Young entrepreneur creates business

Jack Schoelz

The mob of fans tightens and convulses with cheers as their idol Michael Phelps approaches the stands to sign autographs. It’s Feb. 17, 2007 — the second night of the national Grand Prix swim meet at the University of Missouri—Columbia recreation center. Tonight, Phelps has set the world record in the 200 meter butterfly, and now he stands before many screaming fans, all leaning over the railing waving posters, swim caps and magazines in an attempt to get his autograph.
While the crowd waits for their memorabilia, senior Eric Wetz has a different approach. Having paid several younger kids to get swim caps signed for him, Wetz will not end the evening with just one autograph, but several — and he does not plan on keeping any of them for himself.
Instead, Wetz will sell the autographs on eBay, making around $200 off of each one. It’s the beginning of a fruitful career.
Today, Wetz has three accounts on the Internet auctioning sites: one on Craigslist and two on eBay. Two of the accounts he uses for “flipping” — buying and selling personal goods at higher prices to make profits. With the help of a few partners, Wetz uses his business to make up to $2,000 in a single week when his business operates at maximum productivity.
“We’re meeting, on the high end, up to 20 people a week when college is going on,” Wetz said. “During the summer it’s pretty slow. It’s usually hit or miss. You might do a couple a week, but usually we take the summer off to hang out.”
Senior Andrew O’Haro, who spent most of last year working along with Wetz in advertising for the flipping business, believes Wetz has a very unique outlook on the world that also allows him to be so good at what he does.
“Most people are like, they get an iPhone and use it as an actual phone,” O’Haro said. “But he gets an iPhone, and he sees it as something to make money off of and a way to sell it and get profits from it. It’s just a very different aspect than most people.”
As a “flipper,” Wetz makes money by negotiating low buying prices and setting high selling prices. By waiting for the college year to be in session, he uses auctioning sites to take advantage of people hoping to make quick cash. Periodically, Wetz will even buy and sell the same product within only a few minutes.
“College students are the people who usually sell stuff for cheap because they just need money,” Wetz said. Occasionally, “We’ll set up times [for two separate deals] five or 10 minutes apart so the buyer and seller don’t actually meet because we’re the middle man who makes money.”
With a knack for personal finance, Wetz knows exactly what sorts of career opportunities he wants to pursue.
“I’ve been business oriented my whole life [but] I don’t really want to do sales stuff,” Wetz said. “I just want to do stocks and just Wall Street, the corporate stuff, right out of college.”
To O’Haro, the business man’s energetic money management is only initially surprising. Eventually, they realize it’s simply a part of who Wetz is.
“He’s actually a really hard worker and once he sets his mind to something he really wants to get it done, especially with the business,” O’Haro said. “The money is really his driving force. It’s all about money. I guess that might be bad to some people but, I don’t know; it’s Eric.”
By Jack Schoelz