Jim: Great to have you on board. Let’s jump right onto your story.
Ammi: Great, so I’m from a large homeschool family in New England. We grew up raising most of our own food and spending a lot of time together, studying God’s word together, and just really wonderful growing up and spending time as a family. I’m definitely very close to most of my siblings even now.
Jim: That’s beautiful. Where are you in the lineup of kids? How many were there and where are you in the line up?
Ammi: I am the eighth of nine.
Jim: Got you. The youngest, are they a girl or a boy? I’m curious.
Ammi: A boy.
Jim: Okay, so you are the little girl of the family.
Ammi: Yes, I am.
Jim: You’re the one everyone took care of. The rules were a little different for you, I’m guessing, because that’s how it is in our family with our only youngest girl.
Jim: I’m sure your siblings would say so anyway.
Ammi: I’m not the youngest but I am the youngest daughter.
Jim: That’s beautiful. I didn’t know that about you. Cool, all right. Have you always had an entrepreneurial tug or is that something fairly new for you? Talk us through that.
Ammi: The entire family has leaned towards entrepreneurialism my entire life. I didn’t really give it any consideration. I just started selling some stuff on eBay when I was 15. One of my sisters had an account and she wasn’t using it anymore so I started in there and started selling a couple things. They sold. It was a couple more. Then it was a lot more. Eventually, I got into buying things for the intent of resale. My first purchase there was a bulk lot, bought it for just over $206. I never calculated out exactly what I sold it for, but it was well over $1,000.
Jim: Nice, and that was all still eBay.
Ammi: Yes, that was all on eBay.
Jim: This is early on in your ecommerce career. It sounds like that’s the only income you’ve really ever generated is ecommerce, creative entrepreneurial adventures online. Is that accurate or have you had any real jobs?
Ammi: I have never had a real job in my life.
Jim: That’s so great. I didn’t know that about you either. I’m going to learn a lot. How long ago was that when this adventure started for you? What year would that have been approximately?
Ammi: It was the summer of 2013 when I posted my first thing on eBay.
Jim: Got you. Okay, that gives us a point of reference. You’ve been doing this a while. Do you still do some eBay? I know you’re big into Amazon now, obviously. That’s where we’re heading. Do you still hang on to eBay?
Ammi: I have a little over there, not a whole lot. It’s definitely been larger back when I was doing only eBay.
Jim: Sure, and Amazon has a lot more eyeballs now, a lot more customers. eBay used to dominate. Probably in 2013 they were still dominating or it was starting to be split down the middle maybe at that point. Amazon, of course, dominates now as far as just total number of customers buying things daily. That’s where a lot of us have transitioned much of our business. Talk to me about that transition to Amazon. How did that start to happen?
Ammi: Yeah, that was in 2016 right after I had made that bulk purchase that did sell well. My eldest brother had heard about Amazon for many years. He saw that I was getting into retail. He suggested that I check out this course he’d seen come out on Amazon. He had just seen something post and so he had thought of me. I took a look at that. We ended up buying it and I started looking at selling on Amazon, going through those training modules. That was the first time I’d ever heard of someone selling on Amazon.
Jim: Understood, okay. Your brother hooked you up with a course and got you started on that road. How did it go initially? Talk us through those early months maybe of selling on Amazon. What was the experience?
Ammi: That was back when scanning barcodes and clearance was the one thing that people were talking about. I gave that a try, but it just wasn’t going well for me. I found a few things here and there but just this little tiny amount and I really didn’t like the business model doing all these dozens of hours and coming away with three or four products on a good day that I could get a couple units of and never find again. I just didn’t care for that model at all.
Jim: You didn’t do that too long. Okay, good.
Ammi: No, I didn’t. That first training course had a whole bunch of classes by a whole bunch of people. One of them was about wholesale. I took a look at that and that really caught my interest. Once you find it, you can buy it again. That sounded really good. It was super, super basic, but it was something. I decided right then that this arbitrage thing wasn’t very good. I was just going to leave that behind and go into wholesale.
Jim: Got you. You made the leap to wholesale pretty quick. Talk us through that strategy. What were you doing then? How were you finding these wholesale companies? What were your research habits there?
Ammi: It was within my first six months on Amazon that I shifted to wholesale.
Jim: How were you finding these companies?
Ammi: I was looking on Amazon for products that were selling. Then I was looking on Google trying to find the manufacturers of those products and reaching out to them, cold, plain, basic email, and just seeing if they would open a conversation and consider selling to me. Most of them did not send back any reply of any nature. Then there were a lot of nos. Eventually, there were just a couple of yeses. By my first Christmas, I had a couple of wholesale accounts selling a few things there. That has held true with wholesale over all the years I’ve done it. I contact a huge number of brands. I actually buy from closer to 2% of them.
Jim: Only 2% of the wholesale companies you reach out to are responding positively, you’re saying. It’s a numbers game. You have to be persistent.
Ammi: Responding positively and moving into talking with them.
Jim: Right, just because they say yes, they may or may not have anything of interest to you.
Ammi: True, and they may or may not be profitable.
Jim: Sure, sure, which is – yeah, that’s what makes them the most interesting. It’s not like you’re committed to a certain category of products. It’s products that you can sell for a profit. You sell across many different categories, I’m assuming.
Ammi: Yes, I do.
Jim: Are you still doing some wholesale today?
Ammi: Yes, I am almost exclusively wholesale.
Jim: Got you. Because the last time we talked, I know you were starting to venture into Replens a little bit, too. I know that starts to paint some of the picture –
Ammi: I’m doing that now as well, but that’s much later in the story.
Jim: Sure, sure. We didn’t specify either the course that you bought early on. Was that the Proven Amazon Course or was it something different?
Ammi: Oh, no. The point we are at in the story, I haven’t even heard of you yet.
Jim: Got you. I wasn’t sure where we were in the history of your interaction with us. Keep it going.
Ammi: Actually, I do need to back up just a smidge. It was before my first Christmas when I first heard of you. It was after I started getting into wholesale. I just had that one little tiny snippet about it. I was poking around. It dawned on me one day that there’s got to be something better. I’ve gone through all the training I have in my possession. I have cold bought what I can from there. It’s not going particularly well. I know some people are doing really well. There’s got to be something better. I’ve always been an optimist. I just assumed I will find it and it will appear.
Jim: Good for you. I love hearing that. I’ve known that about you, too. It’s like, all right, let’s move forward. Lesson learned. Let’s go. That’s great. You started looking for some more content because you’ve been through the other course, gone as far as you could with it, and started looking for something different.
Jim: Take us through that.
Ammi: I pull up Google and I’m like, what am I even looking for? Because the industry doesn’t have a name. There is nothing that sums us up. I have siblings who are accountants. That’s a very nice title.
Jim: Right, learn to be an accountant.
Ammi: Yeah, it’s like, anyone who hears that isn’t going to fully comprehend what they do, but they’re going to have an excellent idea. My work doesn’t have a name. What do I even look for? I’m staring at this empty Google screen. I’m like, Amazon course is as good of a start as I’m going to find. I type it in. The search results come up. Yours was right up there on top.
Jim: Was it that day? Okay, because it’s not always. There’s plenty of times where we’re on page eight. I don’t do any search engine optimization. I never know where we’re at. Just get a bunch of people using it and liking it, that’s our strategy around here. We showed up on top. That’s cool.
Ammi: I typed in Amazon course and your website is Proven Amazon Course so I just figured it typically showed up high. It comes up there, Proven Amazon Course, number one course in the world. I’m looking at it like – oh, dear, I forgot part of the story.
Jim: Fill it in.
Ammi: Prior to this, I had found a few other resources. It was just a little bit here and there. I found one that was like $9 and I went through that. I wasn’t very impressed with it. I found another one that’s like $14. I went through that and I learned a little bit from them, but I worked really hard for that $9 and that $14. I didn’t feel like I truly got all my money’s worth out of them.
Jim: That’s pretty bad. When you only spend less than $20 and you don’t get your money’s worth, that’s bad.
Ammi: I wasn’t making much money at that time so I had a higher value on every dollar.
Jim: Of course, yeah.
Ammi: It was at the end of that that I had decided that there must be something better and gone looking.
Jim: That’s what sent you to Google.
Ammi: Yes, that’s what sent me to Google.
Jim: Amazon course search. Got you.
Ammi: Yeah, so this Proven Amazon Course thing comes up. I’m looking at it and I’m like that’s awfully presumptuous saying you’re the number one course in the world.
Jim: It is. You’re so right. I’ve never had anyone call us out on that, but it definitely is. I think we can back it up, too, with facts and data. Anyway, I won’t interrupt your story.
Ammi: I think you can. Here I am. I’m 18. I’m looking at this. I’m like, well, those other ones aren’t very good and this one is making quite the claim. I’ll just keep looking and see what else I see on this page. I look further down and I’m really not seeing anything that catches my eye. I go back up to yours and I’m like, well, I’ll just take a quick look. I pull it up, start looking at this website. Some guy called Jim Cockrum, never heard of him before. For some reason, I keep reading. I read a little piece here and a little piece there. There’s some pretty interesting stories. I keep skimming further down. There’s all these courses. There’s one about finding golden gaps. An entire course about coffee, who’s ever even heard of something like that? Not me. There were lots of courses. You had the one on wholesale at that point. There were like four that caught my interest, something that sounded interesting.
I kept scrolling down. I reach this very, very long pile of reviews, just keep going on and on and on. I start wondering if this Jim actually wants to sell this course, pages going on so long, it’s making me wonder a little bit. I keep going on further down. I was new enough. I didn’t know that many reviews was unusual. It’s just what you had there. It took forever to skim through those. I didn’t read very many of them, but it felt like an eternity until I reached the bottom. There’s the price tag, $349. I was so done. I left on the spot. Because if someone made all those courses and valued them at $349, he did not put enough time into any of them, for not a single one of them to be worth the time or money to go through them.
Jim: Wow, we have to get you on the marketing team because you’re so right. We would probably sell more of the course if we marked it up ten times. That’s funny.
Ammi: You might, but at the same time, what would that do to your vision?
Jim: Absolutely, wow, powerful question. Because you know the vision of what we’re about around here.
Ammi: Now I do.
Jim: We don’t want money to be something in the way of someone finding their destiny through ecommerce and helping their family. Anyway, don’t take me off track. This is your story.
Ammi: Yeah, I just had a thought.
Jim: You found the $349 price tag.
Ammi: Yeah, so just going in with a Google search and that one landing page and absolutely nothing else, I was 100% certain that you were a scam. I left in a hurry. I was like, that was disappointing. It was looking so promising. I was gone. I left that, went back to searching the way I had been, and decided that someday I would look around again and see if there was something else. For today, it was just a disappointing enterprise. I went on from there and…
Jim: Yeah, go ahead, sorry. I was just going to say because the price was too low. Had the price been, say, $3,000, what might have you done that day? Just curious, do you think you would have done something different?
Ammi: $3,000 would have been out of my budget by quite a bit but…
Jim: I’m just curious what the magic price point might have been that day where you would’ve said, all right, this feels legit and I could actually afford it. Because that’s the marketing magic of pricing content, the magic is you don’t want to undervalue it, but you don’t want to put it out of people’s price range either to be able to help them, especially when it’s something you truly believe you know it could help people. I’m just curious what number would you have had that you would have gone like, yeah, this feels right. I’ll do this today. Have you ever given that some thought?
Ammi: I’ve never thought about that.
Jim: Just doing marketing research. Maybe you can let me know later. I’m just curious.
Ammi: Maybe because I was still very new to this all. I hadn’t made much profit. I hadn’t sold very many items. If I had made a couple thousand, I think it would have made my list to revisit later after I had made more money and had the resources to pick up something, as long as I very solidly believed in it.
Jim: We had some work to do to earn your trust at that point, it sounds like.
Ammi: You did. I left there, went back to finding products as I could, and ended up with quite a few different courses over the next few months. Some were like the earlier ones. I probably should’ve saved my money. Some of them were really good. I learned some excellent things from them. Overall, it was a good period of time. Who I am today is made by what I went through. How the business is and how it’s run and what I know about running a business I got from the experiences I went through. I wouldn’t trade it, but I certainly could’ve shortcut a few things if I had found you earlier before I was going to skeptically view anything that came my way.
Jim: What are some of the things that you learned? Can you share some of that? Do you remember any of those lessons when you were toying around, jumping from course to course, probably less expensive courses and experts? Anything valuable pop to mind that you recall from that era?
Ammi: I remember that buying an item for a variation listing is a bad idea without knowing pretty much anything about variations.
Jim: That’s good.
Ammi: I lost less than $100 on that lesson so that was pretty good.
Jim: You can get real excited about a product that looks like it’s flying off the shelf when it’s not the blue one that’s flying off the shelf. It’s the red one that’s flying off the shelf. You have to learn how to read the data. Great example.
Ammi: Yeah, it’s good to pick that one up early. I’ve since sold variations quite successfully. You just need quite a bit of data and how to read the information.
Jim: You use Keepa and RevSeller, I’m assuming.
Ammi: Yes, nowadays I do.
Jim: Beautiful, that’s what we teach. The data is right under your nose if you know how to look it up. If you don’t, you could be confused by those things. That’s part of what we teach, but it sounds like you learned that lesson the hard way a little bit, too.
Ammi: Yet, for my – well, let’s see. I probably had three or four 100% losses that first year, but they were all relatively small purchases. I still ended that year at a taxable income.
Jim: Very good. Where’d your business go from here? What happened next?
Ammi: My specialty has always been wholesale so I ended up getting into more wholesale trainings from a handful of places, some really good ones that taught me a lot about how to approach a brand, how to offer them what they’ve always wanted but no one has ever been willing to give them, how to present to a company to pique their interest and that most companies are not in the market. That’s definitely one of the biggest things I’ve ever learned about wholesale. Most companies are not in the market for an Amazon seller, no matter how much you’re willing to offer them. Those that are, they are ready for someone. If you offer them what they are looking for, they will be delighted to have you. They are the best.
Jim: How many wholesale companies are you working with now?
Ammi: Just a small handful, maybe six or so.
Jim: That’s what you built your whole business, most of your business, based on those six relationships.
Jim: Very good. Keep us going. Not sure where you want to go from here, but it’s your story.
Ammi: Yeah, it was about six months after that disastrous first encounter with your website that I next heard about you. How exactly that came about I really don’t remember. It didn’t really stick in my mind. I remember that someone recommended something and I ended up buying a really low-priced thing from you, some joint thing that they had done. I trusted them enough to buy it. I purchased it there. Apparently, there was a discount code that was also sent out with that item, but I hadn’t used it. A few hours later, your support reached out to me and said, “You didn’t use your discount code. We applied it to your order and we refunded you the difference.” That really impressed me. I might not know much about this group and I might not have a very good opinion of them, but that one move is something I will never forget.
Jim: Wow, I didn’t know we’d done that.
Ammi: I’ve never seen customer service like that.
Jim: Yeah, that was probably Mary. She’s been with me when it was just me for a long time. She’s the longest employee that we’ve had – or not really an employee. She’s on contract. She’s been customer support for a very long time. She stays on top of things like that. She’ll see duplicate orders pop through. She’ll contact them and say, “Hey, you’ve actually ordered this twice,” and issue you a refund. I’m very proud of our team. They operate with so much integrity. I love hearing that. I didn’t realize they’d done that. That’s just how we treat people. We treat everybody, what I tell them is, as a good friend or a family member who’s wanting to get into the business. We’re not afraid to charge some money because we’ve got to get paid for what it is that we do, but we’re going to take good care of them.
Ammi: You certainly did. That was the first thing that impressed me about your group.
Jim: That’s cool. I didn’t realize that either. Learning a lot of new things about you today. That’s great.
Ammi: Yeah, that one thing I was going to remember for a very long time.
Jim: Yeah, that’s interesting how those little things leave such an impression, especially as skeptical as people are about ecommerce and online and working with strangers, everyone comes in with a bit of a skeptical attitude. Those little chances you have to prove to people that you operate with integrity, that means a lot and it can carry. That’s a highlight of your story. You’ve been interacting with us for years at this point. That’s a highlight of your story is that one little refund. It probably wasn’t even that much money, but it was the integrity behind it.
Ammi: It was less than $10.
Jim: Yeah, very cool. Thanks for giving a shout out to the support team. That’s just the good people that we use on the team.
Ammi: Yes, that one detail was the turning point. For less than $10, you started winning me over.
Jim: That’s really cool. Love it. From there, you became convinced that we might have something that was different, unique, worth looking into.
Ammi: Yes, not long after that, I found out that you had a Facebook group. I got in over there, started poking around, trying to figure out what this thing was all about. It was pretty widely known and talked about. Must be something more here. It was a while after that I found out you had a podcast. I started looking around at that a little bit. You really have to be in the community and listening to the podcast or know someone to know why My Silent Team exists, to hear about the mission of bringing dads home, and helping families, and giving people reliable resources without charging a fortune. You don’t get any of that from a Google search.
Jim: Oh, that’s awesome. I love that. How about if you put it in your own words, it’s not like we have a mission statement written down anywhere that we ask our leaders to memorize, but you’re hitting a lot of the bullet points if we did have such a thing. From your perspective, you’re a coach now. I’ve probably already mentioned that in the introduction so people know that. You’re a coach on our team. You’ve jumped on board into a leadership role around here. What is the mission? You’ve hit on a few of the things, but from your perspective, having observed us for a year, what is this group all about? What makes it different? Use whatever comes to mind.
Ammi: Now I’ve been with this group for four years. The chief difference is how much this group loves people. This isn’t about the money. That was obvious. It isn’t about success. It’s about the people, taking them from many of them from a place where they don’t feel like they have options and giving them hope and helping them build the life of their dreams, a life where they can focus on whatever matters most to them.
Jim: That’s a powerful clip right there, that little clip you just described it. It strikes me. I want to be a part of that. That’s what we’re trying to build. That is who we are. That is what we do. Hearing it from your perspective is powerful. It tells me you’re really bought into it as well. I can tell. You speak about it with passion. You’re not one of these bold, jump up on the stage and shake your fists in the air, announce the big this is what we stand for, but the equal amount of passion comes from the way that you methodically and thoughtfully lay out exactly what it is that we are all about. I encourage people all the time, Ammi, take your time. Discover this for yourself. You don’t have to believe Ammi. You don’t have to believe me. Take your time. It may take weeks. It may take months. It might take a few years for us to convince you that really is what we do. It’s relationships. Our events are more like a big family reunion than a business conference. It’s hugs and tears and checking in on each other’s families more so than it is – the content is phenomenal, but it’s become quite a family community. It is like family. It is family. We pray for each other. We check in on each other. I appreciate you spending time on your perspective on all of that. It’s a pleasure having you in a leadership role as well because I believe you represent all those things so well. Thank you for that as well.
Ammi: Thank you. It took quite a while for you to win me over, but once you did, I was delighted to be asked.
Jim: That’s awesome. Those are the best students, the best success stories. I love those stories and I have names popping in my mind and faces right now of people who really were skeptical. I’ve had people refund two or three times and then come back and be great leaders in our community because they’re just so skeptical. All right, here’s your money back. That’s fine. Here you go. The course, whatever it is, here’s your refund, but they come back. They keep coming back. Then they’re all in and then they build this incredible business. I love those stories because really, the journey is inside of you, not inside of what we do. It’s inside of you being willing to do the work, as you well know. You have to do the work. It doesn’t matter who your coach or leader or content is. You’ve got to do the work yourself. You can’t blame the content because our content flat out works, as you know. You have to do the work.
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You’ve got to do the work. It doesn’t matter who your coach or leader or content is. You’ve got to do the work yourself. You can’t blame the content because our content flat out works, as you know. You’ve got to do the work. Let’s keep your story going. What else do you want to talk about?
Ammi: There’s also a place where people come to trust you enough to believe in your content as well as a business cannot grow any faster or any slower than its leader grows. Until the leader is ready to take the business and is capable of moving that business forward into wherever it’s going next, it’s not going to happen.
Jim: That’s so good. Yeah, business growth is a leadership journey. I say it all the time. Your ability to lead is the cap. That’s the ceiling that you’re bumping against any given time, your leadership skills, your relationship skills. Very well said.
Ammi: Yeah, so let’s see. We just got into the first impressive thing you did, refunding me like $8.
Jim: Best $8 I ever spent.
Ammi: I was in the Facebook group. I was looking around. It really wasn’t a moment in time. It was just a process of a number of months when it dawned on me, one of these days I’m going to hand over that $349. It wasn’t something I did right away, but the day came when it was time. I gladly handed that over and have all the entirety of PAC ever since. Definitely an overwhelming quantity of information there, but a very valuable resource that I have gone back to time and time again regardless of what project I was on. I’d be working along on something and realize that I should move towards a certain subject, even if I wasn’t ready to at that moment, there was going to be something in PAC that would give me some guidance, even if it wasn’t something I’d act on right away. That is one mess of amount of information.
Jim: We often call it more of a library than it is a course. You go to the section you need when you need it. It’s learning, I think my son is the first one who brought this concept to me, but instead of just in case learning, which is the way most of our education system is set up, public schools and such, it’s, hey, we’re going to teach you a bunch of stuff just in case you need it someday. The Proven Amazon Course is set up just in time learning, meaning, hey, I’m ready to start learning more about this. My business has grown to this level. What’s next? You go to where it is you need to go when you need it and you learn those next few steps instead of taking the whole course from front to back, which no one has ever done. It’s all every live event we’ve ever done. It’s all in there categorized and cataloged so you can go to what you need when you need it as best as we can catalog that sort of thing. I love to hear that you’re constantly going back to it because that’s how it’s designed.
Ammi: Yeah, so I have noticed that of all the marketing pieces I’ve seen for ecommerce that most of them focus on their success stories, which is natural. Here and there, you’ll pick up a bit about their community and you can ask questions and get them answered and help you work through problems. That’s a wonderful thing. There’s something that gets left out of the majority of marketing. Not yours, I’ve heard you talk about it and Nathan’s mentioned it. For most of the years I’ve been in ecommerce, I’ve never heard a single person even mention this idea. We enter this field of ecommerce looking for more freedom, more control, more time with our families. Eventually, we get it to the point where we go full-time, so excited. We’re going along and we go and research some products by ourselves. Then we go buy the products by ourselves. We take them home and we prep them alone. You pack them up alone and you drive them off to UPS or have UPS come to you. By the end of the day, you spent a couple minutes with other people and you spent eight, ten hours by yourself, which for a time, is fine, but year in, year out, not so much.
The thing everyone leaves out is how lonely this industry can be, how much it’s just you, unless you take the time and intentionally put in the effort to ensure that there’s more than that. If you have someone working alongside you, that’s great. If you, like I did, run a small group with a couple business owners who discuss issues and talk now and then, that’s great, too, but even that wasn’t quite enough. You really have to take the time to be a part of a community to have people that you connect with a lot on a personal level, not just when something goes wrong, which is valuable. It’s immeasurably valuable, but you also have to have a social component of people that you’re just doing life together with.
Jim: Very well said. Why is that so important, Ammi? I know how I would see it. I’ve said on multiple occasions on this very podcast and I believe there’s a biblical foundation behind what you just said. If I was saying, why is that so important? As long as I’m paying the bills and I’ve got the things that I want out of life, why do I need to be hanging out with other people as I’m doing it? What case would you make?
Ammi: It’s very lonely to do it on your own. That’s the primary one that comes to mind.
Jim: Yeah, it is. My good friend, Daniel Lapin, talks about man is not made to be alone, it doesn’t just refer to spousal relationships. It’s any time you find yourself plugging away by yourself at any project for too long, it’s mentally, physically, spiritually exhausting. You will accomplish nowhere near as much as you would’ve or could’ve. Synergy is a real thing. One plus one equals five. You’ll never enjoy that if you’re doing it by yourself. You’ll never enjoy the benefits of it, let alone the spiritual, mental, emotional benefits, but even the financial benefits that are there from building relationships. Like with wholesaling, that’s a huge advantage even. Build those relationships. Get to know those people. Get on the phone instead of sending an email whenever possible. Get on Zoom instead of getting on the phone whenever possible. Go live instead of Zoom whenever possible. That just accelerates those relationships. That’s right.
Ammi: That really accelerates the relationship.
Jim: Yes, it does. This isn’t things that you and I came up with. These are thousands of years old principles that are taught in biblical business principles that have been understood for thousands of years by the Hebrew culture especially. Yeah, this stuff works. Not only are you avoiding loneliness but you’re actually accelerating your business and keeping yourself healthier, too, mentally, emotionally, a more stable person. The example I give sometimes, Ammi, that I’ve used before is, when we torture – when in combat an enemy is captured, the worst form of torture is isolation. We do that to ourselves sometimes unintentionally when we block out the world and just say no to the grindstone in our business. That’s mentally exhausting, psychologically very damaging. Social media is no replacement, by the way, for real people, just in case anyone is wondering. That’s not a replacement.
Ammi: It can assist.
Jim: It can assist in the building of real relationships, for sure, but you’ve got to make that transition at some point. That’s a great tangent to get onto. I love it. That’s a topic of passion. If I didn’t have an Amazon podcast, that’s the kind of stuff I’d be talking about all the time actually.
Ammi: Relationships, they can break us all.
Jim: Great topic.
Ammi: Being around more business owners, you hear how they’re doing things, you hear what they’re trying, you hear what worked today and what stopped working today. There’s a lot of ideas to be had. There are also downsides. I got my Facebook account back in 2016 because all the course support systems were on Facebook so I had to have an account to be able to ask questions. I got that set up. I started reading in a variety of communities. I discovered some very interesting things. When I sent my first shipment, I just sent my first shipment. You figure it out. You put it together. You send it off. I start reading in these communities and I discover most people freak out over their first shipment. They get all concerned and take forever. They are so afraid of getting it wrong and it goes on and on. Okay, I just did it and I sent it and it worked. I figured I must have done it right. I never even considered I wasn’t. Amazon didn’t talk to me about it so that was that. That allowed me to play over into my life because when I went to create my first pallet shipment, I probably freaked out about that more than most anything else I’ve ever done. That little piece where you have the shipping label and the FBA warehouse label being the same thing, that didn’t help any. It was missing half of it.
Jim: Yes, that’s when it’s good to have a community to bounce those things off of, for sure. The thing I’ve noticed about a community, too, is good news floats at a different pace than bad news. Positivity is contagious as is negativity. They’re both contagious, but one of them spreads far faster, exponentially faster if not monitored. Bad news spreads so fast. A testimonial, that gets some attention. Somebody saying, “Oh, no, the sky is falling. Amazon just did this.” Everybody knows five minutes later. Then you have to dispel it for the next three weeks to straighten it out. No, that’s not actually what’s going on. Everything is okay. No one panic. Everyone stay calm. Then spreading the news that everything is okay takes forever. Panic is easy. Spreading good news and solutions is hard. Spreading success stories and seeing the good stuff, that’s hard. That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of work of leadership in online communities. 67,000 people is no joke to keep everyone informed and content. We run a very transparent form, as you’ve seen.
Ammi: Yeah, I remember when you crossed 30,000.
Jim: Yeah, it just keeps on growing. Transparency and results really is what it is, all the success stories. I’ve always told the team, and I’m sure I’ve told you at some point as a coach when we’re talking, if this ever stops becoming ineffective, we can’t help people build real businesses, we turn it off. We’re not going to pretend we’re good at something that we’re not good at. We keep going and keep growing and people keep coming. That’s what we do. Keep us going with your story. I want to get into some of the specifics on your business as well, where you’re at now, and maybe some lessons from the last few stages of your business growth.
Ammi: Yeah, I don’t remember what year it was, but Jimmy Smith published the Replens course. I do not remember how many years back that was but it was a couple. I remember hearing about it – how many was it?
Jim: We’ll be coming up on three years pretty soon, yeah.
Ammi: Okay, so I heard about it. It sounded really interesting. I went and dug into it far enough to get the basic principles. At that point, I knew this is the best I’ve ever seen for someone starting out. I’ll recommend this to anyone I know starting out. I went back to my wholesale, kept going along there. It wasn’t until earlier this year, maybe April, that I had this idea. What if Replens was for me? Not just for the people just starting out who haven’t done anything with anything ecommerce, what if it was also for established businesses? While I love wholesale, it had been running into some pretty major problems at that time. Between COVID and shipping delays and raw material shortages, there was a lot of stuff I couldn’t get. What I could get would sell for the best margins I’d ever seen in any of those products, but availability was just so low. Combining that with how seasonal my business was with a strong peak season in summer and then another smaller one for Christmas, I’d been looking for a while for something that could even it out a little, bring up the low months and provide a more consistent base to work off of.
I started poking around with Replens. I had a substantial background in Amazon and ecommerce. It took me a little bit to work through the primary challenges of arbitrage and make sure I had a good plan going into this before I jumped in. I started looking for products. It really just took off since then. It was pretty slow at the start. Over the course of the summer, it started ramping up a bit. By the time I came to Proven in July, I had over 100 ASINs in the testing phase. It’s just continued growing since then. I was looking at it earlier. I’ve got about 120 active Replens ASINs right now. That’s not all that I have. There are a lot that you just can’t find enough stock for on any given week, but with sufficient ASINs, the however many, 70%, 80% that are available this week are enough to give you a nice baseline. You hope to have full coverage on everything all the time, but that just doesn’t happen in the real world. In a perfect world, we would buy what we need however many weeks before we need it. There are some things that I just buy everything I can find whenever I can find it. Even if I don’t need it today, I know that this item is proven. It will sell. It sells very well for me. I’ve sold it long enough that I know it’s not always available. Even though I don’t need it today, I know I will need it before it’s available next, most likely. I’ll just pick up whatever they’ve got.
Jim: Right, and you develop those instincts over time as you get into the Replens model. You’ve only been in it six months, I would say.
Jim: Less than that, and just a few months in, you had 100 products you found that are profitable as you can find them. You say 70% to 80% of them at any given time you can go buy more when you need it off of retail store shelves, which this is the model – for those of you, maybe this is one of the first episodes you’re listening to today, the Replens model is a theme in our podcast frequently. I would say 90% of the episodes from the past year and half we’ve mentioned, explained, shared success stories of the Replens model that Ammi is getting into right now. We’re not going to dive real deep in that direction, but it is a powerful model. I love that even an experienced seller, you’ve been doing ecommerce since you said 2013 when you started, Replens just the last few months. You’re pretty excited. It’s not just for new sellers. There’s a stability here. I love that you said the baseline. It’s just such a predictable, stable model. Go through some numbers with this. Your wholesale business, if you put it on a pie chart, your wholesale is still most of your business, I take it.
Ammi: It is. Yeah, it’s still 93% of my company.
Jim: Replens is just 7%, but you’re starting to see the potential of it.
Ammi: Absolutely, and I have for the past couple of months. I’m not at the point yet where I can go out and find 100 new listings, but I can find a handful. There are so many more. I have hundreds of products to go through, just begging me to go pick up my $20 and $50 bills off the shelf.
Jim: Yeah, you’ve heard me say that. That’s what it feels like, isn’t it?
Ammi: It does. I have a VA, have for years. She finds wholesale leads for me, has for a long time and was really good at that. I’ve been getting her into finding some Replens products for me. She doesn’t surpass me in skill yet, but one of these days, I’m sure we’ll get there.
Jim: It’s you and your VA. Do you have anyone else helping you in your business?
Ammi: Not at this time.
Jim: What numbers are you comfortable sharing with us? Approximations are fine.
Ammi: Yeah, so let’s put it this way. About a week and a half ago, almost two weeks ago, I posted that update in the Replens Facebook group about my five-month anniversary from the first day I started looking for Replens to that exact day five months later. At that time, my revenue for the 30 days leading up to that was $10,800. Today, about 12 days later, it’s $13,800 for the trailing 30 days.
Jim: That’s Replens.
Ammi: That’s Replens.
Jim: Got you. You separate out your wholesale.
Ammi: At this point, I’m just running them totally separate. They’re different departments. They’re very different in so many ways. I haven’t done a merge on them. The closest I’ve come to merging numbers was figuring out the 93%, 7%.
Jim: Yeah, and that’s very precise. I appreciate you doing that for us. What is your overall business?
Ammi: I’m not sure what you mean by that.
Jim: I’m sorry. Give us some – what are you hoping to sell in 2021 total, overall, total sales volume and margin, what are the general goals you’ve got there?
Ammi: Yeah, I haven’t merged margins on the two departments either.
Jim: You can list them separately. That’s fine.
Ammi: Yeah, wholesale net margin is about 10%. Replens gross margin was what I had calculated with the five-month anniversary. I did not pull those numbers.
Jim: That’s okay. Do you know approximately off the top of your head? You can always supply them after the podcast episode is over, too, and I can mention it in the show notes.
Ammi: Yeah, I completely forgot to pull those for this. I think it was 19% margin and about 56% ROI.
Jim: Yeah, that’s pretty typical. It’d surprise me if you were vastly higher or lower. Those are right in the middle numbers. About the highest we ever see is a 30% net margin.
Ammi: That’d be lovely.
Jim: Total volume in sales for the year? Do you have a goal there for wholesale plus Replens combined?
Ammi: Yeah, it’s not something I’ve considered a whole lot. Year over year is the only way I compare my company. It’s so seasonal. It fluctuates so much month to month. I have to compare a month this year to that same month last year to have a comparison. Doing that for this August versus last August, this September versus last September, I’m coming in at a revenue over 200% of last year. The company has doubled for the months of August and September.
Jim: That’s phenomenal. Well done. Is Q4 typically a big season for you, these final three months coming up?
Ammi: Not at all.
Jim: It’s not, okay.
Ammi: I’ll see a slight increase, but it won’t even come into half of what my peak season does, maybe closer to a third on a good year.
Jim: Sure, sure. I hate to keep pressing the point, but do you happen to know what your total sales number will be for the year, just approximation? Right now, I don’t know if we’re talking a couple hundred thousand or if we’re talking close to a million. I have no frame of reference. About what is the size of your company?
Ammi: A year to date is about $330,000. If this trend continues, I’ll end at $450,000. Will it continue? Maybe, maybe not.
Jim: Yeah, but that’s a good rough estimate of what we’re looking at besides the business. As a young lady running her own business, how many hours a week do you put into this, would you say?
Ammi: Right now, it’s full-time, but it hasn’t always been.
Jim: Yeah, it’s your full-time job selling, what looks to be, probably easily clear $400,000 unless something strange happens, aiming for $450,000 at nice margins. That’s a significant business. That’s a very nice business. Having the flexibility of controlling your own schedule and a lot of people would be very jealous of that lifestyle.
Ammi: It is a nice lifestyle.
Jim: That’s awesome. What part of the country do you live in?
Jim: Are you near any big cities or fairly rural?
Ammi: I’m halfway between Boston and New York City.
Jim: Got you. Plenty of places for you to source, do you feel like, for Replens?
Ammi: I have two routes that are about an hour each. I have another route that’s three hours. There’s another route that I’m thinking of adding, but I haven’t taken the time yet to go and check it out.
Jim: You do most of your own shopping still, I’m sure, too, then.
Ammi: I think it’s about a three-hour route there as well. Yeah, at this point, I still do all of my own shopping.
Jim: That’s one of the things you can start to automate so you can start to grow at the point where you’re finding more Replens and you can pick up on your own. I can’t get away from it myself, Ammi. I was at the store before we started this podcast episode today, picking up a couple things that Andrea needed, and threw a few $20 bills in the cart as I’m walking through the aisles, flying through the aisles so I can get back in time for our episode. It’s infectious. You can’t stop once you see the money laying around. Hiring shoppers is one of the really good moves we made just so there’s other people out there at any given time hitting those hard-to-find items off the shelf around town. They can drive a little further in one direction or another than you can. It’s really given us a boost as far as keeping our list hit and keeping inventory in stock, which is the challenge in this model.
Ammi: It is surprisingly so.
Jim: When you know what you’re looking for, this stuff sells.
Ammi: I’m looking at adding someone to take over prep and ship for me. That was a good start, certainly free up a lot of time and I can go find that many more $20 bills laying around.
Jim: That’s right and start doing some coaching for us as well as a new coach on our team, pick up a few students and talk them through the process.
Ammi: Yes, I already have one and I hear I’m going to get at least one more.
Jim: Oh, that’s great. Got you up and rolling. I’m proud of this team. I think we’re coming up on about 40 coaches at this point and you’re one of the latest additions. We’ve added another one since we added you, I think.
Ammi: A couple more.
Jim: Yeah, it’s really fun seeing them pop onboard and just enjoy the vision and help build the vision and buy into what we’re all about around here. Without exception, they all just genuinely love people. They care for people. They want them to succeed. They’ve succeeded themselves. Welcome to the team, officially, although I’ve probably said it a couple of times already. It’s really great having you onboard, Ammi. What other lessons –
Ammi: Thank you. Glad to be a part of this.
Jim: It’s an honor. What other lessons do you have for us before we start to wrap this one up? Anything else come to mind? Do you have any notes on anything that you wanted to share?
Ammi: We made it through most of the tale.
Jim: Yeah, we sure did. You did a great job. I love hearing your story filling in some gaps. If there’s anything else, this was a chance to take your time and just share any lessons that you’ve got for folks. That’s fine if you don’t. No pressure. Just didn’t want to cut you off.
Ammi: I would say to the listeners that, if you have the opportunity to attend a Proven Conference in-person, do it. The smallest, most insignificant piece you will get out of it is the training sessions. What you actually attend for is the people. With hundreds of people there, that can seem daunting and find a couple, when you meet them one moment and then you lose them in the crowd, but you find a way. You meet just a small handful that you really connected with that you liked just as people and you start a foundation of a relationship that could last for decades. That’s definitely the best part of all the e-conferences I’ve been to, but of them, Proven was the best conference I have ever attended.
Jim: Wow, that’s high honors. You’ve been to quite a few conferences in the ecommerce industry.
Ammi: Not a lot but…
Jim: Enough to have preferences.
Ammi: For sure, and Proven is top of the list.
Jim: Wow, that’s cool. Didn’t realize that. There’s some other great events out there. I’m a fan of going to any event any time you can, get out and meet people. I completely agree, by the way. Some people might think, oh, well, she just said the content is not the best part. No, it doesn’t matter how great the content is. It doesn’t beat building great relationships with the people sitting next to, in front of, or behind you at the event. That’s the power of the event. We’re very intentional about trying to help make that happen for people at our events. We encourage that. We have plenty of free time in the schedule, for example, for those types of interactions to happen organically. Because you can watch YouTube videos any time, but getting together, there’s power there in the gathering.
Ammi: The content was some of the best content I’ve ever seen. I wasn’t saying anything against the content.
Jim: Sure, of course not. Yeah, I completely understand your point. No matter how good it is, it doesn’t beat the power of those connections. You get the recordings. We encourage people, hey, skip a session. You’re going to get the recording. Go meet some people. That’s a great lesson.
Ammi: The content is the least of what you get, but it is so great in and of itself, how much more so those relationships. It gives you a time to not be alone, to connect with people who understand this cross between English and alphabet soup we tend to talk in.
Jim: Yes, all these acronyms, right?
Ammi: Yes, and sometimes even I mix them up and pull the wrong one.
Jim: Yeah, oh, trust me. I do as well. I see acronyms all the time and I don’t know what that is. It’s flown past my face 50 times before and I still don’t know what it is. I still don’t know what ASINs stands for. I mean, I know what an ASIN is, but if you tell me what’s the acronym ASIN stands for, Amazon something, something number. I don’t know. Yeah, don’t be intimidated by the acronyms. Just ask. One of the things we do on our Facebook group is we have a list of acronyms people can reference and look up and find out what some of these things are. We’re not doing it on purpose. For example, the Proven Amazon Course, we call it the PAC because it’s so much easier than saying Proven Amazon Course 500 times a day, just PAC. It happens organically. We didn’t do it on purpose to confuse anybody. What else is on your mind? Go ahead.
Ammi: One more thought on acronyms, there’s what you see when you first see it online and you just assume how it’s pronounced. Then you go to one of these events and you hear people talking about it and then you learn how it’s actually pronounced and it’s often different.
Jim: With names as well, like your name, for example. How many mispronunciations have you had? It took me a while myself to start calling you Ammi, but now I correct others. It’s like Tammy minus the T, guys. Come on. My name gets butchered all the time, too, so I can relate. This has been a good episode. Did we leave anything off? Anything else pop to mind before we start to wrap this one up?
Ammi: Just one more. Most people don’t know this, but I was never supposed to end up in ecommerce. I had other plans. I was going to go to college and be an accountant. I thought that was my calling, but God intervened and that did not happen. He very solidly closed a couple of doors. By the time they reopened, I was so far into ecommerce that I never seriously considered it by the time it was an option again. I just want to say that I’m so grateful to God for bringing me here. I’m sure I would have done well as an accountant. I would have chosen to make it my calling and have given it everything I had. As an ecommerce business owner, I get quite enough accounting keeping the books. I don’t think I would be as happy if I had taken that route. For sure, I would not have learned the things I learned owning my own company or met the people I’ve met. It would’ve been a very different life. I’m just glad this is the one that God had for me.
Jim: So well said. To end on a note of gratitude, that’s beautiful. We’re certainly glad that God ushered you in this direction as well. Our community has benefitted in many ways from your knowledge, your experience, and now your leadership role on our team, very excited to have you on board. Thank you for speaking from the heart. You said some things very succinctly today. There’s four or five points where I’m thinking we have to capture that clip. That was good. That was really good the way you said it and the sincerity. I appreciate your honest sincerity and humility as well that comes through in everything you say. You speak from the heart. You always have, every interaction we’ve ever had. I certainly appreciate that. I think that’s a good place to wrap it up.
I’m going to talk to the listeners for a second, okay, Ammi, and just thank them for hanging out with us. Thank you for spending some time with us. Hope you enjoyed that. I say this so often, but if you didn’t like it, I don’t know that that bothers me a whole lot, because I loved it. This is my show. Hopefully you enjoyed it, but man, I had a great time getting to know Ammi a little bit, filling in some gaps on her story, and hearing her speak from the heart about the vision and what this community is all about and some encouraging specific tips and strategies. Just very proud to have great leaders that I get to work with every day. This was just one of them you got to meet today.
Until we have another great episode for you in the near future, I’m going to sign off here, but remind you that the great leaders on our team, like Ammi, like all the other coaches, and the moderators, and the content creators, it’s close to 100 people that go into what we do around here. We’re in your corner. We’re rooting for you. We’re cheering for you. We don’t see you as a competitor. We see you as a fellow business-building warrior on a very similar journey. Build some relationships, like Ammi encouraged today. Reach out. You don’t have to wait for one of our live events. Get on a phone call. Get on a Zoom. Find out who lives near you. We help you with that on our Facebook group. Get together in person. I think that’s a good challenge she left us with today. Until we have another great episode, this is Jim signing off Silent Sales Machine Radio. We’ll talk to you again real soon. Thanks, Ammi, you did a great job.
Ammi: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: Hey, before I let you go, one last reminder about sellics.com. They can help you analyze your pay-per-click campaigns for free with their market leading Amazon PPC evaluation tool. Get started now by visiting sellics.com/silentsales. After you submit your request, you’ll receive a monthly email that shows you the exact changes you should be making to achieve a lower average cost per sale spend on your ads. Plus, I want to remind you that all listeners today receive an optional bonus call with a Sellics pay-per-click expert to discuss your campaigns. That’s a $400 value. Start evaluating your campaigns now for free by visiting sellics.com/silentsales. Hey, we’ll see you next time.
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