#234 – From No Plumbing to a Featured Spot on CNBC – an Amazon Seller’s Story
When it comes to selling on Amazon, we all travel different distances, both literally and figuratively. Still, there are those sellers that have to go just a little further to find success in e-commerce.
Today on the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Director of Training and Chief Evangelist, Bradley Sutton speaks with an Amazon seller that made such an entrepreneurial voyage. Shan Shan Fu grew up in a small, rural Chinese town. After moving to the Albuquerque, New Mexico for her father’s graduate school commitment, she attended grade school and familiarized herself with a new way of life.
Shan Shan Fu says that she’s a fan of trying to have a new career every 10 years, and for the last few, she’s been crushing it in e-commerce on Amazon. Her product? It’s what she refers to as the “Ferrari of face masks.”
This 40-minute conversation is a perfect introduction for anyone interested in how to use Helium 10’s tools and is full of e-commerce tips for Amazon sellers of all levels.
In episode 234 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Bradley and Shan Shan discuss:
- 02:50 – From China to Albuquerque
- 04:30 – “You Can’t Be What You Can’t See”
- 06:15 – A Different Career Every 10 Years
- 09:10 – A Queen of Her Own Small Empire
- 12:30 – The Ferrari of Face Masks
- 16:30 – The 80/20 Rule is Real
- 20:00 – A Post on Facebook Was the Turing Point
- 22:00 – An Influencer’s Organic Purchase Levels Up Her Sales
- 28:00 – FBA Sales Helped Shan Shan Step Away from Her Day Job
- 31:00 – Shan Shan Saw Her E-Commerce Future
- 33:00 – “Be an Earner, Not a Saver”
- 34:30 – Shan Shan’s Shotgun Approach
- 43:30 – Leveraging Friends and Contractors to Grow Her Business
- 44:30 – Giving First to Reach Your Goals
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 Play 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: Today, we’ve got a story so inspiring that even CNBC had our guests on their program to talk about her story about selling on Amazon and how she uses Helium 10. 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 serious seller here, so serious that she’s world famous on CNBC. Shan Shan, how’s it going?
Shan Shan: Hey, Bradley. Thanks for having me.
Bradley Sutton: It was so funny how you came onto my radar because we have an employee here at Helium 10, Zoe, our vice president of product. They’re like, “Hey, look at this, here’s a cool person who’s using Helium 10.” Was it MSNBC or CNBC?
Shan Shan: CNBC.
Bradley Sutton: CNBC, the CNBC news piece of you. And then, I watched it and I kept waiting for like this big Helium for 10 minutes. I was like, there’s nothing about Helium 10 here. I was like, what are you guys talking about? And then I don’t know how they found it, but there’s this like tiny, tiny words at the bottom of like one of the graphs that said how she uses Helium 10. And I’m like, how did you guys even see that? But then I reached out to you. I was like, Hey, so you use Helium 10 and now we’re connected. And, and I kind of stopped it there because I liked just getting your full story live while we’re talking. And so I just want to do that, but first of all, congratulations on your success. I mean, I think it’s a testament to what you bailed to do, where you’re an entrepreneur and now you’ve done so well that you’re even featured on major media here. So that’s awesome. But I want to take it all the way back to your history where you were born and raised in America or elsewhere?
Shan Shan: I was born and raised in China until about six years old.
Bradley Sutton: What part?
New Speaker: It’s in the province of Genshin but it’s actually like a rural town, but when I grew up, there were definitely no refrigerators or no plumbing. Very simple life. And then I moved from China to Albuquerque.
Bradley Sutton: Oh my goodness. That’s a culture shock right there.
Shan Shan: Yeah. Yeah. It was like coming out of the jungle. I remember my first day in grade 1, I had to go to the bathroom and I found the bathroom and it had little, a picture of a little person. I was like, I’m a human. That’s me. And I walked in and it was the boy’s bathroom. And the Albuquerque boys were like, Oh gosh, they were so cute. They pushed me out. But they were like, nice about it.
Shan Shan: I love the Albuquerque area. I love the spices, the food I used to eat at this one restaurant there, Hot Tamales, I think it was called. And I even bought a house in Rio Rancho right there. And I was going to move there, but didn’t end up doing it now. What brought you guys to Albuquerque? That’s not exactly usually when people immigrate from China, you think of New York, you know, California, what was happening in New Mexico that brought your family there?
Shan Shan: My dad was doing his masters there.
Bradley Sutton: What was his masters in?
Shan Shan: Geology.
Bradley Sutton: Geology. Cool. Cool. So then growing up, like when you’re first, second, third grade there, did you want to be a geologist like your dad or what was your life ambition when you’re in elementary school?
Shan Shan: As a kid, I think I just want it to be whatever was pushed to me that a woman should do. So like a veterinarian, I think I wanted to be a teacher, hairdresser, maybe. And that’s why, there’s a saying, like, you can’t be what you can’t see and that, I think that’s so true. Like I thought I was just going to be one of those stereotypical, nothing mom does careers, great careers, but I thought we’re the only cruise I could do until I got older that I decided to be like 180.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I think that’s how a lot of us end up in the e-commerce space. And that’s why I ask that question to every single one of our guests. What did you want to be when you grew up? Because very rarely, I mean, not very rarely zero people say, I want to be an Amazon seller or something because that didn’t even exist back then. It’s just not even nowadays, I don’t think any kid knows about selling on Amazon or e-commerce, but we all have these different ideas about how we want our life to turn out and we end up taking different paths, but then somehow a lot, all of us end up here in the e-commerce space. And I think it’s cooler to chronicle that journey. So upon graduating high school, did you attend college here in the States?
Shan Shan: So, I’m Canadian. We grew up most of my life in Vancouver. And that was just because it was the easiest place to get citizenship. And yeah, so I went to college there and I–
Bradley Sutton: University, they call it over there, right?
Shan Shan: Exactly. And I did a 180 instead of doing like all the female careers that were being pushed. I just, what is the career where I will be the only female on the team and it is tech sales. I started working in consulting firms and tech firms doing sales.
Bradley Sutton: Up there in Canada?
Shan Shan: Yes.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Did you like it?
Shan Shan: It was really fun. And it taught me a lot of really good skills with people. Tech skills were helpful. But I did it for 10 years. That’s a long time and I got this silly dream where I want to do a different career every 10 years. So, this decade, I think it’s e-commerce.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Okay. So then was it a tech job that brought you to California originally?
Shan Shan: It was. Yes.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. All right. Now, at what point did you discover Amazon or e-commerce or how did it get on your radar? Like, it’s, again, this is not typical. Sometimes we, Amazon sellers, think everybody knows about selling on Amazon, but the fact is, you tell 10 of your friends what you do. Most of them won’t even understand it. So it’s not something that it just naturally comes up. So like, was it a YouTube ad or what brought you to the ideation that, Hey, I can like, maybe start a career on Amazon.
Shan Shan: It’s a channel called Graham Steven. Have you heard of it? He’s a very popular YouTuber, and he actually does reaction videos at CNBC millennial money series. And he basically just likes to talk about how to reach financial freedom earlier. And that creative sort of the deep rooted hunger in me to want to reach FIRE (financial independence retire early). And then from that YouTube video, I started watching other YouTube videos that were about ways to do that easily. The most popular way was to do a passive income stream with Amazon. And then that’s when I started watching tons and tons of YouTube Amazon videos every day. And that’s when it got kind of that spark.
Bradley Sutton: Interesting. So what year about is this?
Shan Shan: This was in 2019.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, so just barely, not even two years ago. Okay. So then were you working full-time in the tech job at the time.
Shan Shan: Yes.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. What, approximately how much money were you making your full-time job? Like was it a six figure salary or?
Shan Shan: Yeah, I range from like a hundred K to 130 K.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So, it wasn’t like, Oh my goodness, I’m financially destitute, that’s why I’m looking elsewhere. You were making a comfortable salary, what was attractive, you know? Because sometimes we think about that. Like if somebody who was working at McDonald’s or which obviously there’s nothing wrong with working at McDonald’s, but, or another minimum wage job, it’s like a no brainer, well duh. Yeah. I would love to get more money, e-commerce I can make this much, of course, but then I do talk to a lot of professionals who come from, ex lawyers and different things who are already making six figure salaries. So somebody like you, what made you still consider it like a, is it was at the time that, the work life balance that you felt could have been better in e-commerce or what, what was it exactly?
Shan Shan: It was really not having to work for else calling all your own shots. I have this thing that I made up, I would rather be the queen of a small empire than a servant in a large one.
Bradley Sutton: I guarantee you, our social media manager is going to like, take a picture of you and then have that as one of our Instagram quotations is that. I love that.
Shan Shan: Yeah. Thanks. I hate performance reviews or someone that someone’s like, Oh, I give you a met expectations on this. I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to be frank or, Oh my expectations, like maybe based on myself, but yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Requesting vacation days, things like that.
Shan Shan: Yeah. It was just corporate life, it was after 10 years. It wasn’t– I can’t wait to wake up to work.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Okay. All right. So 2019, you’re still working full time. Now you’re like on the radar of Amazon, what’s the next step, did you just start diving into courses or did you just try and teach yourself? Did you get a mentor? Like there’s all different kinds of ways to learn about Amazon, but what was that educational part for you?
Shan Shan: I watched a ton of YouTube videos, but for like a year I took no action because I could not get over the hump of what’s my first product. I was so scared of failure and I just didn’t know what to do. So I couldn’t figure it out until April 4th, when the surgeon general said everyone should wear face masks. And none of my friends had good face masks and I was like, I’m doing face masks. And that was a great time.
Bradley Sutton: Wow. All right. So I mean, that’s, I love it. Like last year, so many people were saying, Oh, I’m about to start on Amazon. And they’re like, Oh, the pandemic is here. You know what? I’m going to wait till this blows over. Before I start, I was like, no, guys, this is like, this is the best time in the history of e-commerce to start selling online because I guarantee more people are going to be shopping online than ever before. And not even just talking about things like face masks, but obviously it’s a no brainer that people were all going to need face masks a lot more. So was it purely just a gut feeling or just a no brainer thing? Or did you actually start looking into the numbers? Like how many people started searching for it or how much money other people were making or were you just like, I’m just doing this.
Shan Shan: I was just like, I’m doing it. And I was actually a little delusional at first because there were so few around that, like the moment I launched, I would get like 30 orders a day. It doesn’t work like that. You don’t get 30 orders on the first day of launch.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So what kind of face masks are we talking about? First of all, like just the hospital kind of ones or N95 or like graphical ones or what?
Shan Shan: The most important feature is the filter pocket. So you want to have a filter pocket with filter and filter inserts. I have most of my masks with zippers, so you can zip it up and multilayers, elastic, adjustable, straps, nose wires, a chin cup, it’s like the “Ferrari” of face masks that you would find, in Asian countries where they wear it every day.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. I mean, yeah. In Asian, when I lived in Japan, when I was younger, I mean, and I always go to Asia. It’s like, everybody wears, not everybody, but face masks have always been a thing like when you go to school and stuff, so it wasn’t anything new. So that’s, did you airship everything like your first shipments to try and get it fast? Or did you just do it ocean?
Shan Shan: A hundred percent Airship, because speed was like the name of the game. Right?
Bradley Sutton: How many did you order? The first one?
Shan Shan: I only ordered a thousand.
Bradley Sutton: A thousand. It was just one like one variation, just like one model.
Shan Shan: 10 variations.
Bradley Sutton: 10 variations. Okay. Was it just one listing or was it separate listings or one listing with variations or just these variations were all separate listings.
Shan Shan: Separate listings.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. What was the variant color or size or how many in one pack or what?
Shan Shan: Probably design and color. So like, I might have one look that has three colors, and then I have a fully different look that has different features that has different designs. I did like very cartoony designs.
Bradley Sutton: I like it. I don’t know I’m going to have to get some of these.
Bradley Sutton: All right, guys, quick break from this episode for my BTS, Bradley’s 30 seconds. Here’s my 30-second tip for the episode. It was actually interesting. When I was first talking to Shan, I noticed that she was using another software for email requests, for reviews, sending emails or requests to review to customers. She didn’t even realize that Helium 10 had it. So for all of you guys who already have Helium 10, don’t forget, you’ve got two different ways that you can request reviews from your customers. You can send automated email in different flows, but if you’re just worried that you’re not going to do it with an Amazon terms of service, just use our automation for the actual Amazon request to review feature, which is built in to Follow Up where you can specify what day you want your customers to get it. And which customers get it. Like, maybe you want to exclude everybody who’s gotten a discount or only people who have ordered twice from you, or three times you can do so many different filters that our guys, any Helium 10 members make sure to have Follow-Up activated and request a review turned on so that you can set it and forget it and send out messages to all of your customers to ask for an Amazon review.
Bradley Sutton: Now, your first order of 1000 units, was that divided among these 10 different styles already, or that 1000 was just one kind at the beginning?
Shan Shan: That was divided already. So maybe one, I would have a hundred of that.
Bradley Sutton: So what was your thought process of that? You’re like, you know what, I’m not sure which one is going to be take off. So let me just order a hundred each and see which one I’m going to double down on. Or you kind of had a good feeling that all 10 were going to be hot.
Shan Shan: So I want to just do less than 500, because I was again scared of failure, but my dad was the one that was pushing me being like Shan, just double it, do a thousand. And he was so right, because eventually it became like, like how fast can I get the second shipment? And you get, once you get momentum, you really got to get the inventory quickly.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So you said, Hey, it wasn’t just a matter of turning on this listing. And I sold 30 a day. How did you start getting sales? Like, what was your launch process? Like did you do any launch or do you do Facebook ads or how did you get your product in front of eyeballs?
Shan Shan: It was pay-per-click and, I launched the thing with Amazon when you launched, say 10 products, only two products will do like 80% of the sale.
Bradley Sutton: I feel like there’s a name for this philosophy, The 80-20 rule guys. What do you know? It actually is a real thing. Okay. So then?
Shan Shan: Yeah, I did keyword research on Helium and I tried my best to figure out the right keywords for each item, but then most of them didn’t get any pay per clicks or got lots of clicks and zero sales. And then there was only a few that were like, the pay-per-click spend was sustainable to how many sales it was making. And it would go up and ranking quicker and others would like, just not go up from ranking at all. It’s like impossible. So, I basically just kind of narrowed down to the ones that did sell, buying the ones that did sell, I just dropped the ones that didn’t.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. I like that. What was your ACoS like in the beginning? Were you losing money? Because you’re just, Hey, I just need to concentrate on this PPC launch here and make sure my organic rankings increase or were you profitable from the beginning?
Shan Shan: I was profitable from the beginning. Yeah. And my philosophy with Amazon is very low risk. I think a lot of courses say, pick one product, buy 300 units of that one product and then go all in and do like email marketing and Facebook messenger and watch a launch at one product. I don’t believe in that, just because like I said, the 80 20 rule, right. You could put everything in that one product and it can not work out. And for me, I decided to launch many products, like at least 10 products and see which ones stuck. And then I focus on the ones that stuck. And thankfully because the products I had were fairly low cost, they were– I sold them for 10 bucks on Amazon. As long as like 20% hit, then it would make up for the last.
Bradley Sutton: So, you were just selling these masks, like one by one. It wasn’t like a pack of five. I’m going to I’m assuming it was just one since it was $10 or was it–
Shan Shan: Yeah, it’s one by one.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. And then what was your cost on that? Or from the factory?
Shan Shan: Including shipping, probably like a dollar 50.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Even including air shipping. It still only came out to a dollar 50.
Shan Shan: Yes. But that’s, I think partially because, I had connections, family connections. I think, it’s not always possible to get that price.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now, were these individually packaged or did they just come in like a polybag or something?
Shan Shan: Yeah. They’re individually packaged with a little polybag.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So not like it’s not like a box because I was like, air shipping that would have made it astronomical. So, you were able to fit a lot in one box, I imagine because of that, right.
Shan Shan: Exactly. Yeah. Because they’re like 500.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So was there, you said not 30 a day in the beginning. What was your first week of sales like?
Shan Shan: So my sales was one. One mask per day.
Bradley Sutton: Were you worried at that point where you’re like, Oh crap, did I do the right thing here.
Shan Shan: That’s what I realized I was crucial. I was like, I would be doing 30 a day. But the turning point is just first of all, I started an Etsy first, before I started Amazon. And the turning point was when I posted on Facebook, I was doing this and then a bunch of my friends purchased them. And then the algorithm realized, okay, this is not just, this is something we should pay attention to. This is not just a random listing. This suddenly got a little bit more sales, my friends were making like five orders a day. And that was kind of the pivot point. Once I made five orders a day, just with friends, that’s when, Etsy decided that I was a serious shop and they pushed me up.
Bradley Sutton: Oh. So, the five orders a day, we’re not talking to Amazon, we’re talking on Etsy.
Shan Shan: Etsy, yeah.
Bradley Sutton: Okay, cool.
Shan Shan: And then I’m going to say, I started on Amazon. It was the same thing. It was like one order a day. But with PPC and with the knowledge I gained from Etsy, I was able to focus on the 20% that did succeed. Right. And then that way I didn’t lose a lot of pay-per-click funding because I would move all that funding to just the 20% that would succeed.
Bradley Sutton: Obviously you’re like, Oh man, I was delusional. But then do you remember the point where it changed, where you’re like, wow, look, how many I sold today? This is it. Like I made the right decision. This is going to be big.
Shan Shan: I think when I hit like 10 sales a day, then I was like, Oh my God, I could really do this. I can’t believe I learned everything from YouTube and I had no background in e-commerce and I’m actually making money off of it. That’s when I was like, okay, I’m going to go on and I’m going to go for 20. And then when I hit that, I was like, no, I’m going to go for 30. And I just kind of kept pushing up and up until I made enough that it kind of matched what I was making in the consulting,
Bradley Sutton: What’s the most gross sales you did in one day, do you remember at all?
Shan Shan: One day it was an influencer, she wrote this really famous book. Her name is Kelly Hampton and she bought one of my products, but she bought it organically. She wasn’t like, I wasn’t solicited in any way. And then she just like, genuinely liked the products. And she told her Instagram following she liked it. And I just remember one day I was looking at my phone, I was like, ding, ding, ding. I was getting tons and tons of sales for no apparent reason. And that was from her posts. And that day, I think I did like a thousand to 2000.
Bradley Sutton: Of just a couple of SKUs of face masks. And when there was only $10 each in one day.
Shan Shan: Yeah. That was mostly from her.
Bradley Sutton: Amazing. Really, really cool. Now throughout all this time, I mean, you launched during the pandemic. I mean, we’ve technically still been in a pandemic and we’re seeing the effects of it even now here in April. My goodness. I can’t believe we’re in April here, April 2021. We’re seeing shortages of dock workers. So like ocean shipments are just like piling up. And I run products on Amazon. I’m feeling the effects. So that’s like your normal, you never were selling on Amazon in a “normal” time. So throughout this time, what are some of the roadblocks that you’ve come up with as far as maybe the factory having to shut down or shipping taking a lot longer or shipping skyrocketing or things getting Amazon delayed checking in your products or not, or give you inventory restrictions, have any of these things affected you at all? Or have you experienced any of these things?
Shan Shan: The biggest pain to sales was no inventory and that happened. So the first inventory I got the 1000 masks I managed to like, just sneak it in there before tons of regulation. And I got it in two weeks. After that, it was painful to get every after that, there was like the government, like it didn’t want to export facemasks, there were just a lot of regulations we had to try to circumvent. And then like, some of them took like a month or two and air shipping.
Bradley Sutton: Even with air shipping.
Shan Shan: Yeah. And the gap where there was no inventory was really a big loss of sales. In some ways I never got the momentum back. Definitely on Etsy. I definitely never got the momentum back that I did before. And Amazon, what I love about Amazon is a bit more predictable than Etsy. So with Amazon, I did eventually get the momentum back, but it took the ton of PPC span. So like, I would rather pay more for air shipping just to avoid losing rank.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah, for sure. For sure. Now you’re coming up or you probably just passed a full year of selling overall, but let’s just take the calendar year, even though you didn’t start in January. Etsy and Amazon, what were your gross sales on each platform for 2020 if you know those numbers?
Shan Shan: I don’t know the ton exact numbers off the top, but it was something like 111,000.
Bradley Sutton: I don’t know exact numbers, but it’s 111,730. That’s pretty exact. I would have been happy with just around a hundred thousand. That’s pretty good.
Shan Shan: Yeah. It’s 111,000, but it’s Walmart and Amazon combined. Well, the exact split, but I know Amazon was definitely over 50%.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. And this was for last year, 2020. Okay, you kind of mentioned how much you’re making overall, but did you ever, what is that broken down into like a percentage like, okay. I paid for my PPC. I paid for shipping. I paid for import duties and everything. What was your profit margin at the end of the day?
Shan Shan: I think it was about for every $1 I invested in inventory. I think I got $3 back and that is extremely good.
Bradley Sutton: You’re trying to hurt my brain here. I’m not a mathematician.
Shan Shan: Something was 10, it was $10 on Amazon. Right. I think if I put in two or $3 in investment, whether it’s PPC and inventory. I could probably make like $7.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. But what about then, considering Amazon, I should have mentioned this, but I didn’t. Amazon commission, Amazon shipping. I’m assuming you use FBA for everything. I mean, obviously not Etsy. Oh, actually that’s a good question. How did you fulfill your Etsy horse?
Shan Shan: Myself.
Bradley Sutton: Yourself. Okay. So Etsy was by itself, but then Amazon, was it all fulfilled by Amazon?
Shan Shan: Yeah, so that’s 70% fulfilled by Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So then you’ve got the $1 charge or a dollar 50 charge or whatever for the 15% commission. And then they’re pick pack and ship. I don’t know, three, $4. So at the end of the day per mask, how much money were you taking home?
Shan Shan: Probably like 50%.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So, but still, if you made a hundred thousand dollars in those nine months or whatever, and then you’re taking home, 30, 40, $50,000, that at the time that wasn’t enough then to quit your day job, or was it enough for you to do that?
Shan Shan: It was enough because I could see the growth. Yeah. I also didn’t pay myself at all last year. So last year, every dollar I made, I just put it back into the business and bought more inventory and stuff. I didn’t pay myself because I just kind of lived on saving. And funny, the CNBC video that came out, it’s not about my budget. It’s about my expense. There was literally a pie chart showing the world every expense that I spent on.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So then at what point did you quit your day job?
Shan Shan: October of 2020. So for six months, I, because I started in April. I did both jobs, so from nine to five, I would work on my tech job. And then from five to 1:00 AM, I would work on Millennials in Motion, and I did that for six months.
Bradley Sutton: I’m just trying to think about this. So then that means if you, when you say you weren’t taking any money out, you weren’t even using it for rent or bills or anything. So from October to December, were you just going into your savings for that then?
Shan Shan: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah.
Bradley Sutton: I like the confidence there. Now, have you since expanded from face masks to other categories or brands or niches, or anything?
Shan Shan: Yeah. I’m excited to buy high socks.
Bradley Sutton: How did that go? Oh, that’s not– somebody says, Oh yeah, I got a face mask brand. And then maybe the next thing would be, I’m going to have the face shield or something for coronavirus or something, but how did you make that transition? Is it the same brand or do you, is that under a different brand name now?
Shan Shan: Same brand millennials in motion. And it was because I had a big time and myself, I think. Thigh high socks, so there’s a trend right now, thigh high boots, right. Thigh high boots are really painful to wear as a woman, um, thigh high socks are really comfy. And every girl wants that. So I personally liked it. And then I went and I did the research. Right. Does that have good demand? Does it have low competition? And everything checked out. So then I was like, okay, well I guess we’re doing it. We’re doing thigh high socks next.
Bradley Sutton: When did you start this?
Shan Shan: I started in about November. December was when I purchased my first inventory. I think September is when I launched. And then I started getting sales in December for that.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Now I assume that’s one of the reasons maybe why you quit your job too. Because you, if you were still working full-time you probably wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to come up with this new brand and everything that is involved in and launch a new brand, right?
Shan Shan: Yeah. I just, I just felt like there was enough growth potential. I felt like this was my full-time job. And with this e-commerce, there were some nights I was so excited to work. I didn’t want to sleep. I was too excited to work. That never happened in my tech job. And I was like, wow, I finally did it. I found– Warren Buffet said, I love this line. He said, try to find your form of play career a career that’s like a form of play.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. You’re all about quotes. I love these quotes that you’re giving these one-liners here. This is great. Now, speaking of that, speaking of quotes and motivation and things like that, what was your, like, other than these quotes that you’ve mentioned, what was your biggest source of motivation? Like let’s just talk about personal or professional speaking, you talked about how great a feeling it was to not be working for “demand”, or having to request vacation days. And so to have that independence and then to have that euphoria that comes with when you’re an entrepreneur and you’re like, I don’t want to even sleep because I’m having so much fun. Were those kinds of things, your main motivation, because it doesn’t sound like what I’m not hearing from you, which is, which is fine. Everybody’s different. But like when I’m not hearing, like, man, I knew that I could make a million dollars of this and I’m going to wait, make way more money. So it doesn’t sound like initially it was financially motivated, but more like lifestyle.
Shan Shan: Yeah. More lifestyle, I think I mean, eventually I want to do a million and then grow up into that. I think I have a lot to learn and I would love to just kind of connect with the community more like they’re doing this, Bradley meeting you and just say, I don’t have any friends here that are doing e-commerce. Everyone’s in tech. I need to find a bigger community. And my dad has this mantra that I love. It’s– Shan, there’s two types of people in this world. There’s people that will spend every waking moment of their life saving. If they want to go to Paris, they’ll cut down on their lifestyle so that they can save $3,000 to go to Paris. There’s people that spend every waking moment of their life earning, where they want to go to Paris. They’ll keep their lifestyle the same, but they’ll figure out a way to make three grand extra to book Paris. So, he said it’s always better to be an earner and not a saver. That’s what I live by.
Bradley Sutton: There we go into another great one-liner from Shan here. I love it. I love it. I love it. Now, what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs maybe just starting out, maybe there’s exactly you’re in your shoes or your thigh high socks that they’re in that you were in a year ago where they’re working full-time right now. They’re like, I don’t want to have to work a nine to five, but I’m scared to start, like it took you, I think you said like a year to get started. So now looking back, if somebody else is in that same boat where they’re like, you know what, I’m kind of scared to get started? Like, what would you have told the 2018 you that maybe would have got you started earlier?
Shan Shan: In general, I don’t think people should quit their job because you may make mistakes. And I made a ton of mistakes and it’s a good thing that I had six months where I had both jobs and it’s Amazon business isn’t in the beginning it doesn’t take that much time. You don’t need 12 hours a day. You can get by with it even a few hours a day, the very beginning, because you’re just waiting for your shipment to arrive. So I would say, don’t quit your job, keep that until you see the growth and you learn. And it does take time to learn. And I also think my philosophy, my low risk philosophy is to not just launch one product, which is the opposite of every YouTube. My Velocity is, you can launch the same type of product, right? Like face masks for launch like 10 of them. Because if you just launched one and nobody wants it, then you just wasted a long time.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I agree with that. Not every product you’re going to knock out of the park. So if you put all your eggs in one basket and it doesn’t work out that well, well how are you going to launch another product? It’s going to be hard to get the funds together now just, obviously like we, we found out about you from that CNBC video series, but how did you get on their radar? Like how did they find you?
Shan Shan: So I emailed them a year ago and I told them my story. And it was right before the pandemic hit. And I was like, I’m from rural China. And, I’m really into the fire lifestyle and I want to share my story. And they were so interested and accommodating. And we even picked a film date and it was like March mid-March of 2020. And obviously that got canceled because that’s when shelter in place offered. It got pushed back and pushed back all the way to this year. And I’m so glad it did because I had a very boring story, a year ago. I would rather the story be about millenials in motion and about starting the Amazon business, and not about just working at a tech firm.
Bradley Sutton: All right, guys, that sound means it’s time for our CAT of the episode, which stands for Clubhouse After party Tip. Once a week, we go live on the clubhouse app and we bring back former Serious Sellers Podcast guests to take 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 that we’ve been doing on Clubhouse, so that you can get some great strategies from our former guests. Now, if you guys have that Clubhouse app, make sure to search for the club, serious sellers, podcasts, and follow it so that you can be notified when we go live. And you can also follow me on their h10 Bradley this clip. We had actually two guests, Leo and Paul in the clubhouse, and people asked them questions about chatbot marketing and Facebook marketing. And so here’s a clip. If you want to listen to the original episodes, Leo is 2:30 and Paul is 2:17.
Question: So I know that you, I see that you do a lot of influencer marketing. What’s your philosophy with influencer marketing versus like traditional paid ads. And like, what’s your balance of the type of marketing that you currently do? Like, is it like 80% influencer marketing and then 20% paid ads? I’m curious because I’ve been in business for about seven or eight years and like, there’s been a big shift in influencer marketing versus paid.
Speaker: Yeah. Good question. So for us, we did a hundred percent influencer marketing for maybe I would say like three years. Last year I was like, okay, COVID hit, we need to bring our brand in front of more people because everybody is at home. So I think last year, February, which is when the lockdown hit is when I decided that, okay, like we need to do more paid ads. And just to have our brand kind of like everywhere. And, but yeah, up until that point, a hundred percent influencer marketing, what was like, like building our brand and growing our brand. But I think influencer marketing and Facebook ads kind of go hand in hand. So there’s a few ways of doing this. One is called white labeling. So basically you can actually get business access to influencers Instagram accounts or Facebook page, and you can actually run ads off their page. So for example, I’m using Bali as an example, again, if you are an influencer and I can gain access to his business, Instagram page and football, and I would require him to, for example, take a photo wearing our leggings or whatever. And we would use that image, and then run ads off his accounts, not our account, his account, so that when people see this ad, it would actually come from Bradley and under it would say sponsored. And then the photo would be, you know, him wearing leggings. And then the captions would be like, I don’t know, whatever it related, like best leggings I’ve ever tried on shop now, link in bio, or here’s a code 20% off that way. It’s a little bit more organic than seeing a business profile and underneath it, they sponsored.
Speaker: And then obviously it’s like a commercial video or whatever photo that you decided to put on your ad. It creates that personal connection. It’s kind of like, Oh, like Bradley is recommending me these leggings. And then even though they say it’s sponsored and they know it’s paid, it’s a little bit more organic. So that is a really good way of running Facebook ads, actually through an Instagram or pick whatever influencer profile to reach a new audience. And you can also pitch it to them and say like, Hey, we’re putting your profile in front of new people. So you will actually gain followers and gain more reach and reach out to like new people and we’re spending the ad spend. So you don’t have to pay for anything, good selling point. And a lot of influencers will say yes to that. Although it is hectic to set up. So if you have someone like on your team, that’s really good with Facebook ads or an agency, you have to get them to help you do that. And the other way for us, as we utilize the influencer content to run our own Facebook ads, that way it shows more social proof showing that you have a lot of customers wearing your stuff and that it’s not just product pictures all the time, also for us it’s clothing. So people want to see how it looks on other women and different body types, how it looks so by utilizing influencer content to run Facebook ads works really, really well for us. It converts like much higher rather than using a model, white background photos. So yeah, that’s kind of how we do it.
Bradley Sutton: Let’s talk a little bit about marketing. Obviously you’ve mentioned that you use PPC extensively and you’ve had some kind of accidental influencer marketing that just happened organically. I’ve had that very similar experience. I’ve given people on the podcast this story of how, when I was doing phone cases, we had this problem phone case. It was an error from the factory where they had this glitter inside of it, supposed to be clear. And so we’re like, okay, we’re not even going to sell this on Amazon. Let’s just throw it on eBay. And then all of a sudden we were selling like 50 a day and we’re like, what in the world is happening? How are people, why are people buying this? And when we did some research, it was a random blogger on YouTube, put it up on her, what’s on my iPhone vlog of the day. And then everybody just started buying it. So influencer marketing is great, especially the accidental one that you don’t even have to pay anything for. But what other forms of marketing are you doing? Like are you leveraging social media? Do you have an Instagram account, you have a Facebook group. Do you have an email list? Do you have a Shopify store that you’re sending traffic to? How are you promoting your product outside of just PPC?
Shan Shan: I have a Shopify store. And I think this is the one thing on weekends is promoting my products outside of PPC because I just don’t have the time. I don’t have time to create a huge Instagram following or reach out to influencers, but I should.
Bradley Sutton: You’ve mentioned also that Helium 10 has played a role in your journey a little bit. What are your favorite tools and how do you use them in Helium 10 for your business?
Shan Shan: So Helium 10 is what I wake up to every morning. Every morning I put on to Helium 10 I’m like, where’s my rankings. Oh my God, it’s a video game. It’s funny. I spent my first month in the pandemic only playing video games and it was so unfulfilling. Helium 10 is fun because you actually see your products grow in ranking. I love to use the Keyword Tracker. That’s my favorite tool. I also really like Cerebro where you can discover more keywords. And I actually asked CNBC to show Helium 10 and show these tools. They really want to give them credit for my success. I really like that my friend started Shogun. So starting a Shopify site with no coding experience is really hard. And their templates aren’t that great. So Shogun is like a drag and drop Shopify website so I could make my website look a lot prettier without any coding experience.
Bradley Sutton: You’ve leveraged a lot of things here. And it sounds like you’re doing everything by yourself, but like you’re, you don’t have any virtual assistants or staff right now. You’re pretty much from A to Z, you’re running your entire Amazon and Etsy business on your own.
Shan Shan: I do have, I do hire contractors for some work like package stuff. But yeah, I think for the most part, it is, I’m trying to bootstrap it again, not spend too much money, so anything I can do myself, I try to do myself, but I am growing. So I do hope to go hire people eventually.
Bradley Sutton: We have this part of the show. I don’t know if you listened to the podcast much, but we call it the TST or the T S T 30-second tips. So, you’ve been giving us nonstop tips throughout this episode, especially your one-liners here and stuff, but what’s something you haven’t said, but you can say in 30 seconds or less like some kind of strategy on Amazon, or like a mindset thing, or some more of your great quotes, whatever that you can tell our listeners out there.
Shan Shan: Yeah, it’ll be another one of my dad’s mantras. One of his mantras is if someone gives you a dollar, give them $10 back, and that’s not saying like, literally give them $10. It means it’s just kind of the idea of giving. Right? And I think a lot of people, their mindset is, what can I get from you? Give me advice. Mentor me, coach me, whatever, but that’s not the best way to build a real connection. The best way is to give first. So, that’s why I actually, I really wanted them to put Helium 10 on the CNBC video, because I wanted to show the world what the tools I use succeeded. I want to give that awareness for Helium 10. And because I did that, you reached out to me and we had this amazing Helium chat. And now we’re talking about wholesale, like, partnership, right. That’s exactly how it works. I can give first and then things kind of snowball from there. So that would be my life advice is that, if you want someone to mentor you, don’t just be like, Hey, can you please mentor me as a charity case? No, give them something. Give them something. And then it just snowballed from there. And eventually it will be a super raging success. Everyone that’s successful. That’s what they do. They give first.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. I love it. That’s something that nobody’s talked about here that much though, that that is really, really cool. Now, I imagine that if you just keep putting all your money into the business, I mean, you’re living off the savings. Eventually your savings is going to run out. Unless you have a hundred billion dollar saved or something. So what are your financial goals for your Amazon business? Like what would you like it to get to maybe in 2021 or something so that now you can like be kind of living off of your Amazon revenue as opposed to taking from your savings. Like at what point are you stopping where you’re like, all right, I’m not going to have to put every cent back into Amazon. Let’s go ahead and start living off of this money.
Shan Shan: So my goal for 2021 is double my business. If I double my business, I’ll be financially independent. I’m not having to take from my savings anymore. Just being able to invest and I still haven’t dropped the dollar from the account yet. And that’s my goal for this year, but of course, I want to keep growing beyond that. But right now my goal in 2021, double.
Bradley Sutton: I love it. I love it. Well, we’re definitely going to reach, I mean, I’m sure we’ll be in contact anyways, but for the podcast, at least we’ll definitely reach out to you around this time, maybe in 2022. And let’s just see, I’m pretty sure you’re going to cry. Not only reach a goal, you’ll probably crush it and even do better. So we’d love to reach out to you to get an update. So Shan, thank you so much for joining us. You’re definitely an inspiration to a lot of people out there and I love your story and you are the prototypical entrepreneur. This is the entrepreneur’s journey and I absolutely love stories like yours. So I thank you so much for coming on here. And then let’s definitely keep in contact.
Shan Shan: Thank you so much, Bradley. It’s been awesome. And I really appreciate it.
- #265 – New Seller Recap – They’re Not Beginners Anymore - July 24, 2021
- #264 – Introducing the Serious Sellers Club, and More! - July 20, 2021
- #263 – Have a Great Amazon Product? Here’s How to Protect Your Intellectual Property - July 17, 2021