#237 – Amazon Seller Stories – Making Time for 7 Kids and Fulfilling Your Own Products
When it comes to selling on Amazon, it’s easier to know where you want to end up, than to know exactly what your very own path is going to look like. In any case, more often than not, your entrepreneurial voyage is going to take you through several different e-commerce selling models.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director or Training and Chief Evangelist, Bradley Sutton welcomes a pair of Amazon sellers to walk us through the process they each took to find e-commerce success. Melissa Busch Mejía & Nicole Andreini are both friends as well as fellow members of the Rainmakers Amazon selling community. Even though their paths were completely different, they found success (and each other) in the tight-knit community of entrepreneurs.
Listen in as Melissa and Nicole tell how Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) gave them a head start on Amazon, offer advice on navigating working at home (with seven children), and divulge a clever tip how to quickly set yourself up with a UPS shipping account.
There’s something in this podcast for every Amazon seller!
In episode 237 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley, Nicole, and Melissa discuss:
- 04:00 – Looking for Brighter Lights
- 07:00 – Crazy Long Hours Plus a Baby Lead Nicole to a Decision
- 10:30 – Melissa Was Driven by an Early Fascination with Latin America
- 13:00 – Amazon’s FBA is Something You Can Do from Anywhere
- 15:00 – Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) “Just Works” for Nicole
- 17:30 – A High Amazon Fulfillment Fee Creates an Easy Choice
- 22:30 – The Power of Community Helps Melissa Make Good Decisions
- 24:00 – From 30K to Over 100K
- 27:00 – For Melissa, the Profits Were Life-Changing
- 28:30 – Nicole’s 3PL Gives Her More Control
- 32:30 – Cornering the UPS Guy to Get Your Account Set Up
- 37:00 – How Did Melissa Blend Work and a Big Family?
- 41:45 – “Just Start” Selling on Amazon
- 43:30 – How to Contact Melissa and Nicole
- 44:30 – Putting Helium 10’s Magnet and Cerebro to Work
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 iTunes, Google Podcast or wherever you listen to our podcast.
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.
- Ultimate Resource Guide: Discover the best tools and services to help you dominate on Amazon.
- Helium 10: 20+ software tools to boost your entire sales pipeline from product research to customer communication and Amazon refund automation. Make running a successful Amazon 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.
- SellerTradmarks.com: Trademarks are vital for protecting your Amazon brand from hijackers, and sellertrademarks.com provides a streamlined process for helping you get one.
Bradley Sutton: On today’s episode, we’ve got two Amazon sellers with unique backgrounds and strategies. One started selling on Amazon while living out of the country and despite being busy with seven kids, and the other actually fulfills almost all of our orders herself instead of FBA. How cool is that? Pretty cool, I think.
Bradley Sutton: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10. I am your host Bradley Sutton, and 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 Amazon world. We’ve got a couple of sellers here today. Kind of like a mini round table. We’ve got Melissa and Nicole. Welcome to the show.
Nicole: Hey, thanks for having us.
Melissa: Yes. Thank you.
Bradley Sutton: Thank you for being here. Awesome. Awesome. Now, first of all, where are you guys at right now?
Nicole: I am in Northern California in a little teeny, tiny town called Kirkwood, currently 82 degrees and sunny here. Lovely.
Melissa: I’m coming from Northern Minnesota. And it’s about, I don’t know, 55 and rainy.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. 55. That’s t-shirt weather for Minnesota around March, but we’re in April now. Okay. All right. Cool. Let’s actually just take it back. I like going back to the origin stories of everybody here. So let’s start with Nicole, were you born and raised there in Northern California?
Nicole: Kind of, yeah, I was actually born in the Bay area and then my parents moved about three hours north of there and bought a cattle ranch when I was about 10 years old. And that was about an hour from where I live now. So I haven’t ventured super far. I did go to college in Southern California, but my husband and I ended up back here, which is awesome.
Bradley Sutton: So growing up then, when you were around 10, 11 years old, did you think that like, you’re just going to end up on the farm working and taking over?
Nicole: No, not really. I’m the only girl. I have three brothers and I always had way different ambitions than I guess, than the rest of the family. The boys kind of wanted to stay home and do that. And I was just like, I’m going to go to New York city and I’m going to be some like big waves CEO of some major company or something. And then, I didn’t really have any anticipation of staying close by. I was never really a homebody. And then, things kind of change when you get older and decide you’re going to be a grownup. And I’ve actually never gone to work for anybody else. I’ve been an entrepreneur since I graduated college at 22 and graduated here at Chico state and never left. We just kind of settled into our own entrepreneurship journey right here.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, you’re skipping too far ahead. Hold on. We gotta get back to Melissa. We’re almost at the end of your story. And Melissa has started yet.
Nicole: You better go to Melissa because Melissa’s really good.
Bradley Sutton: But Melissa, where were you– are you from Minnesota as well? You’re still at where you were born and raised?
Melissa: Yeah, well, my story’s a little bit different. I was born and raised in Minnesota St. Paul, Minnesota. About 14 years ago, I moved to Central America, to Honduras. So that’s where I have lived the last 14 years. And now just transitioning back to Minnesota.
Bradley Sutton: You two just love skipping humongous time jumps in your time. So, come on guys. Settle down. All right. I have a flow I like to do here and you guys are just ruining it. I’m just playing. Let’s go back to Melissa now, there in Minnesota growing up other than dreaming of living in a place where you can have some warmth. What did you think you were going to be when you grew up? Or what were your ambitions around that ten-year-old age there?
Melissa: Yeah, we’re 10 years old. I’d say similar to Nicole. I had the same dreams of New York city and the bright lights and just definitely wanted to get out of Minnesota and just go somewhere and do something big. I didn’t probably have the words for that, but that was the feeling. It was always like looking out, where can I go? What can I be, what can I do? And, yeah, I’d say–
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Alright, cool. Then now, Nicole, you said you did go to college. So what was your major when you went there?
Nicole: Yeah, I was an art major. I was actually a painting major and then I changed to a graphic design major, and then that’s what I graduated in.
Bradley Sutton: Did you complete it?
Nicole: Yeah. I did.
Bradley Sutton: And did you enter that field at all for livelihood?
Nicole: I did. I graduated. I started at Cal poly San Luis Obispo. I feel like that’s an important note. And then, I actually went there for the rodeo team. So, high school and college rodeo. That’s kind of how I got there and then, but then art major. So I kind of had this concept–
Bradley Sutton: People like, Oh yeah, I got a basketball scholarship. I got a football scholarship. No, no. I went in for a rodeo. I didn’t even know that was a thing. That’s awesome.
Nicole: So I was like this rodeo girl that was an art major, which was really awesome. And then, I finished at Chico State with a graphic design degree and I double majored in journalism. So I finished here and then at 22 years old started my own graphic design firm. I didn’t want to go work for anybody else. I wanted to do it myself. So I started a firm right here in Chico and that’s what I did until gosh, still kind of doing it, I guess, but until I had my first baby and then I changed the trajectory a little bit.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, what brought you to like e-commerce, I mean, that’s kind of e-commerce if you’re getting clients, I’m sure you’re doing some e-commerce for that, but what about the actual, like selling products online? Like when were you exposed to that as even an idea?
Nicole: This is kind of an intense story. Are we ready for this story?
Bradley Sutton: Hey, well, I like intense and guys, I don’t know any of this. I’ve never even spoken directly to Nicole and Melissa before. So I’m learning this along with you guys. So I have no idea what she’s about to say, but it sounds juicy. Let’s go.
Nicole: Yeah. Melissa knows my story, Melissa and I hang out a lot. So, I have this graphic design firm. Studio 22 is what it was called. And it was so much fun. We had a team of like really young people working for me. We did brand and website design and it was just, it was so much fun and I got married and we wanted to have a baby and I was working my butt off. I worked crazy long hours and was not working from home. I had a studio in town and it was super awesome. I was literally working myself to death, while having fun, but it was just not sustainable. And when we decided to actually get pregnant or try to get pregnant and do all that, it was like, I can’t do this. I can’t work myself this hard. How am I supposed to raise a family and be doing this? And I kind of had so much experience with building brands. By that point, I had built hundreds of businesses from the ground up from the brand perspective. And I’m like, I can do something different. I can have some sort of passive income with a product side of my business and just kind of started brainstorming with that, but had no idea what that really looked like. And then Steven Diaz and his wife, Chelsea are great friends of mine, me and my husband. And they were like–
Bradley Sutton: We had them on the podcast before.
Nicole: And they were like, you know, we’ve been selling some products on Amazon, are you kind of interested in learning about that? And we’re like, eh, no, not really. We’re not really sure about that. And then Steven just kind of kept bringing it up and like casual conversation. And he’s like, you really should try this. You really should try this. And then, he did a training on it one day and I happened to watch it out of spite. Like I’m like, I want to know about this, but I’m not really sure I want to know about this, but I’m going to do it. Because he keeps telling me to, and I did, and I was blown away. Like blown away.
Bradley Sutton: But Melissa, what about you? I already forgot, I have a bad memory. Did you say you went to college too after high school?
Melissa: I did, yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. And what was your major?
Melissa: It was actually Latin American studies.
Bradley Sutton: What in the world did you think you’re going to do with that?
Melissa: If I had a dollar for every time someone asks me that, it’s cool though, because I started out in international relations. Because I just, like I said, I’ll have just a vision for just something global, something else out there. And so, which is crazy. Because I came from a smaller town, Minnesota and my parents hadn’t, I don’t even think I really traveled internationally, but I just always had that. And so, I started international relations and I just had such a pull towards anything and everything Latin American.
Bradley Sutton: Upon graduation, was there something that you were able to use? I mean, other than moving over there later on, was there something that you got to a job in that field?
Melissa: Yup. So then I ended up working in community development, so working with different immigrant communities and things like that. So then that sort of sparked a whole, like this love for community development and global community development. And that’s kind of where I sprung out from there. Ended up doing entrepreneurship, not e-commerce, but entrepreneurship for a while and just had a small business.
Bradley Sutton: This was in Central America? Or was it central or South America you were in?
Melissa: Central. Honduras.
Bradley Sutton: Central. So were you there already?
Melissa: Nope. I was running the business from Minnesota and then just had a great business and was like, Oh, I’m just going to, like, let’s go at this time. I’m married now with kids and was like, okay, let’s go to central America and let’s do something impactful for communities. And so, that’s where we started.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, when did you discover the Amazon opportunity?
Melissa: So I discovered in 2019, so early 2019, similar to Nicole, had met Steven and Chelsea with the Rainmaker group, had met them through a different business group that we were in together and they were just sharing about their journey and the opportunity. And so I was living in Honduras at the time and I was like, well, is this something that I could do from Honduras? Because obviously I was thinking warehouse wise and this and that, like, that’s not going to work logistically from outside of the US and so the more– and then Steven was like, well, yeah, I can FBA. And I was like FBA. Like I remember I had to, like, I had to Google what FBA even meant. I was like, I know all about buying on Amazon, but I didn’t know anything about Amazon FBA and whatnot. So, jumped in and, Oh my gosh, it was, I felt like I jumped into what I was meant to do. Like I just, I loved it so much. I love the idea of selling on an e-commerce platform. Love the idea too, that it’s something that you can do from anywhere.
Bradley Sutton: Now, back to Nicole here is, has Amazon been, or is Amazon your main source of income?
Bradley Sutton: So like, that’s your, I mean, not necessarily working 40 hours a week, but that’s what could be considered your full-time job then?
Nicole: That and Melissa and I are both coaches for rainmakers. So we Amazon our own businesses and Melissa, you can tell me if I’m speaking out of turn, but our own businesses and coaching other Amazon businesses is my main source of it. That’s what I do. Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Cool. Your very first product. Are you selling it still?
Bradley Sutton: Nice. So, you hit a home run with your very first try.
Nicole: I don’t know if it was a home run. It took a lot of work and a lot of patience, but it worked and it’s still going strong.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now I heard from Steven that you actually, I mean, we’re talking about FBA here, but like you actually prefer FBM on your product. Is that correct gossip though?
Nicole: That is correct for lots of reasons though. And I don’t know that it’s necessarily because I prefer it, but it works for me and my family. And my brand, River and Robin, my brand is pretty big outside of Amazon as well. So fulfilling myself gives me the opportunity to grow it, to have a little bit more control that way as well.
Bradley Sutton: Oh, did you just say what your brand was?
Nicole: I did.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So, I never want to offend people and ask them, Hey, what’s your product because some Amazon sellers are like, Oh my goodness, you got to sign 17 NDAs if you want me to even mention what category I’m in. But okay. So hold on. Let me just look now. I just saw it on your Instagram here. It’s like baby toddler products?
Nicole: Yes. We are a modern baby brand. Yep.
Bradley Sutton: Nice. Okay. Well, what year was your peak in sales? Was it last year, year before?
Nicole: Not last year. It must’ve been ’19. 2019.
Bradley Sutton: 2019. And what’s your breakdown as far as a percentage of sales on Amazon versus like I’m assuming you saw on Shopify or others?
Nicole: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So we are not targeted yet. We’re hoping to target soon, but Walmart, jane.com, Zulily, all of like the basic other e-commerce platforms. Probably, I mean, majority from Amazon as far as actual number breakdown, probably like 80-20, 80% Amazon, 20% other places.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Which one would be number two, would you say?
Nicole: My own site is probably river&robin.com.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Is it Shopify?
Nicole: I built them on Squarespace. I prefer Squarespace over Shopify.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Yeah. That’s cool. So I’m just looking here. Oh, so these are kind of like, I see what these are. These are like the I don’t know what you would call it like mini beds.
Nicole: So it’s a baby lounger. And we are the one and only lounger that goes from infancy to toddler-hood. So you don’t have to like upgrading in size, like you do the other baby loungers.
Bradley Sutton: Ah, that’s cool. Now I can see this seems like a larger item. So then FBA, would you be, I mean, are you able to fulfill this cheaper than you would have as if you had to send your product to Amazon and then they send it to the customer?
Nicole: Yeah. I mean, I can talk about real numbers. Like, do you want real real numbers?
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Well, I don’t want fake numbers.
Nicole: I mean, I don’t know how transparent you want me to be, but I’m happy to be super transparent.
Bradley Sutton: As transparent as you want to be.
Nicole: Yeah. So my FBA fee on this item is $42, which is crazy high. So, I mean–
Bradley Sutton: And is that just from Amazon to the customer or that’s including how much it would have cost you to get that to Amazon?
Nicole: That is just from Amazon to the customer. So, that’s my referral and fulfillment fee is 42 bucks.
Bradley Sutton: Good grief.
Nicole: So it’s just not super costly for me to do FBA. I can ship them from here for between like eight and $12. And then I’m only out the other cost of box and tape and labels and things like that. So, it’s a lot less expensive.
Bradley Sutton: Wait, wait, wait. Eight to $12. You can ship this for? Well, what services is that?
Nicole: It depends, USPS or UPS. It’s amazing when you ship as many as we ship, especially UPS, they just keep, they’ll just drop your rate and drop your rate. If you just keep asking, it’s like, I want to keep shipping with you, but I need a better rate.
Bradley Sutton: How many units a day are you pushing out of your warehouse there?
Nicole: Right now? Probably like 10 a day. It’s pretty, it’s slower right now.
Bradley Sutton: I imagine during the holiday season, it is.
Nicole: Yeah. And like so for instance, and I kind of have like this, I don’t know if it’s a luxury, but it makes it easy where I switched my oven to FBA sometimes. So I had a baby in December, December 8, and didn’t want to be fulfilling Black Friday and Christmas orders, nine months pregnant and with a newborn. So we switched to FBA. So I sent a bunch in, back in October and just let Amazon fulfill them. And like, we didn’t make as much money, but then I’m not out to work, which I’m really glad about. I’m really glad we have the option to do so. Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: All right. Let’s go back to Melissa. She’s feeling neglected again over there. Melissa, I got just a little bit of gossip on both of you. So for Nicole, it was about FBM and for you, Melissa, it was that you have six or seven kids?
Melissa: Seven, yes.
Bradley Sutton: Seven kids. And you were living in Honduras.
Melissa: Yes, yes. Correct.
Bradley Sutton: With seven kids in central America. And then that’s when you started your Amazon business?
Melissa: You are absolutely right. Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: What were you doing for income? Like for just daily living expenses when you were living down there before Amazon?
Melissa: Mostly we do have a coffee business as well. So we did some coffee sales and otherwise we–
Bradley Sutton: Coffee as in drinking or copy?
Melissa: Coffee as in drinking. So, we were doing that. In fact, I thought originally this is how little I knew about Amazon that we could maybe get in on Amazon and sell our coffee. So that was kind of one of the things I was thinking. So that business and then, like just church support and things like that, that people support. Yeah. We were really at a time of just like, okay, we need to really like, look at what we’re doing here. So I really wanted to be able to–
Bradley Sutton: What was the motivation there then? Was it like, you know what, we’re kind of struggling here and it’d be nice to have a few extra bucks or what motivated you to say, we need to start getting some income from Amazon.
Melissa: Yeah, definitely. One was a financial motivator. It was just sort of looking around like wanting, like I was telling you, We didn’t have the money to be able to be impacting how we want to. And yeah. And then just like real transparency, like our family, like my mama was just like, all right, this, like, we need to get more income coming in. So absolutely it came from financial.
Bradley Sutton: And so did you actually start your first product while you were still down there? Or were you already back in the States?
Melissa: No, actually I wouldn’t even say I’m a hundred percent back in the States because I’m kind of going back and forth, over the next few months, but I did. Yeah. I’ve launched all of the products that I’ve launched thus far have been from Honduras.
Bradley Sutton: Nice. So then you never had to touch them. You just send them directly to either Amazon or to a warehouse first and reap the benefits.
Melissa: Yeah, there’s just the samples.
Bradley Sutton: What did you do when you set up your Amazon account as far as utility bills and addresses and things like that. I mean, obviously you’re an American citizen and you had some still addresses and things in your name or how were you able to set that up?
Melissa: Yeah, I did. I did have stuff in a permanent address and things that I was able to show fairly easily, but it was cool because, just kind of investigating later because a lot of our friends and people in Central America were like, well, how are you doing this with Amazon? And it pushed me even further to answer your question. Like just how, I didn’t know that people in other countries as well can send in their documentation and get verified by Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: All right everybody, it’s time for the BTS of this episode. Bradley’s 30 seconds. Here is my 30-second tip talking a little bit in this episode about fulfilling at your own warehouse. And this is something I actually wrote a blog on. So you guys can read about this in the Helium 10 blog, but I’ve always recommended guys, even if your product may not be large, go ahead and always list your items. If you have that ability from your own house or your own warehouse or your own 3PL because you can get orders. They might not have gotten in if you didn’t have the FBM. So most people think, Oh, everybody’s got FBA buyers, but that’s not the case. There’s still a section of buyers out there who don’t have FBA or prime, I should say. And so what that means is if they see an FBA item, there might not be a buy box. If the price is too high for them, or if they live in a country that can’t be fulfilled by Amazon, or they might add it to their cart. And then if Amazon puts like a $10 charge on something, they might be like, Hey, this is too expensive. Usually you yourself can fulfill the products and at the same price almost as if it was FBA, and then you will be able to get probably between one and 3% more orders just by having a dual listing or your product on Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: Going back to Melissa then. So you didn’t have a big social media audience or big community when you launched your product. So what was your launch strategy then when you did end up opening your first product on Amazon?
Melissa: I really just working with the Rainmaker community was what just really helped me just, as far as just being able to know like how to do it and what to do and just with giveaways and launching stuff, it was just– really just following, I guess, what just being a part of that community helped tremendously. Had I been all on my own, I can say I would have driven right into a cement wall. I just, I thought maybe, I knew what to do, just from like a quick basic training, but being a part of an Amazon community, like same even the Helium 10 community and this Rainmaker community, having that and just really leveraging community, I think has been what have been keys for success, just really being able to come along other, alongside, other people and then be able to do the same afterwards.
Bradley Sutton: So that– has it been a full year of you selling on Amazon?
Melissa: Yeah, I started the end of October 2019 selling.
Bradley Sutton: In 2020, what would you say your estimated gross sales were about?
Melissa: Just under 200,000.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. And then, you said you’re making money, so is there a profit margin?
Melissa: Yeah. I was just doing my taxes and just excited. I mean, like just being real, like you said, no BS, like, I was just this last week did taxes and was able to go from like a year beforehand, which was like maybe $30,000 and then go to like over a hundred thousand dollars. And that wasn’t all Amazon, but the majority of it definitely.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. Now, what would you say, still with you, Melissa, like your biggest win and loss in the last year of selling on Amazon was where like something unexpected happened or expected, like you were like, Hey, I’m going to do this new PPC strategy I heard about, or I’m going to try and do this influencer marketing or whatever. And it really gave you good dividends, but maybe something that was bad. Like, Hey, one of my containers fell in the ocean with those others that did, or I got locked out of Amazon for months during the coronavirus. What was your biggest W and L of 2020?
Melissa: Oh, that’s so good. I think my biggest loss was not calculating quarter four, because I’m not quick time-wise. So, I didn’t get my stuff in. And Nicole knows I ship a lot of my stuff to her warehouse and everything just got locked up. And so I had stuff that some of my biggest sellers that I ran out, like maybe the 10th day in December or something when sales were just peaking and where we could have rolled that wave out. And I ran out and even though I had the inventory, it just couldn’t get in on time.
Nicole: That was so stressful.
Melissa: Oh my gosh. Yeah. I had one product, ordered extra for Christmas, wanted to launch it for Christmas and it didn’t make it by Christmas. It was terrible. That was like my frustrating and difficult just learning of–
Bradley Sutton: Was it because you didn’t order early enough or?
Melissa: Yeah. And now I thought I did, I ordered by September, or it was on its way by September. And I thought it was, but it just, it didn’t get there. It didn’t know whether it was slow to get into the port and then it got to Amazon, but never got checked in and it was just long. It just was long. And so for my best sellers and for the new product that I was hoping to sell, I wasn’t able to sell it for Christmas, which was a huge bummer.
Bradley Sutton: And now let’s turn from the doom and gloom to rainbows and unicorns. What was the good thing?
Melissa: Yeah, that’s my favorite part. So I think, gosh, to be honest, last year 2020 was my learning year, like from, I launched one product and it started to make money and that was like, all right, like, yeah. Okay. So let’s do this again. And so it was like such– to be able to launch the other products for me. I know this, I mean, obviously the biggest win is that the sales went way up after launching each product, and started to make some real money. And I guess, this is it now just kind of thinking, just being able to like, be able to make over, gross over a hundred thousand in the first year, that was a big deal to me. That was kind of a marker that I was hoping to hit for the first year, but I was just so inexperienced, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to, so to be able to hit it and sustain it was a big win.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, cool. Now let’s go back to Nicole a little bit. Melissa was talking about how she uses your warehouse. So, for those people out there wondering what they need, if they want to have some discounts for UPS shipping, it’s not just Nicole’s 10 products a day that she’s doing, but she’s also, I imagine, fulfilling for others. Now because you’re fulfilling for yourself. And for other people, you know a lot of the ins and outs of fulfilling by herself and from what you’ve heard from people who use third-party warehouses, which– it’s not to say that third-party warehouses are bad, but they’re bad things that happen. Sometimes when you run your own show, you have a little bit more control, but what are some of these advantages that you have had you feel by having your own in-house warehouse?
Nicole: Yeah. Well, I’ll answer this in two quick parts, one being for myself and one being for our customers that store inventory with us, because the huge win for myself is that I have complete quality control over my own products, which I’m a super emotional, like driven person. So that touchy, feely side of it being able to touch and feel and pray over each product that goes out is important to me. And I get to control that aspect when I fulfill my own orders out of my own warehouse. For others and like, for people like Melissa and everyone else that stores with us, I think the big advantage is having somebody that you really know. I mean, it’s just me and my husband. It’s not like we have this crazy team of people that’s moving inventory around and everything. It’s just Adam and I, and knowing that you have this personal contact that you can email or Facebook message and say, Oh my God, my inventory is late. Can you check on it? Or, I’m worried that I’m missing a carton. Can you do another count, or things like that that happened that you feel like you don’t have any control over sometimes in this Amazon world, it can feel kind of out of control at times. I feel really blessed that we’re able to provide that to the people that store with us and be able to say, like, yeah, I’ll come count those for you or whatever it is. And then, being there when UPS shows up every day and seeing those boxes get loaded and out the door and know where they’re going is a big deal for our customers, knowing that I’m there, able to do that for them.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I mean, like I’m in the same boat. I have a 2000 square foot warehouse right here on my property. That was one of the reasons I bought this house. I love that. And I’ve always been a big proponent of, Hey guys, even if you are doing FBA, always do FBM too, just to have that available for the people who don’t have FBA, right. You might lose a sale because there’s no buybacks or because Amazon puts on a surcharge of shipping that might price them out of it. So like, FBM is the way to go. Now, what are some issues that maybe you’ve run into, like I think everybody last year ran into issues, regardless of your fulfillment by Amazon or yourself, where now there’s like shipping delays and things like that. But what are some of the biggest things that people need to understand that could potentially not scare people, but some of the things that could happen if you are fulfilling yourself.
Nicole: There’s no vacation. I mean, if you’re only fulfilling yourself, it’s not like you can’t ship orders one day, like you’ve got to go out and ship the orders. And so I think that’s the biggest downfall and the biggest– the wary point. But again, that’s a huge reason why we sell on Amazon is because we have the option to do FBA, if all goes to hell in a handbasket. So, yeah, I think that that’s probably the biggest thing. And then, as far as 2020 goes, the shipping delay situation, that’s completely out of the vendor’s control. Even if we ship on time, dealing with the customer side of things, being able to effectively message them and say like, I know your orders, three weeks late, but I shifted on the day you ordered it. And it’s in USPS hands now and being able to just kind of brush that off and know that you don’t have control over it, but it still hits hard sometimes.
Bradley Sutton: Now for you, are you direct with UPS, or do you use one of those, like, I don’t know what you call it, like those last mile kind of services where they contract with UPS and then they use the post office for the last layer of the delivery or something like that?
Nicole: No, we’re directly with UPS.
Bradley Sutton: So then how does somebody go about, like, if they do have decent volume, how does somebody go out to get up like a corporate account? I mean, because anybody can just go to ups.com and get a UPS account, but like, how did you get this account set?
Nicole: Yeah. So, the easiest way to do it and people, my students laugh at me, particularly when I say that this is what you got to go do. You go outside when your UPS man shows up one day to deliver your Amazon package or whatever, and you walk outside and you say, Hey, I need to talk to your project manager. And they’re like, Oh, okay, here’s his number. And you call that number and you are connected to a UPS project manager. And it sounds too easy to be true, but in my experience, it’s the best way to go about it because you can totally call the ups like 1800 numbers and they will connect you to somebody that will connect you to somebody, that will connect you to somebody. But I love the personal contact side of UPS. I feel like that’s what makes UPS what it is. And being able to just like, I mean, my guy’s name is Trevor and I can text Trevor now and say like, Hey, my pickup didn’t happen today. What’s going on? And he sends somebody, so just walk outside, talk to a driver and say, Hey, who’s in charge. I need his phone number. And then you call them and you say, I’ve got a business. I’m going to be shipping from home, hook me up and I’ll walk you through the whole process.
Bradley Sutton: I got to try that. I mean, I used to be a big shipper back in the day and I had all these contacts and I lost them all. And then I was just trying, I kind of shipped through like stamps.com now, because they even do UPS, but the discounts are decent, but they’re not that great. But then I was like, man, there was a time since now I’m doing tons and tons of Etsy now, which is obviously all fulfilled by merchants, and others, Walmart and things like that. So I’m like, man, I need to get some better rates. And I gave up because I’m kind of, my ADHD, like won’t let me concentrate on anything for a period of time. And then I was like trying with the eight 1-800-NUMBERS. I was trying on the website and I couldn’t get anybody to like on the phone to set up a corporate account. So we have our UPS guy, he comes almost everyday because I’m shipping stuff to FBA and other things. So I’ll ask him about that. That’s a great tip. Let’s go back to Melissa a little bit now. So Melissa, what are your goals moving forward? You said you’re going to be splitting time between Honduras and Minnesota. Like, I can not think of two more opposite, climate wise and culture wise. That’s hilarious. They probably don’t even know what hockey is in Honduras, but [inaudible], what’s your plan?
Melissa: My plans let’s see my, I say plans. Like I really, I think, because I spent so much of last year just launching, launching, launching, I felt like, no, I’m just trying to really build the brand, as we’re going forward. I didn’t even think brand wise when I launched really, I put our business name is Nine Royal and that is, it’s kind of like a declaration because our family there’s nine of us and it was kind of like going from what was to what is to come. So that’s sort of my focus. And so just looking at, yeah, just really starting to branch out, started selling on some more platforms. We’re working on a website, working on selling on Etsy now as well. And just building up the brand and really identifying kind of our who, because we sell kind of inspirational stuff and we also do laundry room decor. So it sort of– it kind of shows the sporadicness of the first year of just looking for good products and selling them, but we’re really wanting to build the brand as we go forward and then just build and keep building off, launching more products. And I like what Nicole said too about just really being impactful. But I think that we have that opportunity, I think for 2020, one of the things that we did was just include something in our packages. I just thought, with everything with the COVID and it just, it still seems there’s just so much like they didn’t like this bad news all the time about everything. It just– using the e-commerce platform to be able to put in a little note like, you’re amazing. Or just to like, you’re getting your Amazon product and you’re just excited to get it. But just trying to bring a little bit of sunshine into people’s day and just trying to have more impact with what we’re doing than just making money.
Bradley Sutton: Keeping it with Melissa real quick out of curiosity, like there’s, I mean, when you were in Honduras, you were, you had that coffee thing going, you had your missionary work and everything. It’s not like you were just sitting on the beach without anything to do, plus seven kids. So in that situation, how did you make the time to be able to start an Amazon business? Obviously not everybody is going to be in that exact situation, but there’s people who have two kids, four kids, six kids, they’ve got full-time jobs, they’ve got part-time jobs, they’ve got household responsibilities are familiar responsibilities. Like how does somebody carve out the time necessary in order to start a business like you?
Melissa: Right. That’s a great question. And I love people asking me that a lot just because of the seven kids. It’s just like, I think it’s just in setting daily goals for yourself. Like that’s what I found that I did that worked for me. Like if I tried to tell myself like, okay, I’m going to do product research at four o’clock today. A lot of times that four o’clock came and blew by. And if I would have stuck to that, I could just have gotten frustrated really fast. So I just try to set daily goals for myself, especially during that product research phase or just like, all right, today, I need to get this done. And if that means when all the kids are in bed and I gotta stay up a little later, maybe I’m not going to watch that Netflix series or whatever else that I was hoping to do, but I’m going to set aside whatever product research I’m going to set aside an hour or whatever, two hours tonight to be able to do that. And so just having those daily goals for myself is what really helped me be able to just push the needle forward, and get stuff done instead of setting up a rigid schedule. Because I mean, my days are crazy all the time. And so, I’m not a quitter either. And I think once you put that in your mind, like I’m going to do this. This is happening and it’s going to get done one way or another. I just got to figure out what’s the best way to do this.
CAT tip: All right, guys, that sound means it’s time for our CAT. Our CAT of the episode which stands for Clubhouse After party Tip. Once a week, we go live on the clubhouse app and bring back former Serious Sellers Podcast guests. We take the live questions from you and they give you their best tip out there. So every episode we’re going to be giving you guys clips from these episodes we’ve been doing in the clubhouse. So you can get some great strategies from our former guests. Now, if you have the clubhouse app, make sure to search for the club Serious Sellers Podcast and follow it so that you can be notified when we go live. You can also follow our director of training on there at h10 Bradley in this clip, we had Kevin King, who is the master behind freedom ticket and an e-comm legend, as well as Ankit Patel, who once had a month grossing nearly over $1 million in sales, on Amazon, on the clubhouse call. If you would like to listen to one of their original podcasts, Kevin’s latest episode is 2:16 and you can find Ankit on 2:08.
Guest: So my question is for Kevin, I am on week six or seven with the Freedom Ticket. I’m very new, very green. My question is regarding shipping. You suggest 35 days inventory. So now with the world upside down, what would you recommend?
Kevin: To have at least 30 days worth of inventory sitting in Amazon, I’m pushing that with like five days, but what you want now with everything taking longer to arrive, you probably don’t want to– about 45 days because the containers and everything takes so much longer. So, I would probably put that 45 days.
Ankit: It used to be so busy during Christmas time, even after Christmas, after the Chinese new year. So what I have implemented is I now try to order two to three months worth of inventory in advance. Because once you, if it’s your best selling product, you don’t want to be out of stock because that could cost you a lot. So, what I do is I have acquired a new warehouse. Then I have acquired three months of inventory so I don’t run out of stock.
Bradley Sutton: Now, we’ve come to the part of the show we call the TST, or the TST, 30-second tip. So you guys have been talking about different strategies and tactics that help you get where you are today, but there’s going to be, I’m going to ask each of you the same question. Just something that maybe you could say in 30 seconds or less, that is a life hack or something about your Amazon or your PPC strategy or work-life balance. It could be about any possible thing that you think is valuable for the average Amazon seller out there. So let’s start with Nicole. What’s your 30-second tip?
Nicole: Mine is way less than 30 seconds. Just start. It can feel so daunting. It’s like, if you haven’t started yet, it can feel so daunting. The list can feel so long to launch your Amazon business or to launch a product, but just start. It won’t happen until you just start.
Bradley Sutton: Melissa?
Melissa: I love that. I think that sometimes we feel like, I mean, at least for me, I felt like I had to have everything, like it’s okay to make a mistake. Like sometimes we were just holding back and I don’t want to repeat what you already said, but I just think it’s, I just think it’s so key for people as you’re, whether it’s launching another product. I mean, of course we will all want quality. We all want to do our very best, but sometimes we get to this perfectionism that stops us. And we actually find that, a year goes by because we just can’t think of the perfect color for this product/ Sometimes you just gotta say, I’m going to launch it blue. And if I need to change it later, then I can do that. So I think not getting stuck in perfectionism will release you to be able to move in to get that start just to get out of being a perfectionist. Again, doing the best you can, but not being hung up if it’s not perfect, every perfect thing, because that’s what I think is the big stop for so many people as well.
Bradley Sutton: Cool. I love it. I love it. So if people want to reach out to you guys or see about that coaching program that you’re a part of, how can they find their view on the interwebs out there?
Nicole: Nicole.and.co on Instagram is awesome for me. And then andreiniwarehousing.com for the warehouse stuff is definitely the best way. And then rainmakers. Just google Rainmakers Academy is the coolest thing in the whole world.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. And Melissa?
Melissa: Yeah, I’m on Instagram, but I’m much more active on Facebook. So Melissa Mejia on Facebook, and then also nineroyalcompany.com. We’re also there as well.
Bradley Sutton: Cool. All right, Nicole, Melissa, I definitely want to reach out to you. One last question before I go. And I always, I’m on the clock here, but I never make these Helium 10 sales pitches, but I know everybody uses Helium 10 here. So if each of you could just give like your favorite part of Helium 10 on how that has helped you in your business.
Melissa: I can start, I can start. Mine is hands down Magnet. A hundred percent. I love magnets. I’m thinking like, okay, could this keyword be good? What’s the search volume on it? So I’m throwing the keyword in. And I guess my special, like my favorite even like part about Magnet is I love, like, let’s say I throw in the keyword and I’m like, Oh, no, search volume is either not good or it’s way too high or competitive or whatever. I love the filtered keywords below. So I’m always like, don’t get stuck. Like if it’s like, if it’s not in the range, the keyword search volume range that you’re hoping it’s in scroll down and look at those filtered keywords, because there could be a product in there that you weren’t even thinking of, and boom, all of a sudden you have a keyword, you have all the information you need right there, and you didn’t even think about it and it was associated or just with the other keyword that you originally looked at. So that’s kind of my, that’s one of my favorites.
Bradley Sutton: Awesome. And Nicole?
Nicole: I have to say I actually, I love Cerebro not necessarily with my own Amazon business, but when we work with students all day long, every day, I think Cerebro is just like the coolest way to basically get background information on competing products. And I love the idea that we can basically find what kind of keywords competing products are ranking on that we may never have thought of before. And I just love it. I probably use Cerebro 50 times a day.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I love it. I love it. All right. Well next year, 2022. Want to reach out to you guys and see what y’all are up to. And then, we got some exciting things in the Helium 10 side that are about to come out that I think each of you are going to like, and maybe we’ll talk about how you use other tools, but Magnet and Cerebro are two of my favorites as well. So I’m on the same page as you there. So, Nicole, Melissa, I wish you the best of success in your continuing Amazon journeys and keep making it rain.
Melissa: Thanks, Bradley.
Nicole: Thank you for having us.
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