLY get a real answer, not a canned response & generally within a couple of hours.

    We are also having a BLOCK PARTY sale on sunday…about 60 of us together. Where else would you be able to not only organize something like this, but ALSO PROMOTE about it!?

    If ypou aren’t a member yet, & looking for new home, PLEASE stop looking because you will find it at bonanzle.

  • http:www.bonanzle.com/bittersweetmemories Dixie Murray

    I’ve been at Bonanzle for about three months and it’s a great place to be. It doesn’t cost a fortune and everybody is helpful and friendly. There’s always something going on to get involved in. It has the easiest listing process I’ve ever found. I think it’s destined to be big.

  • BellyDance&More

    I’ve been very pleased with both the support and personal help from the owners as well as the upbeat attitude of the members! Bonanzle is easy to use, search, upload pics, start auctions. NO COST TO SELLER until item is sold, then much lower FVF’s than..well..you know. It’s GREAT!

  • http://www.stockpiled.net/specials.html Stockpiled with Savings

    I have only been with Bonanzle for a short time, but have found it to be one of the easiest, and most friendly selling venues out there.

    It’s free and easy to set up a booth, and it’s easy to get support for any questions or problems you may have.

    I love that you only have to list your items once, and they stay listed as long as you like. Also, the fact that it is free to list with only a small final value fee is a definite plus.

    If you haven’t discovered Bonanzle yet, stop by and check them out. I’m confident that you will love it there just as much as I do!

  • Ellie

    “marketing the fake knock off merchandise that is virtually taking over some of the other selling sites like bluejay and others. – Katherine”

    It’s too bad Bonanzle sellers have to knock other sites in an attempt to make Bonanzle look better. I question the motives of posters who make these type of comments.

    Bonanzle is not immune to this problem that exists at vitually every selling site on the Internet.

    I like Bonanzle, but I don’t like to see other sites hammered to make it look better. Let Bonanzle stand on its own.

    Since many Bonanzle sellers also sell at other sites, this type of misinformation hurts them as well as all of other good and honest sellers at the site mentioned.

    Is that really what Bonanzle sellers want to do? Make Bonanzle look good at the expense of other sites and hurt other sellers in the process?

  • John

    Stay away from this place. It is full of scammers and counterfeit items.

  • Jolene

    I agree with everything Ellie stated, let Bonanzle stand on its own merits. Shame on you Katherine, you know how to spell BLUJAY, you have a store there too.

    Bonanzle is new and I wish them a lot of success. What will happen Katherine if you become upset about something on the site, will you bad mouth them too all over the net?

  • Donna

    While Bonanzle may work for some it might not work for others. No site can please everyone.

    Socializing may be important for some while selling may be more important to others. I much preferred straight selling as I don’t have much time for anything else.

    Katherine you are still selling on Blujay, aren’t you?

  • http://pugcentricpursuits.com pugcentric

    I moved my small store from eBay to Bonanzle last fall. Bonanzle is a really special venue and feels just like home. I still list from time to time on Ebay, but now it seems like a big box store to me.

    On the other hand, Bonanzle is fun to hang around on–the hand picked lists, the forum, the real-time chat, the clean crisp look of the site. Bonanzle is the place for me to “grow my business” once this recession is over. It’s getting bigger every week and I’m proud to be a part of it all!!

  • bagforsale

    Bonanzle is for socializing, the forum is a mess, too much backstabbing and complaining, everyone wants to be smarter than the other.

    The site will improve if you get rid of the forums. Buyers read the garbage and they run away.

    Take heed owners and do the right thing. Your site is on the right track, take care of it.

  • disgusted

    I have been on bozo for a few months, and have made some sales. Nothing to write home about.
    Every day the site disgust me more and more. Censoring on the forums is terrible. You can get your post disemvoweled for nothing more serious than saying good morning. Yes it happens! If the bozo boys don’t like your opinion about something, you are given a suspension from the boards without a warning.
    The bozo boys also like to play practical jokes on the sellers, which is very childish.
    Constant changes that are never thought out.
    They are little boys that need to grow up and take this site serious, or it will not suceed.

  • http://bonanzle PityParty

    What’s the matter Teresa, sour grapes?

    This site is amazing! I was on blujay too and my mom taught me that if you have nothing to say, don’t say anything. So I am not going to say anything about blujay.

    I love da boyz, they are always there to help. They keep the forums in line with a gentle hand. They toss out the garbage when it needs to be tossed.

    The owner even set up my google feed for me when there was a glitch. Seller support is just an email away. There is even a phone number to contact them.

    I have been selling online since 1999 and I have never found a better place to settle in and feel at home.

    This site IS succeeding! We are almost #3 on Power Sellers Unite rating. I can see this site surpassing ebay.

    If you behave yourself, you will do fine. If you are out to make trouble, you won’t be there for long. Right Teresa?

  • http://www.tamundo.de Doro

    Sounds a lot like the story tamundo made in the last months in Germany

  • cindy taylor

    Although everyone here is pleased with the B, I hate it because B does not promote the site at all. I have been a member for 5 months and not one sale. The nightowl thinks she knows it all, but she doesn’t. Many members at B DO have problems selling. I think it sucks!

  • you

    Hey yeah lets join bonanzle where you say and do what ever you want to anyone.
    sell to each other. call people all sorts of names and just run wild and pretend its the best acid trip that has come out of the west coast. LOL
    ebay alternative hey west coast come out come out where ever you are LOL.
    what a bunch of west coast hype
    the site is slow, and after a all most of what 2 years and items in your shop just disappear and not cause they sold. sell at bonanzle? LOL
    another west coast joke
    and how is bonanzle who is not an auction site be an alternative to an auction site ebay?
    can’t you bloggers get a real story going?
    oo they pay you a percentage from bonanzle.
    I seen that up over there where you can advertise at places like this on the net for a fee from your so called sales LOL.
    you know that more than half those shops or booths at bonanzle are closed.
    they just never took them down right DUH WHA!!! LOL west coast is so hip I really LOL LOL
    cheeeeeese you internet bloggers are starting to sound like FOX NEWS
    gimme me a percentage Ill say anything
    OK just tell mark hes cute and bill hes a hunk and your in at bonanzle

  • me

    bonanzle you gotta be kidding it is all smoke up your and mirrors
    all west coast venues these west coast venues do a lot of bull out here on the net
    figure that is why they all got fired from Ebay
    Ebay started cleaning house a few years ago and all these LOL alternatives to ebay and these real funny bloggers have come up everywhere
    alternatives to ebay no wonder you all got fired from ebay
    do you all know what alternative means?
    how about the difference between sellers buying from sellers under false ID or just a buyers ID and a seller ID you know where you have a bunch of different IDs and pretend to be some one else LOL
    a whole bunch of people who have three or more booths cause they cannot fit their items in one LOL and are so stubborn cause it is free LOL LOL
    half the shops are closed cause those real people got tired of waiting for their so called fellow bonzlers to do something about the cliques there
    they ravage thru the discussion boards saying what ever they want and just say oh mark you are so cute and that bill he’s a hunk LOL LOL
    I know all this cause I actually did the research and did call mark a cutie many times and bill a hunk and I was in and in with the clique just went in under an alias opened up a bogus shop
    didn’t matter cause sales there are null
    and just did what the clique there is doing and wow LOL and I am a guy LOL who went in under a female name
    you west coasters just keep doing those drugs you’re just fine LOL LOL LOL LOL
    me me me me
    Thats what they should call bonanzle me me me me me

  • notanotheralternative

    How things have changed in a few short months.
    All the rah rah for bonanzle and the bozo boyz seems to have simmered down and now perhaps a hint of frustration and disgust for the venue that touted simplicity.

    Boonanzle looks like a gamer site gone wonky. Checkout doesn’t function, search is worse than ebay. Widgets and gadgets and happy happy joy joy chorus from the ever faithful. If non members could only read the drama forum, but that is hidden away, like most of the facts about bozo. If you need to make a living don’t bother with bozoland. Go where the traffic is, live with the rules and deal with reality. If you don’t mind living under a bridge then feel free to waste your time listing on bonanzle, the next best thing since sliced bread. Oh yah, sliced bread sucks.

  • http://nymarts.com NYM Arts

    I Love Bonanzle !

  • AnnaMarie

    I bought something on this web site, Bonanzle, and it turned out the seller was bogus. I had my money stolen because I bought the item with a Visa gift card and they do not replace stolen funds! This web site is responsible and should pay me back my money but so far has ignored my requests.

    Beware of what you buy and who you buy from, this web site can NOT be trusted. There are thieves on this site waiting for suckers.

  • notbozoland

    I set up a little shop at bozo back when they were still in beta. Simplicity was the mantra, a venue to sell OOAK, unique items. Right. Now bozo is all bells and whistles and full of everything ordinary. If I have to tell Mark he is cute along with calling Bill and hunk to be an in member, well pulleeezzzeee, I’m not blind nor stupid. Don’t waste your time, sell at the big site or sell at a yard sale, but don’t join the rah rah ranks of this gamer site.

  • Hoss McDonald

    I purchased “Kingston” USB drive for $65 at Bonanzle. It broke in a month but Kingston said it was counterfeit. Bonanzle as well as PayPal refuse to force a refund from the fraudulent seller. They both say it is “Caveat Emptor” (buyer beware). The PayPal name offers Zero fraud protection and Bonanzle doesn’t offer anything but a “sorry about that” e-mail. Stay Away from both of them. Use Amazon where refunds are quick and easy and the products are not counterfeit.

  • NOMOREBOZOS

    Bonanzle is full of Bozos. People who don’t have a clue about selling and just want to chat as long as it’s not too much and not too much of promoting your stuff to sell eaither oh and it’s getting to where you can’t sell to much eaither. Ass kissing is also required. This place is a joke! A chat room where you can’t chat too much and a selling site where you can’t promote and sell too much. Makes sense?