Opportunity is Often Dressed In Overalls

Thomas A. Edison
Thomas A. Edison

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. – Thomas A. Edison

Two years ago, a friend’s wife looked me straight in the eyes and told me I should learn to repair appliances.  We talked about how the need is everywhere and how it would be a great  business.  I had some vague, lofty vision of what my next business was going to look like.  I just couldn’t see the intersection of my dream and appliance repair.  So I ran from the idea for a year and a half because it didn’t look or sound like something I wanted to do.  The opportunity was dressed in overalls.

This past week I got a call from a lady that was interested in one of my appliances.  She said that her dryer had died and wanted to pick one up from me.  She said that they had a nice Kenmore dryer they had tried to fix themselves, but hadn’t been successful.  At that point I had a decision to make.  Do I offer a trade-in discount to get her old dryer?  I had to think quickly.  I figured it was probably somewhat of an easy fix with the symptoms she listed off.  So I told her that if they brought their dryer over, I would see what it would take to repair it right in front of them.  If that failed, they could just buy my dryer like they had planned to.

They arrived and we brought the dryer into the garage.  Within a minute I had the dryer torn apart and my multimeter out testing the components looking for the culprit.  I found the broken fuse almost immediately and replaced it with a new one.  After plugging it back in we noticed that the dryer belt needed to be replaced as well.  So we took off the other part, vacuumed it out while we had it open, replaced the belt and put it all back together.  We then started it back up and their dryer was as good as new.  I charged them $75 for the two parts and the labor.  They were very happy as they saved $75 and had a very nice working dryer.  I gave them more than they were expecting, and I treated them right.  They didn’t need a new dryer.  I never left my garage, made a quick $70 profit, and walked away with a clean conscience.

A neighbor called me a little over a week ago asking if I could come take a look at his dryer.  Again, I already had the parts on hand.  After driving over to his house, I  swapped out the parts and put the dryer back together in about 10 minutes.  He paid me for my time, and had already given my family a large portion of  grapes from his grape harvest this summer/fall.  Again, I felt great.  As  I drove home, I was just kind of shaking my head at how I was now being called to neighbors houses to repair their appliances.

My good friend Matt called from Hawaii a few nights ago because his dryer had stopped heating.  So over the phone, I walked him through how to take it apart and test out each component.  We finally located the problem and I walked him through a temporary fix and sent him a link where he could find the part he needed.  The dryer was back up and working before the phone call was over.  That was awesome; remote appliance repair!

Two years ago I knew almost nothing about appliances.  As time went by, a midst my buying and selling, I started coming across more and more appliances that needed to be fixed.  At first I would just scrap them all, or sell them for cheap to other repair guys.  Finally one of the guys I was selling the broken appliances to, in a moment of mercy, showed me how easy some of the repairs were.  That changed everything.  I realized the next logical step was to start repairing them myself.

So, Peter (friend that works with me) and I started tearing apart every broken washer and dryer that would come in. (of certain brands that are worth fixing)  The amazing thing was how many of them we were able to repair, clean up and then resell.  It has changed everything.  The entire business model has changed because of this recent development.

I never planned on buying and selling on Craigslist.  I never planned on buying and selling appliances.  I never planned on repairing them.  I had a dream of starting my own business, working for myself and living a flexible and enjoyable life with my family.  I was, and still am, willing to work hard for it.  That’s the key ingredient.  A hunger and desire to bring about my goals and dreams.  Everything else has just unfolded as time has passed.

As my friend Chris often tells me, “The door of opportunity often opens behind you.”  That is my encouragement to you as well.  Work your tail off.  Pursue your dreams.  Even if only on the side for a period of time.  I think you will be surprised where you end up.  I sure have been.

Check out and like the new ReCraigslist Facebook page.  I posted a picture of our big find in a dryer last night. My goal is to write things that you believe are worth sharing with your friends.   Hope to see you over there!

– Ryan Finlay


  1. This post is very timely for me, as I have been debating back and forth about whether or not to start repairing smart phones in addition to just buying and reselling them. Replace every “dryer” in your post with “iphone” and that’s exactly how things have been for me. But you’re right, there is an initial learning curve “dressed in overalls” and there have been times I wanted to scream out of frustration when first learning to manipulate the microscopic hardware used in electronics. Deep down, I know that if I keep working at it, I’ll get the process streamlined.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Awesome to hear! You won’t regret it. The more value we add to something the more $ we will usually end up making. Thanks for sharing!

  2. If you can do repairs on the items it opens up a lot of sales possibilities. When I started selling bikes on Craigslist a couple of years ago I basically looked for ones that were in good shape. Just wash them off, pump up the tires and take pictures. Then I started watching YouTube videos on bike repair and pretty soon I was taking on project bikes, fixing them and flipping them. I’ve found that many people don’t know anything about a bike. They don’t want to maintain them…just want to jump on and ride. I’ve gotten many free or almost-free bikes because they needed repairs that their owners wouldn’t or couldn’t do. I found a lady who was giving away a Trek hybrid bike because there was something wrong with it. I said I’d give her $10 to hold it for me. She did and I picked it up. The front tire was off. That’s it! I put the tire back on and now I use it as my own. If I decide to sell it I should be able to get $250. Between CL and YouTube there are lots of opportunities to make a few extra bucks.

  3. Hey Ryan,

    I came across your website about a week ago and have enjoyed reading your articles. I was just wondering what you tell people who are interested in buying an appliance from you the reason you are selling it? I just had someone ask me that question and wasn’t sure how they would react if I told them I bought it to resell.


    • Kris, thanks for stopping by! When I first started buying and selling, I tried to avoid that question from buyers as much as possible. I felt like they wouldn’t buy from me if they knew that I hadn’t owned the item for a substantial amount of time first. Here’s a few things I’ve learned.

      1. People care more about buying from someone that is honest and straightforward than from someone who has owned the item for a few years. Just tell them you buy and sell … on the side, for fun, as a hobby etc. Tell them what you do to the items, cleaning them up, restoring them, fixing them etc.

      2. Be confident about it. Don’t be ashamed to sell an item that you just bought earlier that day. What they are concerned about is getting a quality product at a great value.

      3. Don’t afraid to lose a buyer. Buyers can sense when you are desperate to sell, and will work this weakness against you. If the first potential buyer walks away, don’t worry about it. Someone else will buy the item soon. This confidence is gained over time by selling lots of items.

      4. Be encouraged. Every person that comes to my house to buy an appliance finds out that I do it for a living. One in hundred leaves without buying, and that is not an exaggeration. I might be a decent salesperson. But, I think more of it has to do with being completely confident in the product I’m selling as being the best, cleanest and exactly as advertised. It’s at a good price, or they wouldn’t be coming to your house to see the item.

      I hope this helps. Be proud of what your selling. Keep it up!

      • Hey, Ryan,

        Great post! Often I’ve run into buyers who ask about why I’m selling as well. When you tell them that you buy and resell, do any of them ever ask how much you originally bought it for? If so, how do you answer?

        I bought a furniture piece for my home from a guy once who said he buys and resells furniture as his hobby (without cleaning or fixing it up), and that he had just found my piece that morning at a garage sale. Since I paid $80, I’ve always wondered how much he bought it for before me. Maybe that’s just because I’m used to being the reseller, but other people have to wonder that as well when you tell them point blank you resell stuff.

        Charles, the Serial Seller

        • Hey Charles, great question. My next post is on this topic. If they are brash enough to ask how much I paid, I’m just as brash to tell them that I got a good deal, and leave it at that. Then let there be a moment of silence and offer nothing more. I don’t talk to people about the exact price I pay for items, but in general I hold nothing else back. When someone asks how long I’ve had an item I will often tell them that I just got it in that day. Just got it in, just posted and they were the lucky ones to see it first! 🙂

          So, my policy is to not talk to people about how much I purchase items for. And that’s ok.


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