My wife is a “stay-at-home mom.” But she also has a part-time business: selling children’s books.

We pack up our minivan on weekends and head out to holiday bazaars, fall festivals, etc. in our area to sell them.

The books are great, and very culturally diverse. Many are based on old folktales and have award-winning illustrations. And since most of them feature pirates, knights, faeries, or princesses, we thought it would be cool for kids to have costumes to go along with the stories. Plus, we figured a tent full of faeries’ wings, pirates’ capes, knights’ helmets, and princess gowns was sure to attract attention. So when we went to our first event last year, almost as an afterthought, we brought a bunch of those items to supplement our book sales.

And that’s how we discovered something (aside from the fact that grandmothers spend the most) that will greatly influence how we run the business this year.

Despite having all those beautiful books on display — and my wife and I selling their virtues face to face with each visitor — the costumes were more popular. By far. They accounted for about 75% of our sales. And the profit margin on them was huge. We pretty much cleared out our entire stock after three events.

That wasn’t what we expected. But as Michael Masterson always points out, you never know how your business will fare or what you need to tweak or change until you actually get started.

The key to our unexpected success was China.

We paid our Chinese supplier about $2 for the pieces we needed to put together each complete costume. (A pirate’s costume, for example, comes with a hat, bandana, eye patch, cape, and sword.) But I’m sure next go-around we can negotiate an even better deal. The pieces are fairly high quality. And since we put some effort into coordinating the pieces, we don’t feel bad about marking up a set to $12 or $15. (Actually, my wife does the coordinating. She doesn’t trust me.)

Many of our fellow vendors follow the same buy-low/sell-high model with play sets, puzzles, games… just about any children’s toy you can think of.

This isn’t a new business model, by any means. It’s used by thousands of small businesses all over the world — online and off.

It’s used by all the big retailers, too. Walmart, Target, Macy’s, to name a few. Just about every manufacturer, from Apple to Louis Vuitton, has a factory or supplier in China.

And it’s never been so easy for individual entrepreneurs to get into this market. My wife and I kind of stumbled onto the opportunity. But now you can go into the import-export business with your eyes wide open. Because one of ETR’s contributors, Marc Charles, has created a new program that teaches you exactly how to do it.

You can bring in almost any products, from sleeping bags to mp3 players, and sell them at a huge mark-up. Marc focuses on online marketing and selling — which allows you to expand your reach and really ramp up sales. You even contact your suppliers via the Internet — through an easy to navigate website known to very few entrepreneurs.

Of course, a lot of success in business is based on building relationships and knowing how to negotiate. So Marc helps you with that too, giving you proven strategies for setting up deals. (He’s been doing this for years, and his results have been phenomenal.)

If you’ve ever considered going into business for yourself, this is an easy way to get started. You’re not going to beat Walmart. But, as I discovered, you can make some nice cash on the side.

Check out Marc Charles’s China Wholesale Trader program.

By the way, my wife and I are thinking of moving our little costume business online. That way, we’ll reach many more people than we ever could at festivals. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

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