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Meet the eBay Doers: 15 Budding Businesses Ready to Go Big

These entrepreneurs are making things happen in the new economy.

We had a theory: that everyone’s got a brilliant business idea in them. We tested it out, asking you to tell us yours. And we were right; a barrage of budding or would-be businesses came in. Inventions inspired and outlandish. Things of beauty and utility. Problems solved, gaps filled, and a whole host of things we didn’t know we wanted, but do now.

Hundreds of ingenious ideas from imaginative, interested people. And a few that may not make it out of the pub – but not many.

We whittled those down, putting the favourites in front of our judging panel – Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Touker Suleyman, eBay’s EBAY Kirsty Keoghan, and the Guardian’s Hamish Nicklin – who together chose 15 people, or pairs, with the strongest ideas, plus the passion and commitment to take them forwards. These 15 became the eBay Doers – joining our 10-week incubator aimed at helping people grow those bright ideas into burgeoning businesses with workshops, funding and expert mentorship from entrepreneurs. Say hello to …

  • Ade Hassan, Timothy Rundle-Wood and Johanne-Marie Bonsu

Timothy Rundle-Wood – Twoodle (natural home scents)
When Rundle-Wood’s dog died from toxic shock after sniffing a reed diffuser, he decided to do some research into their ingredients. Disturbed by the harmful chemicals masquerading as “parfum” he created an 100% natural version – inspired by Kilve beach in Somerset, near where he grew up. “I was already selling cushions and lamps online,” he says. “But the reed diffuser outsold everything, so I made more based on other memories.” Rundle-Wood sells from his website, but wants to branch out. “The dream is to be known as the expert in natural home scents.”
Mentor Ade Hassan

Johanne-Marie Bonsu – Eden & Jo (plant-based face masks)
Bonsu’s beauty range has been three years in the making. “I’d been beauty blogging for a while and readers would always ask me if I sold products,” she says. “I took a while creating different blends – all plant-based and handmade,” she says. After launching this summer, Bonsu wants to use eBay’s help on her marketing strategy. “I’d love to get to the stage where Eden & Jo is a really trusted brand.”
Mentor Ade Hassan

Hellen Stirling-Baker – Small Stuff UK (ethical wooden toys)
Stirling-Baker has big plans for Small Stuff. Having started out selling handmade clothes, she now plans to launch wooden toys with a meaningful legacy. “The wood is from a sustainable forest in Scotland. Each toy comes with a certificate of origin.” After taking time out due to postnatal depression, she is looking forward to getting her new toys on eBay. “I want to create products that make people say: ‘I love the ethos behind that brand.’ And it’d be great to hear my little boy say: ‘My Mum did that.’”
Mentors Adam and Sinead Murphy

  • Clockwise from top left: Hellen Stirling-Baker; Sinead and Adam Murphy; Catalina Hoyos Loarer and IIdut Loarer

Catalina Hoyos Loarer and Ildut Loarer – Pap Yay (paper puzzle block toy)
A play on “papier”, Pap Yay was born out of a shared love of design and a desire to find an alternative to the plastic tat touted to new parents. “We wanted to create a beautiful product parents didn’t have to hide,” France-born Loarer explains. “That also leaves space for the imagination, challenging children of different ages.” Boosting their savings with a Kickstarter campaign, the couple currently work out of their Hackney flat. They look forward to seeing how the doers scheme will help them manage big orders. “It’s been an amazing experience so far,” says Loarer.
Mentors Adam and Sinead Murphy.

  • Cathy McCarty, Catherine Riney and Colin Sinclair

Catherine Riney – Our World Travel Logs (printed travel logs and notebooks)
After 20 years in business management, Riney decided to act on her idea last year. “I’ve lived in three different countries and I do feel like a citizen of the world,” she says. Aimed at helping travellers engage with their journeys and destinations, Riney hopes her sustainable travel logs will help people think about their impact on the world. “I’m starting a campaign #WeHaveNoticed about positive things people have done around sustainability. I believe everyone can make a difference, however small.”
Mentor Cathy McCarty

Colin Sinclair – Snail Offence (snail-repelling copper fences)
“We tried everything, from radiator brush bristles to cat fur,” says Sinclair of his quest to stop slugs and snails decimating his plants, without killing them. “They’re like little ninjas.” After trialling several prototypes, including a windmill that lifted the culprits away, Sinclair came up with the copper fence – an attractive, ingenious alternative. He hopes the scheme can help them reach a wider audience. “Now it’s about building the brand.”
Mentor Cathy McCarty

  • Clockwise from top right: Amy Paris and Laura Carr; Clare Haines and Melissa Burton; Michelle Duplessis and Shannon Teague

Amy Paris and Laura CarrThe London Sleep Company (sleep cosmetics and journal)
Working in a high-pressured law firm, Paris struggled with her sleep, and would concoct cosmetic blends to help. Testing them out on colleagues, The London Sleep Company was born. Two years of research later, Paris and her fiancee Carr are ready to launch a range. When it comes to a five-year plan, the pair are dreaming big. “We want to be a one-stop sleep shop,” says Paris. “We’d like to add bed linen, and be sold in any sector where sleep is important. To have a mentor’s input to help us will be invaluable.”
Mentors Clare Haines and Melissa Burton

Michele Duplessis and Shannon Teague – Pop ’n Sprinkle (sprinkle-on popcorn flavours)
The motivation for Duplessis’ and Teague’s business is simple: “We’re obsessed with popcorn.” Moving to London from South Africa, the friends were confused to find just two flavours on offer at the cinema. “In South Africa, you have at least five sprinkle-on flavours,” says Duplessis. Spotting an opportunity, they worked with a manufacturer to develop six flavours, which they’ve been selling online. The next challenge is to build brand awareness and take Pop ’n Sprinkle into the retail market.
Mentors Claire Haines and Melissa Burton

  • Ed Spurr, Catherine White and Joanna Dai

Ed Spurr – Acorn vases (green gifts)
Allowing customers to grow elegant living oak trees from acorns at home, art dealer Spurr’s self-designed glass vases stem from a combined love of beautiful things and nature. First conceived as gifts for his artists, Spurr feels the vases will have wide appeal. “They’ll be interesting to design enthusiasts, tree lovers, botanists, horticulturists and also families with children,” he says. “I think it’s wonderful that from this piece of wood you can grow a tree that’ll become 500 years old.” With the support of eBay he wants to spread his message worldwide. “I’d love people to use social media to share the beautiful trees they’ve grown and start a conversation, one country to another.”
MentorJoanna Dai

Catherine White – Sweet Chestnut Designs (Celtic-inspired head jewellery)
After working in the City and a stint as a truck driver, White longed for a more creative job. Studying silversmithing at Glasgow School of Art, she’d already had success selling “sparkly tiaras” but wanted to try something new. She came up with a Celtic bridal circlet, which a friend convinced her to put on eBay. “It sold straightaway,” says White. “That was 2012, and they haven’t stopped selling.” White is now looking for support with packaging and shipping. “I’d like to expand more into America,” she says.
Mentor Joanna Dai

  • Gabi Cox and Lindsey Fairbairn

Lindsey Fairbairn – Ledro Design (individually designed decals)
Teaching assistant Fairbairn started her wall sticker business from her home in Chichester. “I was looking for something creative,” she says. “My degree is in design, and I love to craft things, so I came naturally to the idea.” Often personalised, her vinyl illustrations were an instant hit online. She hopes the scheme will help her find the support to scale the business. “I want to employ someone to manage the customer side of it, so I can concentrate on creating more products; that’s where my passion lies.”
Mentor Gabi Cox

Luke Damian-Grint – Bone Shades (Bone-conducting smart sunglasses)
Damian-Grint’s innovative glasses use Bluetooth technology to link your phone to a bone-conducting speaker, so users can take calls and use voice-command via vibrations through their skulls to the inner ear. Some similar products are sold in the US, but Bone Shades are unusual in that they run on Google systems, so the tech is always updating. Damian-Grint has started taking pre-orders and, with the scheme’s support, he eventually wants to expand into other products. “I’d like to build it into a technology fashion brand sold in major retailers globally.”
Mentor Walter Gleeson

  • Clockwise from top left: Luke Damian-Grint; Emma Orr; Walter Gleeson

Emma Orr – Ambassadors of Science (slime kits and science experiments)
Looking for a new way to engage her students, Orr decided to shake up her lessons. “I started running science workshops,” she says, “and created a slime kit.” These proved so popular she took the kits online, developing equipment for basic science experiments. Now, Orr has given up her teaching job to pursue her passion full-time. “All my time is spent on this,” she says. Orr hopes the scheme will help her expand as she develops a box and preps for the Christmas slime rush.
Mentor Walter Gleeson

  • Top: Mo Bro’s; middle: Simon Basil; bottom: David Long

Simon Basil – Built by Basil (artisan gear knobs from recycled skateboards)
Car gear knobs made from old skateboards might not sound like an obvious idea, but it’s certainly a popular one. A fan of Reddit, Basil shared a video of himself making the accessory on the site and, to his shock, it gained more than 400,000 views in a matter of hours. The orders soon started rolling in. “I sell to people who like customising their cars, which is a massive market,” says the former engineer from Lymington, but he’d love some support. “You can’t beat speaking to someone face to face and fleshing out a problem.”
Mentors Mo Bro’s

David Long – Babouche Golf (handmade personalised golf head covers)
A trip to Marrakech inspired Long to create his range of golfing accessories. After commissioning a leather maker in the souks to produce a cover for him, he brought it back to his home course. “Everyone loved that it was nothing like the branded covers on the market,” he says. He now stocks 22 styles and sees eBay as the ideal platform for scaling up. “The scheme has given me the impetus to give this everything, because it’s not a side hustle, it’s my future.”
Mentors Mo Bro’s

Meet the mentors

Each of our Doers has been paired with an expert entrepreneur to offer advice and guide them through the scheme.

  • Melissa Burton and Clare Haines, partners, Lingerie Outlet Store
  • Gabi Cox, founder, Chroma Stationery
  • Joanna Dai, founder, DAI
  • Kunal, Savan and Keval Dattani, founders, Mo Bro’s
  • Walter Gleeson, founder, musicMagpie
  • Ade Hassan, founder, Nubian Skin
  • Cathy McCarty, author, The Easy eBay Business Guide
  • Sinead and Adam Murphy, founders, Shnuggle

Millions of people are using eBay to start a side hustle, make more of a hobby or carve out a career. Find out how here

The saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch is very much true for Robinhood.