Four years ago, Shelly Hudson, a college graduate and mother of three, found herself on welfare after a dreadful divorce. She was so desperate to get off the rolls that she took the only job she could find: a $5.15-an-hour position putting dogs to sleep at a Murray (Kent.) animal shelter.
Today, Hudson is a member of the eBay (EBAY) elite, the exclusive, invitation-only group of megasellers who are working together to make policy recommendations to the company.
Her path from cleaning cages to selling on eBay began with her father, who for years had begged Hudson to come work for him at his wholesale company. Hudson's pride always made her say no. But without any other prospects, she finally relented and set up an eBay presence for his business, now called Shoetime. The site now accounts for half of the wholesaler's $500,000 in annual sales.
FLORIDA BOUND. With her eBay salary, Hudson has bought a house, sent her oldest son to a Kentucky boarding school, and started a college fund for her other children. "I fell in love with the eBay industry," says Hudson. "With a cell phone and the Internet, I can do my work in two or three hours a day and get it done before the boys get up or after they go to bed."
Hudson, now remarried, also involves the entire family in the undertaking -- a common trait of eBay businesses. The added benefit: The boys already know how to sell their old gear to finance their summer vacations to Walt Disney World.
One of Hudson's favorite aspects of eBay selling is the flexibility. It allows people to easily move into new areas of merchandise when margins fall or supplies get crunched. And the business is less difficult than traditional jobs to ramp up and scale down to accommodate family schedules. "I'm taking five weeks off this summer," says Hudson. "How many people can say that?"
By Michelle Conlin in New York