Episode 14 – Selling on Amazon as a Small Business with Miranda of Maple Valley
Updated on: October 7, 2020
See how even a small business can substantially boost profits by selling products on Amazon!
You may hear from six-figure and up Amazon sellers on the best methods for succeeding on Amazon, but what is it like for a small business to try its hand at selling on the massive e-commerce platform? On this episode, Bradley brings on a Helium 10 user that sells maple syrup from a small business in Wisconsin on Amazon, and has virtually doubled the company’s sales!
Miranda of Maple Valley Cooperative is willing to share her product with the Serious Sellers audience, as well as her experience of using Amazon to boost her company’s sales. She also shares how Helium 10 tools have tremendously helped her to create effective product listings to get on page 1.
In episode 14 of the Serious Sellers Podcast, Helium 10’s Success Manager Bradley Sutton and Miranda discuss:
- 00:20 – Introducing How Average Amazon Sellers Are Using Helium 10 to Succeed
- 02:24 – Why Sellers Don’t Like to Reveal What Their Product Is Publically
- 03:05 – The Beginnings of Miranda’s Syrup Business
- 04:38 – Taking the Business Online by Selling on Amazon
- 06:06 – Doubling the Company’s Revenue Through Amazon Sales
- 07:16 – Before and After USing Helium 10 to Boost Sales
- 09:29 – Miranda’s Sales Results From Using Helium 10
- 10:29 – Dealing with Competitors on Amazon as an Average Seller
- 11:34 – Dealing with Hijackers with Helium 10 Help
- 12:31 – Selling on Amazon VS eBay
- 13:45 – Maple Valley Cooperative: A Family Business Helium 10 Success Story
- 14:31 – Funny Story About Product Reviews
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: In the first of a new series of episodes where we profile real world sellers who aren’t influencers or have hit seven figures, meet Miranda and learn how she used helium, tend to scale her company’s syrup business rapidly in the last year.
Bradley Sutton: How’s it going, guys. Welcome to another episode of the Serious Sellers Podcast by Helium 10 and something that I’ve told you guys before is to be a serious seller, it doesn’t mean that you have to be a seven-figure and eight-figure, or a nine-figure seller. You know, we have those guys on our podcast all the time because it’s great to hear their tips or strategies and their techniques. But we want to also talk to other serious sellers out there because there are people who can be considered serious sellers who are just making $1,000 a month. I mean that’s serious, right? And with me today, I’ve got a serious seller who uses Helium 10 and who I met on one of the workshops we did and her name is Miranda. Miranda. How’s it going?
Miranda: Fantastic. How’s it going?
Bradley Sutton: I’m doing delightful. What kind of weather you have out there right now?
Miranda: Well the sun shining right now, but we’re about to get another couple of feet of snow.
Bradley Sutton: So where are you from exactly?
Miranda: Cashton, Wisconsin. So southern Wisconsin.
Bradley Sutton: Wisconsin. Okay. So what kind of temperature is normal for February and March in where you’re at?
Miranda: Um, well it’s typically, I’d say, you know, the teens, twenties maybe at the highest, but lately we’ve had that awesome vortex that came through. So we’ve been in the negatives.
Bradley Sutton: Oh my goodness. I cannot imagine. I cannot imagine that. So switching gears now, you are in the syrup business, correct?
Miranda: Yes, we are in the organic maple syrup business.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. And I believe, if I’m not mistaken, the way we met was we were doing a workshop or the, uh–are you a Platinum Helium 10 member or a Diamond?
Miranda: I want to, I think it’s Diamond. Is Diamond before Platinum?
Bradley Sutton: Diamond is like the almost highest. Platinum is the first one.
Miranda: Oh, it’s Diamond, then.
Bradley Sutton: Ok, yeah. So then I believe we were on like a workshop and then you had given out one of your products that we could like play around with on the workshop. Right? Is that, isn’t that how it worked?
Miranda: Yeah, we kind of had our one on one and you were showing me some examples with our product and then we jumped right over to a Facebook live and, um, I noticed that it was still on there.
Bradley Sutton: That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. And so we actually been using it that one product as one of my tests ones are ones that I show because you know, so many people out there are like, “Eh.” And rightfully so. You know, there’s some people that are like, “Aw man, you know, I don’t want to put my product out there because somebody is going to cop it, copy it or, or try and hijack me.” But, but you know, your product is the USA made syrup. It’s not exactly something that a Chinese seller is going to go and hijack or try to reproduce and an import from China. So I think that’s why you felt comfortable with putting your brand out there. And so I appreciate that because we need more sellers like you because everybody’s so secretive nowadays that we can’t ever show like real life examples, but we’re able to with yours. So anyways, how long have you guys been in business? Just as a company, as a whole?
Miranda: As a company? Many years. It started as a cooperative, um, many, many years ago. So it was founded in 1991 and we became a cooperative in 2007.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. Okay. And then who [have] your main customers always been? Do you mostly sell to like grocery stores, or what’s your main business?
Miranda: We’re kind of all over the board. We do a lot of wholesale. We do have sales reps. Um, just two or three of them that, um, sell to grocery stores. We sell to restaurants, we sell to cafes, we have coffee shops, we sell to, um, things of that nature. But we also do have a lot of people that are concerned about getting a quality product and they order, uh, just for their families online.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. All right. So what kind of size is your company like? How many employees do you have over there?
Miranda: Just in our building here, we only have six or seven. Uh, pretty small here. But like I said, we have, uh, three wholesale sales reps that work remotely. Um, so one of them’s in Wisconsin here, a couple of them are in Idaho. And then, uh, we have our farmers who are part of our cooperative. So not very large. I mean we, I always call us the biggest small company I’ve ever heard of. Um, just because we’re doing, um, you know, it was a pretty big process for just these few amount of people to be doing.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. How long have you guys been selling on Amazon? Was it from even before you came to the company?
Miranda: Yes, it was before I came to the company. And I only want us, I want to say it’s only maybe been five years.
Bradley Sutton: Now before then, were you a six or seven figure seller on Amazon or, where you experienced Amazon seller?
Miranda: Not at all. I was the only thing I was experienced at was purchasing on Amazon.
Bradley Sutton: I think all of us are experts, uh, as far as that goes. So did you take like a big course then after you started so that you can get up to speed or how did you learn Amazon?
Miranda: So just from my managers that I have here, they kind of gave me, you know, this is how you send a shipment to Amazon and this is how you get into the listing to make edits. Um, it was pretty much just the information they gave me and then I would kind of go online and choose different webinars to attend, um, that was free so I can learn as much as I could, you know, at a decent cost.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. So just learning from like free things probably on YouTube too. You went on, did you go through like a lot of all the learn videos on Helium 10 to learn Helium 10?
Miranda: Yeah, that was the first thing I did. Um, it was really cool because every time, you know, when I went in there and I clicked out something new, it’s like, hey, we have the video for that. And you know, there pretty short and pretty self, right?
Bradley Sutton: Self-Explanatory.
Miranda: Yeah. They’re not self-explanatory but they’re very short. Like they’re very efficient videos. They get straight to the point and it doesn’t take too much time.
Bradley Sutton: So pretty much you helped double your company’s revenue on Amazon without being an experienced Amazon seller, without paying for different courses. Now, that might not work for everybody. You know, some people, you know, you did come into an existing business, but it just, I, I liked that because it actually shows people that hey, you know, there’s a lot of free education out there too. So if you’ve already got the products, you know, ready to go and you just need to know how to scale the business, the education is out there.
Miranda: Absolutely. And I was really glad because, um, the people that I did have teaching me and the webinars and things that I did watch brought me to Helium 10 so I had enough background information to say, Hey, this is a super valuable tool.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. All right. Uh, is your product refrigerated or it’s shelf stable?
Miranda: Uh, the bag and boxes that we have are shelf stable, but they do need to be refrigerated. All of our products need to be refrigerated after opening.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. After opening, but everything that you sell on Amazon obviously is just, you’re able to just ship room temperature, right?
Miranda: Yeah, absolutely. And until they’re open, I mean we don’t have expiration dates. They’re two-year expiration dates. So the people that do buy bulk, you know, they have some time to use it.
Bradley Sutton: So now, speaking of Amazon, you had shared with me, so some numbers like from September of the previous year to February of that, of last year, you know, before you started using Helium 10, you had x sales and then you started Helium 10 around September of last year, 2018 and then through February of this year you had a different set of sales. So what, what was the, how did it increase by using Helium 10?
Miranda: Well, you know, the first thing I did when we got it, um. I looked at the Refund Genie because that I had to, you know, when you ask your manager for money to invest into something in your department, you kinda gotta have some proof or something that you can just go ahead right away and say, hey, this was worth it. And the Refund Genie was a huge thing. Um, it was the simplest thing. Um, so I went to that right away and I looked at can we get any refunds for this because then I could pay for itself because we got a super deal on the account to begin with. So that was the first thing I did. Um, and then after that I really went into, um, processing my keywords because I was downloading reports and things and that just made it much easier to kind of filter some of the things out and see where things are at.
Miranda: Yup. Yup. So, um, I changed just a few things in our titles and I changed just a few things in our details. There are so many different things going on in my department, so I haven’t had a whole lot of time to dig into that just because, you know, we do have a lot of listings and that’s a timely process and there are other aspects of my job that I need to do. But, um, just even a few keywords, getting them in there and seeing like, hey, these keywords are performing for other, um, companies. They should be performing for us too. And that made a difference also with, um, the keywords. It’s awesome to put those into our advertising. That was the biggest change that we made is, you know, I wanted to put more money into advertising. Well what do you put your money on, what keywords to put them on and, and so those, those tools are helping with that.
Bradley Sutton: So what did your sales end up going from, I mean from before you had a Helium 10 in the same timeframe, that same three months frame it went from what to what?
Miranda: Um, well it went up about 20 grand. So last year the same amount of time, it was about $21,000 and now this year using Helium 10 and doing some different things, we’re up to over $41,000.
Bradley Sutton: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. What percentage–is it still a small percentage of your sales on Amazon compared to like your company as a whole? I mean, you don’t need to tell me the percentage or anything, but is Amazon taking more of a piece of the pie. Would it be safe to say now as the company grows?
Miranda: It’s actually–so my boss tells me all the time how my job is, um, self-sustainable, you know. As long as Amazon’s doing well, I still have the job and that has proven itself and I still have a job and I’m still working on Helium 10. So it’s a good sign.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. Nice. Now your main competitor–are most of them like I’m just going to look up on Amazon right now. It’s like “maples”–like what was one of your main keywords?
Miranda: I remember “pure”–
Bradley Sutton: “Organic maple syrup”
Miranda: Or green be organic. Um, “organic be”–
Bradley Sutton: So let me just look here. So, oh, there’s your sponsored ad. By the way, guys, please do not click on the Maple Valley sponsored ad. Don’t kill her cost per click right now, but, uh, click on her competitors–no, just playing. Uh, some of these are pretty big brand names I’m seeing here, like Now Foods. That’s one of your competitors, right? Coombs Family Farms
Miranda: Yeah, and I’m sure Anderson’s is up there.
Bradley Sutton: So are most of these companies there are a lot bigger than you? I mean like the actual company, like way bigger than you guys would you say?
Miranda: Oh yeah, absolutely.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So you’re able to compete with these huge guys thanks to Amazon just by–Oh yeah, I see you’re on page one right here. That’s awesome. You, you’re right in the middle of Now Foods and Canadian Finest maple syrup. Cool. All right, so what else, what are some of your favorite tools and Helium 10? You’ve mentioned using it for keywords and you’ve mentioned using Refund Genie. What else do you use?
Miranda: Well, you were talking earlier, you know, how products like this, you know, not being made in China, things like that we are less likely to have hijackers. Um, but we still do. Um, we actually have people, you know, and I run into it where there’s people that we wholesale to and then they sell on Amazon. Um, so we’re kind of fighting each other in that. Um, but with the Hijacker Alerts showing me who’s doing it and when it’s happening, um, and how to get in contact with them, it was pretty easy for me to email them and say, “Hey, I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t sell our product on Amazon anymore.” And it happens instantaneously, most of the time.
Bradley Sutton: Excellent. Excellent. Good to know. Where else are you selling online other than Amazon?
Miranda: eBay as well. We have our own website too and um, I just got us on to Walmart.com, but that’s still in the Beta.
Bradley Sutton: Okay. How’s your eBay sales? Do people shop on eBay for a syrup?
Miranda: Yes they do. Um, they’re not, you know, near as competitive as Amazon and so we don’t sell as much on there. They also don’t have advertising options like Amazon does. But yeah, we do sell on eBay. It’s not very often, but I mean, we’re getting a few sales a week and so it’s worth it to us for the cost.
Bradley Sutton: I’d be definitely interested to follow up with you later on in a few months on how, you know, Walmart worked out for you and, and eBay. But the guys, I just wanted to give you an example. This is–Miranda is not some big time influencer. She’s not here to sell a course or anything. She’s just one of our Diamond users on Helium 10. She’s not a seven figure seller. It looks like probably your projected sales, this year, are definitely six figures, right?
Miranda: Yup. And if all goes well, and if we keep up with all the tools here and I don’t see that not happening.
Bradley Sutton: Yeah. So guys, this is somebody, this is somebody who could easily be any one of you. And she’s even competing in a space that is dominated by a lot of these huge companies. And thanks to Amazon, it gives, you know, smaller family style businesses like her com–what’s the name of your company again?
Miranda: Maple Valley Cooperative.
Bradley Sutton: Maple Valley Cooperative. It’s giving them a chance to compete with some of these big guys and that’s what it is for Amazon. So if anybody wants to ask her some questions, you know, you can tag her. She’s in our–she comes in our Helium 10 users Facebook group and she’s on our AMA sometimes, but just look for Miranda. And uh, like I said, I’m not going to say, hey, go to her course because she’s not selling anything. I just asked her to come on and tell us a little bit about her story. And see what we can learn from her. Is there any unique ways that you’re using Helium 10 or some funny story that you could tell me that’s happened or you found a crazy keyword that you had no idea you would ever rank for, or anything just weird? I know we didn’t even go over any of this stuff beforehand, so you have no idea.
Miranda: You know, actually when I was using the Review Downloader, um, I noticed a very, very long review because I wanted to kind of look at our bad reviews and see, you know, on the different products where we could improve upon. And um, the craziest one was actually a lady who had reviewed one of our products and she went on a rant about how we use formaldehyde and how terrible our product is when actually–that’s something, I guess that used to be used way back in the day for Maple Syrup producers and other people. Um, but that’s a whole other story. But anyway, she just went on this rant about it. And, um, and so it was one of those things where I was debating whether or not to get ahold of Amazon and say, “Hey, is there a way to take this off?” But, um, you know, there was multiple people that had started going along with her. So I actually just went on there and said, “Hey, you know, this is Miranda from Maple Valley. This is actually been outlawed since I think the 1800s. Um, and this is definitely not our practice.” Um, so I had to go on there and reassure everybody. So hopefully people read through those comments and those reviews, if they’re true review reviewers, they can go on there and see that I kind of [rebuked] the whole formaldehyde comment.
Bradley Sutton: That’s another advantage of using Review Downloader. Thanks a lot for your time around it. And we’ll be seeing you on our AMAs.
Want to learn more about Miranda’s seller journey, and maybe how you can apply her lessons to your own experiences with Amazon? Be sure to let us know in the comments!