How to cash in on other people’s junk

I BET you have a cupboard’s worth of stuff that you could sell that you haven’t got round to doing anything about yet,” David Brackin says. “Most people do.”

He’s probably right. This is how the Cambridge maths graduates became eBay entrepreneurs in 2004.

“We set up the business because both Fraser and I weren’t working and we were looking for something to do, so we thought we’d give this a try.” It turned out that offering to auction off stuff on other people’s behalf is very popular. “The concept is so simple,” says Brackin. Indeed it is. Their business, Stuff U Sell, sends a van round to the customer’s house to collect the thing they want to sell, packages it up, take some good quality photos and puts it up for auction on eBay. They take around a 20-30 per cent cut of profits to cover the costs they incur, but they promise that their service also improves the price the seller gets. “We are basically paid to take the hassle of selling something off someone’s hands. It clearly works because the majority of our new business comes through word of mouth – we don’t do much marketing.”

Pearce says that the business started with a blank piece of paper from their homes. “The idea required very little capital investment, so we thought we might as well give it a go and see how it worked out. We were actually surprised by how quickly it took off.” The business shifted from their homes to a warehouse within weeks.

Before turning their hands to online auctioneering, the pair worked in research and consultancy. Brackin says he much prefers warehouse life to the corporate machine: “Sure, there’s no luxury coffee maker in the office and I used to drive around London in a van collecting things myself, but it’s great to feel like you make a big difference to a business every day.” Brackin and Pearce now have 16 staff and their company churns £1.2m worth of stuff a year.

Pearce laughs: “It’s a great business. A lot of weird stuff comes our way. We recently sold an 150-year-old printing press as a prop to the people making the new Sherlock Homes film.”

Born: Bristol

Lives: Earls Court

Age: 36

Studied: Mathematics, Cambridge

Drinking: The Vesper

Reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Favourite business book: The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis

Motto: “Whilst we have time, let us do good.”

Born: Chesterfield, Derbyshire

Lives: Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Age: 36

Family: Married with three children

Studied: Mathematics, Cambridge

Drinking: Mojito

Reading: The latest Harlan Coben

Talents: “Pianist and amateur chef (although not simultaneously).”

First ambition: Air traffic controller