Ryan and Sarah, welcome to Silent Sales Machine Radio.
Ryan: Thank you very much.
Jim: Hey, let’s get right into your story. I’m eager to hear it.
Ryan: Okay, well, we are three years into full-time e-commerce sales. I spent about 20 years in private/public in the government employment sector. About seven years ago, we decided we wanted to implement our e-commerce full-time. I had a four-year strategy. It took me about four years to put everything into place. We jumped ship and our sales have doubled each year since we’ve left. We’re currently on pace for about $800,000 in Amazon sales this year.
Jim: Great summary, four years in. You guys were overlapping. You were working full-time. You said you had a government public sector job. You were working your business building it up at the same time. How much overlap was there?
Sarah: I feel like we need to rewind just a little because we actually started like 20 some odd years ago. We would sell on eBay. It was crazy because I remember back then, it was before the phones and all that where you could check to see if something was selling. We would be like I wish that they had phones where we – or something that we could figure it out. We’d go to the store and we’d write it all down. We’d take it back to our computer and look up completed listings. We would do all that.
Jim: Wow, I remember those days. I remember doing that. You’d go home and do your research, yeah.
Ryan: You’d drive back to the store.
Sarah: Yep, so those were our early days. Then fast forward, he was in the public work sector where he worked government jobs and all that. Then I started working from home trying to supplement the income. We did a little bit of house flipping also during that time.
Sarah: Yeah, so we’re serial entrepreneurs for sure, but eventually –
Jim: Serial arbitrageurs – right looking for opportunities all the time. That’s awesome, okay.
Sarah: Yes, for sure. I started a blog that supplemented. Then by blogging, I learned that – I was listening to another podcast that was – it was for bloggers, this podcast was, but it was sharing about how somebody was making money on Amazon. I was like, we used to sell on eBay. Amazon’s not that big of a stretch. Let me hear what’s going on.
Because of that, we started paying attention to what was around us, paying attention to the clearance items and all that at Walmart because we live in a small town. We don’t have a lot of store options here. We just started paying attention. Then I slowly got the app where we could start scanning. We signed up for our account. We were building that part-time for awhile while he was still in the workforce.
Ryan: Then we started hitting on some RA and we started generating revenues and gaining confidence. That’s when we decided we wanted to go full-time with it. We have a family. At the time, we had a family of nine. We’ve got seven kids; three of them are graduated high school now.
We’ve homeschooled them the entire time. I couldn’t just decide on a whim that I was going to quit my job and sell on Amazon. That’s why we created the four year – well, we created a strategy where we had benchmarks we had to meet as far as savings, revenue, insurances. We set out to mitigate any financial disaster that might come from quitting a job. Once we reached that point, we jumped ship.
Jim: Yeah, you were very meticulous in the details. It wasn’t just, hey, you know what I should do? Let’s just go full-time. We hear those stories, but that’s not you guys. You homeschooled you said seven. Now, how old is your youngest? You mentioned your four – you have four out of high school.
Sarah: Yeah, the youngest is 7, the oldest is 24.
Jim: Wow, not unlike the spread we have. If we had added on a couple more young-ins, I think we’d be about the same boat as you guys. Our oldest is 24; our youngest is 14. We’ve homeschooled all along, all the way through. They’re all turning out great. How about your kids? Are any of them like ruined now because of homeschooling?
Ryan: We don’t have anybody in jail yet. That’s probably a good thing.
Jim: There you go, parenting win.
Ryan: We’ve got one working on their Master of Science, or Master of Social Work. He graduated with his bachelor’s a couple of – a year ago. We have another one that’s a senior at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar. Our most recent graduate is going to a community college. We have a community college in our community. It’s basically free. We access that as much as possible. So far, so good.
Jim: Yeah, I’m getting bolder and bolder about this whole homeschool thing the longer I’ve done it and the way I see our culture clearly in decline. Some of the listeners may not agree with me on that, but I think I’m willing to argue just about anybody that I see all kinds of signs of cultural and educational decline in the system. It’s hard to beat.
Tackle this premise, listener. Who could better educate a child than their own mom? Who loves that kid more than their own mom? What better person to have as a backup than their own dad? It’s just hard to beat. It’s a hard to beat arrangement if you can pull it off. You guys have done it with brilliance it sounds like.
While we could probably start a whole podcast episode on that topic, it’s certainly a topic of passion for me. I think the only other question I have is what impact has that homeschooling vibe had – or has entrepreneurship had on that homeschooling vibe? How have the two blended for you guys? I’m always curious to hear how homeschool families blend together the homeschool and the entrepreneurship. Are some of your kids entrepreneurial? Did they help in the business? Answer some of those types of questions.
Ryan: First of all, being an entrepreneur and homeschooling is challenging because there’s that time pull and there’s different commitments. As you well know as an entrepreneur, I tell folks often that I work harder for myself than I ever did for anyone else. That’s because you’re trying to control your own destiny to some point, but you still have the other obligations that you have to meet. It’s an absolute challenge. As far as entrepreneurial children, so far, we’ve had them assist with some of the operations in the business, but we have not gotten any one of them yet to this point to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit. However, my oldest, the longer he’s in the workforce is indicating some more interest in the business.
Jim: It’s funny how that works.
Ryan: It may come full circle.
Sarah: Our ten-year-old son, he’s the only boy at home. Our oldest is a son. The others are all – we have five girls, so he’s the only boy at home. He’ll often go on the road with Ryan whenever they go to pick up stuff that we know we can get. On this trip that they just got back from, he works the whole time Ryan’s working. They were shipping straight to Amazon on the road.
Ryan: He shines.
Sarah: He does. He’s likely to be the one that is definitely going to have that entrepreneur’s spirit.
Jim: Yeah, and I think – it’s just a theory, but we’ll have to check back in ten years and see if I’m right, but they’ll all have an entrepreneurial spirit even if they take it into the workforce as an employee. I say all the time that we’re all entrepreneurs. If you’re providing value and getting paid to do it, you’re an entrepreneur. It’s just a matter of how many customers you want. If you want one customer, you go to a job. Your boss is your customer. His customers come into the store or to the workplace and you serve them, but you have one customer: the person who’s writing the paycheck.
Some of us like to have more than one customer. We’re the ones out here building our own businesses. We all should have that entrepreneurial spirit where we serve well. We’re willing to serve so well that we get certificates of appreciation in return. That’s the reward: little green pieces of paper for serving well.
Yeah, your kids are going to benefit from it. They already have I’m sure in many little ways, big and small. They’re going to make great workers and servants in the workplace if people understand what I mean by that. I just mean they know how to serve well with a good attitude, right? That’s awesome.
Jim: Anything else you want to hit on before we jump back into the Amazon part of your story? Did we leave anything out there? I know there’s a hundred directions we could go, but anything else you’re dying to say on that point, homeschooling, entrepreneurship?
Ryan: No, I think that’s probably –
Jim: Good enough for now for sure, all right. Yeah, we did start a Facebook group. I think I’ll stick a link to it actually in the show notes for this. Just started a business building warrior homeschool family Facebook group. It’s free.
Just a bunch of us who either are considering homeschooling or doing homeschooling and we’re also doing the entrepreneurial lifestyle. It’s in its infancy. It’s only got, I don’t know, 160, 170 members right now. Just launched it to see what would happen. It’s growing.
You guys jump in there and hang out with some other homeschool families. Listeners can do the same thing and think through this together. That’s it. You’ve got to stick together, right?
Let’s jump into your Amazon story for a second. Okay, so you guys have been doing e-commerce a long time. One of the questions I’m eager to ask you because I didn’t realize how long you’ve been in it – it’s rare that I run into people who have been doing this as long as I have and you guys have been. Compare the different phases you’ve been through to what you’re doing now. What I mean is the eBay, the early days, the searching the clearance aisles, those different aspects of what you’ve done over time. You’ve had a degree of success. Compare that to the – you said 800,000 is what you’re expecting this year?
Jim: Compare this model to those because I know how I answer that, but I’m curious how you would answer it.
Ryan: We’ve tried to leave the clearance aisles and retail arbitrage behind a number of times and we are unsuccessful.
Sarah: Ryan likes them too much.
Jim: Oh, I love them, too. It’s hard to walk by them; it is because you just see little 50 and $20 bills and $50 bills laying on the shelf.
Ryan: We’ve gotten to where we recognize opportunities. We recognize the scope of opportunities better. Just because you buy a clearance item at one store doesn’t mean that there’s not opportunities nationwide to acquire more of those products if you’re willing to go get them. The biggest change from the early days is that our margins or our ROIs don’t need to be nearly as high. When we first started, we wouldn’t buy anything that we didn’t make 100% ROI on because we didn’t have the capital to put forth. It was sheer economics. We didn’t have that much to put out, so whatever we put out, we needed to get a big bang for.
Now, we can chase 40% ROIs; I’m sorry, 40% margins. We can chase 50 to 60% ROIs. We do have a couple of people that help us prep. We do all of our prepping in-house, prepping and shipping in-house. We have a little bit of overhead. Although we don’t have a warehouse, we’ve got a shop on our property that we operate out of. We save there, but our profit and ROI parameters have definitely gotten easier to work with, which allows you to expand the amount that you buy because obviously it’s easier to find lower profit items. That’s the biggest difference is in the early days, we had to have high ROI, high margins, and now we don’t – we’re not stuck so much on that.
Sarah: That, and we’re using lots of different ways, too, so we do retail arbitrage, yes. We like that, and he really likes it because he likes to be on the go. He doesn’t want to sit behind a desk, and so that works for him. For me, I have to be here more for the kids, so I tend to be the online arbitrage person and I do a lot of the replens, especially if I can order them. I am ordering, reordering everything that we can get and replenish over and over again.
Ryan: As well as developing wholesale accounts and she’s got a private label product, and we’re looking to expand that. In fact, we’re working with Nathan Bailey, who’s helping us to – as a coach to develop some of her private label products and get those listings built. He’s been extremely patient with us because we do have all of these different avenues we’re working. We sometimes don’t operate as efficiently as we’d like on the private label. We’re working the whole spectrum of the e-commerce, Amazon e-commerce and we don’t necessarily have time to do it all as well as we’d like, but that’s one of the points I wanted to make is you can’t do what other people do. You can learn from everyone else, but you have to do your own gig.
Early on, I was trying to maybe emulate some other folks, do what they were doing when they were successful. That just didn’t work. It was good to learn from them, but you have to build your own path. You can’t do what someone else is doing exactly like they’re doing it because the variables are too big.
Jim: Yeah, every family’s different, the opportunities are different, the personality types. Some people would never want to go out searching for products. The thrill of the hunt is not thrilling for them. It’s just draining and exhausting. They have no desire whatsoever and some people love it. Some people live in a city where it’s possible; some people don’t. That’s what I love: there’s multiple options here. I love that you guys have spread out your risk. You’re doing a lot of things. It sounds like you’re doing most of them very well. If you would, just help me paint a little bit of a picture, a pie chart, if you would, of your replens, what percent of your business is there, the thrill of the hunt. Closeout aisles and clearance aisles, how much is that? Are you still playing on eBay? Make me a quick just rough and dirty pie chart, if you would, of your business. Your private label sounds like it really hasn’t quite taken off yet, so there’s not much there, it sounds like, but it’s coming.
Ryan: Right, we probably do 10% wholesale, 5% private label, 35% replens, and 15% just straight RA. Now the RA though is not – I’ve gotten away from going in and hoping to find something. I target my RA opportunities where, based on different sale opportunities, different closeout opportunities, I know where things are. That’s why I was saying earlier I drove to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania from Kansas because I knew where there was retail arbitrage opportunities and we shipped from the road. The RA’s a big portion of our business, but it’s not your traditional RA. We’ve evolved from going in and looking for products to more going out and finding what we know is out there.
Jim: I’m curious how you distinguish the difference between a good replen and a product you’re willing to hop in a U-Haul with your kid and drive four days and go clear out all of the tri-state area.
Sarah: Yeah, it’s availability.
Ryan: It’s availability. It’s ability to replen. On one hand, it gets down to semantics. You sell 700 of one item; is that a replen or is that not? Well, we have – we call that an RA because we know that the stock’s going to inevitable –
Sarah: It’s a closeout item.
Ryan: The stock eventually is not going to be there. However, a lot of your replens of stock will eventually not be there as well and you got to keep rolling over those replens. It gets down to semantics, but according to the pie chart, that’s what we do is about 50% sell RA.
Jim: Okay, and how do you find those? I’m curious how you find those items that you consider RA. I’m assuming those are higher ticket items to make it worth your time to drive all over the place and fill a U-Haul.
Sarah: Yeah, definitely are.
Ryan: Honestly, I don’t mean to give you a canned answer, but I’m going to just be honest. I think that we’re pretty faithful about our – with our work ethic, and I think we get rewarded by the Holy Spirit. He provides opportunities to us, and I know that’s not real tangible, but we’ve had opportunities where there’s no rhyme or reason why these products become available, and they just jump in your lap. Then we test them and they sell, and the profit margin’s good; the return rates are low and so we go back and buy more. Mainly, though, for a tangible answer, it’s going to be that you have to be out there buying. You can’t be at home looking on the internet and find RA opportunities. Once again, we have a unique dynamic. She’ll keep the home fires burning and keep those replen dollars coming in, and it gives me an opportunity to go out and look. The more you’re out there, the more – and as much as you can afford to be out there, the more opportunities will present themselves. It’s not rocket science. We scan products that are on the shelves. We test them and if they go good, then we start looking around for other opportunities to acquire that product.
Jim: Man, you packed a lot of wisdom in there. I would say business building warriors are wise to heed the advice that I certainly heed in my own business, and that is approach your business with prayer. Ask God to guide you, not just into the most profitable products, necessarily, but guide my business overall. Commit your ways to the Lord and it will succeed. If it’s not built according to God’s plan, it’s going to fail and just be dust eventually. Those things we understand as Christians like hey, what are you doing this for? Why are you really doing this? Whose business is this? I think one of the things I like to encourage people to pray is help my business lead me into the relationships that you want me to have.
I’ll share a quick story along those lines where this business is relational and any time this comes up, getting guidance for your business, the relationship aspect, just a quick story. A young man who’s a friend of ours – I’ve known him since he was an early teen, and he’s got a family of – I think he actually has seven kids now. He called me up wanting some advice a short time ago, and he had two different job options open to him, two different opportunities, I should say, that were opening up in front of him. He’s like, “Man, on paper, these are both awesome, but I got to commit all into one. I can’t do both of them both. I can’t go half-hearted. I got to go all in with one or the other.” He started giving me all the technicals on Option A and Option B.
I said, “A couple things: have you prayed about it?” He’s like, “Well, yes, sir, I’ve prayed about it.” I said, “So which of these two opportunities, if either one of them – rather than going into the technicals, because I don’t know these industries, which one of them leads you into the kind of relationships that you feel God’s been leading you towards, the people that you’ve been mentored by or you think you could mentor? Where are the relationship potential – where is the relationship potential the strongest?” He said, “You just made the decision very clear for me, thanks.” Hung up and we parted ways. I haven’t heard from him; I’d love to check in. It’s been about a year ago, see how it’s going.
This is relationship business, so I encourage everyone to pray along those lines, too. I mean, it could be the cashier. I’ve built relationships. You see some of the same people at some of the stores you go to and have great conversations, encourage them, and buying their favorite candy bar every time you see them kind of thing. This is a relationship business, so I love that you guys are seeking divine wisdom in your business. I encourage all business building warriors to do that and actually just see. It works, definitely works.
Ryan: It absolutely does, and there’s been opportunities and it goes both ways. Sometimes you have an opportunity cease right in front of you and it disappears. If you’re not in the Holy Spirit when that occurs, then it can seem like a traumatic event. There may be a very good reason why you’re not supposed to pursue that opportunity and that reason may be because there’s another one right around the corner and if you’re focused on that old opportunity, the new one will pass you by. It’s imperative that you spend time – that we spend time with – in prayer to pursue our options. That’s why I mentioned that. Again, I know it’s not an extremely tangible answer, but you can’t take that and follow it to a specific place but you can.
Sarah: I have a small story regarding that, actually, that pertains to our business. Last year, we paid off our house, thanks to being Amazon sellers, honestly.
Sarah: Q4, yeah, Q4 was great to us that year, and we paid it off soon after, which we live in southeast Kansas; the prices of homes aren’t extremely high compared to the rest of the US, especially the coast. Anyway, a month after we paid it off, we had an opportunity to buy my parents’ house, which was significantly more, and we were like oh, should we go into this much debt? We both prayed about it, and we were like, well, we don’t want to go into the debt because we just paid it off, and we were really torn. We really felt like we needed to be moving over to my parents’ because we’re actually going to be taking – helping to take care of them when we move.
Ryan: They’re building a place on the property, so it’s a very good opportunity for us to assist them as they age, but go ahead. I apologize.
Sarah: Yeah, and so anyway, we prayed about it. We felt like this is the direction we’re supposed to go, and so we blindly – we went with faith thinking okay, well, hopefully we can make enough the next Q4. We didn’t know how long it would take for this all to happen. Anyway, by the time – we’re not quite there yet. We’re not too – we haven’t moved yet. We haven’t bought their house yet because they’re still in the process of building. By the time that we get it, we will be able to purchase it with no debt still. Honestly, I believe that everything that has come to us, the larger sales that’ve come to us this year was a result of that obedience and He keeps sending us stuff that we never expected. It’s just an interesting twist to the story that is really cool. He even cares about the details of keeping you debt-free when that is something that you care so passionately about. If you’re following what He feels that you need to be doing that He will take care of you in that way as well.
Jim: That’s phenomenal. I love the number of people in our community where faith is just such an integral part. Their walk with Christ is an integral part of their business. It’s not this separate thing we do on Sundays. It’s every day, taking it with them, making the decisions. I believe we’re all stewards. This is a Biblical concept. I love the parables of the talents in the New Testament where basically we’re all stewards. We’re all given something to work with. Maybe it’s a little; maybe it’s a lot. We’re all charged with the same stewardship call, and that is expand, grow, increase, do something with it. That’s relational; that’s financial; that’s territory; that’s land; that’s grow. That’s what we’re all told to do, among other things.
I love it. You guys sound like phenomenal stewards. I just commend you on that. It’s encouraging and I hope it encourages a lot of other listeners today, too. The way you’ve integrated life decisions and raising kids and taking care of parents and getting out of debt, just beautiful. This is good stuff for people to hear. Sometimes it’s just like ahh, it’s our story. It’s what we do well. It’s a powerful story, and it’s very counter-culture, as well. Hopefully there’s a lot of people listening to this considering hm, maybe there’s a different way to do life than what I’ve been doing, and so powerful story, guys.
Sarah: Well, we didn’t start that way, too. I’d like to point out we didn’t start that way. We started out in debt.
Ryan: Well, and I like to say that I’m not nearly as talented or effective as Dave Ramsey, but I could write Dave Ramsey’s materials because we lived Dave Ramsey’s story in the first few years of our marriage. We did exactly what Dave did. We did a 180 and started focusing on the right way to do things, and we still do that today culturally. We look at maybe what’s popular culture-wise and we try to evaluate is that really what the Lord would like us to be doing? It often makes it clear that that’s the opposite of popular culture is what we should be doing.
Jim: That’s true.
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Ryan: We try to evaluate is that really what the Lord would like us to be doing, and it often makes it clear that it’s the opposite of what popular culture is what we should be doing.
Jim: That’s true. For those who are unfamiliar, Dave Ramsey’s a – he’s a top talk show host in the United States, probably top two or three most popular talk show hosts, talks about financial issues, but the start of his story was he went ridiculously into debt, over-leveraged himself with a bunch of loans to buy a bunch of property and then suddenly couldn’t pay the bills and just went under big time. Now he’s a leading financial expert and succeeding wildly, just business and I love his business content. Well, actually, one of my favorite business books I learned a lot from is – what’s it called? Entree Leadership is the name by Dave Ramsey. He has a lot of small business material, too. If you guys like Dave Ramsey, you’ll like that book, Entree Leadership. We’ve certainly been referred a lot of people from his community as well that have jumped into – once they’re out of debt, it’s like alright, now what? Well, there’s a lot of ways that you can grow incredible businesses using the internet creatively. That’s where we take over, so we’ve seen a lot of people, including Oscar Mutumbo, one of the popular guests on our show. He found us because people were talking about us on a Dave Ramsey discussion forum. That’s one of our most popular podcast episodes is the Oscar Mutumbo episode. He’s just a ball of energy and encouragement. He did a great job speaking at our most recent event in Florida, too. You guys were there for that.
Sarah: Yes, we were.
Ryan: Yes, sir, very awesome experience.
Jim: Yeah, talk about that for just a moment and not so much that event specifically but what vibe you get from this community and what that means to you. I’m curious what your take is.
Ryan: First of all, when you are a self-employed e-commerce entrepreneur – I guess that’s redundant, but when you’re an e-commerce entrepreneur in southeast Kansas, there’s not really a lot of people you can talk to that understand what you do or can even wrap their minds around a particle of it. What the community offers simply is – you alluded to it earlier. We have a lot of like-minded folks who are in the same space and it’s great to be able to meet in person or online or on the telephone with folks who get what you do and get where you’re coming from and can offer you sound advice that is somewhat counter-culture because they get it.
The camaraderie is probably the biggest thing because there’s not another – I think our closest gentleman probably that I’m aware of is Greg Perry down in Tulsa. I’ve met with him for coffee once or twice, so Greg’s awesome. There’s not – you don’t have that camaraderie with your local community. This community allows us to receive that. You have anything to add?
Jim: Yeah, beautiful. What would you add to that, Sarah? Any observations?
Sarah: Oh, more of the same. I just really feel like the networking with the other entrepreneurs – I mean, just being able to sit down face-to-face having a lunch or a meal. You just bounce off so many ideas that you don’t get from the stage. The stage is important because it gets your mind flowing with all these things, but then the conversations you have with these new friends that you make are what’s great. We’ve made some really great friends and plan on taking other trips with them. It’s just been a lot of fun to get to know the people in your community.
Ryan: Yeah, we’re going to ASD in Vegas with seven people that we spent some time with in Florida.
Jim: Yeah, I don’t know if this episode will come out in time for folks to take advantage of hanging out with you there, but yeah, we’ve got several people from our community heading to Vegas for the ASD. It happens a couple times a year and quite frequently I’ll speak or some people from our leadership team will speak at the event. I’m not going this year, but several people from our coaching team will be there, so I’m sure there’ll be some connections made. Yeah, enjoy that show for sure.
Looking to expand your wholesale lines a little bit maybe, right?
Sarah: Yes, for sure.
Jim: One question, you guys said you’re heading towards $800,000 year. What is your overall margin, return on investment? Give me some numbers there.
Ryan: After we pay our staff and our tools, it’s probably about 27%. We ran a gross margin of about 33% as a general rule and then we have some minimal costs that we have to pay. It’s around 26, 27%.
Jim: That’s phenomenal. I’m thinking that income level, you’re putting over $200,000 in the bank, basically, ballpark, with your business, something like that, after taxes and such. That’s a nice income. Can’t imagine, especially in Kansas – I’m in a similar situation here in central Indiana. Property values are a little higher where I live than the rest of the state, but it’s nothing compared to a lot of the country. I love that you guys have built something pretty special.
I’m just curious as I’m thinking about Kansas. When I think Kansas, a few pictures come to mind, like I imagine when people think Indiana. What does your area look like? Are you in a neighborhood or is it three miles to the neighbor’s house? Where are you guys at?
Ryan: We live on five acres, and we live two miles from Walmart. It’s on a US highway.
Sarah: We’re in the middle of a field, basically. We have field on three sides, highway on one.
Jim: Is it farmed? Do you lease it out for someone to farm it?
Sarah: No, because the farmer owns everything that’s not our land, so yeah, we don’t farm it.
Ryan: We just have five acres around. The closest metropolitan area, if you will, is Wichita or Tulsa. They’re both within two hours, and we have Kansas City within two and a half hours. We spend a lot of time – or I spend a lot of time on the road. I drag her along as often as possible, but we have to drive. That’s just part of it. We trade the proximity to a lot of products for a little cost of living and a little population density. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
Jim: That’s beautiful. I love it. You can do this from anywhere. You guys aren’t sitting – a lot of people are sitting within – as am I right now, easy driving distance of 150 retail stores. You don’t have to be there. I could walk to a lot of the stuff where we source our product if I wanted to, but you can do it from a fairly remote location as well, online, and do some driving if you’re willing to. Love it. Everyone has such a unique story, just fascinating stuff.
Sarah: Sometimes we’ll have a date where we’re – I mean, it’s not really a date because we’re working, but it’s – we go together because we both think it’s fun to – well, we like to be uninterrupted sometimes when the kids aren’t there, just occasionally. We’ll go together for the day and sometimes we’ll go overnight, and we’ll do a bunch of retail arbitrage and we’ll go have dinner together. We might take in a movie while we’re out or something like that but just an opportunity to spend time together alone and build our marriage and yet work on our business, which is also our hobby. We really honestly feel like this is something that we both love to do, so it’s not hard to do, either.
Ryan: Yeah, we started it as a hobby. One of my biggest issues, I’d go into a store and there’d be an item for 90% off but I couldn’t use it. It just kind of made me sick to leave it on the shelf because I recognize the value. Obviously we now can turn that into regular income. We started this as a hobby. We never dreamed we’d be able to make a full-time living at it. We’ve been extremely blessed and we’ve done far greater business than we ever thought possible at this point. It all started as a hobby as a way to make a little bit of extra money, as a way to cash in on value that was on the shelf that we couldn’t leave there anymore. It’s been an incredible journey. I feel like we’re just getting started, and I feel like we’re extremely far behind where we could be or maybe where we should be. That’s only when I start comparing.
One thing I want to make sure your listeners know is not to compare themselves with other sellers, not to compare themselves with other businesses. They’ve got their own journey and if they keep at it and they learn and be dedicated, then they’ll be successful. I’ve struggled with fear of missing out and fear of growing too slowly and it’s just – that does nothing but throw a cog in the wheel. You just got to do your own thing, progress, and utilize the folks in the community, utilize the resources in the community, and you’ll be successful.
Jim: Very well said, Ryan, great advice. Yes, slow and steady progress in the right direction is a very powerful force. Sometimes we forget that and compare ourselves to people who maybe were fortunate; maybe they work harder; maybe they’ve been doing it longer. We compare ourselves but if you keep making progress in the right direction, you’re going to be in a very special place sooner than you’d imagine to where you have options, a lot of options.
Sarah: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: What would you add to that, Sarah, from what Ryan just shared? Anything we’re leaving out?
Sarah: Can’t think of anything off the top of my head.
Jim: Just making sure, spreading the love around, getting plenty of chances for everyone to speak. Well, how have you guys learned? Ryan mentioned always be learning. What resources are you using? You mentioned you were at our event. Are you Proven Amazon Course students, by any chance?
Sarah: Yeah, that’s where it began. Like I said, when I – as a blogger, I was listening to a podcast who then turned me on to another – it was a different training, one of the really high, over-priced trainings, and I was like, I don’t really want to spend that. Surely there’s something else out there, so then I started looking for free training and then I somehow – eventually I stumbled upon the Proven Amazon Course. It was very affordable, so I asked him and we bought that. I slowly worked my way through it. Then every year, we would do the Q4 groups.
Jim: Ah, we’ve got those coming up, too, provenq4plan.com. Are you guys going to – planning on doing it again this year?
Sarah: Yeah, we do it every year now. We always enjoy being a part of that. In fact, we’ve learned –
Jim: I’ll get you in for free for being a guest on the show today, alright? Don’t pay anything for that. Just shoot me an email.
Sarah: Okay, awesome, thank you. Yeah, really honestly, the Q4 groups is probably where we realized we were catapulted a little bit. From there, we learned a few things that just catapulted the business, and so that was definitely a big game-changer. Also, another thing that we’ve done through the years is once something is successful, we go back and repeat it the next year. We find a store that always does well for us every year. We go back every year and follow their sales or follow when do they have clearance or when do they have good sales on certain things. We just learned little tidbits as we went, and we were just – I don’t know. I didn’t finish my thought, but it was good.
Jim: It makes sense. It’s slow, incremental learning, just in time tips and strategies and little ways to improve things. We do that on my team all the time. We implemented a new little tip in my business yesterday that we could’ve implemented two or three years ago. This saves us a ton of time on prepping on our products. Some people may not realize this, and maybe you guys don’t, either. You don’t have to cover barcodes My team’s been doing it. I didn’t know if they were doing it or not. I just happened to notice, and there was a discussion in one of our forums like hey, guys, you know you don’t have to be covering bar codes anymore to send stuff in FPA. I’m like, really? You don’t put a sticker on it? No, you don’t have to.
Ryan: We didn’t know that.
Jim: I did not know that.
Ryan: We’re still –
Sarah: Are you paying for them to do it or you mean you’re just putting it over it.
Jim: You don’t have to cover barcodes. You don’t have to because their scanners only read their barcode. There’s people for two, three years now who have not been covering any barcodes Originally, Amazon told you you needed to. They don’t tell you that anymore, apparently, and as evidence –
Sarah: They didn’t send out the update to us older sellers then.
Jim: Nope, they did not. The new sellers coming in are like, why do you guys cover your barcodes on your products? You don’t need to do that. Just send them in. If it’s poly-bagged and it’s got the FNSKU sticker on the – hey, you’re good to go. That’s it. You don’t need to cover up anything inside. That’ll save some prepping time, right?
Sarah: Yeah, well, and a lot of times, I haven’t been too worried about it because I’ve noticed when we haven’t done it, they don’t do anything. I’m glad to know that it’s actually not a policy now.
Jim: Yeah, I talked to several serious sellers just in the past few days and I asked our office. I was like hey, are we still covering bar codes over there? They said yeah, we are. I don’t think we have to anymore. That’ll save some time because every little tip like that saves time and adds up, right?
Sarah: It does. It really does.
Jim: That’s another example. What did that little shift – that little 30-second shift just put another thousand dollars, let’s say, over the next year minimum into your pocket, right? It’s saving the time and the stickers and speeding up the process. That’s the kind of thing, the accumulation of little tidbits of knowledge over time, that gives you a tremendous advantage in this business. Like you said, the seasonal things, it’s the same every year. Okay, there’s a certain item that we sold a lot of last Christmas, so I’m going to go see if they got that again this year because it was hot last year; it’s probably going to be hot again this year. You gain an advantage over time, and you guys are taking full advantage of that.
Are there any tips or strategies, anything else you guys wanted to share before – well, one last thing, observation. You said you – are you guys coaching students or you just working with Nathan on the branding?
Ryan: No, we’re coaching students.
Jim: Okay, so you have been through the coaching program. Has Nathan been your coach the whole time, or have you had any other coaches?
Ryan: We started out with another coach and because, as we’ve discussed today, the scope of our business is pretty vast and it integrates her blog, there’s a lot of moving parts in our business. Us and our original coach didn’t feel like it was the best fit, so that’s when we moved on. Once Nathan determined all of the moving parts that was in the business, he decided to take us on himself. It is pretty complex.
Sarah: Honestly, the – we started with the blog. We were feeding some traffic to Amazon to our one wholesale product from my blog, and we want to do a lot more of that. Nathan is just the right one for helping us with that at this point, anyway.
Jim: For sure.
Ryan: We’re hoping to reciprocate Amazon traffic back to the blog as well and start with a physical process where we can grow both of them simultaneously using each end of these.
Jim: Yeah, they’re feeding each other, right? What is your blog, Sarah? I’d love to hear some about it. You’ve mentioned it a couple times, so fill us in on what you do.
Sarah: It’s sidetrackedsarah.com. It’s a food blog. It started more of a busy mom blog for homeschool moms. It ended up being a food blog for busy families, which we are definitely. I do most –
Jim: Aren’t we all, right?
Sarah: Yeah, so I do a lot of slow cooker and Instant Pot food on there and then I have a meal plan subscription where people can sign up for a weekly meal plan, deliveries and all that, if they chose to do so.
Jim: That’s awesome.
Sarah: There’s a bunch of free recipes on there, too.
Jim: We’ll send some traffic to it. What is it again, Sidetracked Sarah?
Sarah: Yeah, sidetrackedsarah.com.
Jim: Sidetracked, E-D.
Sarah: Yeah, E-D.
Jim: Sarah, S-A-R-A-H.
Jim: Sidetrackedsarah.com, sounds very interesting. We’ll stick a link to it in the show notes for everybody, so that’ll hopefully get you guys some new traffic and maybe some cool new people hanging out on your blog with you guys after listening to this episode. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of new fans and followers, too, that are interested in hearing more of your story. You may have triggered some new friendships and conversations. That always happens. I love hearing from people who’ve appeared on our podcast a month, two months, three months after their episode comes out and just all the great people that’ve reached out to them and the new friendships and partnerships. Hopefully you’ll get a wave of really nice people coming your way as a result of this episode. That’d be awesome.
Ryan: That’s one of the biggest things about the community is that you have an opportunity to receive great information. You also have an opportunity to disseminate great information. It feels like the more effort you put into disseminating, the more you receive. It’s a great group and we sure appreciate all you’ve done to facilitate it.
Jim: Thanks, Ryan, and well said, by the way. For some reason, a song that I haven’t thought of in years popped in my head as you were saying that. I remember in kindergarten – I’m not going to sing. I’ll spare the listeners that torture. It was about a magic penny, and it was something like – we had to memorize it and perform it for the parents, I remember. It was this magic penny and if you hold it tight, you won’t have any, but if you lend it, or spend it, or give it away, you’ll have so many you won’t know what to do with them. I didn’t know what it meant as a kid; I just remember having to memorize it, but this business is kind of like that. If you hold it tight, and hold it close, and keep all your secrets close to your chest –
Just this morning, guys, one of our coaching students, a really good dude, just popped in my head, one of our best ASINs, and we’re the only ones selling it right now, and it’s easily sourced on all kinds of retail stores. It’s in four major retail stores and we’re the only ones selling it at a great margin. I just felt prompted. I’m like, I’m going to text this over to one of our students here, just shoot him a quick text, send him a picture of the item and the ASIN and said, “Hey, start grabbing this. Join us on this listing.” That kind of stuff reciprocates and comes back in such big ways. If you’re holding your secrets close to your chest and trying to do this as a lone wolf, those are the people that burn out, flame out, get tired, bored, wonder what it’s all about even if they do succeed. That’s not the way to do life and business.
I love what you said, Ryan, about just that generous, open-handed – the cake versus candlelight, which we just shared in an episode, 393 or 392. We shared it in many episodes, the cake versus candlelight. I won’t go into it here, but how you see the world matters. You guys obviously have a very abundant mindset, so awesome hanging out with you for a few minutes today.
Ryan: We sure appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Sarah: Yeah, thank you.
Jim: Unless you guys had anything else jotted down in your notes that you wanted to be sure to hit – is there anything we’ve missed before we start to close this episode?
Sarah: I think we covered everything that we wanted to share.
Jim: Beautiful, thank you guys for that. It was definitely an encouraging episode, and I enjoyed hanging out with you. I believe many others are going to have the same sentiment.
For those who did hang out with us today, just want to thank you for doing so. The only thing we ask in return for this free content is hey, leave us a review or some feedback wherever you’re watching or listening, or better yet, spread the word. Spend people to silentjim.com and just say hey, go check out this podcast and go check out this Ryan and Sarah. These are awesome people. You need to hear what they have to say. That would be your way of returning the favor to us for the time we spent today because Ryan could’ve been on the road making money. It probably cost him a few hundred bucks today to hang out with us, so let’s show him some love. He could’ve been out there sourcing some magic replens for Q4, right? Sarah, busy at home finding some new OA arbitrage items and replen. They could’ve been making some money, but they wanted to spend some time with you today. Let’s show them some love for that, okay?
Another thing I want to say before we wrap this episode up is if you’re listening to this episode right now and you’ve never been over to YouTube, there’s a link in many of the show notes where you can go and see – you can actually see on screen Ryan and Sarah today if that’s something of interest. Some of the episodes that are on YouTube are – I’m sorry, many of the episodes that aren’t on YouTube are only at silentjim.com. If you’re watching on YouTube right now, you’re missing a lot of episodes. That’s what I’m trying to say. Make sure you go to silentjim.com either way and you’re going to see all the episodes there of great people like Ryan and Sarah and hundreds of others who are succeeding using the content and stuff that we teach around here.
Let’s wrap this episode up. God bless all the business building warriors out there who’ve listened to us today. We’re praying for you. We’re in your corner. There is a battle that’s raging in many, many ways in our culture, in business, in our families. Keep doing life the right way. Keep leaning on the one true source of strength that we have and for us, that’s Christ. I know that’s where Ryan and Sarah are coming from as well today. That’s what this is all about for us. Hey, we’re here for you. Join our community; it’s free. There’s a link in the show notes to our free Facebook group. Just come hang out and see thousands of people like Ryan and Sarah and other great families that are encouraging each other, lifting each other up, sharing great tips and strategies all day every day. Think you’ll really enjoy hanging out there. We’ll talk to you soon. It’s another really good episode. Ryan, Sarah, thank you so much, guys. That was great.
Ryan: Thank you.
Jim: Hey, before I go, one last reminder, payoneer.com, a tremendous sponsor of this show. You can get 10% off your first fees by going to payoneer.com/funding. Tell them you came from our program. They’re going to take good care of you, up to $750,000 for Amazon and Walmart sellers. Hey, if you’re needing some funding with some good, flexible payback terms with no credit check, you’re going to love these guys. Go check them out.
Announcer: Thank you for listening to Silent Sales Machine Radio. Visit silentjim.com for a link to our free newsletter, our free Facebook group, and all of our resources mentioned on today’s show.