Bringing it Full Circle: 20+ Years of Connections Through Selling on eBay

How eBay seller Cami Nyquist grew her business from her kitchen table to establishing a nonprofit to help pay it forward.
Jun 29, 2020 3:50 PM ET
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Editor’s note: In celebration of eBay’s 25th anniversary, we’re spotlighting a seller every week from our global community in our Mini Stories column through 2020.

Cami Nyquist, a mother of four, often jokes that her eBay business is like her fifth child. Over the past two decades, she has poured her heart into growing her small business from her kitchen table in McMinnville, Oregon, to a flourishing online storefront with thousands of rare and unique collectibles for sale every day for charity. Cami’s life philosophy is grounded in purpose and built around community. And, with every sale made on eBay through her Swedemom store, she hopes to pay it forward by providing opportunity — a tiny token of happiness — for someone else.

“I’ve always believed that technology coupled with compassion can really help people. The transformation of human lives is more valuable than money can ever buy,” Cami said. “What eBay has given me is an opportunity to fulfill what I have believed for all of my life and have been taught to do — and that is to help serve people.”

In 2016, Cami founded the Swedemom Center of Giving, a nonprofit that provides specialized financial assistance to a network of other nonprofits by leveraging ecommerce like the eBay for Charity platform. Her center helps fundraise for over a dozen organizations across Arizona, Illinois, Oregon and Texas that support youth and family programs, community building initiatives, homeless shelters and more.

Cami’s center lists donated quality items on eBay for Charity, where all sale proceeds go directly to the nonprofits to help them sustain and thrive. So far this year, Cami’s center has sold more than 6,600 items on eBay. And call it kismet: Her center’s office is in the former campus of a community college where Cami used to teach classes on how to sell on eBay years ago.

“Here I am sitting in a building, where I taught this class to teach people how to put stuff on eBay. And, still at this moment, we are sitting here teaching people how to put stuff on eBay, but in their own little skillset,” Cami said. “Right now, there's people in the training room learning to do imaging, description, intake, warehouse, shipping and fulfillment.”

Cami’s center helps create more ways for donors to give, while providing support to other nonprofits, job training, internships, community volunteers and sustaining products to help keep items flowing in a circular economy online. “What I feel this organization that I’ve founded will continue to try to strive for is building community. Building something meaningful, purposeful and sustainable,” Cami said.

Family always has been an inspiration for Cami and her business. Her eldest son, then eight years old, helped her set up her first handful of eBay listings. The first item she put up for sale was a thimble, once owned by her grandmother that had served as a reminder for Cami to appreciate the little things. Now, her youngest son continues to support the business by ensuring the technology side of the house is running and humming along smoothly.

Running her own business has been a full-circle moment for Cami, whose father also had been a business owner and is now retired. As a young girl, Cami recalls watching him spend long hours running his business and how her mom never stopped believing in him, supporting him every step of the way in building his company.

Now, her own kids have spent their childhood and teenage years watching Cami grow her business, with hard work, perseverance and fortitude (or “gumption” as Cami likes to put it) with her husband giving her additional “courage and strength” every day, she said.

“They have hung out with their mom all these years in shipping – and they all did packing at one point or another. They even drove across the country to pick up inventory at times in the early days of our business,” Cami said. “They’ve really experienced the business and have all grown from it. It’s been fun to watch them watch us, and see their desire to be world changers as well.”

Through her center, Cami said she’s had countless memorable experiences in connecting a buyer with the item they have long sought. Two customer stories, though, have stood out over the years for Cami. Once, she received a letter from a woman who ordered a purple hat for her mother. The customer said her mother had lost the ability to communicate and hadn’t spoken in years. “When the package arrived, the lady said her mother was smiling as she opened the packing, and when she put the hat on, her mother started to sing after not uttering a word in years!” Cami said.

Another story that has remained with Cami was a leather coat she sold to a customer in Wisconsin. The customer wrote saying the coat was one her father had made in his factory, and every Christmas, he’d bring them home for the family to wear. Since his passing, the daughter said she had been searching for one of his coats for her husband.

“And she sent me a picture of this coat and of her dad making the coat. I thought, ‘Oh wow.’ She said she couldn't give words to what it meant to her to get that coat to her husband that her dad had made,” Cami said.

“I can't tell you how many times a product has connected with somebody's memory of something and how important that was to them,” Cami said. “That's what gives me life to continue seeing people's lives be happier, because we brought something that was meaningful back into their life.”

From growing her online business during the Dot Com era to helping items find renewed life and value today through eBay, Cami said it’s been rewarding to help others since she began selling on the marketplace. “I believe, no matter what happens in our world, ecommerce is a way people are going to operate in the future. It’s only going to grow,” Cami said. “To me, this is a time where this generation can step up to the plate and use their skills in ways that are different than my generation did.

Let's do it better. Let's be kinder to each other, work with our community and work with people. That's what we need to do. We need to be more together in our work and in our ability to serve the world.”

Empowering entrepreneurship and creating economic opportunity for all has been our philosophy at eBay since we were founded 25 years ago. Our marketplace has been enriched by the hundreds of thousands of independent small businesses and entrepreneurs worldwide. We win when they do. Learn more about how we partner with our sellers.