Seller Spotlight: Former Flight Attendant Takes Off with Six Figures on Amazon in Her First Year
It’s not often that we get to document a seller’s journey from one career to the birth of another, selling on Amazon. It’s even less often we see that new entrepreneur find so much success within their first year of selling.
Christina Passmore is a veteran flight attendant for a major Canadian airline. When her aviation career was effectively grounded due to COVID-19, Christina was faced with a daunting fork in the road regarding her future.
Helium 10 Brand Evangelist Karyn Thomas sat down with Christina to discuss the challenges of diving head first into the e-commerce world, learning lessons from your first product, quality mentorship, the changing definitions of success, and more!
Taking that First Leap of Faith
Karyn: Christina I am so excited to interview you today, thank you so much for coming on and letting me ask you some questions.
Christina: Thanks for having me!
Karyn: Christina, you are getting some major buzz in the Amazon world. I would love to dive in and get to know your story. How did you get into the world of Amazon selling?
Christina: Sure! My amazon journey began last year, late summer. I was looking for something else – I’m actually a flight attendant and I’ve flown for a major Canadian airline for 12 years. The nature of our work in aviation is very flexible, so oftentimes you see flight attendants doing a variety of different things on the side.
I knew I wanted to do something, but I was having a hard time pinpointing what. A girlfriend had come forward and suggested Amazon, so I started watching videos and was really impressed by the fact that anyone could really do this. That’s how my journey began.
Karyn: Wow, that’s so cool! So you were a flight attendant for 12 years…
Christina: That’s right, I still am… but during the COVID pandemic I was laid off. I’m hoping that I’ll be recalled into the new year, but it’s hard to say.
Karyn: So you got started selling on Amazon before everything went down with COVID?
Christina: That’s right. I actually went live in late November of 2019. COVID kinda came out of nowhere. For e-commerce, it hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, but in terms of my career… unfortunately aviation has suffered in this, like many other sectors.
Karyn: I have to give you major credit – you just intuitively felt that you wanted to do something different in addition to aviation. You couldn’t have picked a better industry – e-commerce is only going to get bigger and bigger. I’m impressed you had the feeling to try something more, that’s so cool.
Christina: Thank you. It was scary at first but I think what I’ve learned is that you really have to try and see what happens. It’s been a great experience.
Karyn: I love that you’re willing to try new things and take risks. A lot of us see cool Facebook advertisements or we may know people who have amazing success but we still say “Well, I could never do that!” or “I can’t find the time…” We always have a million excuses not to do something. You took action and said “if they can do it I can do it… I’m gonna make the time around my schedule.” I really applaud you for that.
Christina: I think a big thing too, was I made a really big commitment to myself that I wouldn’t quit. Typically, you start these little adventures and then it gets hard or you have a setback. Many people just decide to give up. But with this, there was something different. I just made a really strong decision that no matter what happened, I was going to keep going. I still feel that way today – I still feel like there’s a lot of challenges on Amazon – things are very dynamic and changing. No matter what happens, you just have to keep taking small steps of action.
Karyn: So do you feel like that comes naturally to you – this persevering quality?
Christina: That’s an interesting question. I don’t know – I think I’ve always been driven. When I like something, I tend to go all in. So, yes.
But I also have lived a lot of my adult life in fear, so I think that there are some self-limiting things that I had to get over. Once I started and realized that I actually could do this… I think it gets easier the more you move forward.
Karyn: Can you tell me how you found your first product? How did you go about that process?
Christina: Finding my first product was challenging. I don’t think I realized how challenging that piece of the puzzle was going to be. I spent probably two solid weeks – I didn’t leave my house – I had a lot of time off at that point. I wasn’t looking at things people were commonly looking at. I really just started looking at a few different categories that I liked personally. I knew that if I had interest in it, that may possibly help me. That’s basically what I did for two weeks solid.
Finding a Community
Karyn: You’re in Canada? Which part?
Christina: Calgary – western Canada. Not Vancouver, but one province over, in Alberta.
Karyn: Is there a pretty good Amazon selling community where you’re at or does it feel isolated?
Christina: It feels a little bit isolated. Interestingly enough, I have run into the odd person here and there who sells on Amazon. But they don’t necessarily brand-build… they just sell products. So it was a little different. But I have been fortunate enough to meet people through Amazon communities, so that’s been really nice.
Karyn: Do you feel like connecting with the community has helped you? Do you feel like it’s essential or do you feel like it’s not really necessary?
Christina: Definitely. I feel like it’s really important to get involved. As much as we want to get something out of business, I think it really has a lot to do with what you put in. Those connections that you hone in on. The Amazon groups have really transformed not only my business, but my personal experience in life as well. So it’s been really great.
Karyn: It’s really interesting you mention that. I think a lot of people who gravitate towards becoming an Amazon brand owner or are selling on Amazon… they tend to be more introverted and isolated, which is tough! There are so many things that change, so many frustrations that come up. If you don’t have that community connection, it’s game over. It sounds like you have a great community that’s helping you in all aspects of your life.
Christina: It’s been pivotal. E-commerce can be a lonely experience – I’m single, I don’t have kids. You know, it can be a little bit of a grind on my own. But with that community, I don’t feel so alone anymore.
Karyn: Who is your mentor that helped you most on your Amazon journey?
Christina: Sharon Even is my mentor and ongoing coach in all avenues of business and Amazon. It is Sharon and her group that has helped propel my business forward. Sharon’s guidance has transformed my life!”
First Product Hurdles
Karyn: Going back to your first beauty product. How did that go? Was it a successful product or was it, what we like to call, a “learning product” – where it didn’t quite work out?
Christina: It’s a successful product, I would say. There have definitely been some challenges with the product. It’s not a perfect product story, that’s for sure. Looking back, I think I was very ambitious with it. I don’t think it’s a product I would choose again.
There’s certain criteria – I remember listening to and watching a lot of youtube when I first started. The bigger guru’s out there say “don’t do this” or “avoid this for your first product” and I basically did the opposite of all those recommendations! So it’s been a good product, but it’s been challenging.
Karyn: Is it challenging because it’s very competitive or because it’s lower profit? What would you say the biggest challenge is?
Christina: I’ve had some issues overall with manufacturing. I’m learning how to navigate that – and business, if you’re not familiar, is already challenging.
Also, just scaling a brand… I never thought I’d be in the position I am right now. When you realize that you have such an opportunity in front of you, trying to scale that and grow it is kind of daunting.
Karyn: Is this your first business you’ve ever created or have you had others?
Christina: This is the first business I have created. But in addition to this business, I also started my copywriting business. So I now have two little side ventures.
Karyn: Too often, we make excuses. The fact that you’re giving it your all to reach your goals is really inspiring.
Christina: I do work under an Amazon mentor, Sharon Even, who has also been very encouraging with that. She just has a different mindset about work and business. Learning under her has really helped me see that you really don’t have to live this 9-5 life. Not that the 9-5 life is wrong, I still love my aviation career. But you can really do whatever you want, you just have to try. It’s been nice to have that support.
Karyn: I agree. I think it makes all the difference, having a mentor who’s travelled the road and living the life you want to live, giving you real feedback instead of just the general “just keeping going!” When someone actually knows and can give you real advice, that’s truly valuable.
Choosing Price Points & Marketplaces
Karyn: So, you started with one product. Take me to today, it’s been almost a year correct?
Christina: Yes, November will be my one year mark. I still just have this one product. Scaling this product has been a challenge, it’s not a cheap product. The goal is in early 2021 to get a second product. I don’t want to be a singular brand forever.
Karyn: What was your initial investment for your first order of inventory?
Christina: $6,000. But I would recommend setting aside $10,000 to get started selling on Amazon.
Karyn: Do you mind if I ask what the cost of your product is, per unit?
Christina: It varies, I mean shipping obviously is variable right now. It’s around $25, everything all in.
Karyn: That’s a lot more than the average person who starts with a $1-5 dollar product.
Christina: It’s interesting because that didn’t even strike me when I first started. I watched some of the other Amazon mentors and a few of them mentioned to keep the product range down around $30… but they meant the retail cost! It never occurred to me to pick something quite a bit cheaper. It would’ve been smart to consider that, because of the scaling portion of business. But I’m still happy I made the decision I did.
Karyn: Even though it was kind of by accident, I think it’s probably less competitive in a lot of ways because many people don’t dare to go after more expensive products. Do you mind if I ask what the retail price of your product is?
Christina: It’s $89.00. I think too, that the Canadian marketplace can be a little undervalued, in my opinion. When I first started, a lot of people recommended going “.com” but if you’re a smaller person trying to scale a business and you don’t have access to lots of extra capital, I think certain marketplaces actually make more sense. The truth is if I went US, I wouldn’t have been able to keep inventory and it probably would have closed my business.
Karyn: So you sell in Canada exclusively?
Christina: Right now, yes. The goal is to expand. But being perfectly honest, I don’t know if the US will be my next move. I’ll probably consider the UK over the US, so we’ll see.
…I say that now! It’s hard to say what the new year brings.
Success as a Number
Karyn: That sounds like a smart strategy. It’s something different and I think it’s always good when you’re doing something different than the masses. Do you mind if I ask how much you’re doing per month?
Christina: That’s hard to say, I’ve been out of stock a lot. I’d say about $15-20k [monthly] in revenue.
Karyn: That’s amazing, with just one product. What’s your profit margin?
Christina: After everything – factoring in PPC and whatnot, I’m looking at 30-40% roughly.
Karyn: Can you tell me about the launching process in Canada? Do you have to do heavy giveaways with rebate offers or has it just been PPC?
Christina: To be honest, I didn’t do any of the giveaways. I’ve heard a lot of mixed feelings about it, and ultimately it just wasn’t for me. I relied on PPC the first two weeks. I ran a bunch of manual campaigns to collect the data, then streamlined my PPC campaigns after that. That was when I really decided I needed mentorship because the PPC aspect of the business is so important and I was having a hard time grasping it. That’s when I found someone to work with.
Karyn: I think PPC is the safest and best way to launch a product. Obviously Amazon wants you to do that. It helps you get more organic rankings and buys, especially when you don’t have a lot of reviews.
The Side Hustle
Karyn: You mentioned you have another side hustle business, can you tell me more about what you’re doing with that?
Christina: So I’m actually a freelance copywriter. I’ve always written and done some blogging here and there – but not necessarily in this capacity. With some mentorship and encouragement, I decided to open a freelance writing business. I focus on Amazon listing creation as well as blogging. I love the creative aspect of writing. I’ve realized as an individual that creativity is where I excel.
Karyn: I can tell! I know when I started, almost seven years ago now – I didn’t realize how important it is to have multiple revenue streams. Sometimes you see the numbers… $15-20k monthly on Amazon – it sounds like a lot of money. But it’s really scary because you can’t just spend that. You need that money for ordering inventory, PPC costs, or hiring accountants. It’s tough to scale. I ran into that problem myself. I was using that Amazon paycheck to fund my lifestyle, which is great. But it’s really hard to grow and scale a business if you don’t have something else.
Christina: Right. I told myself early on that I would not do that. Aviation is very lucrative, you can pick up a lot of hours and manage your schedule the way you want to. I knew from the outset that my Amazon business money was 100% reinvested. At the time I wasn’t writing and didn’t own that business, but I knew that I couldn’t rely [solely] on my Amazon business.
Karyn: How did you just know these things from the get go? It took me years to learn this.
Christina: I mean, trial and error. I wouldn’t say I’ve made all the right decisions. I saw potential and wanted to set myself up for success. Not that I’m totally there yet, but I knew that not touching business finances early on can make or break a business.
Success as Something More
Karyn: What does success look like to you? When do you think you can sit back and think “I’ve arrived, I’ve done it.”
Christina: That’s funny because if you asked me this question eight months ago, I probably would’ve painted a lifestyle picture. I had this idea of the “laptop lifestyle.” The flight attendant on the beach in Mexico for the winter. I envisioned that. Now that I’m where I’m at, I view success very differently. It’s more on a personal level – how far I can push myself?
I think success for me is propelling my writing business forward and really seeing it become center stage – as well as scaling my beauty brand. Perhaps even at some point selling my brand. That would be more “success” for me rather than having “things.”
Karyn: I like that you’re thinking more in terms of fulfillment. Pushing yourself to reach deeper goals. Creating an amazing agency to help other Amazon sellers and their business or expanding your beauty line. I think those are way more fulfilling goals and it’s important to think about.
Christina: It’s really transformed too. I thought I wanted all of those things and you know, I obviously still do. Things change, the more you get familiar with your goals.
Favorite Helium 10 Tool
Karyn: Do you mind if I ask how you got involved in the beautiful world of Helium 10, our community, and our tools?
Christina: Helium 10 has been a part of my business trajectory since I started. I watched a lot of Tatiana James early on.
Karyn: What’s your favorite Helium 10 tool?
Christina: I’d say Scribbles!
Karyn: Yay! Another Scribbles fan!
Christina: I think it’s such an ingenious little invention. If you’re writing listings, I don’t know how you’d do it without Scribbles.
Advice for New Sellers
Karyn: In closing, can you give one tip or piece of advice to people just starting out on Amazon.
Christina: Two tips. One would be not to quit… even if you find yourself in a situation with an unsuccessful product. It doesn’t mean there’s not another great product out there.
The second tip would be to think more outside the box. There’s a lot of data analysis that goes into Amazon, which we need – it’s important. But the minute you get so hung up on numbers, patterns, and programming… it becomes easy to get sidetracked from creativity.
Karyn: Is there anything special you are doing to prepare for the holiday season on Amazon?
Christina: I’m just trying to hang on to inventory! I think there’s a lot of us in that situation… we’re excited for Q4, it’s gonna be big we think. At the same time, the challenge with inventory is real and it’s affecting big and small sellers, everybody. That’s my biggest challenge right now.
Karyn: It’s a double edged sword right? You want to be selling a lot but you also don’t – it’s a tricky balance.
Thank you so much for your time. I’m so grateful to you, you’re very inspiring. I know people reading this will also be inspired. Thank you for all that you do, contributing to the community.
Christina: Sounds good, thank you!
A big thank you to Christina for taking the time to share her story and experience with us. We cannot wait to see what her future holds! Whatever it is, I think it’s safe to say she has earned her wings on Amazon.