In this episode of Two Amazon Sellers and a Microphone, Dustin and Kris talk about how they got started selling on Amazon and their journeys so far. They also discuss some of their successes and failures.
See more of Dustin and Kris on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCImqJsK7Ru_hC2ZLnBC_f_Q
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– Oh, there we go, okay. All right, ready?
– Let’s do it.
– Welcome to the first episode of Two Amazon Sellers and a Microphone. I’m Dustin Kane, and on with me is Kris Gramlich. How are you doing, Kris?
– What’s up Dustin, are you ready for this? It’s gonna be fun.
– Yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited to be doing this podcast, where we’re live streaming this as well to Facebook while we’re recording our first podcast, this will be a lot of fun. But today, we wanna start off just sort of going over our journeys. Both Kris and I have been sellers on Amazon since about 2013, 2014. And we thought it’d be good on this first episode, just to sort of talk about our journey, some things that we’re glad we did. I know we’re both glad that we started our Amazon businesses-
– For sure.
– For sure. But some mistakes we’ve made, just sort of give you an overview of who we are. And we’re just two guys that just decided to kind of take on that task, just kind of jump, leap of faith, jump into a new business. And we start with both Kris and I now we’ve met, within this last year, we both work for Sellozo, which is a company based out of Kansas City, that helps Amazon sellers automate their advertising. So, Kris and I both work at Sellozo, and we speak to Amazon sellers on a day-to-day basis, as well as running our own businesses. So we’ve sort of seen everything in the Amazon sphere, and we just wanna tell our journeys, just introduce ourselves to you.
– For sure. Well, let’s get right into it. You wanna go first, you wanna say how you got started? You got a pretty interesting story.
– Yeah, sure. I’ll just give a little brief background into my story. And, again, I just wanna touch on the reason we’re doing this podcast is just to be a resource to others and ourselves. Like we were talking about and I, when we started, and to this day, we constantly listened to podcasts, watch YouTube videos, it’s an always-changing landscape. So, it’s one of those businesses that it’s just really good to be involved with others that are in the same position cause you can always learn something. So, that to me is what’s exciting about this venture during the podcast is just the constant ability to learn more and more. But I’ll just jump into to my journey, I’ll try to be brief, not bore anybody to death. But in 2013 I was a tennis professional. I was teaching tennis lessons at a country club and at a nice tennis facility down in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I’ve always been sort of entrepreneurial. Teaching tennis by itself is kind of entrepreneurial. You have to get your own clients, put out a good product, follow up all the things that are involved in a business. But I had done some different things, some affiliate marketing and different ventures. But I really got interested in the FBA model on Amazon, listened to a bunch of podcasts, “The Amazing Seller,” Scott Voelker, I don’t if you know-
– Yeah, he’s still the coach.
– He still is. I listened to every episode of his podcast. He put was putting out about one a day. And so I jumped in, I told my wife, I said, “I think I can do this. I want to see what this is all about. I just went with the approach of, I’m just gonna learn this one step at a time. I started with $500, I did a bunch of different research, product research, found a product, there’s no science behind the way that I found my first product. I was like, “Oh, that looks good.” Went through all the steps of finding a supplier that was eye-opening. Bought about $500 worth of inventory, sent it in, actually, before I did that, I did a little bit of retail arbitrage just to get comfortable with that. I bought a couple things at Walmart on clearance sent them in and resold them, that got me really up to speed on how to label things and what the process was like. But I found my product about $500, sent it in, sent a few off for some reviews, back in the day, you could just kind of reach out to some reviewers, sent them out-
– What year are we in? Are we still in 2013?
– It’s 2013. And so, did that, built my listing. I mean I just went step by step, did everything by myself. I did a couple Fiverr gigs for some images and things, but that product absolutely took off, I was really lucky.
– Do you still sell that product now?
– I do, I still sell it. And this one product, we could talk about successes and failures galore. And just the power of Amazon. That was my first sort of experience of saying like, there really is such thing as passive income, and a lot of it. And the potential to change your life completely, it was there. With really quick, just I’ll go very fast that product. I did that $500, I reinvested 1000, got more, sold out, took a loan out for $10,000. And then within a year, that product was doing about $30,000 a month in revenue.
– I was one of those ones that my first product was kind of the thing that carried me, and I launched a bunch of other products. Long story short, by 2017, I was able to quit my job teaching, we moved to Kansas City where I was born and raised, brought my family back here for about two and a half years. My entire livelihood was my Amazon business. And then I started learning some other lessons about Amazon. It can giveth and it can taketh away. I ran into some interesting issues, but it was really, I think I learned a lot during this process, my sales started slipping on that product. And I can go into mistakes I made about not diversifying fast enough, not kind of getting a little bit lackadaisical with how easy it was at that point. And not maybe staying on top of my competition. And also, I think I learned a lot about when is the right time to make this your full-time gig as opposed to… cause when I say I was 30,000, $40,000 a month coming in, that sounds like a lot. But little shifts in the marketplace or a month or two here where you’re out of inventory or anything can happen, it can get really fickle really quick. So that’ll be something we’ll talk about, I’m sure in lots of future episodes. But that’s one thing I learned is when… So, I actually got back into a quote unquote, nine to five job. I was teaching tennis and then I got involved with Sellozo, which has been fantastic. It’s been eye-opening to me in a lot of ways to just to see a lot more of the tools that are out there. I’ve been using some tools to manage my business and we’ll spend a lot of time working on that. But now, I’m on top of running my business, and in my Amazon business right now, I’m sort of in a pivot phase where I’m trying to pivot to a whole different product line. So, I’m excited to be talking about that as we go down the podcast, cause I’m not sure what’s gonna happen in this either, so I’m excited to talk about it and see how I can take all the things I’ve learned about getting products to scale, how I can try to do that on repeat, and then try to potentially avoid pitfalls that I’ve seen as well along this journey. But the ability to talk to me, you and I we’ve talked in our roles at Sellozo we talk to sellers every day. And I mean, I’m on the call trying to help them, you help them, see if number one, if Sellozo is a good fit and to consult with them. But I feel like I learned something every day on those calls. Talking to the people-
– Yeah, this whole business is constant learning, like what you used to be able to do back in 2013 and ’14 no longer is relative to what you can do now in 2020. Things have really transitioned, Amazon’s really tightened up certain areas of the Amazon business. There’s things you could not do. Or if you did them now, you’d be kicked off the platform pretty quickly. So it is an ever like revolving, always constantly learning. And you and I talk to sellers daily who are doing the same thing they did years past and they don’t really understand it, what you need to do now to be different or keep the business going. So, it is something that you constantly wanna listen to podcasts, constantly wanna either join a mastermind or join some Facebook groups so you can stay up to date on what’s going on with Amazon. Cause there’s things they’re gonna release, and there’s things that are happening, that they’re not really gonna come out and tell you, you got to kind of figure it out on your own.
– Absolutely. And I’m guilty of that. I mean, that’s one of the things that I would love to talk about at some point in the future is just, I had a model that was successful, what I didn’t put enough thought into was, that was the 2013/2014 model to be successful. There is a 2020 model to be successful on there. And the really, really good sellers that are constantly pivoting to these new models and what’s working. And so one of the reasons that I was successful early on is because I was doing all the things that were a little bit ahead of the game at that point. My listings looked a whole lot better than the people that had been on Amazon for 10 years. And I was competing against vendor accounts that nobody even tried to do their listing good or tried to do good pictures, or any of them are trying to push reviews. And I was able to do that, that’s what launched me. And then now, there’s pros and cons. The cons are, yeah, it’s more competitive. I had 10 competitors for my first problem, now you can scroll for probably 20 minutes on Amazon and still be almost the same product. I mean, it’d be 50 pages of listings that are almost identical products to mine. I’ve also experienced something interesting; I launched a product that was unique, didn’t exist, the category didn’t exist, it was brand new. It wasn’t a licensed product, or a patented product or any of that. But there was nothing, so like these keywords didn’t even exist on it, like no one was interested. So I actually launched this product. It’s an interesting story that I might tell, down the road too here, but I launched that, and within a year, there’s 70 people selling the product. And it was mine, I’m the first one to have thought of it. And that was an interesting eye-opening effect too. But it shows how big Amazon is. It shows, and that’s what I’m saying i think right now is interesting is like, okay, is it more competitive to get in? Yes. Are there triple the amount of people who buy on Amazon now? Yes. So your ability to when you move up the rankings for your products to, the sales can be double or triple what I experienced in 2013, 2014 with my product with the right techniques.
– And it’s only gonna get bigger and bigger and bigger. I mean, just think about how important Prime is being now, more warehouses, subscribers are coming to Amazon every day. It’s just gonna get more and more.
– Absolutely. And it’s also, when I was talking to people early on, I tried to explain to them what I was doing. I was like, “Yeah, I sell on Amazon.” “Well, what do you sell? How do you do it?” Explaining the FBA model, it takes a little while for someone to wrap their head around it. But essentially, what Amazon is, is being able to source a product, and if you’re able to walk into Walmart and shove your product on the middle shelf at Walmart, and all that traffic, how people are gonna buy your products? Times, Amazon is essentially that. You there’s ways that you could get, if you were selling tennis shoes that you could have your branded tennis shoe right next to Nike, Adidas, everybody else, and potentially even look more attractive, like with images and things. So, and the scalability is huge. Now we’re talking about worldwide marketplaces, this is something that wasn’t really a thing when I started, the ability to sell everywhere. And taxes, sales tax, all that stuff was a huge issue when I started, it’s becoming less of an issue now, there’s more integrations and Amazon’s taking care of more things. So it’s a bit interesting, and there’s a lot. But that’s my story in a nutshell, is I took a leap of faith, took a small loan, I was able to quit my job. Got comfortable. I realized that I needed to be able to really, really, really have that Amazon business actually enormous before I would ever quit my job again.
– Would you say enormous is? Like what would you say is a comfortable monthly revenue before then?
– Well, a couple things on that, is so when you look at gurus, there’s gurus everywhere, they’ll say something like, “I’m a seven-figure seller, or I’m an eight-figure seller.” They’re talking about revenue. And what they’re actually putting in their bank account is so substantially low. I mean, it is 15% of that, maybe, it’s profit margins after everything. So, if you’re selling $1 million and your profit is 150,000, that’s would be great. But that’s still, when you’re talking about, just the things that can happen to me, Amazon can shut your account down, and that million goes to zero really quick for some weird thing, or your best-selling product, which is what happened to me took a nosedive for a bunch of reasons, competition, I had to lower my price, et cetera. If that’s your breadwinner, and you don’t have a whole bunch of them. So, for me, it would be a number, plus diversification not only in products, but diversification in channels. So I have a Shopify site where I sell all my products myself, I sell them on eBay, I sell them on Groupon, I sell them, now Amazon’s the 95% of my sales. But my goal would be either to right now, my strategy right now is to actually build and sell. So, my end game would be actually to sell my business and then either start again, or I start something new. Or I would be so diversified on so many channels, and my brand would be… I’d have such awareness of my brand, it’s much more of that than it is a number. Cause the numbers can change, but the diversification would make me feel a lot better this time around for me.
– What would you do differently, if you had to start all over again? Like if you could go back and talk to yourself, seven years ago, when you were first starting, what would be something that you would do differently, if you’re just starting out?
– I would definitely reinvest 100% of the money back into the business for a long time. Even before I quit my job, I was treating my business, like an income source, rather than a bit, now, it wasn’t taking a lot out of it. But what I would go back to do is I would try to launch as many successful products as I possibly could. And I would also as soon as a product didn’t look like it was successful, I would abandon it quickly. I stayed on too long with certain products, I got attached to them, as opposed to just looking at the numbers and saying, “Is this a good trajectory? Is this a bad directory?” And get out. Then I feel like going back, I would have maybe had by at this point, 40 or 50 winners going, and that would be I think, a different scenario. So that’s my track now, is I’m testing if testing doesn’t go well, I’m out quick. And also, if I’ve had a product selling for five years, and all of a sudden, it stops working, I’m out, I’m not gonna keep going. And I’m focusing on higher-priced items now. The 2013 model works for like $30 and above products right now. The low, the 30 and under 25 and under, it’s so easy to get in and it’s so like there’s not as much capital intensive to get involved in it, but there’s so many people doing it and it’s super competitive. And that’s my focus now, just really taking everything that I’ve learned and applying it to some new products and some going on. Plus, this time around this podcast is part of my strategy, is I do not wanna miss out on constant knowledge, constant learning. So, I mean, there’s just, that’s part of what I wanna do.
– Yeah, it’s important to surround yourself with people of like-minded and constantly continue to learn. Because again, we missed this earlier, this marketplace changes a lot. And if you don’t keep up to date with it, if you don’t follow up what’s going on, you don’t have a finger on the pulse here, you’ll be passed by, you gotta step the competition, join a course, join a mastermind, join Facebook groups, watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts. Because there is, you mentioned Scott Voelker, that was probably the only one back then. I know that was the only one I listened to, and then the, I think it was called AM/PM Podcast came out like six months after that, maybe a year after that. But Mr. Scott Voelker was the first one that I can remember. I know I listened to him back then like 2013 or early 2014, he was there, like that was, he was the only one out there.
– He kept saying, “Take action, take action, take action.” That resonated, I mean, I did, I took action, I took action. Well, let’s hear about your journey. Let’s get started with Scott. Okay, Scott.
– Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of strange. But yeah, you’re right. It started with the podcast back in 2013. And I was ready to figure out a way to make some more cash. Got on YouTube, typed in ways to make money online. There was the KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing books, you could hire people on Upwork, they would write you books, then you just post them on Amazon, and you would get a commission every time somebody read a book. So, I’ve doubled on that for a little bit. There’s still some titles that are live, I made some weird name and add some books on there. So, I’m probably get like $3 a month from that still. But I doubled in that for a minute. And that wasn’t enough. So then, I’m still, as I’m doing all this planning, I’m listening to “The Amazing Sellers” podcast and learning how to run this in business. During that time and listening to it, and then going to like thrift stores and buying clothes and selling them on eBay. This whole time, I’m trying to get some cash, make some extra income. But like all that stuff taught me to keep going, listing clothes on eBay is ridiculous, it takes forever. It’s so long, it takes very tedious, you have to measure everything. Getting a book written doesn’t take that long, but you got to make sure it sounds right, it flows good. So, I constantly did all that. And then I opened up my Amazon account. And this is probably, we’re probably in the beginning of 2014 now. I opened up an Amazon account and just did the retail arbitrage deal. Same type of deal that you did. Just go to Walmart’s or Target, garage sales, thrift stores, and just list things online on Amazon. Just so I knew the process. And if you’re starting out, I would recommend doing that too, like just go list some books, go find something in your house that you could sell, that’s new. Go to Walmart, something and just check them those clearance items and just list things, so you know how the process works. So, you know how the FBA works, that would be the first thing.
– Real quick. Somebody who might be listening doesn’t know what retail arbitrage is or how that works, and you could explain it. But essentially, you’re trying to find stuff that’s selling on Amazon for a lot more than you could buy it. And then you buy and then you resell it for money. But that really helps you understand just all the fees involved in Amazon and how to calculate that into profitability on a product, not to mention their FBA process where you’re labeling your products and sending them in and having them actually fulfill the order. And so yeah, I agree, that is a great way to get started. Sorry to interrupt.
– No, you’re good. Once you find something, once you start to learn that process, you’ll see how tedious it is, and like send items in FBA, you’ll learn how those works, but I would definitely do that first. And then I just started researching products, and there was no tools back then to find products. There was no BSR trackers, there was nothing like that, there was none of that stuff out there, you just basically wrote down, and this is what Scott was telling everybody, “Write down what you touch, like make a list of things that you go through every day, and touch and then gauge the competition or the demand on Amazon, like looking by reviews, or just seeing how many reviews, or doing the 999 trick and for those who don’t know what that is, that’s where you would go to the listing, type in 999, see how many they have in stock, and then come back a day later, and then you would do the same thing and it would tell you many they sold between that time. That took forever, I did that too.
– I definitely did that, I had many spreadsheets with the 999 rule.
– Yeah, that was not fun. So, kind of get into it, I found a product, found a supplier on Alibaba. They wanted me to order like 2000 units. No, no, no, no, no cats I’m not gonna do it. During all this negotiation I got two credit cards. This was part of what I wouldn’t do, I wouldn’t do this now, I got two credit cards, and told the supplier that I can only spend 500 bucks. And so, they gave me like two cartons. And then when I got those two cartons, as soon as I shipped them off, I would place another reorder with that same credit card and just continue the snowball the funds over, and to pay off the credit card reorder, pay off credit card reorder. So, I went from ordering like two cartons, to like four cartons, to 50 cartons and just kept it going. We’re probably in 2015 now, early 2015. I was selling a ton of that item, it took a battery, so my returns were pretty high. But it was that time. And when I made a ton, I was probably selling 100, 120 units a day of it. And that’s fine, not to some people, but for somebody who just started out that’s pretty good. In during this, I was just kept reinvesting. Well, I started to do different products, same niche, but just different products. And this is probably where it went haywire. Like, I probably should have done something differently. But it launched more skews, same type of item, just different variations of an item. And just put all the funds into that item. So, I was just basically taking the funds from my number one product that was selling a lot, and just transition them into new products and try to create like a line of products within one niche. I wouldn’t do that again, if I had to start over. I was fighting for the same keywords, but I had the same type of product. And I was spreading myself too thin, meaning that I was launching four or five separate products, but I would never get that fourth product to scale up to 50 units or 100 units before I would go launch five and six and seven. So, I would recommend waiting to launch a new product until you have proof of concept with ones that you currently have and get those up to scale, 20, 30 units a day, before you take the funds and start to launch a new product. Cause when you launch a new product, it takes a lot of capital. And I was taking Amazon loans out during this time. Gosh, it was wild. But I had all these loans, the same as on loan, I was spreading it all out, and then come 2000 like 17, early 2018, you’re thin, I was thin, I couldn’t pay back the loans. It got really scary there. So I had to figure out ways to pay back the loan to Amazon. And we were doing like six figures a month. So that’s a whole process and it sounds very long. But I think we’re in the same boat, you and I were in the same boat, was where we’re scaling back now, picking our main skews, focusing on those, going slow and scaling up with those first, and then go scale those new products and add new products as those other ones are already going up. And we’ll probably touch more on this in future episodes, but yeah, I learned a lot, and I think you did too.
– Oh, and I think just listening to you. We’ve talked before, we know each other stories pretty well. But the interesting thing about Amazon is the growth, the amount of growth that you can achieve on Amazon, in some regards is actually a problem. Because, if you order 500 units, and you sell three real quick, well, now you need to not order another 500, you need to order like 1500, and you don’t have enough money from the 500 you sold to order 1500. So you had to borrow. And then you sell the 1500 real fast cause your product is ranking, it’s growing higher and now you need to order 5000. Well, you gotta borrow more. It’s not like it, but at some point, it will stabilize. At some point you’re well-established product, your sales come in. And you’re able to actually reinvest that money in the reorders and you get it. That’s when you can take some of those profits and investment them in a new launch, like you’re talking about. And I was in the exact same position, I consider myself really financially smart, I’m pretty frugal. So yeah, taking out like monster loans, which I was too, just because I was trying to, and it was working. Like, you kept going. But yeah, as soon as you get a little bit of a slip and now you’ve got loans with interest, and your products are starting to dwindle in sales and now you gotta pay all this off, that’s tricky. So that’s another part of my growth strategy coming up now, is a way to potentially do it all cash. Just keep reinvesting it though.
– Yeah, it’s a humble game, it can make you humble really quick. Yeah, you could be at the top of the world, top of the mountain, and then next thing you know is, you crash and burn.
– No doubt about it. But yeah, that’s a little bit of a background on our stories. I think we’ve done a good job of covering the highs and lows, but we’re gonna really dig in on future episodes, just about the rest of it, all the details. We’ll cover all the topics; we’ll bring on guests. I’m very, very excited about doing this journey. I think it’s gonna make both you and I better as sellers, and hopefully, it’s entertaining and educational for all of you out there who are listening. Should we steal Scott’s motto?
– Take action?
– Take action.
– Well, yeah, that’s really what it comes down to-
– You just gotta do it.
– You could sit around all day and watch videos, and listen to podcasts, but you’re never gonna learn this thing and learn how this business works unless you just try it out. This, you just gotta jump, you just gotta do it. I wish I would have done it faster or sooner. I listened too podcasts too long, like an hour, a year, every day, like constantly, I wish I would have done this sooner.
– Yeah, I agree. That’s probably the biggest takeaway for me from this journey so far, is now in other aspects of my life and other businesses. I’m not afraid to fail, I’ll just jump in and do something. There’s only one way to find out and that’s to do it. So, if you guys, anybody out there is on the fence about jumping in and starting it, well, I highly recommend you jump in and start. We have been doing it since 2013, and we don’t know everything. So, if I did my original approach that I’ll jump in once I make sure I know everything, I’d still haven’t started it yet. So, you wanna go ahead and jump in, but anyway, but that was fun, Kris, good talking to you about our journey-
– Yeah, for sure.
– And I will wrap it up here but let’s get ready for the next episode. We’ll probably doing episodes few times a week. So, look forward to seeing everybody on here. If you haven’t subscribed to our podcast, please go ahead and subscribe now. We should be available on many channels soon; we’re launching out as many podcasts channels as possible. So, we hope to see you all out there, but in the meantime, have a great day Kris.
– One second before we end this segment, is we do take calls and we do helps others daily. So if you’re out there and need some help cause this is a lonely type of journey sometimes, don’t hesitate. There should be a link in the show notes where you can book a call with Dustin and I and we’d be happy to walk you through some of the things you may be having trouble with, or if you need to bounce an idea of something, don’t hesitate, that’s what we’re here for. We’re kind of here just to help out as much we can.
– Absolutely. Glad you brought that over. Thanks. Well, everyone, thanks for joining us on our very, very first episode of “The Two Amazon sellers and a Microphone” podcast, we’re super excited about the journey and we will see you next time.
– Same here.