Hawaii’s Buy and Sell Entrepreneurs
Meet the resourceful entrepreneurs who snap up other people’s castoffs, clean them and then resell to you and me
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Cory Asuncion has the energy, skills and chutzpah to
Cory Asuncion was born to sell. He jokes that he would have rented space in his mother’s womb if that had been possible. “I could sell oil back to the Saudis,” Asuncion says confidently, and with good reason. He’s had lots of practice.
“I’ve been selling things since I was 8 years old to make money and it has just sort of grown into a passion over the years,” the 42-year-old says.
Today, selling things is his livelihood, everything from selling the contents of abandoned storage units to flipping cars on Craigslist. Asuncion’s garage sales attract more than 200 buyers a day, which forces him to hire a valet to manage the traffic on his street.
He is part of a growing community of entrepreneurs who earn at least part of their income buying and selling new and used items for a profit, without operating a traditional store. For some, it’s a hobby or sideline; for others, it’s a fulltime obsession.
Asuncion says the tough economic times mean more people are looking for deals. With so many avenues to reach potential buyers online, Asuncion says, his cell phone rings nonstop.
“I love the sound of my ring tone,” he says. “I should just change it to ‘cha-ching!’ because, every time my phone rings, I know it’s another business opportunity.”
Everyone in the resale business has his or her own tactics, venues and methods for acquiring and hawking “new” inventory: antique shows, Craigslist, eBay, garage sales, swap meets, forfeited storage units, estate sales or even collecting junk off the side of the road – practically anything and anywhere is fair game. “It’s almost like a treasure hunt,” Asuncion says. “I still get a rush when I find something really good.”
His current interest is storage units whose owners have defaulted on their rent, with the contents auctioned to the public.
“We give the owners 90 days to pay the agreed-upon rent and we make every effort to keep the unit in their possession before we auction it,” says Kristi Hoohuli, manager of Hawaii Self Storage Kapolei and Kapolei West. The company is required by law to publish a public notice in the newspaper two weeks before the auction.
Asuncion says he goes to about a dozen auctions monthly; he doesn’t always win the bidding but rarely walks away empty handed.
“If I don’t see a unit that I want or someone outbids me, I don’t sweat it, because I always have a backup plan,” he says. Asuncion never leaves home without his business cards – and he’s got several for the different businesses he owns. “I give the winning bidders my card and tell them to call me if they need help moving the items in the locker,” he says. “For a fee, of course.” Or, if they plan to set up shop at the swap meet or have a garage sale and need a way to promote the sale, he also owns a sign company.
Hoohuli says Hawaii Self Storage gives the winning bidders three days to remove the unit’s contents. After that, owners can pay a day rate or the items will be discarded or donated to a local charity.
Unlike many other resellers, Asuncion says, when he bids on auctioned storage units, he isn’t necessarily looking for big-ticket items, such as electronics, rare artwork or antiques. “You have to do a lot of research when you try to sell those things and I don’t know much about that stuff, so I try to stay away from it,” he says. “Plus, everyday people aren’t looking for those things – they want bargains – so to have expensive, valuable things would mean I would have to spend more money for them, store them longer and that ties up my cash flow. I’m looking for things I can buy, shine up real quickly, turn around and sell tomorrow.”
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