535
10 min 22 sec

IT Guy Earns Extra $50,000/Year Restoring Vintage Radios

He wanted to start a side business and put his engineering degree to good use. When he stumbled across two 1950s radios, he found an idea that was right on his wavelength.
Old School Product Reselling Unique Ideas

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What It's About

Gorgeous vintage radios find their second wind!

Business Model
Reselling
Skills Required
Restoration & Sourcing
Complexity
Low
Profit Potential
Medium

Words of Wisdom

With the resurging interest in the phonograph, Allen figured using analog radio or Bluetooth to play MP3/MP4 made sense. He figured out a way to add Bluetooth to make these radios play modern music formats MP3, MP4, Bluetooth or Wifi. For many people, these old radios are just shelf art unless they can listen to their music on iTunes, iPhone, or iPad.

Offering this option opens up his market to a whole new niche of vintage enthusiasts!

Fun Fact

Often for Allen, the satisfaction is in the thrill of the hunt. He remembers one collector who had so many of these old radios in his garage that they were even propping up the falling structure and lying around in piles in his yard! Another collector had so many radios in his attic that there wasn’t enough room for anyone to walk around. He ended up dropping them out of the attic windows while Allen caught them in his driveway below!

Notes from Chris

Episode 535

For IT Professional Allen Chiang, it was a trip to the flea market in 2012 that gave him the inspiration for his side hustle. Despite not being a regular at the flea market, Allen found himself enjoying a leisurely stroll through the stalls looking at the items on offer. He’d been selling random stuff on eBay on the side for years and was hoping he might stumble across something else he could sell.

On one of the tables, he happened across two original, 1950s radios. They looked a little worse for wear and weren’t functional. But they were bright, colorful, and bursting with nostalgia.

If he could restore them, he thought, he might be able to sell them online. For $15 per radio, it wasn’t a massive investment, and he figured he could put his electrical engineering degree to good use trying to fix them.

Allen spent the next few days researching the radios. He looked for answers in blog posts and asked questions in forums, like antiqueradios.com, about anything he couldn’t find a solution to.

Much of the technology in older radios isn’t used today, and there was a steep learning curve. But Allen enjoyed the labor of love, and still to this day says he’d be refurbishing radios even if nobody bought them. Fortunately, that’s not our story—Side Hustle School isn’t about hobbies, it’s about making money!

When he completed work on the first two radios, he listed them on eBay. He looked at the prices of other similar radios that had sold, and he priced his similarly. Much to his delight, the radios sold within a few days, one for $50 and one for $200 to a buyer in the UK. That’s when Allen realized he had a business on his hands, and he decided to look to grow it.

The first step was to find more radios because just like your grandparents told you, radios do not grow on trees. To do this Allen began attending regular flea markets and garage sales, but quickly found this to be too time intensive. He has a 50-60 hour work week and a young family, so he needed to be more efficient in how he spent his time.

So he decided to buy them online, then resell them online on his website, Retro Radio Farm.

Since starting the business, Allen estimates that he’s bought, sold and repaired more than 1,000 radios and $50,000 a year from his side hustle for five to ten hours work a week. He takes 50% of that as his earnings and invests the other 50% back into the business to help it grow.. He’s currently exploring options to sell his radios in a standalone physical store. He also wants to incorporate new technology such as voice activation with these old style radios. Clearly, he’s on the right frequency… tune in to his broadcast to see how it goes!



MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:

  • Retro Radio Farm: Check out all of the radios in Allen's well cared for collection over on his website!
  • Shopify: Allen used Shopify to set up his store for Retro Radio Farm, and they're offering a 21-day trial and exclusive discount for all Side Hustle School listeners!
  • Google AdWords: Google's online advertising platform that places your ad in the 'Sponsored Links' section next to search results to boost website traffic and sales

SEE ALSO:


Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!

Yours in the revolution,

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Quote of the Day
"Each radio repair and restoration project is different and each has a hidden story to tell. When I fix a radio, and it plays again, I feel like I've solved a puzzle. And it’s fitting, like from a Stephen King story, when a 50’s song is the first thing that plays after decades of silence."
—Allen Chiang #SideHustleSchool

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To infinity and beyond,

Chris Guillebeau