From war to the webPublished 9:18am Thursday, April 11, 2013
Lyle soldier turns down enlistment offer to start online store
While his comrades were fast asleep under a hot evening sky, Adam Coleman of Lyle hunted for explosives along high-traffic roads in Iraq.
Coleman was part of Special Operations for the Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician, a post he held for eight of the 11 years he served. Recently, Coleman turned down a $90,000 re-enlistment bonus to instead fully pursue his online shop, FamousTurtle2010.
From bombs to treasures
Since childhood, Coleman has gone to garage sales with his mother, a fond memory that eventually led to his change in careers in October.
“It always felt like we were going out treasure hunting, and to this day it still feels like that,” he said.
Instead of hunting for improvised explosive devices, Coleman now hunts for treasures. He sells mostly vintage home items and military collectibles, but will sell anything he thinks has value or people will enjoy.
Much of what he offers may be hard to find, so he reaches a lot of customers who are searching for particular items they otherwise couldn’t locate.
“I have trained to spot things that most people wouldn’t, because if I didn’t I would be dead,” Coleman said.
When hunting for IEDs, Coleman noticed telltale signs, such as out-of-place rocks or objects used as markers for hidden devices. When finding the right treasures to sell, he researches key features to help spot valuables.
Coleman credits his mother, Doreen, with teaching him the foundation and secrets to a successful eBay business, and credits his military experience as the engine to his online success.
“I was trained in the military to think outside the box and to never stop trying to make things better,” he said.
Within the first several months as a newbie merchant selling on eBay — he’s been listing about three years — Coleman achieved PowerSeller status. In his first year, he earned about $10,000 in sales, but that was just the beginning.
“My second year, a switch went off, and all of the sudden I just figured things out, and I was averaging about $2,000 and $5,000 a month,” he added.
Coleman’s sales have increased every year. Last year he added Amazon to his marketplace options and his own web store.
He moved all his barcoded items to Amazon and kept the vintage home décor products on eBay. That decision became very profitable. When one marketplace experiences low sales, the other picks up the slack.
“I like to sell across multiple platforms as I feel that the diversification helps dampen the peaks and valleys of sales,” Coleman said.
Wife and military are behind his success
Coleman’s active duty required an extremely high level of expertise, he said. His team would drive about 5 mph to locate IEDs along highways, clear U.S.-held bases of leftover, unexploded ordnance from Desert Storm and disarm underwater mines.
“I have been ambushed, shot, blown up, and I almost drowned at 150-feet when my diving rig malfunctioned,” he said. “I realized after the third time of almost dying that I should probably start considering a new line of work and selling online.”
Originally, selling on eBay started out as a means to help pay for his wedding to now-wife Sonia. Just days before his wedding, a medical emergency arose, so he continued selling to pay bills.
By then, he was already addicted to selling. His online business took off, and Sonia helped with the orders while he was deployed.
“[The business] was not strategically planned at all,” Coleman said. “It was actually a knee-jerk reaction to the amount of orders that I started receiving.”
Wooden turtle inspires name
Coleman named his eBay Store after a gift from his wife, who had traveled to Fiji and brought home a wooden turtle. Coleman made the turtle famous as his store mascot, and thus was born Famous Turtle’s Treasures.
When he started his Amazon store, Sneaky Squirrel Games, Coleman decided to use a different name based on his experience in the Navy. Those who were part of secretive, elite special operations were jokingly referred to as “sneaky squirrels.”
“On top of that, my wife calls me a squirrel because I am always hiding money around the house, forgetting about it, then finding it weeks-to-months later, and reacting like I just found treasure,” Coleman added.
And it’s thanks to the support of his wife that he has made it this far with his business. Coleman credits Sonia with keeping him organized and on track, despite the fact she looked at him like he was crazy when he first brought home items to sell online.
In turn, Coleman tries to offer that same support to his customers by offering a 14-day return policy, next-day shipping, and “going above and beyond” the call of duty to make sure they are happy with their purchases.