Mark: Hey, Jim. Thanks for having us.
Jim: It’s truly an honor. I can’t wait to hear your story. Let’s jump right into it.
Mark: I don’t know how far back you want us to go but we’re doing this together. We met in 2002, got married in 2003, and we married with the idea in mind that we would serve in Christian ministry. Amanda always wanted to be a pastor’s wife, and since 2003, I’ve served as a pastor at a couple of different churches. Pastors don’t make much money. Every time Christmas rolled around, we found ourselves needing a little bit extra cash to buy Christmas presents for our family. In about 2007, Amanda was very interested in selling stuff on eBay to make some extra money. She did her research and found some products that would sell for a profit. That year is when we started using eBay to pay for our Christmas presents. I didn’t know much about it. That was really her thing going on at the time, but at somewhere along the way, I left the pastoral and started teaching Bible at a Christian school. That’s when we moved here to Florida about eight years ago.
Jim: Where in Florida?
Mark: We’re in West Palm Beach area, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. About three years ago, I had been teaching there for about five years, and we got new administration, new principal, and I could tell my time there was coming to an end. I really started becoming interested in what Amanda was doing. If I was going to have to support my family, I needed to learn how to do this selling stuff online. I bought a couple of basic courses on how to sell on Amazon and they gave me a good foundation, but the rest of it, I just really had to figure it out myself and get started. Luckily, when my job ended at the Christian school, they pay you through the summer so I had three months of salary there to have while I was working. We used that. That really helped us to find some inventory and to turn a profit and put it back into the business. That’s when I started full-time, incorporated and set up as a regular business.
I was sad to lose my job there because I really enjoyed teaching and the students and my teacher friends, but I don’t know. Teachers, they don’t get paid much for a lot of time that they put in. I remember sitting in a teacher’s meeting towards the end of the year when they were asking us to have all these detailed lesson plans turned in for the following week by Friday afternoon the week before. A bunch of us were just complaining and saying we can’t do it. We can get them done maybe Sunday or Monday but not Friday afternoon. The new principal that year, I remember him saying, “When I was a teacher, I would come to the end of the week, and on Friday night, we’d be sitting down watching TV and I’d just get out my laptop and start typing.” I just thought, that’s fine, but I don’t want to do that.
When my job ended, I really looked at it as, I’m sad to not be teaching anymore the parts I liked, but my salary was capped. I could only make so much, and it really wasn’t a whole lot. Now with the endless possibilities of e-commerce, I can, within reason, make as much as I want because the opportunities really are endless out there. I found that out pretty quickly. It was a grind there at the beginning. It’s still a grind. There are some days when we feel like we’ve got a pretty good handle on things and we could probably help somebody else get started, and there are some days that we just think we have no idea what we’re doing.
Jim: I’ve been doing it 20 years, Mark, and I feel that way back and forth, too, myself pretty much consistently. Welcome to the journey. That’s business ownership in the e-commerce age. What did he leave out, Amanda? What are we missing? Fill in some gaps in Mark’s story. The wife always comes in with those good points.
Amanda: I do like to say about the eBay thing that, we have two boys, 14 and 16, and if they can’t find something, the first thing they say is, “Mom, did you sell whatever it is?” Because if it is in this house and it’s time for it to go, I’m going to list it on eBay and I’m going to make some money off of it.
Jim: Where’d my radio go, Mom?
Amanda: You didn’t use that for a week. I sold it.
Jim: You didn’t clean your room.
Amanda: I loved doing that but that’s been a really huge part of us understanding e-commerce and just knowing that stuff sells on the internet. Bottom line, stuff sells on the internet. I used to, and this really doesn’t happen so much anymore, but I really got into whatever was the hot toy for Christmas and my dad and me and we would all just go as many places as we could and load up on that hot toy and I would sell that. That died out where you could really get your – it became kind of like there wasn’t really necessarily a hot – probably I’d say as far as my knowledge in the past five or six years that died out, but I still just had my love of finding brands that I know would sell.
I have been in the fitness industry for ten years myself so I teach group fitness classes. That was also a huge help to us as we knew his teaching was coming to an end. We knew we still had me working in the fitness industry and my eBay stuff, but we just really were like, we’ve got three months to make it or break it, and we made it. I remember Mark coming in the door and saying, “I just found this guy on the internet and I listened to his podcast and his name is Jim and he’s really great.” That’s really where you just stumbled upon the PAC course. We are a die-hard podcast fans listening. We laugh at ourselves. We’ll come back in the door like, “Hey, did you hear this one today?” That’s what we love to talk about is what we’re learning on the podcast and stuff. We really have felt like we learned a ton from just listening to other people. We were at the conference so I was like, “Oh, you’ve been on the podcast.” That was super cool to just recognize people.
Jim: Next year, people will be doing that to you guys. I heard you on the show. You’re like, yeah, but it’s just us. That’s the same thing I do. It’s just me, guys. I’m just here to learn and grow. You’ll learn it’s just a community of business-building warriors because it is a fight and we’re in this similar struggle. I love that. I love all these details you’re filling in. Sorry to interrupt you there, but being a podcast guest has been a milestone for some people, but then once you’ve done it, you’re like, people think way more of you than they probably should. It’s like, yeah, we just told our story. What I love about it is it’s just everyday real people telling their story and encourage others to do the same because some people are too shy to do it, but I figured a former pastor and his wife, yeah, you guys are going to jump on here and share pretty openly.
Mark: Oh, she’s been talking about it for a year. How can we get on the podcast? I just kept saying you just don’t go up to Jim Cockrum and say, “Hey, can you have us on the podcast?”
Jim: Actually, you do. It’s that easy, jimcockrum@gmail, send me your story. You’d be surprised. If you’re succeeding at all, if you’ve got a story to tell at all, let’s do it. I’m intimidated by some of the guests we have. We’ve had a guy on here that had a $1 million month. I’ve never sold $1 million on Amazon before. This is crazy. Let’s keep going. Keep your story going. Take us wherever you’d like. You mentioned that you jumped into the course. I’m curious at what point that was, curious how your business is doing now. What are you selling? Of course, more about your story. I’m a PK. I don’t know. You guys probably figured that out. I don’t know if the other listeners know even what I just said, a pastor’s kid. We call them PK. Doctor’s kids can get sick for nothing, while pastor’s kids are good for nothing, we always say.
Amanda: There’s definitely a sense of we’ve talked about, this is obviously when we got married, I wanted to be a pastor’s wife. He studied for the ministry but we definitely feel like this is our ministry now.
Jim: I was going to ask. I love that.
Amanda: To other people, yes. Just to back up a little bit, our boys are 14 and 16 and we homeschool them. That’s a huge privilege to us because we very much are like, we are raising up men to go out into the world themselves. We are very much invested in that right now.
Jim: Can I call time out on you, Amanda? I love what you just said. Don’t forget your place. Raising men, you’re not raising boys. I love that. We say that very intentionally in our house, too. We’re not raising kids. We’re raising adults. We will get there. I love that in Hebrew there’s no word for adolescence. You’re a boy or you’re a man, you’re a girl or a woman.
Mark: That’s a totally modern invention.
Jim: Pretty cool stuff. That’s a whole other topic for a whole other day but I love how intentionally we’re about we’re raising men. I love that.
Amanda: Yes, we homeschool them. In fact, Mark is going to be able to teach our younger boys class this year. They’re involved in a little homeschool community and he’s going to be teaching that group this year, which we’re just super excited about. You know. Your kids are a little bit older than ours. We have a short time to just minister to them and train them and teach them to go out into the world. For us to be home together doing this with our children is just the greatest blessing of ministry we could ever have.
Jim: I’m curious, and I have no idea. I’ve never heard your story before. I saw a little bio before so I don’t know if I’m setting you up for – and there’s no particular answer I’m going for here. I’m just wondering. Introducing business into your family, you were in ministry full-time and you’re still in ministry now. You understand what I mean when I say that. Some may not, but as believers, we’re constantly in ministry. Doesn’t matter where we are. By introducing business into your home, what did that do to the homeschool efforts? Is there anything different that you’re seeing in your boys that wasn’t there before?
Mark: They never really have been interested in school very much.
Mark: To give them another interest and encourage them along entrepreneurship, which they – I don’t know. They’re not really inclined towards that. They just have their hobbies they love doing, like putting up YouTube videos or doing podcasts or they make stop motion videos with Lego figures and post those to YouTube.
Jim: Explain the setup you guys are using right now. Is this their setup?
Mark: I have no idea. My 14-year-old did it.
Jim: For people watching on YouTube.
Mark: He’s got these different colored lights that are shining on us and filters over the lights. We’ve got these fancy microphones here. He told me I had to wear the headphones or else you were going to echo and the microphone would pick it up. I don’t know anything about that. Amanda didn’t want to wear headphones because it’d mess up her hair.
Jim: You guys look great. For those who are listening only, let me just fill in, Mark and Amanda, a little bit. You guys are sitting in what looks to be a professional gamer podcast little area there and you’re saying your kids aren’t very entrepreneurial. Mark, I’m going to just counter back a little bit that that is entrepreneurism right there. That’s entrepreneurial efforts. Maybe it hasn’t monetized yet but I’m thinking back in time to my son, Trey, who now has six-figure months and he’s 21 and his e-commerce business and his consulting practice. He started like that. He was creating these silly little videos. You can go back in time. He’s doing card tricks and little skateboard Tech Deck with his fingers. This is the new skill set. I don’t think we should encourage our kids to try to be YouTube stars. That’s a dead-end, but if they’re actually providing value, content, that’s one thing I coached my son on, provide valuable content that people want, stuff that makes them better for having watched it. Truly serve with a service. That’s entrepreneurialism right there. I think they’re on a great path, personally, from what I’m seeing so far.
Mark: They’re definitely inclined that way and we sure would love to see them be able to eventually, like you say, monetize it.
Amanda: Then also just recently, our 14-year-old, he actually has cerebral palsy and it’s very mild, unless we’ve told you, so now you would know, but if you saw him walking around, you would not notice it. It’s mostly his left hand. He is very techie so he understands all of these things. He really is the mastermind behind the podcasting and the YouTube videos. We’re using our older boy, we can get to that, to help us with our replens, but with our younger boy, Eli, we are having him make a YouTube channel for us. Right now, we’re only using it for our employees and what we do is we prep our item. We have a video, we make a video, and then he sends it to our employee and it keeps our employee from having to come over. It just takes out a little bit of time. He knows how to make it private so only our employee can see it. He’s got a banner. He just knows how to do it all. We would one day love to provide some other content just about how we got our start and just little tips and tricks that we do on a regular basis on this YouTube channel that he has created for us. That’s how we’re using him even in our business right now. It’s small right now but he just loves it. He loves tinkering around with all of it. We have a feeling that could be more in the future.
Jim: It will be. I guarantee you it will be. What we’re talking about and doing right now is so counterculture. I just got off another podcast episode, I’m not going to talk about that here, but this was the theme with some of the leaders from our community that after we stopped recording, we were talking, the things we bring as having that biblical foundation, and anyone can adopt a biblical worldview, regardless of your worldview, your belief system, I should say. You could have a biblical worldview which is God created business and we’re to serve each other well and there’s benefits for that and you incorporate homeschooling and entrepreneurism and this biblical worldview of serving others well. It’s a powder keg. I’ve seen it enough. You guys are sitting on so much potential right now that you don’t recognize. If you guys were a stock as a family, I’d be investing right now based only on what I’ve heard you say so far. It may sound a little outlandish, but you’ve got the tech piece, the entrepreneurial spirit, the homeschooling, meaning you’re ingraining those family values in that they have a hard time getting if we’re to be honest from a public school setting now.
Parents have to work extra hard. Sometimes people ask me, guys, not to derail this too much, “Hey, how do you homeschool? It seems like so much work.” I’m like, “How do you send your kids to public school and protect the values that are so meaningful to you? I don’t know how to do that. I picked the easy path. To me, you’ve got the hard path. How do you do what you do?” How do you convince them that these values that you hold so dear are important when they’re told all day, every day basically by their peers and many leaders that those are useless ideas? That seems like a struggle to me. You guys are sitting on something truly special here. I think that will become unveiled overtime. You guys are going to be leaders in our community. I can tell. I just see it coming a mile away.
Mark: We like to hear that encouragement because we don’t have a business background. There are certainly obstacles to selling on Amazon or just an e-commerce business in general. That’s one of the reasons why we’re very grateful to have found the Silent Sales Team Community because everything is so encouraging and that’s what we need because it’s very easy to get discouraged. Qualities that we’ve heard you mention over and over and that we’ve seen displayed in the leaders of the community and in just regular people that we’ve gotten to know, things like gratitude which I’ve heard you mention over and over, and perseverance. I think that’s maybe what keeps people from advancing as far as they could because there is so much opportunity. They run into roadblocks when they get started and they just give up. This is too hard or something. There is certainly a great blessing on the other side if you can push through whatever obstacle you come across, and there will be many, but the thing is just not to quit. There’s a lot to be said for that.
Jim: That’s right. That’s beautiful. You should be a preacher. Oh, wait.
Mark: I preach to my wife every day. One day, she’s going to listen.
Jim: She still listens. That’s the trick.
Mark: We didn’t really mention how long ago it was that we found the community but it was about three years ago. I remember it was in the summer of 2018 and I was really just driving maybe all over the state trying to find stuff to sell. While I’m driving, I’ve got to listen to something. I think the first podcast I heard was maybe number two or three. I just looked up on Spotify or Apple something selling on Amazon or e-commerce or something. I found these guys who it was all private label and share your story and it was, “Well, I bought some supplements off the shelf at Walmart, slapped my own label on it, and now I’m a millionaire. I sold my business and I retired.” I just thought that can’t be real. Then the rest of them were just these guys who use profanity and stuff like that.
Then I came across Silent Sales Machine and this guy was talking about God and the Hebrew culture and serving one another and stuff like that. I just thought I think I’ll keep listening to this. I went all the way back to episode zero and just started going through while I was driving around. A couple of months later, I guess it was, I bought the Proven Amazon Course. I would listen to the different modules while I was driving around. I heard so many golden nuggets. Just one example was I was listening to the module on online arbitrage, which I don’t do hardly any of, maybe once in a while, but I just was listening to that because I was curious. It was Gary Baird and Chris Green and they were talking about different strategies for buying stuff online. One thing that stuck with me was, I think it was Gary who said, go for items that cost more, have a higher buy cost, because you’ll eliminate your competition. Most people don’t want to spend that much. That’s where I was. I thought I can’t spend $50 on something. What if it doesn’t sell and I’m stuck with it? Then I realized when I looked up those items just on the Amazon seller app, they had a good rank, only two or three other sellers, at least sometimes up to 100% profit margin on a $50 buy cost.
I started buying those things and I thought that was just something that was so valuable to me because I never thought about it before. There are so many ways that just the podcast and the Proven Amazon Course have just really helped our business and been a great encouragement, besides the attitude, the whole candlelight versus cake thing is just really huge because there is so much opportunity. You don’t have to keep it to yourself because there is enough for everybody.
Jim: I love that you brought the candlelight versus cake word picture to people’s minds. I’ve probably shared it 50 times and those who have listened to more than 30 or 40 episodes have probably heard it. For the sake of people who haven’t, Mark, do you mind sharing what you mean by cake versus candlelight? You don’t have to get it perfect. I’ll fill in any gaps if it’s something that doesn’t come to mind immediately. What do you mean by that?
Mark: You see, Jim, you can look at opportunity, especially in the e-commerce world, as cake, which means there’s only a certain number of slices. If I take this much, there’s only a certain amount left for – or if somebody else takes a big slice, there’s only a certain amount left for me and then it’s done. That’s not the way that e-commerce works. It’s more like candlelight. If we light a candle, we can light another one and I haven’t lost any of my light and that other person has more and then they can share it with just as many people as they want to and the opportunities are endless. How was that?
Jim: Perfect, I might just capture that recording and use it from now on because now I’ve got a pastor saying it. It’s official. Well said. Success and opportunity, again, this is another place where, regardless of your worldview, this is a biblical concept here of we don’t have a poverty mindset. We have an abundance mindset. That’s a business concept but it’s from the bible. Regardless of your worldview, you can use that and use it to your benefit. It makes you a positive person. It makes you someone who people like to work with. You’re approachable. They want to be around you versus someone who says, “No, this is mine. Everyone else stay away.” Okay, have fun in your dark hole. Those businesses don’t succeed. You can call it common sense if you want. We call it a biblical concept around here. It’s powerful. We ingrain it. You can’t be on our leadership team unless you think that way. That’s created a pretty powerful leadership team. Thanks for bringing that up. Amanda, we haven’t heard from you. What are we leaving out? What are the guys forgetting here?
Amanda: Mark and I do a lot of clothes – no, I should say we sell a lot of clothes. I wanted to talk about that a little bit because I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but I love it. I absolutely love hunting for clothes. We do well with it. We find plenty to sell. I still love incorporating it back into our eBay business. I just am familiar with brands and I can just eyeball something and be like, that’s going to sell on eBay. I know it. I do. I’ll pick that up and like, all right, that’s for eBay. We sell a lot of clothes. We also do a lot of replens.
Then just a little bit more on the homeschooling thing, Mark and I always, not 100% of the time, but it’s very important to us that one of us is home at all times with our boys. We leave them home plenty if we’re going to go out on a date. It’s not that. We really want the accountability for them of we are around and we’re working and we’re just here if you need us but we’re here. We really will sit down at the beginning of the week and be like, all right, what day are you shopping? What day are you shopping? To where one of us is home at all times with our kids. We’re very much separate, I mean, we’re aware of what each other is doing, but I mainly focus on clothes and Mark mainly focuses on replens so we have our own little system. We do have an employee that works for us a ton. She does all of our packaging and all of the clothing for us. She’s actually our pastor’s wife. We have a great relationship with her. We’re super thankful for her. She has been a huge blessing in this business. She just is eager. She just messaged us the other day. She’s like, “I’m so thankful for this job. I just hope I tell you guys enough.” We love them and their family.
We also have our 16-year-old who we’re training to work on the Replens model with Mark. He’s inching his way up with that. We also have Mark’s sister in Virginia. She shops for – she taught herself the whole program of shopping and listing and prepping and shipping. She just will go out. We pay her by the hour. She’ll just go out and do her thing and be like, “Here’s the receipt. This is what I did.” We feel like we’ve built a little bit of a team of what we’re doing. Again, I guess my biggest encouragement to people is not to keep harping on this, but we’re not business people. I just want to say you can do it. Anybody can do this. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of perseverance, but you can also do it. We don’t have business degrees. We have Bible degrees, both of us. We’re making it. Do you want to say more about replens with our COVID Replens? That was an interesting story.
Mark: When COVID first hit last year we were going along pretty well, but then most of the stores that we normally buy stuff from they shut down. The grocery stores were still open. At the time, we had really incorporated a whole lot of replens stuff that you find at the big box stores into our business model. I just thought, well, we have to do something. I sold some stuff around the house on Mercari and made a few $100 that way. I just went to the local Walmart that first day, first week that everything was shut down, and I found this really popular condiment on the end cap. I’d never seen it there before. I just scanned it and it came up at a pretty good profit if I just would sell it – you could send in anything at that time, except for cleaning supplies, so I just decided to sell them from home and they just kept selling. I think, by the end of that first week, we were selling 50 or 60 a day from our house. Eventually made a two-pack with two different varieties on that. They just kept flying off the shelves. Eventually, we were able to send them into FBA and that still kept on sailing with that. We made at least $1,000 in profit a month for over a year on that thing. I just think I was just so fortunate or lucky or thankful that the Lord brought me to that. I don’t know. If I didn’t go out in the store and look, I wouldn’t have found it.
Jim: This is a name brand, a popular name brand.
Mark: Yes, it’s a very popular restaurant brand.
Jim: That we’d all recognize.
Mark: Yeah, sure.
Jim: I say that all the time, but until people experience it themselves, they’re skeptical. A lot of the stuff we sell every day from our warehouse over here that we have shoppers out grabbing, it’s stuff that anybody could walk into any Walmart anywhere in the United States, or if you live overseas, you could have people buying online doing the same stuff. Anybody in the world could’ve grabbed because you said you found it, was it in a Walmart?
Jim: Which they sell online so anyone anywhere in the world could’ve jumped on that, but you guys did. You made about $12,000 because you just happened to check it.
Mark: Yeah, that’s the thing. There’s so much opportunity. It’s like you said earlier. If you just isolate yourself and just try to go it alone, then it’s much easier to get discouraged. I’m not that active on the Facebook, I mean, I look at it all the time, the Facebook group, the Silent Sales Machine group, but also the other ones, too. We just joined Legend a few months ago, and we’re getting some great benefit from that, and then the other sub-Facebook groups like the Replens group and the PPP group, but I don’t really respond to much, but I get so much encouragement from people saying I kept at it or here’s my story or something. There’s just so much to be said for not giving up and for just plowing ahead. There were a lot of things that I learned not from the Proven Amazon Course – sorry to say. Plenty of things I did, but there’s plenty of things that have really helped our business to succeed that I just had to figure out for myself. One example, if you don’t mind –
Jim: Please, do educate us.
Mark: It’s probably no big secret. Everybody knows this, but I’m just so excited to find it out for myself that when I would find a good product in the store and didn’t have anybody on the listing and it had a good rank, I would just list it right there in the store. Just yesterday – there is this one particular item, this back-to-school item, that’s really – we just can’t find enough of them right now. I found one just yesterday in the store. I found four of them. Nobody was on the listing, so I listed them all right there in the story, like 50-dollar buy cost, selling for 110. When you sell Merchant Fulfill the fees are much less, so the profit margin is higher. One sold before I got to the checkout line. All four of them sold before I got home that day.
Jim: Exactly. Yes. You hear about that, especially during Q4, some of these hot items that you can walk into the store and just say yeah, I want to sell this now while it’s still in your cart. You can actually just wait and see what happens when you buy it. You can stand there – you can sell your cartful before you even pay for them. It’s a great feeling. Again, that’s with Merchant Fulfill.
Jim: That works extremely well.
Mark: That kind of stuff never gets old, seeing your numbers just tick up and up throughout the day as you’re checking your phone. Even when you’re – we live close to the beach, or we have season passes to Disney. We’re having fun as a family, but I’m still looking and watching those numbers go up. It’s just the greatest feeling.
Jim: It’s an incredible feeling.
Amanda: We text each other. Did you see – I don’t know – I don’t know if everybody gets into it as much as we do.
Jim: Yeah, we do. I’ve been doing it –
Amanda: Excitement level.
Jim: I’ve been doing it 20 years, and I have to discipline myself. Okay, I’m going to take four hours off from checking my stats on different areas because I’ve got multiple things rocking at this point, right, but just like I’m not going to check any of them. It’s really hard to do because it’s just so fun to read them, see how things are going.
Mark: It is fun.
Jim: It’s evidence that happy customers out there are benefiting from the work that you did, and there’s the proof. That’s what makes it so rewarding, and we get to benefit from serving others well. It’s just an incredible feeling. While you’re sleeping, you wake up, and there’s some new numbers rolling in, right, just a beautiful – it never gets old. I’m telling you it just doesn’t.
Amanda: We had my mom here with us the past 10 days, and my dad passed away right before COVID very suddenly, it was really – we lost the captain of our ship, and so – but so she came down, and I threw her in the car with me. I’m like we’re shopping every day. She got in on it too, and so she’s calling me now being like hey, how’s so-and-so going? How’d that do? Even in that, I feel like I’m able to include my mom and something exciting for her during this hard time in her life. It is. It’s a ministry. It’s a way to serve, and we – I know you’ve just said it. We are so grateful that this is what the Lord has given us to do. When we got married, it wasn’t what we were thinking, but this is what the Lord has given us, and I – we are just jumping for joy with this opportunity that the Lord has given us.
We have a lot more to learn. We have a lot of areas – we went to the conference, and we both came home just with our heads about to explode. Just bottom line of there’s just so much great stuff out there to be doing with other – helping others, learning new stuff for ourselves, and growing your business, and something that we want to keep doing for years to come, incorporating our sons as much as they want. It’s like we pinch ourselves that this is what the Lord had for us when we came together to be in ministry together. We’re so thankful.
Jim: Yeah, it’s amazing to me. I grew up with people encouraging me. I had the personality profile of a pastor, and I had people recognize that and encourage me into it and push me in that direction. I just never felt that call. As Christians, you know what I’m talking about. I never felt that tug. It’s like no, I’m supposed to do something different. I want to be in ministry. I want to support ministries, but I don’t want to be a full-time pastor, and this has opened up more doors – I spend a lot more time in front of people with different worldviews, which is where you want to be, than if I was in a full-time ministry somewhere paying the mortgage on a big building and that sort of thing, the staff, and all the issues that go along.
I’m a pastor’s kid. I remember what goes into being a pastor. Nothing against it. Love my local church, but that’s not for me. I love the role that I get to play here. You talk about the relationships and building something that you can bring people on board with, and they can see the progress, and you’re building it together. The most rewarding relationships come through business. I’ve become quite an advocate now – I encourage – this maybe sounds like a bold statement, but I feel like everybody, regardless of your world view, but especially if you’re a Christian, you should have a home-based business of some kind just for all the benefits that it brings to your family, let alone the financial, but just the lessons and how the world works. It’s like we’ve gotten away from farming, and I don’t want to move back onto 50 acres and do all the work. I did that as a kid, but a lot of those lessons are very valuable, and you pick up the same lessons from business, hard work, waiting for the harvest. You risk now and you benefit later. Those are important lessons to learn especially as a kid.
Jim: Take us through. Is there any more of your story that we’ve left out? Anything else you guys want to share? I do want to get into some numbers, too. We haven’t really talked much about that yet, where you’re at. Anything you’re struggling with? Maybe we can think through it together today because most of us have common struggles that several other people have at the same time.
Amanda: I think that we have a hard time handing over what we do. I think that my shirt in my poly bag looks so beautiful. Nobody else is capable of folding that shirt as beautifully, and we’ve got to let go of some of those things. That’s why I said we’re starting with these videos of we’ll show you exactly how we do it and give you some pointers. We do have to start letting go of some things and freeing up – as much as we do give our friend, our pastor’s wife, to do, we’re still doing plenty here that I say to Mark, I’m like you can’t be taping boxes. We’ve got to start letting go of some of those things. As much as we talk about it, we still really struggle with moving forward in that area.
Mark: Yes, and we’ll have to or else – there’s not much more that we can do ourselves, so if we’re going to grow and scale and be – and see more success, we’re going to have to outsource and turn more of that over to others.
Jim: These are really ultimately math decisions that we’re talking about right now. You mentioned an appreciation for the Hebrew root of different aspects of business and life, but specifically in business, one of the root definitions of wisdom involves numbers. What that means is – not that I’m educating you Mark and Amanda. You may be fully aware. Hopefully one of the listeners benefits from this. If you’ve heard me say it before, I apologize, but to truly apply wisdom to any scenario, you’ve got to ask yourself a couple questions. Are there numbers involved here? If so, do we have all the available numbers and data that we need? It seems obvious. It seems common sense, but many people fly by instinct, or you know what, I feel like they’re not as good at this – but ultimately, does the customer care that it was folded by Amanda because it’s been dropped 50 times on the way there anyway. It’s wadded up in a ball at the bottom of the poly bag by the time it gets there, right?
Okay, if we’re truly analyzing this from a math, number, data perspective, are we making good decisions there? What amount of money would I have to pay somebody to learn to put tape on a box really well? Is my time more than that? These are math decisions, and when you start reducing it down to math, it starts to become pretty clear, which is why – have you guys heard – you mentioned earlier on the homeschooling, the benefits of that, the Hebrew traditional wisdom. One of my favorite things to ask people – and if you guys have heard this, you may get the answer right. If you haven’t, you’ll enjoy this, Mark and Amanda, so here’s a question for you and the listeners too.
There’s three things in the Hebrew tradition – again, the biblical based Judaeo-Christian ethic – there’s three things a child must have to succeed in life. If you’re going to educate and raise men, what do they need? I’ll give you the first two. It’s the vertical and the horizontal. Vertical is understanding spiritual things, understanding man is spiritual, having a walk with God, in our case as Christians, a walk with Christ. Okay, then you’ve got the horizontal. That’s understanding male-female relationships, being able to relate well with others, being able to look someone in the eyes and shake their hand when you’re a kid, not hide behind mommy’s leg, right? It’s okay to be shy, but it’s not – it’s okay to be an introvert, but it’s not okay to be shy is what I meant to say. You teach those skills. Those are the first two. Do you know what the third is? Have you ever heard us mention that before?
Mark: I don’t think so.
Amanda: I don’t know.
Jim: You guys might enjoy this because it goes right along with what we’re saying right now. It’s understanding enough about math and numbers that you can succeed in business either as an employee, in which case you have one customer, still an entrepreneurial spirit, right, or as someone who owns their own business, ideally, and you’re able to serve your customers well by generating a profit. You’ve got to know your numbers to know when you’re making money and to be able to apply wisdom to different scenarios, right? That’s it. Those are the three. Isn’t that phenomenal? Everything else is icing on the cake. You get into science or the arts or your passion or whatever. That’s all beautiful stuff, but you’ve got to have those three to raise a child successfully into an adult.
Mark: I think that’s been one of our weaknesses is knowing our numbers. Recently, I feel like we’ve gotten some help in that area through two avenues. One is we’re coaching students, so we’ve already been through –
Jim: I didn’t realize. Who’s your coach?
Mark: Larry and Sue.
Jim: Larry and Sue Pruett. Awesome. They were recent guests on the show.
Mark: Right. We’re done now. We’ve gone through our 12 sessions, but towards the end, we really asked for some help from them for our numbers, and they really helped us along that way. They eased some of our fears, but also gave us some really good direction. Then I had heard you say on the podcast many times silentjim/numbers or something like that, so I – or provenamazoncourse/numbers, so I finally went back to look at what that was, and that’s Sellerboard, so Sellerboard we’ve incorporated into our business for about four months now, and that’s really given us a good handle on. If you want to know what our numbers are – if you would’ve asked me four months ago, I would’ve just had to guess, but now that’s given us a really good handle. A very reasonable monthly fee and it’s really helped us to see where we stand.
Jim: Silentjim.com/numbers has a podcast episode tied to that page as well as the Sellerboard. You can get in there and learn about Sellerboard. That’s phenomenal. You guys have had it four months. What are we looking at? Share some details with me.
Mark: In the last 12 months, we are right at 600,000 in sales. In fact, last year in August, we had a really high month, so when July 31st came a couple of days ago, we were way up over 600,000, and now that August 1st came, you know how they recycle the figures, so now we’re down way under 6,000, so that’s a little – we’ve got to work hard to get it back up. We’ve averaged that for the last 12 months, and that’s right at about 18% profit. That’s factoring in the costs of supplies and payroll and everything else. We’re very happy about that. Right at about 50% ROI. That’s what we shoot for whenever we’re looking for something to sell, so that’s where we’re at now.
Jim: You guys put about 120,000 a year in the bank that you live off of if I’m doing my math right.
Mark: That’s our profit. I don’t know if all of it makes it to the bank.
Jim: You’re rolling it back into other inventory. That’s your profit.
Mark: Yeah, sure. Right.
Jim: I’ve got to imagine – I don’t know what you made as a pastor or a teacher, but I’m guessing that’s on the plus side of where you were then.
Mark: Yes, definitely.
Amanda: Yes. Yeah, and I – so I’ve recently come off of all my fitness industry stuff too like teaching my classes, so I’m just now – we’re both just doing this now, so we don’t have anything extra.
Jim: Going in full time.
Jim: Big plans for Q4 coming up. As we’re recording this, we’re early in August of 2021 so October, November, December should be big, especially if you’re willing to go after some of those higher-ticket items. I loved that tip, Mark. Flip and do some shipping from the – the pastor’s wife that comes and helps you guys, does she come to your house, or do you guys have an office? How’s that work?
Mark: It’s at her house. We take stuff to her. She doesn’t live too far away.
Jim: Cool. Great arrangement. Much like our friend Josh Rojas who’s also there in central Florida. Have you guys met and hung out with him?
Mark: We did. We met him at the conference there, and his way of doing things sounds really good to us. We live in a gated community, so I think that might be our next step is just putting an ad on Nextdoor and seeing who would like to work with us.
Jim: Work from home, shop, prep.
Mark: Maybe live within walking distance.
Jim: Exactly. Great, great, plan, and I love that central Florida community that’s starting to form there. Josh is a central Indiana guy. He lived right down the road from me. His dad still works in my warehouse every day. His mom and dad are over there right now, but he’s in Florida now near you guys, and he’s become a leader because his whole team – he’s grown a multiple seven-figure business, but his entire team works from home, which is such a beautiful model. I just love that. You guys are on to something special. For 2021 what number would you like to see?
Mark: I don’t know that I’ve thought about it. We just want to keep growing. That first year we were at 380 or something like that, and then the second year we were around 540, and now we’re up to 600, so if we can continue to outsource and to grow, we don’t want to put a limit on anything, so we’ll just make as much as we can.
Jim: Yeah, that’s how I approach business too when people try to pin me down to a specific goal, growth is the goal.
Amanda: Yeah, we really threw around a lot too about whether it was time to get a little office or go outside of the home, and we always keep coming back to let’s stay home. Let’s stay home. I’ve heard plenty of wives say the boxes and the stuff that’s around the house is just – it does make it a little bit difficult for the home, so we do have a room that’s dedicated to all things for the business, so we can definitely shut the door. I work on my kitchen table, and then I do make that a habit that when I’m done, I put everything away, and I put the decoration back on the table to just give me that sense of this is our home as well and we also do other things besides a business here. I think that’s important to have a start and a stop and separating yourself and – so that your home doesn’t feel like it’s just always this business. We can’t even have anybody over because we’ve got all these boxes everywhere. It is a little bit of an effort, probably, to move things around, but it does give us that feeling of alright, now we’re done for the day. We’re going to put this away, and we’ll start again tomorrow or whatever, and –
Jim: You’re controlling your business instead of it controlling you and your life.
Jim: Who’s in charge here?
Amanda: That doesn’t mean that Saturday afternoon I’m hauling everything back out on my kitchen table. That’s why I say we work all the time, but then we don’t work either, so there’s no set schedule. Just when it’s time to be done, then you put it away, and then you have your home back until it’s time to start again, and that’s been really helpful to keeping us both here.
Jim: That’s a lot of wisdom there for sure. I love that. I think you’re challenging some people.
Mark: She’s very wise.
Jim: Yeah, we should let her talk more.
Mark: We should, yeah.
Jim: What’re we forgetting? What’re we leaving out? What other parts of the story? This is the part where I say we’re going to be landing this episode soon, but I don’t want to leave out anything if you guys have written down some notes, some things you wanted to share, some encouragement for the listeners perhaps. The floor is yours.
Amanda: We hooked up with Nathan at the conference, so we’re working on some brand registry now, so that’s exciting for us. We’re going through that process of brand name and things like that.
Mark: That’s mainly for the bundles that we’re creating. The last couple of years I’ve made about 18 or 20 bundles, and most of them have done fairly well There’s been some that didn’t do much, but the problem we run into is I’ll make a creative bundle, maybe all of a certain brand with four different flavors, and then there was one where I was selling 90 or 100 a month over two months, and then after two months, people started jumping on it, and after four months, there was 30 or so sellers on it, but there’s nothing I can do about that. We’re looking at ways to become brand registered and make those bundles unique where nobody else can get on the listing.
Jim: Exactly. You’re talking about the services we offer through Hummingbird, and we can help you get your brand registry, get your trademark, and then you can put some unique items in there. There’s other creative ways to protect your bundle, but over time, people get real creative, sneaking in there, but if you’re trademarked, brand registered with Amazon, you can lock those down a little tighter. That’s content and training that’s all coming, but I’ll stick a link to Hummingbird too if anyone’s wanting to talk about trademarks since we brought it up, but that’s cool to hear. That’s exciting stuff. If you can lock down bundles that are moving that fast, you can start to see you’ve got a pretty rocking business.
Mark: Yeah. Jim, we’re not experts. We’re not multi-million-dollar sellers or anything like that like some people in the community are, but we’re making a living, and we’re providing for our family, and we’re staying home with our kids, and we have a flexible schedule, and we just want to keep growing. I think maybe the thing that might encourage most people who might be listening to this of the 66,000+ members of the Facebook group is don’t quit. Whatever obstacle you run into, there’s a way. Figure it out and keep going. I don’t know. Maybe that will be the most encouraging thing that many people could hear.
Jim: Yeah, phenomenal. I couldn’t say it better myself. You don’t lose unless you quit.
Amanda: Right. Yes. I also think another good piece of advice is the whole letting – if your product dies, then you’ve got to let it go. Our COVID bundle is dead. It is no money to us anymore.
Jim: Your precious – you should say your precious –
Amanda: Yes. I’ve sat at my kitchen table and packaged those for weeks, so it’s in my heart, and it died.
Jim: Yeah, you’ve got a family picture with one of those bundles right there next to all of you, right?
Mark: I tear up every time I see it on the shelf now.
Amanda: It’s like let’s just get it for the fun of it, and he’s like no. It died. We’ve got to let it go, and it will always be our COVID baby, but the baby grew up, and we’ve got to move on to something else. That’s a little bit hard. I’ve heard you talk about that before. You’re like oh, it was so good. Yeah, but it’s not anymore. Move on. There’s more out there. You can’t hold onto that forever. That’s been a little bit of a lesson too.
Jim: The best cure for those lost replens that you’re just like oh, they were so awesome, and they were doing – Is to go find 15 more.
Mark: Yeah, that’s right.
Jim: That’s the best way to forget.
Jim: You guys have been a delight to hang out with. This has been a really fun episode. Anything else left on the list to share? I think people are really going to enjoy this, and at next year’s conference, you guys are going to be the ones people come up to and go you know what, you’re the ones that convinced me to get into this. It was your story. I guarantee you you’re going to hear that. It’s so rewarding, too, to hear those success stories and people crediting you for where they are now. That’s why I love sharing these stories. It’s just so much more powerful, impactful, but what else is on you guys’ minds? Anything else before we wrap this up?
Mark: No, I think we’re – that’s all we got. We’ve told you everything we know.
Jim: I have a feeling that there’s a lot more that we could dive into, but I’ll trust you here on this one. We’ll have you back again with another update. I think you guys can have a million-dollar year next year, I really do. I don’t think that’s out of reach at all for you guys with what you’ve described and processes you have. I’m sure you’re going to hear from a few listeners in our community that have some more questions for you guys, and that’s what I love about this community. These are real people. These aren’t untouchable first name only and a face on a website. These are real people hanging out in our groups. I would encourage you guys go ahead and jump in and engage a little bit more.
I heard you speak about your own business in terms of it’s not like these other really big ones. Those people with those big businesses, they’re the minority of our group. Most people are in the middle of the bell curve around where you guys are, been doing it a while, paying the bills. Very exciting place to be compared to the vast majority of the rest of the world where we hear statistics like 75% of our culture feels like they’re in a work that they weren’t made to do. They don’t find it rewarding, necessarily. That’s a pretty big scary number. Here we are saying yeah, we get to be with our kids, we’re together, we’re building something, we can include family, friends, neighbors. It’s rewarding, bright future. Industry prospects look positive, right? There’s a lot of industries I wouldn’t want to be in right now, right? Scary.
Amanda: Right. Yes, definitely.
Jim: We are very blessed. Lot to be grateful for, for sure.
Jim: Mark and Amanda, it’s been great hanging out with you guys. I’m going to talk to the listeners for just a second. Hey, everybody that gathered here today, you listening to this right now in the car, on a jog, whatever you’re doing, we are so glad you joined us today. The most valuable possession God gave us was time. It’s limited, and you spent some of it on us today, so we are beyond grateful for that. We have planned to bring you more great episodes just like this one in the future. Please know this. We’re praying for you. We’re rooting for you. Our free Facebook group is there to encourage you to answer questions that you run into. Mark and Amanda are going to be there 24 hours a day from now on to help you with anything you need, right?
Jim: No, but we’ve got a whole community, 66,000 Mark mentioned, and growing of great people from around the world. You’re probably not going to run into anything that we haven’t seen before. We’re here to help, and we’ll have another great episode like this one again for you real soon. Thanks to our guests. We’ll see you soon.
Mark: Thanks, Jim.
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