So, dear reader, if you’ve followed the past three chapters patiently, you’ll be pleased to know I’m now starting to reach the core of why I started recording all this stuff in the first place!
Back in 2002 I started my first business on the side, selling bespoke products for the coffee industry. It was a great little business, which really only started through a personal need that someone else saw, and told a friend who told a friend, I launched a website and started taking orders. 10 years later it was recognised as the premium brand in that niche of the industry. Things were always very busy because I was learning so much about running a business, and didn’t have great systems, so at this point I sold the business as it was too much to keep plus my day job.
The next 12 months were so peaceful! I’d come home from work and not have to worry about suddenly remembering an order I had to deal with, or a quarterly tax submission due that day, or a hundred other things a business owner has in the back of their mind. It was so nice to be free from all that.
By the time 2020 kicked off I had two new product ideas ready to go, so pushed ahead with the first of these. By the time we headed off on our road trip in February 2020 I had reviewed samples, chosen my supplier and placed my first inventory order. I had also found a new supplier for an existing product who could produce a better version, and this was ordered too. It would be a few months while they were closed for Chinese New Year, and then producing my products, so I had other things to be getting on with.
In my last post, I outlined how I got into selling on Amazon, and that the first three years were profitable, but always felt very busy and not particularly directed. If you’re thinking of selling on Amazon or just want a bit of an idea what it’s all about and the opportunity, I’d recommend you start with Amazing.com’s 4-part free training series.
In June 2019 we started a three month road trip, and while we were travelling I got an email from Amazing.com about a free webinar series entitled ‘Accelerate your profits on Amazon’. It sounded like a good growth program, so in July 2019 I spent a few days sitting by a caravan park pool in the outskirts of Darwin watching these webinars. It was helpful in terms of putting a structure around your work. And like all amazing.com ‘freebies’, there was something they were selling at the end! One gets to know this pattern after a while (although it’s interesting also to analyse how they work and learn how to grow one’s own business). I wasn’t ready to jump into anything else just then so I finished the free webinar series and that was it.
However I knew something had to change. I was busy doing ‘stuff’ in my business, but the business wasn’t growing; which was a bit demoralising. Things I was doing were helping, but I’d find other things I wasn’t watching would go wrong so things wouldn’t improve. No matter how I looked at it, my business had basically stagnated, in fact in 2019 it went backwards.
Since 2015, I’ve been running an e-commerce business selling a suite of products on Amazon. The past six years have been a series of ups and downs but I’m on a new track now. So over the next little while I want to share where I’ve come from and what my current mindset and work process is, so you can see how things change (or don’t) throughout this new process I’m following.
…in 2015 I was looking for a small business and found an Amazon business for sale on Gumtree Australia. It had been set up by a guy who’d followed some you-beaut training and started a single product business selling on Amazon USA, but he’d grown bored and wanted to move it on. I bought the business, partly because about 2/3 of the price of the business was the expensive training course which would teach me to do the same thing. When I looked into the course, it was very exclusive as to when you could join (they only opened once or twice per year) and it came with a whole suite of tools and membership benefits. However while he confirmed this all came with it, once I bought the business I found this wasn’t the case, and in fact he’d just found some pirated versions of the training videos and was ‘selling’ those to me as part of my purchase! Needless to say I was pretty disappointed. However I followed through these as best I could and learnt some interesting points. I reordered the product (which he’d let go out of stock), dealt with all the poor reviews (as he dropped the customer service ball as soon as he decided to sell) and restarted the business while dealing with the fall-out of his poor decisions.
Nonetheless the business grew well, and when I got back in stock things moved quickly. In 2016 I sold about 4,500 products which generated just over $100,000 in revenue. Let me say at this point: that is REVENUE, i.e. it’s just the value of the sales. It is NOT PROFIT. But it’s a useful comparison point over time.