#478 – Amazon Business Using Other People’s Money?!

Video of the episode at the bottom

In this episode, let’s catch up on the latest ventures of Crystal Ren, an Amazon seller from Singapore, after exiting her Amazon brand last year. She also shares how she successfully utilizes other people’s money for her new brand, while also addressing the intersection of consumer goods and mental health services. Get an exclusive insight into Crystal’s new Amazon business and learn valuable strategies for achieving consistent profits and income. Crystal divulges her Amazon launch strategy and her valuable sourcing and negotiation tips and learn essential lessons from Crystal’s recent trips in other Asian countries. Find out Crystal’s exciting outlook for 2023 and beyond.

In episode 478 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Crystal discuss:
• 01:30 – Remembering Bradley’s Trip In Singapore
• 03:05 – What Is Crystal Up To These Days?
• 06:01 – Using Other People’s Money For Business
• 08:08 – Consumer Goods & Mental Health Services
• 11:10 – Diving Into Crystal’s New Amazon Business
• 12:50 – Making Profits And Consistent Income
• 17:06 – Crystal’s Amazon Launch Strategy
• 19:09 – How To Win The Amazon Game
• 22:54 – Crystal’s Healthy Habits & Hobbies To Relax
• 27:28 – Sourcing & Negotiation Tips
• 33:51 – Lessons Learned From Recent Trips In Asia
• 37:02 – Crystal’s Outlook For 2023 And Next Year
• 39:07 – How To Reach Out Crystal Ren
• 40:01 – Crystal Ren’s 30-Second Tip

Transcript

Bradley Sutton:

Crystal’s back on the show to talk about what she did after her big Amazon exit last year, and how she started a new brand this year with other people’s money. And she gives us her best sourcing tips and more. How cool is that? Pretty cool I think.

Bradley Sutton:

How can you get more buyers to leave you Amazon product reviews by following up with them in a way that’s compliant with Amazon terms of service? You can use Helium 10 Follow-up in order to automatically send out Amazon’s request a review emails to any customers you want. Not just that, but you can specify when they get the message and even filter out people that you don’t want to get that message, such as people who have asked for refunds or maybe ones that you gave discounts to. For more information, visit H ten.me forward slash follow up. You can sign up for a free account, or you can sign it up for a platinum plan and get 10% off for life by using the discount code SSP10.

Bradley Sutton:

Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers podcast by Helium 10. I’m your host, Bradley Sutton. This is the show that’s a completely BS free, unscripted and unrehearsed organic conversation about serious strategies for serious sellers of any level in the e-commerce world. And speaking of different parts of the world, we are going right now, I believe. Are we live in Singapore? Is that where you’re at right now?

Crystal:

That’s correct, yes.

Bradley Sutton:

All the way back in Singapore. It was nice to be out in Singapore a couple times. Was it this year or last year? But I got to do the touristy things there, like see the gardens and look at some places. That was in one of my Korean dramas I was watching, so, so I love it out there in Singapore. But this is not your first time on our show. Crystal has been on the show. We’re not gonna go too much into her backstory because we have it in, I have it written here in my notes, episode 351.

Bradley Sutton:

So if you guys wanna find out her crazy story about how I discovered her from an Amazon YouTube channel and then found out that she had invested a hundred thousand dollars into her first Amazon business and brought it up to seven figures how to exit. And basically that was, you know, I don’t know about by a year and a half, or a little bit less than a year and a half ago. So now this episode, we’re not gonna be going into too much of the backstory, you know, but again, if you’re watching or listening to this and this is your first time listening to to Crystal, maybe maybe pause this. Go to h10.me/351, Get her backstory. ’cause We’re gonna be talking about it as if you guys know about it already. So, Crystal we were just talking like, I, I know you’ve been traveling a lot all over the world, going to weddings and going back home to, to China and everything, but I, I want to go all the way back to the last time we talked. And at that time you were not, I wouldn’t want, I don’t wanna say retired, but you were kind of like still in the aftermath of your exit and just kind of like kicking back and traveling and stuff, so That’s right. Was that pretty much your life for a year or so or what was going on after that exit?

Crystal:

Yeah, no, so actually when we talk, I believe it was pretty much exactly a year ago, I was, as you said, traveling and also kind of manage my finances at the time because you know, I think this should be in the 30-second tip, but I’ll say it now anyway. I think once after you have an accident, it’s actually better to have a plan before you even exit it, just because otherwise you’re gonna find yourself in a situation. And now this is not just for me. Like I heard other sellers saying the same thing, like, it will be a period of time when like, you’re just like, what am I gonna do next? And I heard, you know, people saying that, you know, for a few month or maybe like a year, they’re just like, oh, like, you know what’s next?

Crystal:

So I know people who have the plan before they make an exit, perhaps they already started another, the brand or like, they know, you know, they’re gonna dedicate a few months traveling. So they’re planning that already. Like, I felt like that will make your timeline more productive. And I didn’t do that. So like, I kind of regret it now. And another part that I should say, like I just didn’t know was like how much hassle it goes into manage your finances, because after you have an exit, like you kind of need to decide where do you want to put the money into, right? Like that also took some time for me to like figure out like, how should I allocate, you know, invest this and that. And I would say like, you know, doing business and investing is completely two different ballgame.

Crystal:

Yeah. Some people hire, you know, professional investment professionals for them. Like, it’s funny ’cause I actually had my CFA I used to work in investment bank, but when it come down to your own money, you still think about it differently and you are so much more like risk averse, minus so many. So I felt like that is actually worth some time into it, but I just unfortunately, like underestimated how much time that it would take. So it took me a few months to kind of get my things together. And I was traveling, you know, I think in Europe, in France going to, you know, weddings, I think I was in New York San Francisco. I was in Vegas for the prosper show. So I did a lot of traveling then. But then around August I started to start, you know, preparing for my second brand. So this time around I did a little bit differently. So I, last time I completely bootstrapped it which means I used a hundred percent of my own saving. But this time I actually looked for investors. So I talk to VCs, like I talk to individual investors family and friends. So like, I actually, this time around, I’m using other people’s money to

Bradley Sutton:

Well, let me stop you there and ask you about that, because the first time that was, I mean, that you had a lot already a lot saved up. Now you had to exit. So you actually had, I would even imagine more cash. Why the decision to use OPM other people’s money instead of instead of your own, like the first time, you

Crystal:

Know, the thing is that I could, right, but then I was kind of more thinking about exploring different options, and then I was thinking, I wasn’t sure what kind of values investors might add, you know, kind of what kind of perspectives they might give it to me. And you know, like what, they take me to a different height. So that’s what I was thinking, kind of ’cause a lot of friends around me, I mean, to be honest, I’m a rarity. Like most people I know, they start business with VCs or like other investors. So that’s why I was thinking, okay, maybe I should also explore that as well. But I’m gonna tell you about conclusion after that. But that’s kind of what I was thinking in my head, so that’s why I kind of spent a month just talking to different investors and see what they think, et cetera.

Bradley Sutton:

How did you approach that? You know, like, are these people that were already in your network or did you go to some kind of like website where, where you can meet them or, or networking events? How did you meet these, these people? I

Crystal:

Think those are mostly kind of in my network or like, friends, friends or like, you know, people introduce me to people. I think that if I’m not mistaken, when it comes to investors, it’s much harder to cold call. So like, if you got referred by other people and then then they already kind of, you know, you have that weak link. It’s much better to get the bonding from them and, and to kind of build that trust. And also you can like gonna sit down and talk about it in person, you know, like maybe have a cup of coffee together. Like it’s all about trust, right? For these kind of relationships.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. Interesting. So these were people, you know, outside, I’m assuming maybe outside of the Amazon world, mainly?

Crystal:

Yes. Yeah.

Bradley Sutton:

So I’m just curious, like what’s the impression of, of these, you know, these hardcore maybe investors Yeah. That had no experience on Amazon. You explain how Amazon works. Like, are they, like, what are you serious? Like, or did they pretty much, do they pretty much know the the game?

Crystal:

So I think and I felt like I wanted to get into it later, is that I never kind of positioned myself as a Amazon only business because I try to position myself as like, Hey, I wanted to do this brand and this is what I’m thinking about. And this is my direction, this is my track record. So I think if you were only talking about Amazon, then most investors these days think about aggregators and, you know, aggregators, you know,, let’s be honest. Like, you know, they don’t, a lot of them failed. So like, it kind of doesn’t give like Amazon, like a good rap on the street when it come down to investors. So like, I would just kind of tell them that, you know, this is my track record and yeah, this is what I wanted to do, you know, this is the gap in the market, et cetera. But,

Bradley Sutton:

And also, yeah, so I mean, it was, yeah. For somebody brand new, it might have been harder. First of all, they don’t have people in their network like that and then coming in with no tracker, but you, you can show them, Hey, you know, or first of all, you know me, you know, like, because these are people from your network. And second of all, Hey guys, here’s my resume of already exiting a and building a big business. So that definitely helped. I’m sure.

Crystal:

Yeah. I felt like it helped, but also in the meantime, like I felt like investors are naturally skeptical. So even if you have a track record, like they, they might be willing to take a call with you, but it doesn’t mean that they will give you the money, you know? So it’s like they always have this sort of KPIs where like they’re, oh, tell me about it while you hit this KPI or something like that. And my conclusion, by the way, even though I raised some money, but like, I kind of stopped at some point because my conclusion is that for a consumer goods business, if you do have a good product, you don’t need to raise a lot of investors money.. So I felt like investors put a lot of money into say something like a technology, because technology has a long process of RnD.

Crystal:

And that process needs a lot of funding because it’s gonna go through a period of time when that happens, there’s no return, you know, they don’t have any income or something like that. Versus for a consumer goods business the setup capital is much lower than a high tech company. And your product, if it does well, can fund your business going forward. So technically it’s kind of like a cash flow business. It doesn’t need like that millions of dollars to start off with in the first place, unless you are, you know, like I felt like in the, say 10 years ago when the D two C model was much more popular in investors’ world, where like they will spend a lot of money building like website, you know, putting in advertisements, money, like pr, you know, that kind of things where like they build a hype up. But that’s a different model, so that’s not Amazon, right? So and that’s kind of my conclusion after the whole, you know, experiencing fundraising.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. So for your new Amazon business, did you end up choosing somebody and, and saying, Hey, let, let’s work on this together? Or did you end, at the end of the day, end up using your own money again?

Crystal:

Yeah, so I did use some of their I, I use other people’s money to build this business. But I also put my own money into it.

Bradley Sutton:

And when you approached them, like, did you already have like did you already have the product in mind and, and the, the brand in mind? Or were you just like, Hey, let’s build something together and let’s work on it together and decide what it is? How did that work?

Crystal:

It’s funny because I felt like you know, we’re talking about there’s different wrongs in this world, right? Like, we’re talking about this like very early angel wrong and you know, friends and family wrong, like just super early, right? So I felt like for that wrong, it, it’s really just like people’s faith in you. Because if you’re talking about like seed wrong or like series A you already have a product that you have some, like product market fit, it can show traction. It’s a completely different topic. ’cause People was, they started to see a track record of this business, like, you know, oh, this is a product, you know, this is how market reacts to it. But like, when I first started off, like had a rough idea of like what I wanted to do, and I have a rough idea of like what my product’s gonna look like, but I had nothing, you know, like I hadn’t really built it. And I was just like, okay guys, this is what I wanted to do. So that was a very different conversation. I felt like people kind of bad on me because like, they believe in me, and obviously I pivoted at the idea later. So, so yeah, it’s interesting, you know, like to go through the process.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. Alright. So actually no, I didn’t, I didn’t remember this but I was looking at the notes that our podcast director Mhel prepared, and one thing you had mentioned in the last episode, or the last year’s episode was, was you were perhaps thinking if you were gonna start another Amazon brand, you wanted to do something that was either consumer goods or something that actually had dealt with like mental health. Did you end up going that direction or what?

Crystal:

Yeah, so it’s funny ’cause I actually looked hard along to the mental health business, and I try to like kind of merge these two together where like I have a consumer goods business in mental health. And I honestly, like, this is what I discovered, okay. Like, you can do a consumer goods business, like the old D2C model where you have this amazing product, this shark tank, you know, it’s on Kickstarter and you know, whatever, right? Like the, the way the blanket in like 2010, 10 years ago where like they raised like $5 million the first like, you know, when they first got money from Kickstarters. Or you can do Amazon business. And it’s really hard to kind of merge these two together because the, the way to think about like a ground big breaking product idea and kind of do a lot of RnD in it, that is like the Shopify business, right?

Crystal:

And kind of create that desire and demand in the market, or that you just follow the market demand what you see on Amazon and the way to think about these two and the abilities you use is also different. So for Amazon, it’s a lot more, you know, data analysis, like profit and loss analysis and like do some incremental innovation. But you go with the market demand and the other one is like you completely just created, right? Like, you are like, okay, like I want the market to have this product. It’s amazing. So I felt like in my mind at the time, like I wanted to do mental health, but the, the products that, you know, like the market demands in that, in the mental health space, in terms of physical products, it’s so limited. Like mental health is always like a service and is extremely customized to each, at every one of them I have looking to Amazon.

Crystal:

And there are some products, like for example focus on autism, right? A very niche market, but like, it’s a good, it’s a good market, but it’s very li very, very limited. So at the time, I was say, okay, like I needed to broaden my hypothesis if I wanted to play the Amazon game. So that’s why I started expanding to wellness and beauty. So like, not just mental health, but like more kind of wellness and alternative heating methods. But that’s like kind of a technology, device products, right? So I end up going that route. So I end up, you know, I did create something like that, but it was just not like, you know, strictly in mental health.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. Now again, last year, you know, the, the crazy stat from from your episode was that, you know, regardless of, you know, it was your money, but regardless of whose money it was, it was, you had invested a hundred thousand dollars, you know, into the company this year. Like you said, you got you know, some investors, but overall, regardless of whose money it was how much was your initial startup cost this time around? Was it also, did you also do a crazy six figure investment like that? Or did you start with less?

Crystal:

So the hundred thousand dollars investment I did at the time, that was the first year’s investment. So, which means those are the money I put in like over the time in the first year, right?

Bradley Sutton:

I thought it was like a hundred thousand before you even had one sale or something. I was about, that was why it was crazy to me,, I was like, what in the world? Yeah,

Crystal:

Okay. But, you know, I did put that a hundred thousand dollars aside, like, I protect it, you know? So I was like, okay, this is money for the business, right? Like, I’m not gonna, I’m gonna starve myself before I even use that money. So like, that’s kind of the spirit behind it. And this time around, it’s the same thing. I putting like, I would say a little bit less than that, but like so far, but still quite a bit, you know, into the business.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. All right. So when did you actually launch the product? Like what month?

Crystal:

Yeah, so officially, it’s month launched this year in January. It started in January. It’s a bit of a tricky category because it’s like kind of linked to medical device. So I got a lot of like you know, the, the restricted product and it got taken down, got taken down again, you know, so, so a lot of that kind of delayed the product launch.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. But and then did you start with one SKU, or did you have a variety of ones that you started with?

Crystal:

Yeah, so I did start with like two, three SKUs. So like, I kind of just go hard on it for a little bit. Instead of last time where like, I think even last time I was going a bit aggressive too, compared to, you know, some other people. Like I probably start with one, but then I added two the month after. So so far, like I have had three, four SKUs.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. And how has it has it done? I mean, obviously, like you said, you’ve run into some, some hiccups. Have those hiccups been resolved and Amazon is not restricting it anymore? And then do you have steady sales now? Yeah, I have any of the products failed already or have any of them taken off? What’s going on?

Crystal:

So I have I have I mean, I’ll say most of existing products, SKUs, they’re quite stable and they’re generating sales, but I constantly would have new SKUs that I wanna launch to be taken down. So like in this category, I think that’s just a constant struggle. And as far as I know, like, not just me, but like anybody in this kind of like medical ish wellness space you just need to be extremely careful of what you say, otherwise you need to have f d a approval, this and that.

Bradley Sutton:

What attracted you to, like, to make you pick this? Did you just see some, some, a lot of demand and, and the existing competition was you felt not strong and easily beatable, or is this something that you thought, you know, maybe the demand isn’t quite there, but you foresee the demand going up? Or what made you choose this?

Crystal:

Yeah, so I think my logic to play Amazon game is very similar. I think that Amazon is a very bottom of the funnel channel. So like, you know, think about Shopify or whatever, that’s like a top of the funnel channel where like people go there and it’s cold tropic, but like unless they know your brands and they go look for it. But like for Amazon, it’s the bottom of the funnel. So like you cannot be the market demand, in my opinion, right? Like, the easiest way to go with it is just to kind of flow with it. So I always take the approach where, like, I want to be in a market where there is demand and there’s less competition. So like, I think everybody does it slightly differently, but like, that’s just kind of my logic always. Yeah.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. What has been your best month? So far of sales?

Crystal:

My month of sales has always been quite stable, like, around, you know, five figures. So that’s kind of, because I haven’t really launched more products. I think last product launch was February, March, so that has been like, kind of constant stable figure.

Bradley Sutton:

Is it profitable already or it’s still trying. Well that’s pretty good. That’s, that, that’s not something that always can be, can be achieved. All right. So what was your strategy for launching? Did you just use PPC or did you build up a, a social media? Did you send outside traffic run any Google ads or anything like that?

Crystal:

Yeah, so like, I’m planning on Google ads later on. So far for the products I launched, I actually just used via PPC. And then but I think I’m gonna probably start running Google Ads very soon in the future. I think it’s also because at the time my website, I just built it and like, I didn’t quite like it, so I didn’t want it to, I guess you can run Google ads to Amazon, but, you know, like I was like, okay I’m not sure if you know, this brands look legit, you know, with my website. Like, I didn’t really feel like it was up for it. So I didn’t really wanna go outside of Amazon, but I think over time I’ll start to run those outside traffic as well.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. All right, cool. What are some other strategies that, that you utilize ’cause it’s like, not everybody can, can be making over $10,000 a month right Off the, right off the bat, you know? ’cause That means it’s already Yeah. Instantly six figure, six figure business. So what helped you you know, in this very difficult niche to already start, you know, having that kind of volume?

Crystal:

I think first of all, like, I always tell people, and, and I would actually like to, you know, talk to you about, you know, some insights I’ve noticed in my recent trips in Vietnam and China, talking to Amazon sellers there. But I think, and this is what I tell them, by the way is that like your product in Amazon business in not, we’re not talking about the Shark Tank, whatever, like Shopify business in Amazon business products, 80%, and the rest is 20%. If you have a great product and the like, in terms of it meets the market demand, the rest of things are like not as good. It doesn’t matter. People also gonna buy a product. So the product comes first, and that is your quality of products that will be measured by the, you know, your rating, right? And so if you have these two things, then you’re pretty much winning most of the game. So that’s what I kind of do too. I will only place an order if I’m a hundred percent confident in the product, and that’s what I will say, like I do. And then the second thing is I try to build my credibility for these kind of niches. Yeah, it’s very important to have credibility. We’re

Bradley Sutton:

Gonna close the episode with just a bunch of strategies from you of what you’ve learned in these last couple things. But before we, we get to that, I actually, you know, I, I didn’t do this last year, but my big thing this year is, is talking to people about what they do for mental health. And you’re somebody who can appreciate that. So, you know, I tell people like, Hey it’s important to have hobbies. As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to take it easy and have an escape, you know, because sometimes, as you said, when you first started, you were just working, you know, 20 hours a day probably, and then that’s not good for your physical or mental health. So I’m wondering, you know, you know, my hobbies is travel and stuff, so yeah, I’m wondering what’s, what’s your hobbies as far as what you do to kind of relax, and then what are some routines that you have for either mental and or physical health?

Crystal:

Oh, gosh. I feel like there’s so many. So, like, another reason, by the way, I actually didn’t get to that. But you know, this year I have also spent a ton of time developing my own, like, personal self. So like the kind of time where, like I used to spend on my business now, I took a lot of them back just to kind of work on myself internally, and we can talk about this for like another, like two hours, but my philosophy is that at some point, like, you know, money, it’s important, but like, it’s not going to buy you everything. And then, like, you know, when I first started Amazon business, I saw the salsa was, oh yeah, it’s so great. But now I saw, you know, I see the cells, you know, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but I don’t want to get too carried away by the money because it’s, it doesn’t give me the same amount of joy as it used to anymore.

Crystal:

So like, I felt like you needed to look inside of you and be like, what makes me happy? And money isn’t the answer. It’s never will be. So, and there’s, nobody can give you the answer other than yourself. So I felt like that self-development is so important. So there’s a few things that I do. Like, first of all, I also write about, you know, topics on self-esteem for Asian, because I think that Asian as a, as a community, like we lack self-esteem because of the you know, everybody want us to be perfect. You know, let’s face it, growing up, you know, with Asian parents, they’re so strict at the education system and everything. So like it’s really hard for your mental health. You never feel like you’re good enough. So I write about these topics in a way, it’s also like self meditation for myself, where like, I reflect on the topic and it’s just so healing.

Crystal:

So that’s one thing. Like I talk about those things, you know, on TikTok and, you know, stuff like that, like on LinkedIn, write all those things. So that’s kind of my hobby. But also, you know you know, I meditate almost every day. Like, I have done hundreds of meditation sessions for the last two to three years. And I also read a lot of books you know, spiritual books, you know, ranging from Buddhism to you know, to, to mindfulness to like some kind of medical books in the medical area. And I, you know, I have my own like, you know, like obviously I have my own therapist, but I don’t just use one therapist. So like, for example, I also going to like, use energy healers, I go use a medium. So like, I go to that route? Yeah, yeah. To, to kind of make myself understand, you know, like the, the things in the spiritual world, because there’s things in the material world that we talk about. But in the spiritual world, there is such a rich world.

Bradley Sutton:

Sounds like you need a coffin shelf. I think, you might be the target market for for my spooky stuff here,

Crystal:

Oh my God. I was just talking to my quality inspector the other day in China, and they told me me that the most spooky inspection they ever done was like a two coffin, actual coffin company, and they need to inspect the coffins, and it was so great.

Bradley Sutton:

Oh, so they have to lie inside of it.

Crystal:

Yeah, they need to lie inside of it.

Bradley Sutton:

Oh my goodness. Nah, nah, I’d be like, nah, I’m good. All right. Yeah, this passes, this passes. Okay. So, so that’s some good, you know mental health and physical health you know, routines. But what about, what about some specific, let’s go going back to Amazon. Yeah. strategy or marketing, like, you know, specific PPPC strategy, specific keyword research you were doing? Listing optimization. I actually leveraging ai. Like whatever yeah, yeah. What can you tell us?

Crystal:

I will go back to a few sourcing tips.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay.

Crystal:

I like that. ’cause You know, first of

Bradley Sutton:

All, you’re definitely an expert on that.

Crystal:

First of all, I’m Chinese, right? I was born and raised in China, spent like 20 years there. So I know China like quite well. And so, so I felt like that I can give some advice on. And secondly, like, I felt like a lot of people you know, like, let me put it in this way, a few days ago, like I was talking to Amazon itself, and they said that they couldn’t find good sourcing service providers. And now if you do sourcing, like you probably need to listen to this because they need it. But anyway, so sourcing, I felt like it’s an area where like a lot of people struggle with themselves, especially if you’re individual sellers. So from China, like the first thing I wanna say, and I think that Kevin King probably said it in one of his courses with you as well, but said that you know, in China there’s different areas for sourcing different things.

Crystal:

Yeah. So if you want to like source for like wood you might need to look in one area. If you want to like source for textile, you need to look for another area. And if you want to source for electronics, some other area, so that’s a hundred percent true. And sometimes, a lot of times those materials and those products are like actually concentrated in one city. So that means if you source anywhere outside of that specific city, you are actually getting worse material, worse product, and and worse price. So like when you look for factories, like always try to, you know, like see where they’re located and see like whether they are in, you know, the the area that these products have, you know, like are concentrated in. So that’s number one. And number two is that be careful when you use sourcing agencies, because before, like I actually used one myself, like now I do it all my sourcing myself.

Crystal:

If I need help from another sourcing person. I used somebody I could trust, but sourcing agencies always be careful when they’re in China, because you needed to, first of all, sometimes they get kickbacks from the factories, so maybe they, they were like, okay, I’m gonna do a sourcing, this is a price, but they, and this is a money I charge you, but they also keep some money for themselves from the factory. So to be extremely careful of that. And then one way to get around it is that like, I would just have them to gimme a list of factories, right? If I were to be the person who use associate agency and be like, I’m going to reach out to them myself, right? Like, don’t reach out to them like, your work is down here, or something like that.

Crystal:

Or do like, project with them the end there. Or I will also go reach out to a few more factories besides the one they suggest me just to compare the price and terms and stuff like that to see if there’s no, like, no abnormalities there. And then you also need to always order maybe like few samples from the sourcing agency, but also some factory you choose. Because in the past when I used the sourcing agency every single time, the factory the sample, they give it to me. It’s always worse., the samples I found myself from other factories for some reason, you know, so quality is right. That’s why the price is cheaper. And perhaps they also, you know, you know, have a kickback themselves, right? So that’s something I wanted to, to say. Yeah.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. That’s, that’s good. I think that’s important to, to understand about that. What about on the negotiation side? Obviously, you know, not everybody is a native Chinese speaker and obvi, you know, you would have advantage over me, for example, or my daughter can speak Chinese, so I can probably get her a little bit, but for the average person from Europe or North America, yeah. You know, what are some tips on the negotiation? You know how can we get the best the best deal out there?

Crystal:

Best deal out there, man. I think it really depends on who you’re talking to. So it is funny because like some of the companies, they have like almost two divisions. So they have a international division and they have a local division. And if you are like a foreigner, a westerner, they give you a white person price. And if you are a Chinese, you talk to the main Mandarin, they give you a Chinese person price and the Chinese person price will be cheaper than, you know, the Westerner price. And this is validated, like, I know this because they told me. So I felt like, you know, it’s obviously better to have somebody negotiate on your behalf who’s Chinese, right? If you trust ’em, right? Because, you know, just based on what I just told you about the sourcing agency thing.

Crystal:

But also another thing is from my own personal experience, there’s, there’s certain times there’s benefits to use a trading company. Like people always say that, oh my gosh, I don’t use a trading company. Like, I don’t understand why, because trading company can give you such a good service that if you just negotiate directly with a factory, they’re never gonna give it to you because of, you know, like something that I mentioned before, like how, you know, they don’t see the you as like the Chinese person price or something like that. But the trading policy sometimes can negotiate on your behalf a better, much better payment terms that you can, you know, like, so for example, if you were to only negotiate on your, you know, with a factory yourself, you can probably get like a best case scenario like what, like 20-80 or something that you need to pay like a hundred percent before, you know, they ship out your products. But if you go with a trading company, sometimes they can give you a better payment terms, which extends beyond, you know, after you have shipped out the products and maybe like 30 days, 60 days, something like that. Because they have, you know, perhaps other clients that they don’t present as well, so they can negotiate together. And they also have that existing relationship with the factory that you don’t have.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay, cool. Alright. So, so speaking of sourcing in China, again, I meticulously follow you your Instagram because I love living vicariously through others travels as well when I can’t travel. And unfortunately I haven’t been able to get back to China. And I know I saw you a couple of times, it seemed, went back to China, I’m assuming maybe checking with, you know, your sourcing or, or your factories. But tell me about your, your trip to China. Like, what did you learn? Because I think even for you, that was the first time you’ve been back in China for a long time, since the, before the pandemic, right?

Crystal:

Right. So I think yeah, I have, you know, it’s really o eye-opening experience recently traveling in different countries in Asia, China included. I also went to Vietnam, Amazon inviting me over as a speaker in, you know, I think like a huge big Amazon event in Vietnam where they recruit sellers from. And also got to speak on behalf of Amazon, China in Shanghai to the business there. So I, I gotta see, you know, a lot of different businesses e-commerce businesses and consumer goods businesses in China and Vietnam, and it’s such an like an eye-opening experience. And I felt like it’s two different worlds, right? Like China and the US. So first of all, China’s going through a transition. So first, you know, a lot of people are thinking, you know, like making China cheap stuff. Like they have made a lot of money on Amazon the past 10, 15 years because they are the supplier of the products, right?

Crystal:

So think about Amazon in 2012. You know, if you can sell a piece of cloth or like a mop or something, you make a load of money, right? Because they need those products, they had no products, and then the Chinese people make those products, right? So if they knew the opportunity on Amazon, they will make a lot of money. So that’s how they did it in the past 10, 20 years. But now they are forced to transition because they no longer well have the product advantage going forward because a lot of, first of all, a lot of manufacturings are transitioning into places like Vietnam, Mexico, et cetera. So things are going to be no longer made in China. In fact, I think yesterday India is going to be the first country outside of China to make iPhone. So secondly that Chinese economy currently is going, you know, pretty bad there might be a deflation risk in China.

Crystal:

So the businesses in China are also getting, they’re getting less orders from foreign companies. Their domestic economy is not doing it as well. They’re trying to find ways to expand their overseas businesses because it’s not as competitive as domestically. And now how can they compete? They need to look for ways to build proper brands. So China now is in Japan in the 1980s where it was transitioning from made in Japan, cheap stuff to made in Japan brands. So, so they’re going through that transition as well. I believe that in the future the competition you see from China is not going to be those like, you know, like, okay, like let’s go on a price for kind of competition. It’s going to be a stronger competition, and they’re also going to be building, you know, like western oriented brands. So that’s my observation there on my trips.

Bradley Sutton:

Alright. Interesting. Now, just in general, you know, you were crushing it on Amazon, you know, 2021, first part of 2022. Now we’re, you know, middle second half of 2023. What’s your, what’s your outlook? You know, ’cause it’s, I’m sure you’ve seen it’s not a hundred percent the same game as it was even just two years ago. So, so what, what’s been, you know, some of the biggest differences that you’ve seen and do you have any outlook on how it’s gonna be maybe next year?

Crystal:

Yeah, so I think because I have built a brand, you know, I started build one in 2020 and I built, started build another one in 2022. I have seen a lot of differences in comparison. So first of all, like Amazon in 2023, there’s so much more competition and I think everybody knows that. Because, you know, D2C brands are getting to Amazon retail brands are getting to Amazon, Amazon originated brands are getting outside investors. So, which means they are stronger themselves. Individual brands are got bought out by aggregators, which means they’re getting institutionalized. So, so the competition is in a complete different level. Like, let me put it this way, in 2020 for example what a plus came out. You know, there’s what, like less than 50% of people in my category are using a plus. Now everybody is using A+.

Crystal:

Like, that is a basic requirement, right? Almost to people. So, so it’s definitely getting very competitive. So I think it’s very important that you have a reason behind beyond making money to get into the game. So first of all, you need to have a, like either a good product, which means, you know, like a distinctive advantage in your product, like a patent, you know, or something that’s a differentiator that is harder to copy or, you know, in a good category. And either that or you are well founded. So you are able to do, you know, more on marketing more in product developments. And also you can’t just rely on Amazon as one channel. You need to go all channels. And I, I felt like I have heard this, you know, from other people too, but I think in 2023 it becomes a lot more important than before just because of the sheer amount of competition.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay, cool. Alright, well you know, you, you know the drill since this is your second time around, what’s we, we always close with a 30-second tip, but before we get to there, how can people find you on the interwebs? Maybe they follow, follow your story a little bit, maybe reach out to you in the future?

Crystal:

Yeah, so I’m actually you know, if you are interested in for example, offer unique services that you think is suitable for Asian sellers, just because, you know, I do have a network here you know, in Singapore and in China and, you know, just because of what I mentioned before, where like they are trying to, you know, build, you know, actually Western brands. So if you do offer unique services in those areas you know, I am looking for good partners, service providers to work together. And if you have unique product ideas or you want to work together in any kind of capacity, you can always reach out to me on Instagram, my name is it is the, the handle is literally Crystal Ren but it is xtalren, so X T A L R E N, that’s my Instagram handle. You can DM me anytime if you wanted to contact me for anything.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay, cool. Alright. What’s your 30-second tip of the date?

Crystal:

So one tip I learned to increase your productivity by the way is to color different activities you do. So put everything together on your calendar. Like, if you go take a shower, you put it on your calendar. If you go to do some paperwork, you go put it on your calendar, but you want to categorize them differently. So, for example, I categorize them based on, you know, deep work, shallow work. So deep work could be something like a drafting agreement, right? With a supplier. And that would probably take like two to three hours of uninterrupted time. And shallow work would be something like I don’t know, like you know, putting together expense report, you know, so that’s some kind of administrative work that you need to do. And you know, there’s other things, for example, like personal time you know, a shower.

Crystal:

So you mark them differently to make sure that you have enough of deep work time a week so that you know how much, how many hours you spend on deep work, how many hours do you spend on shallow work, which is something that you wanna shrink as much as possible and how, how many hours do you spend on personal time, which maybe perhaps that’s something that you wanna protect right? And you also want to make sure that you have a balanced life so you’re not overworking. So by coloring them into different categories, you can see that visually whether you’re being productive and whether you are having like a balanced week. And that’s what I’ve been doing for now, like six, seven months now.

Bradley Sutton:

Okay. All right. I like it. I like it. So you gave us two 30-second tips. We’re at the beginning, one at the end. I like it. All right, well let you know, you’ve done a lot in the last few years and, you know, we’ll definitely have you back next year and who knows what you’re gonna be able to tell us. Maybe you’ve already exited this new medical brand then, or maybe you’ve, you’ve grown it to seven figures. I’m very excited to see what the future holds. Look forward to seeing you hopefully at at, at an event and wish you the best of success in your endeavors.

Crystal:

Thank you so much, Bradley.


Enjoy this episode? Be sure to check out our previous episodes for even more content to propel you to Amazon FBA Seller success! And don’t forget to “Like” our Facebook page and subscribe to the podcast on iTunesSpotify, or wherever you listen to our podcast. 

Get snippets from all episodes by following us on Instagram at @SeriousSellersPodcast 

Want to absolutely start crushing it on Amazon? Here are few carefully curated resources to get you started: 

  • Freedom Ticket: Taught by Amazon thought leader Kevin King, get A-Z Amazon strategies and techniques for establishing and solidifying your business. 
  • Helium 10: 30+ software tools to boost your entire sales pipeline from product research to customer communication and Amazon refund automation. Make running a successful Amazon or Walmart business easier with better data and insights. See what our customers have to say.
  • Helium 10 Chrome Extension: Verify your Amazon product idea and validate how lucrative it can be with over a dozen data metrics and profitability estimation. 
  • SellerTrademarks.com: Trademarks are vital for protecting your Amazon brand from hijackers, and sellertrademarks.com provides a streamlined process for helping you get one.
author-photo

The Helium 10 Software Suite will allow you to gain an unfair advantage over your competitors as it was designed and battle-tested by Amazon's top sellers. So if you want more sales, more time, lower PPC costs, and if you want to discover hidden keywords your competitors don’t use then start using Helium 10 -- the same tools top Amazon sellers use on a daily basis.

Published in:
Published in: Serious Sellers Podcast

Achieve More Results in Less Time

Accelerate the Growth of Your Business, Brand or Agency

Maximize your results and drive success faster with Helium 10’s full suite of Amazon and Walmart solutions.

Accelerate the Growth of Your Business, Brand or Agency

Software for Amazon FBA and Walmart Sellers