#145 – For this Former Lawyer, a Costa Rica Move Was Her Path To Children and 7 Figures Selling on Amazon
I think that almost everyone has those moments when they’re tempted to throw it all away and run off to a tropical beach town. When you’re throwing away a six-figure salary, it requires a different level of commitment.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Bradley Sutton interviews a lawyer who left the world’s top grossing law firm to open a hostel in the Costa Rica jungle. Anne Ferris was at her limit. Billing 3000 hours a year in between calls to the firm’s emotional support hotline; something had to give.
It did, and after a Google search of “Hostels for sale in Costa Rica,” Anne left London with two suitcases. Now she’s already tripled her lawyer’s salary selling on Amazon and says she’s just getting started.
In episode 145 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Anne discuss:
- 04:00 – “I’m Good at School, I Guess I’ll Become a Lawyer”
- 05:55 – Billing 3000 Hours a Year and Managing Extreme High Stress
- 07:30 – Women Working as If They Didn’t Have Children Wasn’t What Anne Wanted
- 09:00 – “If You Could Do Anything, What Would It Be?”
- 09:30 – Looking on Google for Hotels for Sale in Latin America
- 11:00 – Moving to Costa Rica with Two Suitcases to Open a Hostel
- 13:50 – Anne’s in Paradise; Why the Pivot to Amazon?
- 16:40 – There Are Many Different Ways to Be a Successful Amazon Seller
- 19:45 – Finding a Niche by Choosing a Sample that’s Twice the Price
- 23:00 – Tripling Her Lawyer’s Salary on Amazon
- 25:30 – “That Last Year Was Fun; Now it’s Time to Level-Up”
- 28:00 – Starting Off with High ROIs Was Helpful
- 30:00 – Controlling the Content with Lifestyle Images
- 33:00 – Social Media Cadence – “Say What?”
- 35:20 – A Good Relationship with the Supplier Really Helps
- 40:20 – Anne’s 30 Second Tip
- 43:00 – Anne – “Don’t Let Yourself Get Stuck”
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Bradley Sutton: Here’s a story of a lawyer who quit her really stressful job in London with the world’s largest grossing law firm so that she can start a family and now she lives in Costa Rica and has a seven-figure Amazon business at a 40% profit. 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’m 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 e-commerce world. Speaking of serious sellers in the e-commerce world, we’ve got a serious seller here, Anne, who’s coming to us from Costa Rica. Anne, how’s it going?
Anne Ferris: Hi, Bradley. I’m pretty good. Quarantining here in Costa Rica.
Bradley Sutton: Excellent. Excellent. I could think of worse places to be quarantining in, so you’ve got it made over there. Now, I just wanted to preface something I’ve been thinking about lately. I always have a very similar opening to my shows here where I talk about serious strategies for serious sellers, but in the beginning, which is what we’re going to do with you now, we’re going to be talking a little bit about your life story. And sometimes, I think maybe people think, “Wait a minute, serious strategies? Shouldn’t this just be all about Amazon hacks or what’s the best review strategy or what’s the best launch strategy?” Yeah, we talk about those things, but a lot of times, and you could agree or disagree with me, Anne, but when we talk about being successful in e-commerce, the strategies sometimes that are long lasting and more important are the life strategies that people choose.
Bradley Sutton: The latest hack on how to get to page one, that could change by the month, and we’ll talk about those. But what I have found in talking to the over now 100 guests I’ve had, sometimes the real value is how they got to where they are right now: what life decisions they made, how did they strategize their life to really get to the place where they’re at right now. I do think it’s important to talk about that. For you personally, you have a very interesting kind of life journey. But let’s take it back to even before. I know a lot about you, because I’ve had you on a webinar before, and I’ve seen some of your videos, but what about your childhood? Where did you grow up? I knew you were working in the UK at some point in your life, but based on your accent, it doesn’t sound like you were born there.
Anne Ferris: No, definitely not. I grew up in Chicago, in a conservative family, conservative household. I mean I had the typical Midwestern childhood, but my parents were a banker and a lawyer, and they are amazing, wonderful, and incredibly intelligent people. But they’re definitely more safety minded¾have a job that’s going to be secure, don’t take risks. I mean that’s kind of like what it means to be a banker and a lawyer: it’s to be pretty risk averse. I was the black sheep of the family in that sense.
Bradley Sutton: Well, growing up in that kind of surrounding, what were some of your initial goals, because sometimes, when you’re young, your goals and what you think you’re going to be when you quote-unquote grow up are kind of molded by maybe your parental authorities or something. In elementary school, junior high school, did you have a vision of what you wanted to be?
Anne Ferris: I kind of really didn’t, I think I guess because I just didn’t think that creatively at the time, and I didn’t really like the idea of work in general. I never had that, “Ooh, this is what I want to do when I grew up.” I was really good at school. I mean, I really like learning, so I loved the school environment all the way through university and post grad. It’s something I actually really love about e-comm still is the ability to keep learning and doing courses. But the only dream I had was that I wanted to have my own horse one day. That was the only dream I had, and I ended up becoming a lawyer. I didn’t really think it through. I just like, “Well, I was good at school. What do people who are good at school and not creative do?” I guess become a lawyer, so that’s what I did in my previous life.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. You went to college, and then, how long does that take to become a lawyer? Is that six years? Eight years?
Anne Ferris: Well, I went to university at Tulane as an undergrad, and then, I wasn’t ready to go to law school yet, so I did a master’s in environmental policy. I thought I wanted to be an environmental lawyer, and I went to Oxford in England to do that, and that’s when I really fell in love with England, and I wanted to stay. I ended up doing my law degree over there. I’m actually, or was, an English solicitor and not a US attorney. And then I stayed and worked in London as a corporate lawyer for five years. Worked for the man.
Bradley Sutton: Worked for the man. Now, from what I hear, that was a very small mom-and-pop company. Right? (Laughing)
Anne Ferris: I worked for the highest-grossing law firm in the world. I was very small cog in a very large wheel.
Bradley Sutton: Now, that’s a position I would assume, translated to dollars, would be a six-figure salary.
Anne Ferris: Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. You were making some good money over there, living in the UK, but there came to be a time in your life, because obviously you’re not a lawyer in the UK right now; you’re chilling in Costa Rica. What triggered you to think about a life switch at that time?
Anne Ferris: For me, it really got to the point where I didn’t have another option. I worked in oil-and-gas project finance, post-Japanese nuclear crisis. In 2008 is when I started. Everybody else had nothing to do, and we were super busy. I mean, I was billing 3000 hours a year, which translates to working like 16-hour days every day for 12 months. And I was having no time off, no sleep, super high stress. And at one point, I actually went to the HR woman and said, “I need you to refer me. I got to speak to someone because I can’t handle my stress.” And in my team of 10 people, there were four people, including a partner, who were hospitalized for more than two months with stress-related illnesses. I mean, it’s not just people complaining being like, “Oh, I can’t hang.”
Anne Ferris: It’s really causing serious health issues. And I just realized this is not what I want from my life, because they try to make you feel like it’s all worth it. The work you’re doing is so important that it’s worth missing birthdays, missing weddings, missing every social engagement. I just saw partners retiring and you’re like, “Oh, so sad; you’re leaving.” And then the next day, life moves on. And I thought, “Man, this really isn’t what I want from my life. This work doesn’t fulfill me enough.”
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Were you somebody who thought that you wanted kids from an early age? Is that something that, while you’re already in the UK, you were thinking about having one day? Or that was like the farthest thing from your mind?
Anne Ferris: I’m an only child. I’ve never been super maternal, but I also think I knew I wanted to have a family at some point. And what I really saw is that women in law¾I mean law is still really led by men, and most of the partners are men. The women who have kids, they try to pretend and work like they don’t have children, so they’re not seen as less than. And so, they’re pregnant and working until two or three in the morning, and then, they have kids and they’re stressing if they’re going to get home to relieve their nannies. I just really saw that was not what I wanted because I saw a lot of my friends who had kids literally have breakdowns and most of them left work. And I thought that’s not what I want for my kids in the future.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. I mean, working those hours, I couldn’t even imagine thinking that I would have time for a family, let alone the time to fight, to have a relationship to even get to that point. Right?
Anne Ferris: Or fun or anything. I mean, literally, my only conversations were with work people. It was really awful.
Bradley Sutton: All right. Now, the change you made was not Amazon at this time. Talk us through what you did start looking through¾because you didn’t know what you’re going to do. You’re like, “Hey, I’m a lawyer. I just know I can’t keep living this lifestyle.” How did you start searching for something else to do and what brought you to Costa Rica, in other words.
Anne Ferris: Hahaha. Google. What else? Actually, it was a friend of mine. I was calling to cancel plans, and I was in fits of tears, and she was again, “you got to quit your job.” I said, “I can’t quit my job. I live in London; it’s expensive. And I have a mortgage on my house, and I’m not qualified to do anything else. All I can do is law.” And she said, “If you could do anything in the world, regardless of whether it was practical, what would it be?” And I said, “Probably run a hotel or a bar on the beach in Latin America or somewhere,” because I like people and I spoke Spanish. My undergrad is in Latin American Studies, and I was at work procrastinating, and I literally Googled “hotels for sale Latin America,” and I ended up buying the third link that came up¾it was a hostel that I ended up buying.
Bradley Sutton: You’re like one of those people who has one of those globes, and then they spin it around and then going like, “Wherever my finger lands, that’s where I’m going to next.”
Anne Ferris: Yeah. “Oh, this sounds all right.” Actually, what happened was I filled in a request for information on the property listing, and the guy who called me back sounded so freaking happy, so happy. And everybody I knew were lawyers, and they were miserable. And this was February in London, which is especially miserable. And I decided, I went out for a vacation to see it for 10 days, and I stayed there and I looked at a bunch of other businesses too. And at the end, I made an offer and my offer was rejected. I’m like, “What am I thinking? I can’t quit my job, move to the beach in Costa Rica. Who does that?” I went back, and I put my suit on, which always felt like Halloween to me. And I walked into my office, and I looked at the fluorescent lights and I said, “I can’t do this for one more minute.”
Anne Ferris: And I went and I quit, and I bought a ticket. Everything’s for sale in Costa Rica. I’m like, “I would just buy a lot and build something. I would have to figure it out. Within six weeks, I left my job, sold my house. My friends all thought I was crazy. They acted like I was jumping off a cliff. And I moved there in three days. After I arrived, the owner of the hostel called my estate agent and said, “If that chick still wants the hostel, tell her she can have it.”
Bradley Sutton: Even before you had the hostel, you had already put into process your verdict, putting your two-week notice, and you had already started to go move over there?
Anne Ferris: Yeah, it’s three months’ notice in England actually. But they let you out of it. But yeah, I sold my house, and I was leaving. I actually moved to Costa Rica with two suitcases when he accepted.
Bradley Sutton: Wow. Did you notice a change right away just in your stress level, your demeanor, your happiness level¾even though you didn’t even know what you’re going to do¾just by being away from that stressful environment?
Anne Ferris: Absolutely. You know, one of my neighbors pointed it out to me, and it was something I hadn’t even thought of. I live in Tamarindo, but actually, my business is in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, which is decently sized for Costa Rica. It’s like two streets, but it’s a decently sized tourist town. I live in the next beach over Tico Lingo, which is very quiet, and it’s mostly residential and everybody knows each other and everybody goes down to sunset every night to watch, because nobody lives more than a block from the beach. And I was down at sunset, and everybody says, “Man, look how beautiful. This is so great. It’s the good life.” My friend Mike whose been here forever, everybody calls him grandpa, said, “It’s so funny, back when I was in the States, you get together and everybody talks about how miserable they are, and here, it’s the opposite.”
Anne Ferris: And I thought, “Man, that is so true.” When I was a lawyer, I mean, I know e-comm, it’s different. E-comm people are pretty happy people; I have since discovered. But lawyers, bankers, when you get together on Thursday or Friday night for drinks, when you’re talking about how many hours you’ve worked, how annoying your clients are, how little of a life you had, you notice a lot of complaining. And here in Costa Rica, even if you don’t have any money, like going to the beach is free. You can get dollar beers at the grocery store you get a surfboard, it’s free. It’s just a really different slow style of life where what people are looking for is not more and more and more achieve, buy stuff… achieve, buy stuff. It’s like be happy.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. That’s great. Now, you got the hostel, and now that’s your main source of income. Explain how you got to Amazon then, because it sounds like you’re already living in paradise. You got what you wanted. Why the need to, to kind of pivot again, even though I know you still have the hostel now, but why do you want to add that additional income?
Anne Ferris: Well, my hostel is pretty small. There’s four private rooms and two shared dorm rooms. Our max capacity is 30 to 35. There’s a ceiling there. And it was fine when it was just me. But, I met my ex-partner down here, and we had a son, an amazing, gorgeous little son. And then, shortly after that, we had our daughter, and when I was pregnant with my daughter, I started realizing: we do not have enough money to live comfortably with two kids. And I mean, my being a lawyer was my first ever real job. I was used to living comfortably. I don’t need to be Mrs. Richie Rich, but I also don’t want to be counting my pennies at the grocery store. I started thinking about it; it was just in my head like, “What else could I do?” And I have this friend, he moved here after me, and I just noticed they kept living larger and larger in the sense that they had a nanny, they had a chef. I was really jealous of their chef because I hate to cook. And then his wife, who is a good friend of mine, threw him this super epic surprise birthday that was like meals including booze. I’m like, “Man, this is such a crazy party.” Where does their money come from? And right after that is a course doing a launch for selling on Amazon. And my friend posted about it and said, “A lot of people don’t know, but yeah, we started in e-commerce,” and I was like, “Man, what he’s doing, I want to know.” I called him and we had a chat, and he’s kind of like an out-there dude. He’s a little weird. And he was telling me about his journey with e-comm and how quickly it scaled and that he’d had no prior experience, and something inside me just clicked and it just felt that this is the right thing. And I thought, “If he can do it, I can do it.” Okay. And I was broke as a joke. We had no money at the time. Literally a few hundred dollars in our bank account in our bank account. I had to call my mom and asked her for a loan, and she gave me a loan to start Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: Huh. Okay. You took a course; you learned all you wanted about Amazon; and then you got your first product. Now, your first product. Is that something you’re still selling now?
Anne Ferris: Yes, it is.
Bradley Sutton: You hit a home run on your first product?
Anne Ferris: Yeah, my first product was successful, and I kept growing it. And going back to what you were saying at the beginning, “serious sellers, serious strategies,” I am not a strategist. I used no serious strategies. I really am not good at technology. I have no marketing experience. I think, in my opinion, there are many different ways to be successful on Amazon, and you don’t need to be an expert in everything. I think you don’t need all the hacks all the time, because it’s true what you said: “Those are short-term options. What works today might not work next week,” and since I started selling in 2017, everything has changed. What I really believe in and one of the things that I think you can do is to play to your strengths. I know a ton of people who love data. What I really focus on is who am I selling to, who’s my avatar, and then, I really like to innovate with everything I do, but making sure that I know my avatar is someone who pays more for higher-quality things. Finding samples that are just better, and then branding. I think it’s just branding, branding, branding; it’s a huge key. And that’s not just about having a brand name and having a good logo. It’s having a whole sort of theme around what you do. And also really a message that you’re sending to the people that you’re marketing to. That’s authentic.
Bradley Sutton: How do you find that product? Was it something you already had an interest in, or you just saw a need, or did you actually study the market and say, “Oh, this doesn’t have that many reviews.” I mean, it sounds like you’re not that kind of person who’s using algorithms and formulas to see if a market is ripe for the picking. But how did you land on what you ended up with?
Anne Ferris: It was a lot of gut feels. I started searching in the niche. I was six months pregnant when I started my course, and my baby was a month old when I started shelling. I knew I wanted to do something in the baby and family field. I was looking through there, and I found this product that I thought, “This is cool.” And I’ve basically seen a bunch of, I’ve followed, influencers and companies who were using that stuff like off Amazon doing really beautiful things with social media and selling really high-quality products. And what I found on Amazon was that actually the ones that were for sale were not high quality. These big brands that I’ve been following, we’re not on Amazon. I thought, “Hey, maybe this is a place where I could kind of do something new.” And there were some innovations that I wanted two use, because obviously it’s a product that I use myself. I kind of knew what women would be looking for.
Bradley Sutton: And the existing products didn’t have these features that you’re thinking about?
Anne Ferris: No, they didn’t. Not on Amazon. There were some people doing it off Amazon, but at really high price points.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. All right.
Anne Ferris: I ordered samples from Alibaba; same thing that everybody does. I found my suppliers; ordered a bunch of samples, and one was just like head and shoulders above the rest. The sample that I chose was twice as expensive as all the other samples, but in my opinion, way more than twice the quality, and most people for my product were selling between $20 and $40, and I started at $40 and then I went up to 50 with selling more, and then I went up to $60 and was selling more. And then I went up to $70, and that’s where I’ve been holding.
Bradley Sutton: What’s your profit margins then?
Anne Ferris: 40%
Bradley Sutton: 40%. I mean, you just blew everybody’s mind who’s selling an Amazon, who’s like so proud of themselves that they get 20%. “Woohoo look at me,” and then, here we got Anne, crushing it with double. I mean, that’s an excellent point because so many people, they want to go for the $15-$20 products, and like, “Oh man, everybody’s selling at $22. I got to be at 21 or I got to be at $19.97 so that people consider me.” But there is a big chunk of the population out there who, in some things, like if you’re talking about the baby category, if this is your most-priced family member or your most-priced possession as it were more valuable to you that any car can be or any kitchen can be or anything, is a life that you created.
Bradley Sutton: You want the best. And psychologically it’s like, “Hey, I’m not going to get this $18, $19.97 cents thing. The $70 one? Hey, I want to get my baby the best. And so sellers need to understand it’s not always just about trying to be the cheapest but cater to those people who want quality, and give them that quality. Don’t take one of those $5 samples and, and sell it for $70 because you’re going to get bad reviews. I’m sure your reviews are good because you probably promote that you’re the best quality, but then people get it, and they can actually see that you’re the best quality. Right?
Anne Ferris: Yeah, a hundred percent. You definitely do not want to just price high, because… You’re trying to, for sure, have the quality and the design to back it up. But I do really think that that’s something that’s missing on Amazon that people are looking for now. I think that there are so many cheaper products because when it started out, people are going to Amazon because it was less expensive than going direct to people’s websites. But I think there is a gap in the market. There are people now who just love Amazon because of Prime and now it’s one day shipping and the shipping is free, and they’re looking for higher quality items and there’s a lot of brand names that don’t sell on Amazon because they don’t want to give Amazon that percentage.
Bradley Sutton: How many total SKUs do you have right now?
Anne Ferris: I have 21 SKUs.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. And I’ll all the same brand I assume, right?
Anne Ferris: Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Now, in 2019, what were your gross sales?
Anne Ferris: $1.4 million.
Bradley Sutton: $1.4 million at 40% profit. Folks out there. It doesn’t take a computer-like mind to know that she’s probably making a little bit more than she did even as a lawyer. That’s pretty awesome.
Anne Ferris: My lawyer friends are so mad. They’re so mad. They all think that I’m living this poor life. they want to believe that because they’re so stuck in their office jobs. But my best friend is still there. When I told her I was like, “I’m making like three times when I made, when I was at Latham,” she was like, “Wait, what? Oh, now, I really hate you.”
Bradley Sutton: And how much work? You’re obviously not putting in 16-hour days like you did when you were an attorney for your Amazon business. How many hours a week does it take for you to run your Amazon business?
Anne Ferris: Well, I will tell you, last year… This is kind of going back to what you’re saying about life hacks, not just work hacks. I think it’s really important. Everybody talks about what’s your why and why do you start? As an entrepreneur, I never thought about self-development until I went to my first Amazon conference, and I saw that entrepreneurs are super into self-development, because you’ve got to rely on you, right? The buck stops with you, so you got to be the best version of yourself. And then I started getting into that productivity and self-development, but the reason, and it comes back to why are you doing this, and I started this business because I wanted to be able to work from home for my kids and my daughter. I put in a lot of work, and then the business started doing well. I only started end of 2017, so 2018 was my first year. And then, 2019, I thought like, “This year it’s my daughter’s last year before she starts preschool.” And the business is doing better than I ever imagined I could spend all this time investing in new products and investing learning all these new things I got, like learn ManyChat; I got to learn all this stuff. And I thought, “You know what? My “why” was to be with my kids, and I made a conscious decision to take 2019 not off, but I rode with what I was doing and to spend the time with my kids, spend some money. I did some shopping, we did some amazing trips¾just me and me and my kids. And I just had a really fun year, and it reminded me why I love this business so much. And I think the stuff that I was doing, what I was putting out, I was putting out with a lot of love in terms of my marketing, my social media content. And then, at the end of the year, I was like, “Okay, that was fun. Now, I’m going to go forward a hundred percent.” And so this year I think I’m going to launch like 20 new products across my brand, and I’m partnering with a friend and a new brand.
Bradley Sutton: After going to the conferences and learning more things , and just being able to expand to the 19 SKUs, walk me through your week. I mean, obviously, you’re managing a hostel at the same time, but do you have employees who are running your Amazon business for you, running your social media, or you dedicate an hour a day, are you working in five hours a day? What’s a typical work week for you?
Anne Ferris: At the end of 2018, I hired a manager who’s a friend of mine for the hostel. Now, I have nothing to do with the hostel. He does everything, because I didn’t want to do it anymore, and my Amazon business makes so much more money. I will also say up until the end of last year, so I had done well over a million, I mean, I got my business to seven figures all by myself. No VAs, no employees, no agencies, not even any software doing my PPC. Just me, single mom, two kids. I mean, in the middle of doing that too, I had like a relationship separation. I just kind of got it done, and I think it can be easy to overcomplicate things, and it’s really not that it’s hard. I would like choose one thing to focus on. I got my PPC up, and then I just kind of let that run. But with adding SKUs, the main thing for me when I was doing that was just doing images, and I like to do lifestyle photo shoots with photographers that I hire. But I would say on average per day, I was working like an hour, and then there would be some days, like if I had to make an order, if I had to do a photo shoot, I would have some longer days. This year, I’m really working a lot more, but in 2019, I was working like one or two hours a day. It was really not very much. It was a good year.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. And what would you say the biggest thing that you owe to your success? Is it your Instagram, you’re a social media presence? Is it just the fact that you have good quality, or not everybody can just scale up like you did, but what were some of the biggest things that helped you get to where you are now that no matter what category somebody is in, these are things that maybe they should focus or give a little bit more focus to help them scale up?
Anne Ferris: Yeah. Well, what I will say about the scaling, I never took any loans. I started with $5,000 for my first inventory order. I also started with a product that had over a hundred percent ROI. If I sold 300 units, my first order was 300 units because my products were expensive, the next order was 300 because I couldn’t afford more, and then the next one was 600. For a year, I put absolutely everything back in. And that was what allowed me to scale. But you don’t need $50,000 to start this business, and I see people posting that something didn’t work and they’ve lost $50,000. You don’t need that much money. I think it’s good when you’re starting to be doing everything yourself, and on the cheap, I was using people from Fiverr because it gets you more involved, and I don’t think my success was down to one thing, but I will say it is a combination of first really having a superior-quality product, find a way to innovate and make it better.
Anne Ferris: Because if you do and you know you do, so will your customers, and I also think go with your gut on something, especially if your avatar is kind of yourself, which a lot of us do. Trust your gut in the things that you would like and what you would want. I think sometimes we get bogged down in the data. I mean, if you were looking just at the data, people would have told me not to do this product because at my price point versus what everybody else was selling, my sample price that I wouldn’t have been able to make any money because I would have had to keep my price at 40 bucks. I started selling way more when I moved to $60. I think have a high-quality product. The other thing is that I always say to people is like images, images, images. That is such a huge part of your Amazon business. And I know it depends on what niche you’re in. I have a friend who’s a wedding photographer. We have so many destination weddings here. I hired him. We do photo shoots like every two or three months. And that way, I get to control the content and get my friends in it. Another thing that people love, like, I don’t use professional models. I use real women, and that comes through, there’s still beautiful professional photographs, but with real people. And I think lifestyle photography is what people love because what you’re selling is not the benefit or the feature of the product itself. You’re selling the ideal lifestyle that you can live when you use this product. Do you know if it’s a kitchen thing? It’s like, I definitely wish in my best Instagram life that I was Martha Stewart in the kitchen.
Anne Ferris: And I’m not. But if I buy these like beautiful copper pots or pans, probably that will help. Right? That’s going to make me Martha Stewart. That’s what I’m thinking when I’m buying the pots and pans. I’m not thinking that they’re super cute, resistant, whatever. I’m thinking it’s going to make me Martha Stewart. I think that that’s what you really want to convey with your images and with branding. I think branding, it’s really important to have it cohesive message and think, “Who am I talking to? And really what is the message I want to give them?” And there’s this amazing book called Building a Story Brand. Now, I don’t remember the author, but it’s really short, and it’s basically like you create a storyboard, like a movie storyboard or script for your brand and there’s a sheet online that you go through, but it’s how you’re going to talk to your customers. Basically, the main thing he says is that your customer is the hero. You are not the hero. Your brand is not the hero. Your product is not the hero. Your customer is the hero. You are the guide that’s helping them along their hero’s journey.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. A couple of things that sit out there is definitely the branding and then the photography. And these are something that I think maybe some people don’t put enough focus on. Now, you mentioned how Instagram plays a big role in your brand building. How many followers does your product brand have?
Anne Ferris: On Instagram, I have like 6,500 followers. On YouTube, I have over a thousand subscribers, but I get like 15- or 20,000 views a month on my channel.
Bradley Sutton: What’s your strategy? I mean, do you have a cadence that you do? “Hey, I’m going to make Monday through Wednesday, I’m just going to do an informational post that’s of value. And then on Thursday I might show a product.” What’s your cadence?
Anne Ferris: That sounds very technical, Bradley.
Bradley Sutton: I know it is, and I’m thinking that you don’t have one with the kind of that you’re talking about, but maybe you have one, and you don’t even realize it.
Anne Ferris: I haven’t made an Instagram post today, and I just go through my list of pictures, and I’m like, “Oh, this is pretty,” and then I just wing it and think of something nice to say.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. I love it. Alright, let’s go to a more actual, some more technical stuff here, but these are questions that people might have. You’re an American citizen; you live in Costa Rica; you’re selling on Amazon USA. How does that work as far as taxes go? Are you taxed in Costa Rica or you just pay your taxes in America? And all your bank goes to America and then how do you get money to Costa Rica, yada, yada, yada?
Anne Ferris: Well, I will preface this, because I am a lawyer by saying it’s different for everybody. I because I’m a US citizen, I had a bank account in the US for a long time. When I started my Amazon business, I just used a personal bank account. I then next time that I went to the States, which was not until like a year and a half later, I opened a business bank account. But so Amazon pays me into the US; I pay US income tax, but I’m also non-resident in the US, so I get a tax break from that. But I pay everything from the business aspect, it’s all done through the US. When I need money in Costa Rica, I mean, I still have my other income stream from the hostel. Usually, if I’m spending something, it’s on travel, so I put it on my credit card. Otherwise, I just take it out of the ATM. I just do things pretty simple.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. Your inventory, do you ship directly to Amazon every time from your factories or do you have a 3PL in the States? Obviously, you’re not sending it to Costa Rica first.
Anne Ferris: I tell you what Bradley, I was wishing I had a 3PL right now. I don’t use a 3PL. Again, definitely, I am like path of least resistance on everything. I have an amazing supplier. And I did my first shipment using a freight forwarder, and then, I just developed a really good relationship and a lot of confidence in my supplier. Now, they ship for me and it combines with other shipments. I get a really good rate, but basically, I make my inventory order and I pay them the 30%. When I pay them the final payment, I do all of it. I paid for the shipping as well to my supplier and they arrange shipping and that goes direct from them into Amazon. Very easy. And yeah, it never comes into Costa Rica. The only thing I get in Costa Rica are samples.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, last question is before the whole some items take 20 days to ship now or 30 days to ship like, but just at the beginning of the coronavirus shenanigans, I guess you could say that what’s happening on Amazon, did you see your sales increase since more people are at home? Did they decrease or what were you seeing at the beginning?
Anne Ferris: Before Amazon messed everything up with this whole 30 days shipping thing? No, they were pretty much the same. They decreased less than 10%.
Bradley Sutton: Okay.
Anne Ferris: And I also have a premium price product, so people are kind of worried about financial stuff. But I’m also not that worried. I don’t think it’s going to take Amazon 30 days to get this sorted out because I think customers are going to be in an uproar. They already are that they can’t get it. People don’t just need washing detergent sent to their home for 30 days or two weeks or whatever; you need other stuff, and they’re hiring staff. I don’t think it’s going to take them that long, and I think everything will bounce back pretty quick.
Bradley Sutton: Alright, cool. Now, the last thing that we’re going to do today is you’re going to give us like a 30-second tip. But before we get into that, we’re going to do something that we play. A little game that I play with the guests. And sometimes, the listeners play along too. It’s called the search-volume game. Alright, so I’m going to give you three search words that people use on Amazon, and I’m going to give you from Helium 10 the three different search volumes, like, how many times there are search for in a month. And what you’re going to do is you’re going to try and match the keyword with the search volume.
Anne Ferris: That’s sounds complicated already, Bradley.
Bradley Sutton: Basically, you’re going to tell me which keyword you think is searched for the most to the least. All right. Now, since you said your hostile there is in Tamarindo or I should use my Spanish accent – Tamarindo. I’m going to give you three Tamarindo-related keywords here, from the shortest to the longest keyword, they are tamarind, which is the English word for tamarindo. The next word is tamarind paste, and the last word is tamarindo Mexican candy. Now, the three search volumes, one of these keywords, or the one that is the least, is only searched for about 1200 times a month. The middle one is searched for about 3,500 times a month. And the one of these three that is searched for the most is 5,000 times a month. They’re all not searched for that much.
Anne Ferris: Bradley, I’ve got some new product ideas. Five thousands is all right.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, 5,000 is not too shabby at all, but just go ahead and sort from least to most searched: tamarind, tamarind paste, tamarind Mexican candy.
Anne Ferris: Okay. I’m going to go tamarind paste, tamarindo Mexican candy, and then tamarind.
Bradley Sutton: All right, so the tamarind paste is the most searched: 5,000.
Anne Ferris: Yay.
Bradley Sutton: Yup. And the actual second one is actually just tamarind, so I don’t even know what¾. Actually, as a matter of fact, I’ll pull it up in Amazon right now and see what comes up if you search just tamarind. Okay, so like tamarind concentrate comes up; it looks like an actual tamarind powder, fresh tamarind, tamarind chews. That would be interesting. Anyways. And then, tamarindo Mexican is only 1200 times a month. Guys, if you want to visit the real tamarindo, you can visit her hostel over there. She gives 50% discount for Amazon seller. No, I’m just playing. Helium 10 Users get 25%. No, I need to stop. All right. Anyways, we’re now to the point of the show.
Anne Ferris: Anybody can come and visit me. I’ll give you all huge discounts.
Bradley Sutton: Love it. Excellent. Now, back to the serious part of the show, this is called the tst or T S T 30-secnnd tip. I mean you’ve been giving us tons of tips already throughout this whole episode.
Anne Ferris: Bradley, you didn’t give me any warning.
Bradley Sutton: I don’t let anybody know this. I don’t give people warning. I want it to be kind of like spontaneous here. Something that you can say in 30 seconds or less that’s fairly unique and that’s actionable and valuable. It doesn’t have to necessarily be Amazon. It could be how to run a hostel or it could be how to get your first reviews on Amazon. It could be how do you keep mosquitoes away in Costa Rica? I don’t know. But what is your TST for us today?
Anne Ferris: Well, I’m not going to say something Helium 10 related because I’m sure I’ll screw it up. I do use Helium 10 software, by the way, for lots of things. But I would say in terms of social media, two things: Number one, use YouTube. I get 15,000 views a month, and I don’t pay for anything. In fact, I get paid for ads. YouTube is really underutilized and people love to see the face of the brand. The other thing on Instagram, which I just started doing, which I absolutely love, is using linktree. The link in your profile instead of just going to Amazon and then you only have one thing, you can use linktree and it takes you to like a little, it’s almost looks like a little, mini website page, and there’s buttons. It can be “Shop on Amazon” and then you can have a button, “Read our Blog,” “Check out our website.” Whatever you want in there, but I think it looks really professional and I think people love it.
Bradley Sutton: That’s a cool tip actually, because a lot of people just send it to one item, because you can only have one link on an Instagram profile so you send it to the one item, but sending it to a landing page is a great idea. And so, you don’t even know this because at the time that we record it, you might not have heard it yet, but we just come out with a new tool that we’ll do landing page. That could be something that you guys could use. It’s what Portals is for.
Anne Ferris: I just gave a Helium 10 super hack.
Bradley Sutton: There you go. You did. All right. I’ll give you your commission on that later. But anyways, Anne, thank you so much for joining us. I think you’re a real inspiration not just to people who might be single mothers like yourself, but just anybody who’s interested, who’s not very happy in their life right now., whether they’re in construction or whether they’re an attorney or whether just whatever they’re working for the man. If they’re frustrated, they can look to you, and the kind of decisions that you made. And I just love how you just took action. You didn’t even know exactly what you’re going to do, but you knew that you didn’t want to keep doing what you’re doing. And instead of just thinking about it and just dreaming about it, you actually took action.
Bradley Sutton: And then again, for a second time you pivoted again and got to Amazon, and now, you’re grossing ungodly amount of money, which has all of your former coworkers jealous of you. And a lot of people I think can relate to that. They might want their current coworkers to be jealous of them. Guys, you just heard it from Anne, what took her to be successful now and you can follow a little bit in her path, and let’s see if you guys could be the next guest here to talk about your story. Anne, I’d love to reach out to you next year, maybe around this time, and let’s see how you crushed 2020.
Anne Ferris: Yeah, I really do want to add there that if you’re listening, and you’re stuck in a job that you really don’t like and you feel like there’s no other option, I felt like that for so long. I was so miserable. People would say, “How are you doing? Hey, how are you?” And my eyes would like just water. Tears would spurt out of my eyes. I was so miserable and unhappy, and I just thought, “Well, this is how life is supposed to be. This was the path I chose and I can’t go back on it.” And I think if you want to make a change, you can do it. And it really is not about technical skill or how much money you have. It’s just about your desire. You just have to say, “I am going to do this and I’m going to make it work no matter what.” Because if you do that, if you think that way, you can make it work. And I will say, I think all the time, I mean, I’m sitting on this beautiful farm in the middle of the rainforest in Costa Rica, and we’re in quarantine and I’m here with my beautiful children. And I think all the time I could be in an office missing my entire children’s lives. I was there with them since the day they were born, and I pick my son up every day from school. I have the life that I live now almost makes me feel guilty to talk about it because it’s like I couldn’t have ever even imagined it would be this good.
Anne Ferris: And it just starts from like one decision to say, “I’m not happy. And I know there’s more out there and I’m going to…” It’s not Amazon, none of this is a get-rich-quick scheme; you have to put in the work, but if you believe and you work and you don’t stop working and you solve the problems, you can get there. Anybody can get there. I am technology dumb. I still can’t even use the Spreadsheet. Anything is possible. That sounds so hokey, but it’s true. You can do it.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. I love it. Well thank you, Anne, for being an inspiration. Myself, you inspire me. And I’m sure you’ve inspired a lot of people who listen to it.
Anne Ferris: I’m sorry, that was my Siri.
Bradley Sutton: Hey, it’s all good. All right, thanks, Anne. We’ll talk to you later.
Anne Ferris: All right. Thanks, Bradley.
Bradley Sutton: Quick. No, guys, don’t forget that regardless where you’re listening to this podcast, whether it’s on your iPhone or on Stitcher, on Spotify, that you hit the subscribe button so you can be notified every time we drop a new episode.