Collin: Thanks so much for having us.
Laura: Great to be here.
Collin: Yeah, we’re excited.
Jim: Great to have you. I’m eager to jump into your story. Let’s hear it.
Collin: Yeah, so the story probably started just about two years ago. I just got a memory on my phone this week actually. I quit my job two years ago earlier this week with the intention to start selling on Amazon. I really had no idea what it would be like or what it would come to but I was just so unhappy working at a corporate job, even though I was pretty good at it. I became the top salesman at a pretty large corporation within the first six months of being there but I just wasn’t happy.
Jim: What were you selling? What were you selling, Collin? I’m curious.
Collin: IT conferences for a company called Gartner. It wasn’t glamorous. It wasn’t exciting. It wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
Jim: It reminds me of selling software licensing, which is my last real job. Now we’re coming up on 19 years ago. Yeah, it just didn’t feel right but I did it longer than you did. You jumped ship pretty quick, six months in, top sales rep, and you jumped ship. I love it.
Collin: I think I quit around the eight-month mark. I just felt like I’d been there for five years and I was just so unhappy. I quit with the intention to start selling on Amazon. Obviously, I had a ton of conversations with my parents. Obviously, my wife was included in that as well. My dad was weary of the idea of quitting a corporate job that was paying well in order to really have a steady income or necessarily a great plan involved.
Jim: That’s dad’s job is to ask you hard questions, and mom’s, too. I love that your mom’s on the episode today with you. That’s going to be phenomenal. For those of you who are just listening, it’s Collin’s mom, Laura, who’s here with him today for the interview, which is super cool. I love that you guys are doing the business together. Yeah, keep the story going.
Collin: Yeah, obviously, I talked to my parents. I was a little nervous about the risk involved just because the only thing I thought selling on Amazon was private label products so a little bit more capital was required. That made me nervous. My parents had finally bought into the idea a bit. My mom was on board the whole time.
Laura: Yeah, I’m like, go for it.
Jim: That’s awesome, mom. Good for you.
Collin: I asked if they wanted to basically help invest in my company and take some ownership and we became partners because of how much they wanted to support me in that. Actually, the private label stuff was going well. Within the first three months, we were selling $10,000 a month in revenue. In private label, the margins are great. The money was okay. Obviously now knowing what we know, $10,000 isn’t all that much but it’s still exciting to get to that level. Then COVID hit and basically shut down our entire business. For whatever reason, Amazon stopped shipping out our products in a timely manner and people stopped buying our products. We went from selling $10,000 a month to $2,000 to $3,000 a month during that span of time. This is really where my mom gets involved in the business because she was like, “Hey, you know people are selling groceries on Amazon.” I’m like, “Why would anyone buy groceries on Amazon? That’s so silly.”
Jim: It is, but they do. It still is even though we have people with incredible businesses, I’m still like, really? People will spend $27 on this when you could have gone to Walmart and spent $7? I don’t get it. I don’t understand. They could have ordered it on Walmart.com still and got it for the same price, but they don’t. They go to Amazon and spend $27. A lot of people do that. Before we get into that part of your story, Collin, what was your private label product? Give me as much detail as you can. I don’t know if you hope to get back into that niche at some point. Don’t give it away obviously. What was that product that vanished when COVID hit?
Collin: We’re still actually selling it. They’re picking back up so I don’t want to share too much but it is almost an apparel clothing product.
Jim: Okay, got you, but the sales tanked pretty hard when COVID struck and you were thinking, okay, time to diversify. It was Mom’s idea. Where’d you get that idea, Mom? I’d like to hear from you, Laura.
Laura: I was listening to the news on things that were in high demand during the COVID time period and I said, “Hey, we should look into this. It’s in short supply right now. It’s in high demand.” We tested it out.
Collin: On eBay. We started on eBay because we needed to get ungated in grocery on Amazon.
Laura: Right, so we were selling on eBay for probably about a month while we were getting ungated through Amazon for grocery. The day we got ungated, we listed, obviously, and we just kept hearing our phone go off because we were doing FBM at the time selling that one product. We sold that product for about three months and it was gangbusters.
Collin: It was crazy.
Laura: Yeah, it was insane.
Collin: If we could have had enough supply of it, we were in Florida at the time, so I was driving around to every single Publix basically in our area so I was in the car all day every day just trying to find this product. Had we gotten enough of it, we could have probably done $50,000 a day, but we would sell out within a matter of 10, 15 minutes and we were doing a couple $1,000 just like that. Then that’s when we really realized, okay, this is a real business. How do we do this with other products than just this one? We basically did a $25,000, $30,000 in the first month just with that one product, that one grocery product. That’s what really funded our business into expanding into the Replens model. That’s basically where we’ve been for the past year now of just doing replens. Then obviously we went out last month to Rich Potter’s warehouse and learned from him about wholesale. We’re trying to do something very similar to him where we’re pairing both replens and wholesale into one business model.
Jim: Got you. That’s of course the – I wrote it down. I saw it in your bio and I wrote it down because we’ve got many different websites around here. The Replen Wholesale Workshop, replenwholesaleworkshop.com, we’ll stick that in the show notes. That’s a chance to go hang out with one of the top students in our community who’s become a real leader, Rich and Shelley Potter. They actually presented in our Proven Conference here a couple months ago. Did a great job there as well. They’re doing a lot of wholesale, have a pretty creative strategy they’ve dialed in and you guys went out there and spent four days, saw the warehouse, saw the workshop. What did you guys think of it? Let’s spend a little time on that.
Laura: Yeah, I mean, it was great. It was great to see a bigger operation than us. I think it’s always good to look ahead to see where we want to go. We just felt like we were at that point in our business where we had plateaued and wanted to learn how to do the wholesale model. We also wanted to learn how to palletize and we also wanted to learn how to outsource more effectively. Those were the three things that we went out there to learn and I felt like we came home very satisfied that we learned how to do those three things well. Now it’s just implementing it.
Collin: Yeah, that’s what we’ve been working on ever since getting back from the workshop a couple weeks ago.
Jim: I’m sure you’re still even digesting the content you went through, haven’t implemented all the good ideas yet. You guys weren’t at the conference, were you?
Collin: No, so we were debating between the two, the workshop or –
Jim: Got you. Yeah, that’s a lot of travel time away to be able to do this.
Collin: A lot of travel back and forth. We were signed up for the conference. I was a VIP but I guess I’ll have to use that next year.
Jim: Yeah, it carries over if you didn’t make it, for sure. We’ll do it again. I don’t know where we’re going to do it next time, but wherever we do, it’d be great to have you guys there. Where did you pick up your replen skills? You’ve built quite a business replens. Are you Proven Amazon Course students or have you – are you? Okay, I thought you were. I thought I’d seen that you were. You went through the Replens training and the Proven Amazon Course.
Laura: Last July, we also did Kate Chattic’s class, her Replen class, her Replen mentoring class. That was extremely instrumental in teaching us how to do replens well and very motivating to us to actually increase our sourcing methods and get the products that we needed to achieve the numbers that we wanted to achieve.
Jim: Fantastic, that mastermind experience of just hanging out with other people who are doing it at the same time you are, challenging each other forward, yeah, that’s a tremendous concept. We love those. Very good.
Laura: That was a great class that we took and was really helpful to us. Through that we learned how to do inventory lab, Keepa, learned about Replens dashboard, implemented our repricer. That all happened last July and got our business structure set up more professionally, I would say.
Jim: Sure, I love it. Which repricer do you guys use? I’m curious.
Collin: We use Aura.
Jim: Aura, yeah, GoAura.com, that’s the one we use as well. A lot of people do. There’s a few of them floating around. I was just curious. We’ll stick a link to that in the show notes, too. I don’t think I even have an affiliate link for those guys. We’ve referred them a lot of business, though. They’re solid, for sure.
Collin: We tried BCool for a little bit but Aura just had more capabilities that we liked. They’ve added a lot of stuff since we started using them. We always suggest it to anyone that asks.
Jim: It’s a good solid tool. How many replens do you guys have at this point? What’s your arsenal look like?
Collin: A lot. We’re probably close to 400 to 500 different products, or SKUs. Kate taught us to go deep in one product if it’s working. We have multiple, multiple SKUs of the same product at times. We probably have at any given day probably anywhere between 350 to 500 active SKUs.
Jim: That are available to be sold either FBM or FBA. You guys started off doing a lot of Merchant Fulfill, FBM. It sounds like you’re doing a lot of FBA now as well.
Laura: We pretty much do that exclusively now.
Collin: We don’t like FBM. It’s not for us.
Laura: Yeah, the great thing about FBA is you can work when you want to and when you have the time. With FBM, you’re responsible to get those products out in a timely fashion. If you’re away on vacation or just busy with other things, it’s hard to maintain that schedule at the volume that we’re doing. We prefer FBA.
Jim: How big is the team now? I know it’s the two of you. Who else? What else do you have going on?
Collin: My wife has a full-time job but she works remotely so she has the ability to help us out, especially in the warehouse, our warehouse being our garage. When she’s free, she helps out. My dad also full-time job but he helps out in the warehouse when he can. We actually just this week hired two 1099 contractors to be basically our prep center for us. They’ll come over to the garage and work a couple of hours a day and prep our products for us. That’s been super beneficial. It’s gotten me out of the prep and pack process to start focusing on finding wholesalers and distributors that I can start to work with.
Jim: Yeah, Collin, I have a feeling that you’re going to be thinking, man, I should have done that six months ago, if you haven’t had that thought already.
Laura: We’ve been feeling the pain of that not having help, not having hands in the warehouse with us. That’s been great to have them on board.
Jim: What’s the arrangement you guys have with them? You said a few hours a week. What are you paying them and how long did it take to train them? Because I think some people are hesitant to take that step. They’re coming into your house and you’re still figuring that out. Talk us through all that.
Laura: We were hesitant and we actually – they just started last week.
Jim: Right, I mean, just a few days in.
Laura: They’re fresh to us, too. I put an ad on Facebook Marketplace in one of the local mom’s page thinking that it would be great for a stay-at-home mom to come help us for a couple of hours in the afternoon. We do three shipments a week. We do Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 12:30 to 3:30. We’re paying them about $15 an hour. We do a 1099 employee so hours are open and they can come if they want. They don’t have to come. It’s a really flexible schedule for them and us. It’s been working well.
Jim: Yeah, so far. It’s still in the experiment stage but I bet you guys would really love it. Have you considered or not considered having them be able to work from home? Come get the stuff, take it back home. Because that’s what Josh Rojas does. Have you heard that episode or seen that model?
Collin: Yeah, so we like to think our warehouse process is really, really good, so no. We haven’t done that yet. We just want to have a little bit more control over the quality for at least the time being. For example, yesterday, we got a 700-unit shipment out in three hours with our employees, which is awesome.
Jim: That’s phenomenal.
Collin: Yeah, so they prep three products and they pay for themselves within that hour, but they’re doing a lot more than that. The return on investment in these employees has been awesome so far. Like you said, we’re brand new to it but –
Jim: A few days in.
Collin: Yeah, but the return has been phenomenal so far. Just because of the way we prep and pack, there’d be really no way to do it from their house just our process that we have.
Jim: Sure, that makes sense. How many people did you guys talk to before you decided on the two that you were working with?
Laura: We had quite a bit of interest and I sorted through it. I just said, “Hey, tell us a little bit about yourself,” and based on that, we selected who we wanted to interview. We interviewed three people and selected two out of that. There was a filtering process obviously and based on –
Jim: Before you got to that point.
Laura: Yeah, but the two are really close physically in our neighborhood here. Their schedules worked out. They seemed excited. That’s half the battle is finding people that want to work and are going to show up for you when you need people to help.
Jim: Yeah, that’s great. Have you ever hired anyone before, Laura, as part of your duties or is this new territory for you?
Laura: I don’t think I’ve been in the hiring process. In my corporate job that I had prior to kids, I would sit in on interviews with my boss hiring somebody within our team but I wasn’t ever responsible myself for that.
Jim: For making the final decision but you’ve done that before. I think instinctually females have – they can read people so much faster than us guys. I love when my wife will come into a relationship that I’ve had for a few months maybe, a business relationship, and she’ll make an observation after a few minutes that took me weeks or months to figure out. How did you figure that out so fast? She’ll see things that I just don’t see. Good call, Collin, having your mom in that part of the biz. That’s a great call. Your wife’s input and your mom’s input is invaluable. They just see things that we don’t as guys. They just see things. This is awesome. What are we leaving out of your story? This is just really incredible. We haven’t talked numbers yet. I guess we could hit that. Where are you guys at? It was going pretty well with the private label thing. I guess that’s a smaller piece now of your overall pie, for sure. Just talk us through some of the numbers that you’re comfortable sharing.
Collin: Yeah, so literally last week, I believe, so within a year after taking the Replens course, we hit $1 million in sales. That’s before we hired anyone else. It was basically my mom and I doing it full-time and my wife and my dad helping out when they could. For anyone listening to us, it’s possible to make a million-dollar business in your garage or in your room. We’re doing this out of my house in Florida out of a bedroom. We’re doing $100,000 a month out of a bedroom, which is crazy to think of. A million-dollar business you think has to be some extravagant play and plan but –
Jim: Yeah, you have to have an office and a logo on the door and all that, right?
Collin: Yeah, it just takes hard work and consistent work. That’s really what we’ve noticed is when we start lacking in searching for new products, we start to plateau a bit so then we have to start searching for more products. We’ve been really consistent in finding new products to just expand that base that we have. Then when we find a homerun, it’s awesome. Yeah, so we hit $1 million two weeks ago, last week or two weeks ago. Right now, we’re averaging about $4,000 a day. We’re on pace to have our best month yet. We’re over $80,000 month to date, I think.
Jim: Everyone talks about summer is slow in this business. August is terrible. No, come on. You guys are doing $4,000 a day in what’s supposed to be the slow time of the year but it’s not. I’ve got so many questions. Are you guys doing anything seasonal?
Collin: Not really, no.
Jim: You try to find stuff that’s nice and steady year-round.
Collin: Yeah, until Christmas.
Laura: Yeah, we do some things during Q4 that are Christmas related but we like to have consistency in our numbers. The way to do that is to find nonseasonal things, although we do have some things sprinkled in. For the most part, no.
Collin: Obviously, if it’s going to sell, we’re going to buy it and sell it, but that’s not the majority of our business. We want consistent products to sell year-round.
Jim: The private label is a small piece of the pie now.
Collin: Yeah, very small. It’s probably 5% at most of our revenue. It’s basically free money at this point. Don’t have to do anything other than send product in.
Jim: When you say finding new replens, what do you guys do? What’s your current strategy? Who’s good at it? Who’s the expert on the team? That’s Mom, huh? Collin is pointing to Mom.
Laura: Everybody does that a little bit differently and what they’re comfortable with. I’m very comfortable in the store so we do a lot of sourcing in the store. I don’t take pictures. Typically, I source from the shelf. I don’t do it systematically. I look for things that are new. I look for things that are unique, things that catch my eye. I don’t know. I guess I just have a sense of what’s interesting. I don’t know. I don’t know what it is.
Jim: Did you do most of the shopping for your family before you got into this business?
Collin: She was a professional shopper for other people, too.
Jim: Really? Okay, I want to spend some time here because we’ve talked about that special something that we can’t put our finger on. I’ve developed it myself not to the level that I think some others have, for sure, but if you sat me down at any store shelf, I love going to new areas on vacation or whatever walking into a store. You mentioned Publix, for example. We don’t have those up here. I’m in Indiana. You guys are in the south. Florida has Publix. I think it’s a Georgia, Florida thing, if I remember right, but it’s mainly southern US. I walk through one of those when we’re on vacation in Florida and I had my phone with me. I was supposed to be getting out of there in about five, ten minutes, family is waiting on me for something, I don’t remember what it was, but I spent 45 minutes to an hour like, oh, man, that’s a replens, that’s a replens, I bet that one is, too, because it just jumped out. What is it, Laura? What do you think that is that makes certain things jump out at you if you can pinpoint that?
Laura: Before I did Amazon with Collin I worked for a company called Shipt. They are a service that delivers groceries to consumers. I did that full-time for two years. I would do 10 to 12 orders a day from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. That taught me what people are buying. I saw many different customers throughout the week. I saw what was popular. I saw what they repeatedly bought. You just get a sense of what was most popular, what was needed for somebody in America for their family. That has helped me. It also made me very family with the stores and how they’re laid out and what areas are shopped more heavily. I just know how to pinpoint things. I don’t know why that’s – why I’m good.
Jim: It really is a difficult – you get really good at it. I think anybody can do it. It just takes a lot less time once you develop this instinct. I don’t want to make any listener feel like, oh, I’m not good at walking around and identifying them so I can’t do this. No, you can still – a lot of people take pictures. We’ve done podcast episodes recently, they’ll take a picture, send it to a VA or take it home and study the brands and go through. Once you have the basic skills, you can find replens. They’re everywhere. Some people have that special gift instinct. I always like hearing what is it that got you there.
I love that you say you worked for Shipt, too. I’ve talked to a couple people that actually we have that up here as well. It’s popular. I see them often in our Myers stores around here. I’ve had the conversation, if you broke it down, what do you earn per hour is my opening. I’m just curious. They think I’m interested in maybe doing that work. I like to hear from you, Laura, what your answer is for that, too, by the way. I don’t want to get away from that. I’m thinking they would make really good shoppers. We haven’t actually hired one of them yet but I feel like the right conversation with the right one who is a go getter with a good attitude could really turn into something pretty cool because of all the things that you’ve mentioned, but the one guy I talked to said he was earning like – he said, “I’m earning $25, $30 an hour and I don’t want to do anything else.” That’s not a good candidate. I’m waiting for that good candidate who’s like, “Hey, give me work. I’ll work. I want to help build something.” What was your experience with it when you break it down?
Laura: Yeah, I did it very regularly. I was doing it full-time. A lot of people that work for Shipt work part-time. They might have a different experience with it. I was making good money, probably in that range. If you developed regular customers, you earned tips as well. It would be hard to fire somebody that was doing Shipt full-time for $15 an hour. It’d be hard to pull them away from Shipt.
Jim: It’d be hard to find. The ideal Shipt candidate would be someone who’s part-time side gig. You walked away from it pretty easily to do this. I would imagine you see a lot more potential here.
Laura: I don’t know if I walked away easily because I was making good money but we’re making more money with Amazon, for sure. It’s exciting to own your own business, too, and have control over how much you can make and –
Jim: You have the potential to own the process instead of grinding to maximize which you’re starting to experience. A couple of months from now, you’ll really feel that effect of we’ve got other people, they show up, they’re working, I got to sleep in a little today, tweak the system a little bit here and there. The money is just the same than when I was grinding and the money is even better because you get good people in place and the system just flows. I completely understand, Laura. It’s the chance to own something versus just hustling for that $25, $30 an hour type of field. I love it. I do plan to get someone on our team that’s a professional shopper at some point because I just think they are great finds. I know people – I can’t remember who it is that uses them. Maybe it was Karl Jacobi that was using people who had professional shoppers with Shipt and there’s a few other services that do grocery delivery type things, a good person to bring on the team, not even necessarily just as a researcher but just someone to get out and stay at the stores efficiently because we pay a couple people. We did the same thing you guys did for some neighborhood folks that go shop our list. We had a shared spreadsheet and they can go buy whatever is on that list any time they want. We’ll reimburse them plus hours for their time. I want to go back to something you said, though, Laura. I think some of the listeners – we went past it pretty quick and they’re going to be curious what you do when you say you’re in a store. What tools are you using to identify a good replen while you’re there in real time to go, yeah, this is a winner. Take us through that process. What are your metrics and what tools are you using?
Laura: Yeah, I mean, we’re pretty simple. We use Keepa. We’ve just gotten pretty good at reading the charts and studying the process and finding a good replen. Kate was excellent at teaching us. We just have honed our skills over the year. I use Keepa and Seller Central and Scoutify and the Amazon buying app.
Jim: That’s it. Pretty simple process. Talk me through with a little more specificity if you would. Let’s say you’re looking at a product. Do you scan the barcode? Do you type in the name on Amazon? What’s your process in the store?
Laura: In Keepa, we type in the name of the product. That typically yields more results of listings. Then I also go into the selling app and the buying app and see what listings get pulled up through those methods as well.
Jim: Just the free Amazon buy app and sell app, just like your customer, and then the Seller Central app I guess is what we call the seller’s app.
Laura: That’s our method. I mean, it’s not heavily involved. I mean, I think everybody knows that those are available to you. You just have to get good at reading the charts.
Jim: So what are your parameters? How many drops are you looking for on Keepa and what price range do you guys play in?
Laura: I tend to look for seven or more drops a month.
Jim: Seven, that’s one of the lower numbers I’ve heard. Do you have some winners in that range? You guys both nodded your heads pretty fast there.
Collin: Yeah, they’re smaller sellers but more often than not a lot of sellers skip over them so you’re probably one or two of the only FBA sellers on that listing. We just tested one that got six drops a month on Keepa but we sold two, not in one transaction, but we sold two within a matter of a week. It’s sometimes beneficial to be on those quieter listings because you’re the only FBA seller on them. We don’t pass up on the opportunity. It’s not going to be a lights out product but it’s going to make us some money and it’s easy to find so we’ll sell it.
Laura: Yeah, we’ve also expanded looking at buy box statistics and variation listings, getting better at reading the Keepa charts for those so that we don’t make mistakes. I think that’s an easy mistake to make for new sellers is on variation listings can be difficult to understand.
Jim: Right, you get fooled by the variation. You get all excited, wow, 50 drops a month, well, there’s eight flavors and it’s only the grape that’s selling. You’re getting excited about the strawberry and it doesn’t sell. Those are the kinds of skills we teach to really help you avoid picking the losers. The nice thing about this business really is, maybe let’s talk through a few of the losers that you guys have found. You don’t lose your shirt with a losing product. That’s the difference between this model and private label, one of the big differences. I’m assuming you guys picked some losers. Around here, we just try some interesting food or we have a food pantry we donate to. Actually people that work in our warehouse work at the church’s food pantry as well and we just have a shelf that’s like, yeah, that’s where the loser products go, but it’s not a big hit. Talk me through that a little bit. Talk me through some of your losers.
Collin: Yeah, man, we’ve had plenty of losers but using the methods that obviously we were taught and that are taught in the Proven Amazon Course, they’re proven for a reason. They work more often than they don’t. Our losing percentage is pretty small, but like you said, we don’t lose our shirt on them. At most, when we first started out, we were only testing probably three or four units of a test product at first. You’re thinking on, let’s say, an average of $5 cost, you’re only in $15, $25. It’s not that bad of a test on investment. Then obviously, they’ll sell at a certain point if you read the Keepa chart right. You just might not make any money on it. You might get your money back. It’s almost a risk-free investment at that point. We have since started testing a higher number of units in our initial test. We’ve gone up to 12 units per test. Obviously the Keepa chart has to make sense and the units sold on our test have to make sense but we’ve just started going bigger. We’ve actually seen pretty good results in testing out in larger quantities actually. I guess the theory behind it, Rich talks about it a little bit, is that it gets to more fulfilment centers quickly, win the buy box in different areas. As we had more capital built up, we feel more free to test out in larger quantities.
Jim: You’re a little bolder. Here’s a piece of it, too, when you’re testing and you’re buying a few more than maybe when you were new. My theory is it’s safe, especially if we’re talking about a product that has 20 or 30 or more drops on Keepa, at that point, you know this is something that’s selling pretty consistently. This thing moves. The worst-case scenario is we’re going to have to drop our price and maybe lose $0.50 a unit or lose a couple dollars a unit is the worst case scenario. Why not go ahead and test 10 or 20 instead of just three or four when the worst-case scenario is we’re going to lose $20 or $30? It’s like, come on. The best-case scenario is we could’ve just found a true winner. We can test it and have our evidence very quickly with that many units. Like Rich Potter taught you guys, if you spread it out over multiple distribution centers, the buy box statistics go up significantly. Your odds of winning the buy box and making those sales quickly, which only makes sense.
I think sometimes people think that the buy box on Amazon is the same for everybody across the country. It’s just not. It changes every five minutes for you right where you’re sitting in your state but it’s also different for everybody around the country at any given time because there may or may not be any products near you at any given time. Amazon systems are really smart so that’s why sometimes some of our products, we’re very bold in pricing some of our products. Let’s say there’s eight or ten other FBA sellers, we’re fine being the highest priced FBA seller. We’ve got enough in there and we see those sales popping through because we’re the only ones in a certain distribution center, we’re going to get the sale at some point. You can take your time and sell at high prices in this. Are you guys doing any of that? If you’re in the mix with other FBA sellers, where do you tend to settle? What are your settings with the price? I love getting into the weeds with you guys, by the way, because I know you’re giving great answers on all of this stuff.
Laura: I think that strategy for us has changed over time. We were one of those stupid sellers at the beginning where we would –
Jim: We all are.
Laura: We’d be $0.02 below the lowest FBA seller and we were the ones killing listings.
Jim: You guys were the ones. That was you. Now we know who to send the hate mail to. No, we all do that at some point. It’s like, I have to be the lowest price and get rid of these because I have too many and everybody follows you down.
Laura: Yeah, but as your metrics change and improve, obviously, as you become a more experienced seller, you know that you can price it a bit higher than even the lowest FBA seller to take advantage of your metrics and the number that you have in inventory across the nation.
Jim: Hey, business-building warrior. Sorry for the quick interruption. Just wanted to make sure and remind you about our tremendous sponsor payoneer.com. If you need funding, up to $750,000, flexible repayment terms, no credit check, they love Amazon and Walmart sellers. They want to help you grow. Payoneer.com/funding, for 10% off the fees, be sure to tell them we sent you. All right. Let’s get back to the show.
Laura: Take advantage of your metrics and the number that you have in inventory across the nation.
Collin: Yeah, we don’t necessarily have any hard and fast rule on where we price our minimums at. We like to use Keepa history on doing that. We’re not going to go down to 50% ROI if it’s never been lower than 75% ROI. I don’t know why anyone would do that. You’re missing out on 25% return on your initial investment. For each specific product, we go through and look at the Keepa history where it’s sold in the past and we won’t go lower than our minimums, as well as staying with the maximums. Obviously, if it’s selling for and it’s shown history of selling for $3 or $4 above what the current buy box is and it bounces, we’re going to catch the higher price. That’s where we’re going to set our price at just because we don’t want to lose $2 or $3 on a sale when it’s still selling for that higher price point. We want to catch the upswing. So many sellers miss out on that and are crushing their profits because they want to just win the buy box and sell out faster when you can make more money just being a little bit more patient and selling at a higher price point. Volume isn’t everything. Making more money is what the goal of business is. If you can maximize your dollars and maximize your profit, that should be your end goal instead of just moving units. That’s how we price things. It’s not a set rule. It’s a per SKU basis.
Jim: Well said. You guys are using a repricer. Who’s the one – I get the feeling that, Collin, you’re the one that keeps an eye on that.
Jim: Is that true? Okay, so how much time do you spend – what’s your target? You said 400 or 500. How do you do it? Talk me through. What we do is we sort our inventory from what do we have the most of right now and we work from the top down. We’re not missing out on any of the big issues or big opportunities. How do you tackle it and how much time do you spend on any given day or week?
Collin: I address it once a week. Obviously, if we add new products in a shipment, I try to get the mins and maxs put in the next day just because depending on the fulfilment center, it could hit inventory within a matter of 48 hours sometimes. We don’t want to miss out on those upswings or we don’t want to get crushed on the buy box just crashing. There’s no set answer on this but I typically spend about half a day on Thursday to go through our repricer. Obviously, like you said, we start out with the ones that we have more units and inventory on. Okay, why aren’t those selling as fast as others? Maybe I made a mistake on our minimum or maybe I forgot to turn on repricer. I don’t know. If the buy box is crashing, is it going to come back up? Is this historical where it happens, it crashes and comes back up? It’s really a per SKU basis that you go in and analyze it and see what your strategy should be, either hold or liquidate it as quick as possible and don’t ever touch it again, or it has some powerful tools to helping you not spend so much time on that. We’ve started to utilize the workflows on Aura to help automate some pricing just because we’ve long heard rumors of basically when you change the price just a cent up or down, for whatever reason, Amazon will reward you for that. I used to go through and play with each one of our SKUs. You can automate that.
Jim: Turn on that little wiggle. I haven’t seen the factual scientific data on it but people swear by it. Wiggle your prices every now and then. If something’s not moving, wiggle them around a little bit. It’s crazy. It’s like Amazon rewards you for paying attention to your account, getting in there and playing around.
Laura: Yeah, and I find that even just when you’re sourcing and you look at a listing and then ten minutes later you make a sale on that product, it’s so weird.
Jim: Yeah, I wonder how much of that is psychological and how much that’s scientific. Yeah, there’s enough evidence out there. If you’re in there playing in your account, better things happen. If you ignore it for a few days, it seems to stagnate.
Collin: One other thing I use when I’m doing the repricer is on Seller Central, it has suggestions on maybe change your price on this. It hasn’t sold in a while. If something hasn’t moved in 90 days, I’ll typically just try to get rid of it, or if something hasn’t moved in 30 to 60 days, I’ll try to change the repricer a little bit, but again, it’s just a case by case basis as to what’s going on or historically has happened. Obviously, it’s not a perfect indicator of what’s going to happen, but more often than not, it is. That’s another way I check slower moving products.
Jim: There’s no perfect rules because at any given time someone could come along foolishly and think they’re making money when they’re not and tank anything. That’s the game. That’s why we have hundreds of products at any given time and those ones that always surprise us, we’ve got one right now, we’re the only seller, FBA or FBM, the only person, and it’s in every Walmart in the country. It’s in every Meijer in the country. It’s in every Kroger in the country. We’re the only one for quite a while now that’s selling it FBA and FBM at a really attractive margin. I never suspected it would be as hot as it is. You see the orders popping through about one or two a day at a great margin. Those things are out there. You just have to learn how to find them. If you find hundreds of them, you could have a great business and you can have Mom and Dad working for you and have this beautiful arrangement. We really dove into the weeds more today. Sometimes this podcast takes on like, hey, let’s tell the story and how does everybody feel about it. Today we dove into the weeds on the technical side a little bit. I loved it. I’m learning as we go, too. I’m really enjoying that. I want to hear more of whatever is on you guys’ minds. Advice for new sellers or the family dynamics of all of you guys working together is really cool. Have you had to learn some interesting lessons there? What else do you guys want to talk about?
Laura: I think one of the things in working together is all of us naturally specialize in what we’re good at or what we’re attracted to, the tasks that we are attracted to. I think that has made us very efficient in our workplace. Mike, my husband, handles all – he manages our accountant and all the finances and he’s very analytical and so he does a lot of the analysis for us. We’ll shoot him a text and say, “Hey, analyze this for us,” and he loves that. Tristen’s great at packing so she helps to pack in the warehouse. She packs those boxes awesome.
Jim: She’s like the organizer.
Collin: My wife, yeah.
Laura: Collin is great on the computer stuff and just working quickly with the Amazon account, dealing with all of that. My specialty is primarily in the shopping sourcing and managing the warehouse.
Collin: Organization, yeah.
Laura: Yeah, we all do what we love and that has worked really beautifully for us.
Collin: Yeah, at the beginning, it wasn’t as easy. You can be at each other’s throats every once in a while. It’s like, okay, we’re family at the end of the day. That’s what is most important. Throw this business away, family is what’s going to continue on. Nothing is worth jeopardizing relationships for. We’ve had to learn how do we not step on each other’s toes because being completely honest, I think we’re both pretty type A and we like things our way. In the transition of going from private label to replens, I had to learn how to give control over to my mom in some areas and then she had to learn to trust me in some areas. We had never done that before. We were trying to navigate as we go as we’re growing at an almost unsustainable rate. How do we do both of those at the same time?
We’ve come to a really good place where we just trust each other. The warehouse is her thing. Whatever she tells me to do, I’m fine doing that. Even though I think I’m running the company, she is just as in charge as I am. With us moving into more wholesale stuff and me doing all the technical stuff behind the scenes, she trusts me that I have the best interest of the company in mind. It’s just a trust thing knowing that no one is trying to hurt the other one and we both want things done and we want a successful company at the end of the day. It’s just a little bit of compromise and learning what are each other’s strengths and playing into those and letting that person play into those and instead of telling them how to play with their strength, I guess.
Jim: What’s it like as a mom, and this is a question I got to ask my mom at one point because she works with me. We’re in a different age demographic, but that’s about it. It’s my business but she works for me and I turn stuff over to her and she just handles it. Let me know when you need me. Trusting you with that. It’s really phenomenal. I know some of the things she says, I know the part she enjoys is just we’re doing stuff together. It’s meaningful, significant stuff. Yeah, we’re making a profit, but the relationship benefits – as a mom, hit that question topic. What’s the dynamic impact on your family relationally?
Laura: I mean, I think it’s really cool to see your kid having started a business and to see how quickly it has grown and flourished into something really awesome. Collin has always had this entrepreneurial spirit so I knew that he would always do something unique and that he wouldn’t have the traditional corporate job. It’s cool to see his personality play out into this and his dream come to fruition. That part is really cool. The dynamics, we’re always together, and what more could a mom want than to have your family close by and doing something that’s meaningful together? Like Collin said, relationship is always the priority. If there’s conflict in that, that gets addressed first over anything with the business. Yeah, it’s great to have Collin and Tristen close to us and working together side by side on a daily basis. It just adds to the richness of your relationship with your children.
Jim: Because I know some people are hesitant or resistant to the concept. I don’t see it. I keep meeting these families that are doing it together. I’ve heard that rule of thumb, never hire family. No, I’m not sure I agree with that. I actually wholeheartedly disagree with it. If you’ve got a good family, who better to spend time with and who better to strengthen relationships with? The grind of building a business sharpens and improves those relationships time and time and time again. You guys are just the latest example of exactly that. I love diving into that. It’s actually a biblical model there, too, we’re encouraged to build something significant with family. This is a theme. I won’t dive off in that direction but I just keep meeting all these families that are better off for having done business under the same roof. I take it you guys live close. You’re not all living in the same house, are you, or you live close or…
Collin: We actually just moved up to Indianapolis.
Jim: You live in Indianapolis?
Collin: Yeah, Westfield.
Jim: Okay, I knew that and I had forgotten. For some reason, I’m thinking I’m talking to people in Florida.
Collin: We literally just moved up two months ago.
Jim: All of you?
Collin: Yeah, so my parents had a house here in Westfield, also down in Florida as well, but my wife and I talked to my other siblings and we’re like, okay, we’d love to raise our family in the Midwest. I grew up in Chicago and I know how the Midwest rolls and the values that are here and instilled in kids at a young age. That’s not necessarily a case where we were in Florida so we got everyone on board. Our house was supposed to be done a lot sooner than it’s planning out to be. I’m living in mommy’s house for the time being, which is wonderful.
Jim: That’s awesome. I didn’t know this part of the story at all. We’re neighbors. How cool is that? We have to get together, show you guys around Indy a little bit, although Mom and Dad know Indy very well. How long have you guys been here?
Laura: Since 2017 so not long.
Jim: Oh, okay. You’re still kind of new to the area, still figuring it out. We have to hang out some time. I didn’t realize you guys were over in Westfield. That’s tremendous. We could meet downtown in half an hour. That’s so cool. That’s awesome.
Collin: Yeah, but real quick on the move, I thought this might be interesting. We thought the move was going to impact our business. Obviously, we’re going to lose all these replens that we had at Publix, so all the regional SKUs that we had but we moved up here and we’ve had two of our best months back-to-back since moving here. Whether that might be the case of living together for the time being or we just decide to really dive into it even harder because we knew we had to catch up, I don’t know necessarily what the reason for that result is, but this business allows you to move around. Like my mom said, you can go on vacation for a week and Amazon is still dealing with fulfilling your orders and customer service. That’s a great thing about selling on Amazon that we love so much. When we went out to Rich’s workshop, we had some of our best days of sales out there and we weren’t even working. We were learning.
Jim: You’re sitting there learning, yeah. That’s where it starts to ring some exciting advice that I start to give, the position you guys are in is you start doing the things that only you can do. You start chipping away at those pieces where, if we paid someone $10, $12, $15 an hour, we wouldn’t have to do this anymore. It starts making a lot of sense. You chip through that list and suddenly you’re left with not much left that only you can do. Those parts that you like doing but for the good of the business you’re better off working on the business instead of being in the grind. Then you become leaders in our community, start doing some coaching, you become our next Rich and Shelley Potter, we’re doing events here in Indy together, training other people how to do this stuff, having fun teaching and training or whatever your area of passion is spring boarding off of the success of your business.
Because the reality is, and you guys know this but I’m just talking to the listeners and reminding all of us, that 99.9% of the world, when you say, hey, you know what? You could have a successful business from home working out of your garage, sell $1 million. We need to talk about your margin, by the way, we haven’t done that yet, but you can put some great money in the bank working flexible, they’re like, no, that’s a pipe dream. That stuff doesn’t really work. We need people educating, telling that story, sharing. We need more leaders, need more coaches because this stuff is starting to catch on and the world is starting to wake up like, hey, I don’t know if I want to go do the 9 to 5 anymore. I might want to be home with my kids actually. I don’t know if I want them going off into some of this crazy stuff they’re learning over there. Families are starting to gather under their own roofs and build things. This is an explosive – this was crazy stuff taught 15 years ago. Now we’re mainstream, work from home, make some decent money, keep the kids around, all this stuff that used to be nuts is mainstream now. I’d love to see you guys make that transition and that journey into some kind of leadership education role, if it’s of interest. We’re always looking at recruiting.
Collin: I have friends all the time ask me, hey, teach me what you do. They obviously think it’s easier than –
Jim: Oh, it’s work.
Collin: Yeah, you have to grind. One of my best friends actually asked me to teach him. That’s something I like doing, obviously. They sent us their first sale and we were just as pumped as they were. It was so exciting to see because, like you said, we’re changing lives at the end of the day, even though it’s so small or it seems so small. When we took Kate’s class, I’m sure she didn’t think teaching us for four weeks or six weeks or whatever it was was going to change our lives significantly and it did. That’s just something that I think we’re both passionate about is helping people find what they’re passionate about and attack it and obviously we like Amazon so do it through Amazon. It’s truly an awesome gig that we have and being able to do it as a family. My wife and I are able to pay for a house in this area, not that materialistic things are what it’s all about, but I’m able to provide my family with a nice living in just one year of doing this. It is possible. It just takes work to get there. It is really exciting.
Jim: I just encourage you, Collin, and for anyone else, too, this really is just the start. Selling physical products FBA to people you probably never meet, that’s a model that really, really works, but it’s just the start of possibilities, like you just said, plenty of people are going to notice when you’re succeeding and go there’s something I can learn from this person. We’ve built a nice platform to operate on where there’s a lot of people that need a lot of help. You guys, what I love is, let’s say, we have another live event here at whatever point in the future, and you guys are there, you’re going to have people come up to you and say that was the episode, that conversation. My mom and I now work together. Before, we’d always thought, oh, family shouldn’t do this together, but then you changed our mind or some other part of your story that you don’t see coming, it’s going to impact a lot of people just doing this. It’s contagious. Because once you attach relationship to your business, that’s when it gets really exciting, and like you said, Collin, you feel like you’re changing lives and helping people. That’s why I love what I get to do coming up on 20 years, walked away from a great sales job. I was very nervous initially, for sure, but 20 years in, it just never gets old getting to hang out and talk with people like you guys just on a regular basis, the story rippling out, new leaders emerging. It’s been awesome hanging out with you guys. We need to talk margin but I don’t want to skip that part because that’s actually a requirement when we talk numbers. We have to say, okay, here’s what we’re actually putting in the bank so talk us through that a little bit.
Collin: Yeah, so our typical gross margin is around 26%. We just recently restructured at the beginning of this year, not super recently. We restructured to an S corp so we started paying ourselves a salary just for some tax benefits, I guess. Then our gross profit on average is ranging around 19% to 20%. It’s been really, really good. Obviously, people at home can do math on a $1 million, add those numbers, that’s a pretty good living for not have hiring anyone up until last week.
Jim: Oh, for sure, working from home. Flexible.
Collin: Exactly, and I get to do this with the people I love and I get paid to do that, that sounds like robbery. I don’t know.
Jim: It’s not supposed to be this easy. That’s not what they taught me in school.
Collin: Yeah, they didn’t teach me any of this in school.
Jim: I’m writing a book, Collin, I’ve mentioned it a few times. I have to get it done because I keep adding to the list actually. I just can’t finish this thing, but it’s all the things I had to unlearn from my traditional education, public education, in order to succeed in the real world. The list keeps growing. There’s so many misconceptions. Let’s start with profit is evil. Good luck in business or in life at all. You’re going to go work for an evil company that makes a profit if profit is evil? You have to get that out of your head. That’s just one of the more obvious ones. There’s so many of them. I find myself still unlearning. Our kids have benefited tremendously from never having to unlearn a lot of those because we homeschool. They avoid it. I love some of the questions they ask me. It’s like, wait, you never had that false assumption or had to unlearn it, this is great. They benefitted tremendously. You guys are on a beautiful path doing life together with your family right here in beautiful central Indiana. We have to go catch a Pacers game or something together some time. That’d be just awesome. I’d love to go hang out with you guys and get to know you a little bit better. What are we leaving out of the story? Anything else guys? Any encouragement for the listeners or any final thoughts? Anything you wanted to hit that we didn’t?
Collin: I don’t think so. I think to touch on your last point about profit being bad, we were actually just talking about this the other day. I did teach some of my friends. They’re like, “Oh, you’re price gauging. That’s not right of you.” I’m like, “You guys use Uber Eats, right? What’s the difference? They charge a premium for that service.” That’s how we look at our business. We’re providing people and connecting people with products that they either don’t want to go to the store for or they can’t find it.
Collin: Yeah, they’re paying for convenience. We are Uber Eats just on Amazon. Obviously, we’re not selling warm food or just food, but you get what my point is. It’s a service that we’re providing and it’s okay to be profitable because your success creates other people’s success. We’re able to pay these stay-at-home moms now, and then down the line, we’re hopefully adding on full-time employees. You’re creating success from your success. That’s the goal at the end of the day is to bless the people around you. There’s nothing wrong with having a profit.
Jim: Yeah, not only is there nothing wrong with it, one of my favorite quotes from a mentor of mine, Daniel Lapin, he says it is impossible to operate a business profitably without significantly improving the lives of innumerable people around you. Zero negative effect on anybody and tremendous positive effect on virtually everybody that it touches, the people who make this stuff. I love the Hebrew tradition, their meal time prayer, I don’t remember exactly how it goes, but when they sit down to eat, they pray before and after they eat. The prayer before they eat is just recognizing that on the table in front of them represents countless people who had different talents in different businesses, in different industries. Think about it sometime. How many people put some effort into just your average meal sitting around the table? The table itself, the salt shaker, the person who designed the salt shaker a long time ago. You can get so intricate. It’s tens of thousands of people that had to cooperate in some fashion to bring that. It’s recognizing, thank God for all the different talents and abilities and needs of all these different people that allowed this to come together. It’s pretty phenomenal. It’s a mindset shift.
Not only is profit not evil, it’s a sign that someone is doing a whole lot of good for a whole lot of people. If you struggle with that, you’re going to struggle to ever achieve anything significant in business, or life, I would argue. Great mindset. We need more people like you in your age bracket. It’s a battle for sure right now in our culture. That’s why sometimes I see this as something so much bigger than just teaching people how to make money. We’re doing cultural battle really is what I see it as. God bless you guys. It’s been really cool hanging out with you. Really good time. Let me talk to the listeners for just a second before we wrap this up. Unless you have anything else, Mom, I don’t want to cut you off.
Laura: No, I’m good.