Jim: It’s great to have you. Really looking forward to this. I want to jump right into your story and hear what thoughts you have for us today.
Vicky: Sure. Thank you. I’ve been with Amazon since 2017, so a little over four years now, and my path to get here has been a little bit crazy, a little chaotic in a good way, nothing bad, but my life has always been a little bit unusual I think. I’m retired military, retired air force.
Jim: Thank you for serving.
Vicky: Thank you. Thank you. My husband’s also in the Navy, so we’re very much a military family. I’m also a classroom teacher. I retired from teaching just a couple of years ago, so I taught middle school, and I taught a little bit at college level, history, so that’s been a lot of fun, but I’ve always had a parallel career going on, but my parents – I grew up in the restaurant business, and my parents were entrepreneurs. My mom very much so. She’s always had a side business in crafts and always doing her thing. As a kid growing up, it’s just always interesting to follow along with that, the family business. When I was just getting ready to start grad school – I was out of the air force – my mom wanted to reup one of her businesses, and she used to make candles, handcrafted candles, so I said let’s do this together. Let’s do a business, mom.
Jim: Handcrafted handles you said?
Jim: Candles, sorry. Alright, I’m glad we clarified. I know what a candle is.
Vicky: Let’s do this, mom, so we actually did. We started a business together and did that for a few years together, and then I went off – I moved away to start a new job, and she kept up with the business. My life sidetracked a little bit. I got married, had a baby, finished up school, retired from the air force, went back to teaching, moved around a little bit, and in the meantime, my husband had gotten me hooked on eBay, so I had a little baby at home. I wasn’t working. He said let’s try this. We’ve got all kinds of stuff around the house.
Jim: When would this have been? About what year are we talking?
Vicky: This would’ve been about – my son is 12 now, so about 2008ish is when he got me into eBay.
Jim: Sure, so you’ve been selling stuff online for a good number of years now. That’s a lot of time in internet years.
Vicky: Yes. That was back in the day when – let me just back up a second. I tend to get a little bit of addicted when I get these ideas, and my husband was egging me on. He’s like let’s try this. Let’s try this. He used to be really good at it, so I took that as a challenge. This was back in the day when they still had PowerSeller. I don’t know if they still do that anymore.
Jim: Sure. I think you still see that term floating around here and there.
Vicky: Yeah, and they had the nice icons on there.
Jim: Yeah, I was a PowerSeller back in the day. We wore that badge with pride, right?
Vicky: Yes. Get the certificates. I’m like alright, honey, I can do this. I was a PowerSeller. Loved it. Really loved it. Then we decided to move back home to Florida and decided to move down to Key West, so we’ve been in Key West now for –
Jim: You’re in Key West now?
Vicky: Key West now. We’ve been here for about ten and a half years.
Jim: I was in Key Largo there for quite a while actually.
Vicky: Were you?
Jim: We should swap stories. Yeah, went to Coral Shores High School. Key West was the big rival.
Vicky: Oh, my gosh. Yeah, right up the road. Right up the road. We’re down in Hutcho and when we decided to move down here, my husband was going to do a specialized assignment in the maritime industry, so I decided – we decided I need to go back to work for a little bit, so I went back to teaching, and still kept up with eBay. I dragged all my stuff down here with us to the keys, which was a lot because I had all this physical inventory, and I just really enjoyed it. When I was teaching, I had always loved teaching. Still enjoy teaching, but I also knew that it was going to be a little bit of a time to move on. Things were changing in education. I saw the pendulum just comes back and forth a little bit and you see what’s happening in education, and I was sitting by the pool one day with my son.
He was in swim practice and I was listening to a lot of different podcasts and thinking what can I do. I really like eBay, but is there anything else out there? Didn’t even really know about Amazon. Listened to one after another, found your podcast, started looking up more about Amazon thinking hey, this is really neat. I wanted to get away from a lot of that physical inventory because it’s just – it’s cumbersome. I ended up talking with my husband about it, found the MST community, and fell in love. What a resource right there. Wonderful, wonderful resource.
Jim: For those who don’t know, she’s talking about our free Facebook group. Link at silentjim.com. Feel free to join us. We’re up to about 67,000 now. Do you happen to remember at what size it was when you found us?
Vicky: I don’t, but I do know it’s grown exponentially, so this would’ve been –
Jim: It’s growing. It’s such a great group.
Vicky: This would’ve been 2017.
Jim: Probably around 40,000 or so.
Vicky: About four a half years ago. It’s just phenomenal. I just can’t get over how much information is out there and how helpful everybody is. Between that, your podcast, and just knowing that I wanted to shift gears again, still loving eBay, still enjoying e-commerce, I then said to my husband – I said you know what? I really need to look at this Proven Amazon Course. I really need to look at this, and he was so supportive. He was great. Got involved with that, and I started with your traditional RA, the retail arbitrage just to get my feet wet. Had a lot of fun with it. The problem down here, though, is it’s a very small town our closest Walmart is three hours away, and –
Jim: Really? There’s no Walmart in the Keys yet.
Vicky: No, and the Keys are fighting that. They don’t want Walmart down here.
Jim: Yeah, to their own detriment. You’re not going to probably talk to Keys politics and have some fun, bore the listeners to death, but I was actually down there a couple of years ago, and I was surprised at how little there is there still. I was there in the late ’80s.
Vicky: Oh, my gosh.
Jim: It’s been longer ago than that, mid-’80s, I’m going to be honest, just there for vacation, but maybe that’s a good thing that benefits the listeners as we talk this through. There’s just not a lot of options. It’s little, small trinket shops and tourist trap type stores, right? Not a lot else there as far as sourcing.
Vicky: We have some. We have a – for example, a small TJ Maxx. We’ve got some Walgreens, things like that.
Jim: Drug stores, grocery stores, obviously.
Vicky: We’ve got some of that.
Jim: Along with the – what is it, the Winn-Dixie.
Vicky: Oh, yeah, the Winn-Dixie.
Jim: We don’t have those up here.
Vicky: No Winn-Dixie’s up there, and any southerner would probably recognize Publix too. We’ve got two right in Key West, so we have some options. It was enough for me to learn retail arbitrage, have a lot of fun with it, mix it up with a little bit of online arbitrage, but really, when it came to RA, I would hit up Jacksonville because I’m from Jacksonville which is on the northeast coast, and that’s where my parents are. My husband’s family’s on the west coast, the Gulf coast. I say the west coast of Florida. Every time I went up to see family, I would load up the truck from my runs to Walmart and Target and wherever I can go and then bring it on back down here to the Keys.
I learned it that way, and our house was filling up very quickly. It was just a matter of – again, back to this physical inventory, and I didn’t mind that so much as I just didn’t have a place to put it. Brought in some help. I had a wonderful, wonderful lady that came in and prepped for me two or three times a week, and that was fantastic. Got to know the UPS guys really, really well, but still, I knew I needed to get away from that, and it’s just – it’s a lot, and I know you’ve seen that whole process when you have a lot of the boxes around and nowhere to put anything, so I started getting more involved with the community. I went to the first conference – the first conference I heard about was Orlando, and that was right after Hurricane Irma came and blew us away down here, so we had to –
Jim: That was your first one. That was high stress. The Keys got – not as bad as they were supposed to, but you got hit really hard.
Vicky: We did, and the eye of the storm came right down our neighborhood, so we actually fared okay considering that. Roof damage, things that could be replaced.
Jim: It swung west over the Keys, right, and then came back east over the Tampa area or Orlando area where we were, right, if I remember correctly.
Vicky: It did.
Jim: It hit where you are and where we were too for the conference.
Vicky: Both areas because we had to leave, and my husband is military DOD, so we had to go to a specific location in Orlando. That was our designated spot, so of course, I’m thinking shopping, shopping, shopping, hoping that I still have a house to come back to, but while I was in Orlando –
Jim: Everything was closed, wasn’t it? The state emptied out.
Vicky: It did.
Jim: Wow, that’s crazy. We were down in Orlando. I have to keep in mind the listeners are listening to us too as we go through this, but I think they’ll find this interesting too just the timeline of this, but we were on vacation in the Orlando area. That’s where our event was going to be, and they told us to get out of here, so you guys were fleeing Key West, coming a couple hundred miles north – what is that, about 300 miles, something like that, north, and we were getting out of the state altogether all the way up to Atlanta. Turns out it wasn’t as bad as – for the Orlando area as everyone was thinking.
Vicky: No. A lot of rain. I kept thinking about you guys because your world was so new to me, and it was the first time I have heard – it was CES at the time when you called it CES.
Jim: Our conference was CES, yeah.
Vicky: Yeah, and I wanted to crash it so badly. That wasn’t really practical, but we did end up leaving Orlando and going up to Jacksonville for that very reason. They really wanted to move us. Jacksonville was home, so it was okay, so we ended up relocating again to Jacksonville, but in that process, I did end up learning more about PAC, getting involved with the course. I was doing a lot of coursework, and I was also learning a little bit about working with wholesalers, so I was doing some of the wholesale. I don’t remember if you had a course with wholesale then or if I just started digging into it separately, but I remember sitting in that hotel room in Orlando watching the news on TV about the storm putting in my very first wholesale order with my first company.
Jim: Wow, good for you.
Vicky: Just determined. I really wanted to do it, and learned about a tradeshow up in Atlanta. I know they travel, but in Atlanta it’s the Atlanta Market. I know Dallas has a big market, and these are home goods, big décor trade shows. A little bit different than the one that they do out in Vegas, so this is just a little bit more of a – like home and gift kind of thing. Wrangled my mom into that one and we ended up going up to Atlanta that following summer to go to that trade show. I just started really getting more and more involved with the community, looking at other options, looking how else I can expand, and I’m trying to think of even the timeline now because it seems like a blur.
It’s not that long of a time when you look at the big picture, but I did end up going to the conference in Champaign, didn’t know anybody, not a single person. Recognized all these names on – in the Facebook group and thinking wow, if I meet any of these people, how cool would that be. I didn’t know anybody. I flew out there and it was amazing. It was amazing. I met some friends there the first day. We still to this day that was two, three years ago now, two years ago – I can’t even remember – we still –
Jim: Three, probably.
Vicky: We still Zoom every two weeks.
Jim: That’s amazing. I hear that so often. You can go in our Facebook group for two, three, four, five years, but then when you finally do a live event and get together – it doesn’t have to be our live event, just any reason to get together with those people from that community that we’ve attracted – there’s a lot of overlap in just the way entrepreneurs see the world, especially internet entrepreneurs, especially people that are doing Amazon or eBay or selling physical products online. There’s something about this group that’s so special. When you actually meet and gather in person these lifelong relationships seem to form so quickly.
Vicky: Yeah, they do.
Jim: People really gravitate to each other and do life together from that point forward.
Vicky: Part of it is we work alone in so many cases or even if we have a team, they’re not necessarily with us.
Jim: Yeah, it’s very isolating.
Vicky: It is, but I don’t feel that way anymore. I honestly don’t. Like many of us, we tend to be a little bit more introverted. I don’t mind being alone, but it really is great to be able to pick up the phone. At any time, there’s so many people that you meet along this journey, and it’s been amazing. I’ve just learned things I never would’ve thought about. During that particular conference, I remember going to Jenni Hunt’s session on KDP, and I went to that –
Jim: I was just talking to her a couple days ago. She’s doing some new, creative work for us.
Vicky: Gosh, I can’t wait to see what she’s up to.
Jim: Awesome family.
Vicky: Yeah, she was so much fun. Her presentation was great. She took us on that field trip to Barnes & Noble, which we don’t have that down here either, so any field trip to Barnes & Noble is a great day for me, but the ideas she had, I was so excited that – and I talked to a couple of other people, but on the plane home from that trip back to Florida, I sketched out my first book, and it was a children’s workbook. It was all about Christmas, community service, and how to get kids involved with community service. I was sketching that out on the plane, and this lady is sitting next to me. She was like what are you doing?” You look really excited, so I was telling her all about this conference. I got that one published within a couple of months after getting home. Published another journal – it was an entrepreneur’s journal – within a couple of minutes of getting home, and got pretty addicted to KDP as well.
That was another piece, I think, of expanding out these multiple streams, and I didn’t even think about – I never even really thought about the term multiple streams of income per se until listening to Ryan and Ryan Reger and Jenni and going through some of their courses. I got involved with Merch, and I don’t do a lot of Merch now, but I did for a while and still have some designs up there that still sell. I don’t do anything with them. I just get that check every month, and that’s pretty sweet to see that passive income come in, but all along, even though I was still doing some of these other side gigs if you want to call them, I still focused on FBA. That was my favorite. Getting the products in, turning more towards the combination of wholesale and private label, private label the easy way, and working with my suppliers, working with the wholesalers, figuring out which ones will let me repackage, which ones would let me switch things up a little bit, and right now, that’s pretty much most of what I do.
I do very little RA anymore. Some replenishables with things I’ve had for a really long time that just seemed silly to let go. You see it when you’re out and about. You think I can’t not do that. I can’t not grab that up. Most of what I do now is through working with wholesalers, working with private label. Love writing listings. That’s one of my favorite things to do is just write listings, get creative with those, and I expanded last year. My husband deployed last year. He was in Bahrain for a year, so while he was away for a year – and that’s tough, and my son is 12 now, so a tough time to leave, but that’s when I decided alright, I’m going to niche down a little bit more, and there was a particular area that really had done well for me. I’m waiting for the hiccups to happen, any little things that have to be fixed up, but it’s been a lot of fun. It really has been a lot of fun so far.
Jim: I’m loving your story so far, and I’m trying to listen through the ears of – the questions I’d like to ask versus I think there might be some new listeners in our audience who are like what’d she just say? What’s that? What I’m going to do is pause you for a second and talk about some of the things that you’ve dropped and ask you some more detail on some of those things.
You mentioned KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, publishing simple, small books. I’d love to hear how that went. That’s one of the courses that we teach. I believe it’s in the Proven Amazon Course now. It talks about how to create low content books. If not, there will be a link in the show notes. I can’t remember if we’ve added it into the Proven Amazon Course yet.
You called it the PAC, which is what we call it around here. There’s so many modules in there. If it’s not in there, I’ll put a link to it. Jenni does a brilliant job of talking through how to create books fairly rapidly. I want to hear how that went for you.
You talked about Merch. There’s a module in the Proven Amazon Course. That’s just t-shirt designs. That’s mailbox money. Our coaching director, Nathan, was like, “Hey, another check for work I did a long time ago.” I don’t know many people who are making a full-time living with Merch. It’s kind of swamped at this point. If you’ve got a few cool t-shirt designs out there, we do have a module that teaches you how to do that.
You talked about private label the easy way. If you’ll bear with me, Vicky, for just a minute, I want to explain to people what that is. That is taking a product out of one package and putting it into another one with your own label in it. We teach that strategy. For long term if that starts to take off for you, you really want to get it trademarked and branded. Other people can just swoop in and do the same thing.
Vicky: I’ve done that.
Jim: That’s a strategy we teach in the Proven Amazon Course. I’d love to hear how that went for you as well. I think that gets us pretty up to speed. You sound like one of these people – you’re very articulate as well, by the way. I can tell you do a lot of talking in front of other people teaching, communicating your point very well.
You’re doing a tremendous job. I want to hear a little more detail on how these projects went for you and what you’re excited about now in the next segment as we move into that. Talk to me about the KDP. How did that book do for you? I’m very curious specifically on that one.
Vicky: The first one I did, as I mentioned, it was more of a workbook. It’s not so much a printable or anything like that. It was designed for kids to be able to write into it. It didn’t take long to put together once I had the idea that I sketched out.
Jim: It’s a low content book by design. That’s the course that’s offered. There’s not a lot in there. There’s a lot of blank space for people who like journals and that sort of thing. There’s a big opportunity there.
Vicky: There is. It was a lot of fun to do it. I did my own graphics on that one, nothing super fancy. This is for kids. It didn’t have to be particularly amazing. The feedback was phenomenal. Once I published it, I originally had thought kids, maybe five to eight years old, younger kids who are learning about community service. The title includes something about getting on Santa’s good list, just a guaranteed spot.
Jim: You can give us the name of it if it’s still for sale.
Vicky: It is. It’s on Amazon. It’s 24 Days ‘Til Christmas: How to Guarantee a Spot on Santa’s Good List.
Jim: I love it. How creative.
Vicky: It did really, really well the first year. Last year was COVID, so it was a little bit trickier with COVID. I did sell well last year, but I think everybody was a little bit discombobulated last year with a lot going on. I didn’t worry about it too much. It’s already out there this year, and I think it’s going to do fine again this year.
The second one I did was an entrepreneur’s journal. That was really a lot of public domain quotes I had put together specifically with entrepreneurs in mind so that they can go through and look at a quote, be inspired, and think about what can they do in their day to either rise to this occasion or to correct something that maybe they didn’t, I don’t want to say they did it incorrectly, but maybe didn’t think about, just some of our famous people through history. I’m the history girl here.
Jim: That’s great. Can I put you on the spot and ask for a couple of your favorites? You don’t have to nail them. Just curious! What pops to your head? Do you have a copy of the book you can show us? That’d be great for those of you watching on YouTube. She just went to her shelf and there’s a copy. What’s the title of it so people can find it?
Vicky: It’s right here.
Jim: The Entrepreneur’s Journal.
Vicky: It’s quotes like, “Assure only what you can and are willing to deliver.” It’s that simple. Is there something that you’ve been promising that needs to be fulfilled? Take this opportunity to make it happen. That was Benjamin Franklin.
Jim: He has some golden nuggets. It’s all public domain now too.
Vicky: It’s all public domain, yeah. This one is Shakespeare. “Sometimes you will be faced with unsolicited advice about your business. In some cases the tips may be valuable. In other cases, the advice may work against your goals if not altogether dismissive. Who are your devils in business? What strategies can you put in place to conquer them?”
Jim: I had no idea that Shakespeare gave business advice. That sounds like a guy I want to look into a little bit. We’re all familiar with his plays, of course, but I didn’t know he gave any business advice.
Vicky: He did. I don’t know if I necessarily classify it as business per se. If you really look at any leader today, you can apply so much to business. You can really look all around you and find ideas in your business and how to apply it. It could be an artist that put something out there. I probably have an artist in the book. I don’t remember.
Jim: That’s such a creative idea. I’m going to have to pick up a copy. Would you send me a copy?
Vicky: I’ll send you a copy.
Jim: Send me a signed copy. That’s one of the benefits of being a podcast show host. I get a lot of copies of free signed books.
Vicky: I’ll send you three. This one I’m super excited about for KDP. I didn’t mention this before. I had started a picture book just before COVID. Then right after COVID started – right before COVID started, my husband and I decided to pull my son out of school. He was struggling a little bit with school.
I loved his school. It was a school that I taught in; loved the school, loved his teachers. They were all very good friends of mine. He had some needs that were – he was just falling behind. He was really struggling with math, things like that. I decided to home school him. I had already left the classroom by then, so it was no problem.
I was working at home, so I enjoyed the opportunity. He was all for it. He didn’t want to go to school frustrated anymore. I took a little bit of time, put Amazon on the backburner kind of as much as I could at the time. I needed to really get him squared away.
I put this book on the backburner as well. This picture book was the first time I hired an illustrator. This was an experience I don’t hear a lot about. I got the idea from talking to a wonderful couple at conference. I ended up going on Fiverr and found an illustrator. She was in the Philippines who does the most beautiful watercolor work.
This book is about a little red farm truck. She did the illustrations. They also got wrapped up in COVID. There was so much going on. This book took forever. Finally, just a few days ago it’s published. It’s now published.
I’m expecting my first copy in the mail today or tomorrow. I’m so proud and excited about this one not even because of the story. The story is fun, but it’s the illustrations. I would love to be an artist, and I’m not. To have somebody else bring to life an idea you have, to me that was a really, really cool experience. I want to do that again. That was a lot of fun.
Jim: Let me ask you. This isn’t a question you probably normally get. If you’re at a party with friends, they wouldn’t ask you this. For this episode, I think it’s very relevant. What did you pay to have that book illustrated? What was your expense?
You’re obviously excited about the art. You love how it came together. I don’t know what the number is going to be, but I think a lot of people are thinking that sounds expensive to have a really good artist illustrate your book. What did you end up paying for that?
Vicky: I’ll tell you this before I tell you what I paid. I don’t mind sharing that. Working with the Philippines, I think it’s important to understand there’s a big difference in our exchange rates.
Jim: I’ll even do that part for you so you don’t have to struggle through it. I have no problem with the fact that a $5 bill spends like a $50 bill US currency. It just does. There’s people down there – there’s doctors making $6, $7, $8 an hour professionally, went to a university, have their medical degree. They’re as competent as a US doctor making $7, $8 an hour. That’s how they’re feeding their family, and they’re excited for that career.
Vicky: They are. I’ve got five VAs right now, virtual assistants. Four of them are in the Philippines. In the beginning I felt bad because of the exchange rate. I’m thinking oh, my gosh. I’m not paying them enough, but I am. I know I am, and I have to get past that.
Back to the book, I paid all together probably about $450 to have it illustrated. I would love to recoup that but if I never do, just the fact that I published the book and it was my first true children’s book and it’s such a beautiful piece of art, I am so excited. I would have paid her double. It was a great experience.
It was well worth – she was a blessing to me. This particular book that is coming out, Rosie the Farm Truck, I want to do another one. I’m just so thrilled about that. I think there’s a lot you can do with KDP. I know people talk about printables and the low content books and I think that’s fantastic and there’s a lot out there too. I think you can do more also.
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Vicky: I think there’s a lot you can do with KDP. I know people talk about printables and the low content books and I think that’s fantastic and there’s a lot out there too. I think you can do more also.
Jim: Absolutely. If you’ve got a project that’s on your heart, there’s never been a better time. I’ve talked about earlier episodes of this podcast. I’ve talked quite a bit about it. Not so much lately, but just the power of being an author. You’re now an expert.
Even this past Sunday at our church, a young man spoke at our church because he had written a book on a topic. Our pastor even said we brought in an expert. He wrote a book on it. He said it almost in jest. The guy really knew his stuff.
We’re still there. I don’t know if that will be true 100 years from now. Right now if you wrote a book, you’re kind of the expert. It opens up so many doors that otherwise wouldn’t have. Now you’re a published children’s book author.
No one’s going to go – what are your credentials? They’re going to say wow, you published a children’s book. You must know a lot about children and entertaining them and how to communicate to them. They’re going to assume all these things, whether they’re true or not. They’re going to assume them because you wrote a book.
Congratulations. I want to get a copy of that one too, if I could. I wish we had a copy to hold up and show us today for those who are listening only. We don’t have a copy yet. It sounds like it hasn’t arrived yet.
Vicky: No. I should get that copy today. It’s funny and it’s ironic because when I was still teaching middle school, I loved those kids. I love that age. The kids knew that I loved to write. They kept telling me, “Ms. Scudder, when are you going to publish a book?”
My assumption was always that I would publish something that was more young adult, something more appropriate for a teenage level. When I came out with a picture book they’re like, “What? That’s cool. Where’d that come from?” I don’t know. It just came to me.
Jim: That’s so great. Tell us the elevator version of the story, this farm truck. What happens? What’s the lesson? What are we doing here?
Vicky: Rosie is just kind of a – I wanted a girly-girl truck. I wanted a girly truck. I’m not going to lie. There’s trucks everywhere. I know boys play with girls’ toys and girls play with boys’ toys.
I get all that, but I just really wanted a little truck with big eyelashes and blue eyes and a little bit of pink on her. You don’t see it a lot out there for girls. She’s kind of been going about her day. She’s on the farm. She’s got the animals.
Then the mayor calls her in and needs her help. There’s a storm coming, and there’s a train that’s coming through town that gets trapped and stuck because of the storm. I can’t give away what the surprise is, but there are some travelers on the train who need some help in order to save Christmas. Rosie and her farm friends, the farm animals, they gather together. She’s really nervous about doing this task that she’s been given. She doesn’t feel like she has the confidence to do it. Then the farmer who is her mentor helps her realize that she’s very capable of doing this task that he’s given her and that she ultimately has a confidence boost by the end of the story and makes some new friends and goes on to help save Christmas.
Jim: That sounds great. I love it. I miss that season. My kids, if I sat down to read it with any of them now, they’d be like oh, Dad. Because they’re all older. That sounds like such a great kid’s book nighttime bedtime story kind of thing. That’s great.
I want a copy of that one too. Listeners need to pick it up. Give us the title again so people can grab it, hopefully maybe even in time for Christmas if we get this episode out in time.
Vicky: Hopefully. It’s called Rosie the Farm Truck, very simple.
Jim: Fantastic. I want to make sure, the seeds I want to plant in listeners’ minds right now as we’re thinking through this is – she taught school. She’s qualified to write a children’s book. She’s qualified to write a business journal. No one came along and said guess what? You’re not qualified or you are qualified at any point. You just decided to do these things.
Vicky: That’s so true, Jim. I think a lot of people – we all do it. There’s a little bit of the imposter syndrome. Who am I to think that I’m as good –
Jim: The exact word I was going to use.
Vicky: Exactly. Even something like teaching, sure, I’m a good writer. I do pat myself on the back. I had an amazing middle school teacher 100 years ago when I went through that. He taught me to write.
I’ll tell you what. This book could easily be on a kindergarten, first grade level. Kindergarteners terrify me. They really do. I’ve never taught school with little ones like that. The idea that I could write a book for kindergarteners, I don’t know where this came from.
Jim: In small groups they’re pretty scary. I can handle them one at a time.
Vicky: That’s not something that I’m trained to do. Like I said, give me the older kids. I’ve taught college. Give me that level. This kind of came out of nowhere.
Maybe that’s why it was so much fun for me. I didn’t feel the pressure. Perhaps if I really was writing that book for my middle schoolers who would be so critical and they would really critique it, I don’t know. I don’t expect little ones to critique this. I don’t know.
Same thing with The Entrepreneur’s Journal that I put out there, that’s just experience. I think anybody can do anything. In my case I used these quotes, but you could take a set of quotes and just apply it to – maybe you’re a nurse. Maybe you’re a college student. Maybe you’re doing something different in your life. You can do anything.
As far as being the expert, if it’s something you want to do badly enough, you’re going to figure out a way to learn it. Get on Google. Get on the internet. If you want it bad enough, you can do it.
Jim: I’m just kind of processing who it is that I’m getting to know today along with the listeners. You sound like one of these people – do you have a journal by your bed where you’re like oh, idea. I can’t sleep. I just thought of this. You sound like one of those types, always a handful of projects running through your head.
How do you manage that? I don’t know if I’ve ever asked anyone that. I’m that way. You don’t have to be that way to be an entrepreneur. Many of us are.
How do you manage today I’m going to tackle these 3 of the 40 projects that I think are worth my time and attention. Talk me through that. Have you not perfected it yet? I haven’t.
Vicky: I have not perfected it. I would love to say I have a beautiful journal by the side of my bed. I don’t. I have a lot of sticky pads. I just have sticky pads everywhere.
Jim: Notes here. This is the stuff I hope to get done today that I won’t even look at until next Thursday. That’s how I am.
Vicky: I do have some notebooks. They’re nothing fancy. They’re spiral-bound books that I grab from my son. I do write a lot of ideas down, otherwise I’ll forget them. I will forget them. It’s terrible. I will forget it.
I have gotten really good at what I just think of as laser focus. I think when your personality is like I am, like you say you are, my son is the same way, my mom – I get it, honest, from my mom. There’s all these ideas going on. I realized quickly when I started with my business, with Amazon, and I started working with VAs that if I didn’t be very specific on what had to be done, then too much would get done.
Even when I decided to niche down into my area that I focus on now with Amazon, I had to learn how to say no to a lot of other things and put things on the back burner. Otherwise, it’s that typical shiny object syndrome. We all get it as entrepreneurs to different levels. If I let all that take over my day, I’m not going to get anything done. I had a really specific goal on what I wanted to do as far as what I wanted to achieve.
Jim: I have a good quote on that point before we move too far off of it, the saying no all the time. I put it in one of the versions of Silent Sales Machine at one point. I can’t remember who said it now. Maybe it was Jack Welch. Probably not, but somebody with a lot of success in business said, “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no constantly.” That’s so good.
You’ve got to learn to just turn off those voices and distractions. There’s good ideas. The number of people that call and say I’ve got a really good idea. I want to sit down and – what do they always say? It’s like pick your brain. No, I can’t do that. Could you summarize it for me in a paragraph and I’ll get back to you when I can? I’d love to have lunch sometime, but I don’t have time for good ideas. I have time for right ideas only.
Vicky: Mm-hmm. No, I think there’s a lot to that. It just takes a lot of active consideration about your time, a lot of active thinking. I remember my husband when he got home from Bahrain. He’d been gone a year. Now, thank God for the internet and Zoom and WhatsApp and all these things because we were able to stay in contact quite regularly despite the time distance.
When he came home, I’ve been working at home. I’ve got my setup, my groove, my thing, working with my son. He’s set up next to me homeschooling. I had to tell my husband, I said, “Hey, please understand that, from 9 to 5, this is what I’m doing. I can’t do X, Y, and Z, and please don’t be offended.” He was home on leave for a little while after that. I said, “Just please understand this is my focus. This is what’s got to get done.” It is hard sometimes to say no. It’s easy to get distracted.
Jim: Yeah. Here’s a little tip. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this or not. Do you listen to anything while you work when you got to be focused?
Vicky: I don’t. I am one of the only people I know who loses focus if I listen to music, for example. I can’t function.
Jim: Not music. It distracts me as well. Have you ever tried brown noise?
Vicky: You’re just putting it like silencers?
Jim: Have you ever tried brown noise?
Jim: Try brown noise. Just go on YouTube and type in brown noise. I describe it as the low end of the sound of a wave. You got the high-end staticky sound, like the chhh. It’s high end. You got the krrrr at the low end. It’s like that soothing low end of a wave almost. I can focus in so much longer, and I’m like the world goes away. I could just pound through work. Just give it a shot and maybe the listeners too. Let us know what you think.
I found a lot of us – I got my mom turned on to it. She actually sleeps to it. A lot of people sleep to that tone.
Vicky: The sound of ocean, yeah.
Jim: It really turns off all the outside noise and distractions and help. I think those of us who bounce around in our brain a lot, suddenly we’re able to do just one thing focused for an extended period of time, and I’m much more productive. I can pound through the work that way. Just give it a shot. Let me know what you think.
Vicky: All right, I will do that. Sure, I will do that.
Jim: I want to get back on to the Amazon. This is primarily an Amazon seller podcast. I like to drift into the stories of the sellers that we talk to, but I want to hear what’s working well for you now. We’ve hit some of these side projects. None of them are setting the world on fire necessarily, but they’ve all been worth doing. You’ve learned a lot. What is the bread and butter of your business now? Let’s dig into that a little bit and hit some of those numbers, for example, and some of the lessons maybe.
Vicky: Sure. Sure. The bread and butter is most definitely Amazon FBA. I finally learned to let go and hire a prep center, and I did that maybe a year and a half ago. That was a huge move, so that was big. Then I also started this year, the early part of this year – maybe in February, I hired my first VA. A week later I hired my second. Then realized, hey, why didn’t I do this a long time ago? Now I have five in total, and they’re not all full time. Some work more than others, especially this time of the year, but because of them, I’ve been able to grow.
Last year, in 2020, my Amazon sales were just over a quarter of a million, so they were about 226, 227 last year. This year I’ve put significantly more of an investment into what – my product, investing it in inventory, and I’m looking at more – closer to 500,000 this year so half a million.
Vicky: I have a lot of mixed feelings about those numbers. I know, when I was starting, I thought, oh, my gosh, if I can make $1,000 a month, I’ll be super excited. When you start investing more and you’re able to build up more and take the profits and put them back into the business, it does take a little bit of time. I started with very little. I just didn’t have a lot that I wanted to put into something or invest in something I didn’t know how it was going to go yet. I didn’t trust it yet. It was proven to me yet, so I started off small.
That’s where I am this year, so I’m very excited. That’s what I’m looking at for Amazon, for FBA. I keep my margin – it seems to stay steady between 30 and 40%, probably 35-ish on an average, so I’m comfortable with the margin. That’s where I am with numbers.
Jim: That sounds like private label products primarily? Your own labels makes up the bulk. I think you mentioned that earlier. You do some replens but the bulk is your own.
Vicky: It is.
Jim: What category is your product? Is it the candles?
Vicky: No, I don’t do anything with candles. It’s holiday. It’s all holiday.
Jim: It’s seasonal.
Vicky: Mm-hmm, but year round. Yeah, I mean, obviously, fourth…
Jim: Wow! Year-round seasonal.
Vicky: It is seasonal. Quarter 4 is my big bread and butter. Seventy-five percent of my year is going to come from Quarter 4, and that’s intentional because of what I do. I do sell through the year, and I do have other things I sell as well. My private label products, they’re predominantly – let’s say maybe 60% are bundles of 2 to 3 items per bundle. I learned a lot from Lisa as well. She was my first bundle queen that I had ever heard and listened to.
Jim: Lisa Larson, she goes live in our Facebook group every Tuesday, such a sweetheart.
Vicky: Yes, she does phenomenal.
Jim: Since you mentioned her – and she does business from her bed because her health keeps her bedridden a lot of the time. She runs a thriving Amazon business. She’s a coach on our team, and creates great content. This community has helped her turn her life around to the point where she’s found something. She says it helps her feel like she’s contributing. She contributes so much. We all benefit from it. I love when people have their Lisa success stories, yeah, such a good heart.
Vicky: Oh, yeah. Yeah, she’s just a welcome…
Jim: She taught you bundles, though.
Vicky: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I learned a lot of that early on. I took one of her bundling courses and then just kept rolling with it. This year I also went ahead and got – I went through and got my official trademark, went through the attorneys, did that for my brand, and I did get the brand registry rolling for Amazon. I’m now brand registered. I honestly haven’t done much with it. By the time that was approved, we were starting to roll into maybe July, August, and for me, as a holiday seller, my holidays are busy.
Jim: That’s prep time.
Vicky: I haven’t done a lot with it. When I went to Tampa this year for conference, I finally went ahead and joined the coaching group. I have my first coach now and that has been fantastic. He is helping me with building an audience, working with brand registry, how to take all these – not miscellaneous, these tangents that I have, all these multiple streams, I guess, and connect the dots to try to link what I can. He’s really been helping me lay out goals for what I need to do after the holiday. I’m doing a lot with him now, doing a lot that’s very direct and very meaningful for Q4 right now, but I also have this long-term plan of what needs to happen once I can breathe in January. That will involve a lot of building up the brand registry in Amazon. I don’t even know a whole lot about it yet. All I know is I’m approved. This is what I can do, but I haven’t done it yet.
Jim: Did you use our HumnBird by any chance to do that, the brand registry? Did you go through…
Vicky: I did not. I didn’t know anything about HumnBird until conference. I had heard about them.
Jim: Got you.
Vicky: I ended up going through – oh, I don’t remember what it’s called but it’s through Amazon.
Jim: Okay, their services. I got you.
Vicky: Mm-hmm, their services, they’re vetted. It was a very seamless process. They really know their stuff.
Jim: Yeah, sure.
Vicky: Had I known early I would’ve – but I didn’t.
Jim: Yeah. That is one of the services we offer is helping with the brand. Not only the brand building but, well, all aspects of the brand building, if you need design, if you need the layout, the professional pictures, or you want to get brand registered, your trademark, those kinds of things. We do have services for that. It’s not a big money maker for us. It’s just something that we…
Vicky: That we do.
Jim: The service we provide because so many people need it. Just curious if you’d used it what your experience was.
Vicky: No. I mean, I didn’t use them, but it can be an intimidating process.
Jim: For sure.
Vicky: Just knowing that somebody like HumnBird and the whole idea of here are all the pieces that you’ve got to do; let me help you get through it, I think it’s great to have someone hold your hand and walk you through it.
Jim: I’ll stick a link in the show notes. I love that you’re in our coaching program, though. You’ve been to a handful of our live events now.
Vicky: I’ve been to two.
Jim: That might be something – you mentioned you talked to – that you met some of your really good friends there. Talk to the people who have never been to a live event, either ours or another one. How important is it? It sounds like those were pretty good boosts for you, pivot points.
Vicky: Yes. I would say they were turning points, absolutely. I don’t think that you need a requirement. How can I word it? I don’t think it’s necessary that you have to be the biggest seller on the block to go to an event and I think that’s what I was afraid of the first year. I’m just this little guy and this little fish in a pond. Who am I? I have nothing to offer. I’m just going to absorb what I can. I almost didn’t go because I really was afraid that this was going to be way too big and too many important people for me, and I found that to be absolutely 100% the opposite. Not that there are not amazing, incredible, success stories in the group, and we all know there are just from listening to the podcast. I think the fact that everyone is – in this particular group, MST specific and the Proven group specifically because there are other groups out there, this group is so personable. The idea that someone just walks up to you and says hi, and hey, what do you do? Tell me about your business. I don’t recall feeling intimidated a single moment once I actually got there. I truly felt that I could walk up to anybody and just shake a hand, give a hug. I mean, people hug each other. It’s wonderful.
Yes, I think the sessions and the breakouts were fantastic. I mean, yes, there’s absolutely a ton of very good information, but I would say all of the networking that goes on between those sessions to the point that sometimes you’re late going into the session to get your seat because you’re trying to finish up a conversation, to me, that was so valuable. It was great. I couldn’t wait. We were going to go to Boca the year of COVID, and I was already signed up for that. Of course, that got put off. Then I really, really looked forward to Tampa, seeing people, just seeing friends, seeing people, meeting new people through the group that I wanted to now meet in conference. Tampa was a little bit of a different setup, just as good. Just a little bit different of an environment. Again, it was all those side conversations, those little, hey, let’s go chat in the hallway for 5 minutes, and that leads to 30 minutes later. The next thing you know you’re – you’ve got a coach.
It’s great. It’s really good. I would say, if you’re even just starting off and you think you want to just get to know this business and the right people, go, just go. If you don’t gain a single thing out of it, I can’t say shame on you, but you might get a little vacation. I don’t know. It was so worth it, absolutely.
Jim: Oh, we get such incredible feedback. The first couple times we did these conferences when we got people from the community together, I was very – I felt like I was under a ton of pressure to really deliver incredible content, and that’s what would make or break the event. We do provide great content.
Jim: You can get the videos in the Proven Amazon Course. If you wait a few months, they’re going to be in the Proven Amazon Course modules. It’s I don’t need to go. I can get the same content. The real value of it is, as you’ve pointed out and so many others have – pretty much everyone I’ve ever talked to about the event on this podcast, it’s been, yeah, the content’s great, but I know I can get the videos later.
Jim: I actually missed a few sections. I was in the hallway the whole third day. It’s the people, this community, the relationships. If we had started there ten years ago when we started doing live events and people are saying, well, that’s going to be the relationships; it’s not so much the content, I would’ve had my feelings hurt. Now I’m like it’s a point of pride. We build it into the schedule. Just getting this group of people together, there’s just so much knowledge being shared and friendships being birthed, and this is why we do business is for these relationships. I’ve grown and matured in my perspective on what these events are all about, so I appreciate hearing from you on that.
We’ll get another one on the books here soon. I wish I had a date and a place for you, but with the craziness of COVID and – I’m optimistically thinking I think we’re on the tail end of this. I think we’re going to get back to normal and be able to do these things. Our community really proved it when we brought about 500 people together right in the heart of COVID and had a great time and no complications, no problems. It was beautiful, so I think we’re going to see more of that in 2022. We’ll have another one coming up, but stay tuned for that.
Jim: I want to hear from you. You’ve shared some great numbers with us, some different business models of some of the things you’re in. Did you have any lessons? You’re a teacher. What’s the lesson plan today? Any bullet points you wanted to hit today before we started to wrap this one up? There’s about 30 other questions I think I could ask too. We’ll have to do a Part 2 some time for that. Anything that you’re like, oh, I don’t want to neglect saying this today?
Vicky: As far as lessons, I – we talked just a minute ago about the relationships in conference. Sure, I’ve been a teacher, and yes, I’ve been in the military. I’ve done a lot of things with a lot of people, but I don’t know if I really ever believed truly or really put a lot of stock into how important those relationships really are when you’re working in a business like ours because you are often by yourself. It’s so easy to sit alone all day and plug away at your work, but the value of those friendships and that relationships, I don’t think they can be emphasized enough. I would say, any opportunity you have, take it, run with it, do it. Pick up a phone, say hi. There have been people even in the group, in the MST group. I have just sought them out and said, hey, can I call you? I have some questions for you. I’d love to chat or Zoom with a cup of coffee. I think it’s super important, and a lot of us really are entrepreneurs.
As far as lessons that are applicable every day, I’m an organization nut. I would say start early and figure out what systems work for you. Start to put some systems in place early, even if it’s an old three-ring binder. Put some things together early on and grow with it. I remember someone gave me a bit of advice when I started. I was just using an Excel spreadsheet, and I was thinking, oh, maybe I should get this program, or maybe I should get that program. It was somebody in the group. I honestly don’t remember who it was made a comment and said be careful about investing in these tools, in these other organizational systems until you really know what you need. Then you’re ready, and then you can pick and choose. There’s a ton of stuff out there as far as tools, and it’s really easy to say, oh, I want to go buy this or I want to spend money on this.
I don’t think that’s necessary. Just figure out what works for you first and just trust yourself. Trust yourself to, I don’t know, start working on your – I don’t know how to say it. I’m not so sure a lot of people have the confidence that they really can – you really can do this. You really can. You don’t have to have a degree, or you don’t have to be a business person, or you don’t have to be the most popular person in a room. Think about what you want. Set your goals. Have some confidence. It’s not always easy. Pick up a phone, type an email, and start building those friendships, and you can do it.
Jim: It really is. I love the way you articulated from a different angle than what I usually do. Something that I feel like I say quite frequently and I’m always looking for new creative ways to say it but this business is and all businesses are a leadership and relationship journey. To the degree that you improve your ability to lead others and to bring them into what you’re doing – and you mentioned you hired virtual assistants. You hire help when you need it. Every business will outgrow these single individual – and that’s the lesson. You’ve got to become a leader. If you’re going to have other people who are going where you’re taking them, that’s called leading. You’re on a leadership journey, and you’re on a relationship journey. Those two worlds overlap, and the rules are pretty much the same in both arenas, leadership and taking people on this journey and growing yourself and growing those relationships. The rules are all the same.
You are the ceiling. That’s the observation I’ve made about you as we’ve talked. It’s like you can either choose to think to yourself, oh, I’m no one to write a book, or you say you know what? I’m going to figure it out, go through the steps. Maybe write a low-content book. Now I’m an author. Now I’m going to write that fiction book I’ve always wanted to write. Bust through those walls, but you are your own limiting factor.
I think John Maxwell calls it that glass ceiling of growth. You can’t get through it. You’re your own glass ceiling. It’s no one else out there holding you down. It’s like when are you going to decide to take the steps and go through the process of leadership and relationships that get you excited.
Vicky: That’s so true. I think a lot of us sometimes are our own worst enemies.
Vicky: Yeah. Someone taught me too a long time ago when I was still in the Air Force – I had the opportunity to become a commissioned officer after 14 years in. I remember one of my first – he was the chief at the time, and he was explaining the difference even between managing and leading people. He said to me, he said, “Vicky, if you want to be a leader, you have to trust yourself, but you sometimes have to fake it to make it too.” I remember him telling me that people are looking up to you to help them figure out that next move, and you may not always know what that next move is. You may not always know it in your heart. You may not always know. It’s just what do I do? It’s your job to figure it out and to make sure that you pass it along and help other people find that confidence in themselves.
Managing, you’re managing all that day-to-day kind of stuff that has to be done too, and we all have to do some of that too. I don’t know. I think some of us flip-flop between the leadership piece and the management piece as well, but a lot of it comes down to faith in yourself and just building that confidence too. We can all do this.
Jim: Yeah. One of the aspects I love about the internet business opportunity specifically is it blasts and destroys all of the possible excuses. I love destroying excuses on this show. Bring me your list of 50 reasons why this will never work, and we’ll destroy those, plus the other 10 you haven’t thought of. We’ll destroy all those excuses. It doesn’t matter. You mentioned your education level. It doesn’t matter. Get in there, learn it, start doing it. Where you live, skin color, how much money you have, I didn’t get good grades, or my spouse isn’t supportive, we’ve got people with all the challenges you have plus 50 other you haven’t thought of who are doing this. That’s the beauty of this community is, if you look around, you’re going to find someone with less opportunity than you have that’s blowing by your results because they’re focused in and they’re working on their relationships, their leadership, getting in the content, listening, studying, listening to this podcast, meeting some of the people in the community.
Those sound like simple, trite, almost like, yeah, you’re just throwing that in there for filler. No, those are powerful decisions that you make. Rather than spending time on Netflix, you’re watching content from one of our conferences a year ago. Those are intentional decisions that are taking you very direct path to the kind of success that Vicky, our guest today, has. I love that you’ve pointed out these things. These aren’t simple things. These are simple to explain perhaps but very powerful concepts that will change the trajectory of your life if you do them, very well said.
Vicky: I agree.
Jim: Anything else on your mind? I think this has been a great episode, personally.
Vicky: Thank you. Thank you. No. I’m excited to see how things play out for the rest of this year. It’s been an interesting year because of our COVID crisis last year and a lot of what’s still happening this year, so it’ll be interesting to see. I think a lot of people are rising above that and pressing forward with the business. Q4’s always exciting for everybody.
I appreciate being here, and I look forward to hearing the next success stories. I can’t wait to hear the next podcast. It’s always fun to hear. I love seeing how great people are doing and reaching out for help when they need it.
Jim: Yeah, beautiful, great way to end it. You sound like someone who needs their own podcast, to me. Just throwing that out there. Not like you need anything else to do. You really express the emotion and the message and blend it all together very well.
Vicky: Thank you.
Jim: You’re just a delight to listen to.
Vicky: Thank you.
Jim: You’ve got such a great story. Again, we could’ve spent so much more time on several of these subjects. We got to have you back again. I want to hear how that book does. I want to hear how your Q4 goes. Let’s get to you – spring or so, let’s get you back on the show and get updated.
Vicky: Sure, love to.
Jim: I think it would be a delight to have you as a coach eventually at some point too. I think people are going to listen to you and go, man, I’d love to have her guide me through this process. I’d love to get you on the team, if that’s something of interest to you.
Vicky: Thank you.
Jim: We’ll talk some other time, for sure.
Vicky: We can chat about that. Thank you so much, Jim. I really appreciate it. This has been a pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed chatting with you today.
Jim: For me as well. For me as well. Let me talk to the listeners as we wrap this one up.
Jim: Thank you for hanging out with Vicky and I today. We had a great time. I think probably you did too. I mean, you stuck around to the end, so I bet you did. We love doing this. We love serving this…
Vicky: My dog is staring at me now.
Jim: Yeah, exactly. We didn’t get to see your dog. Is it something you can hold up for those of you watching on YouTube? I know that my – when my dog comes in there, I can’t lift him. He weighs about 80 pounds.
Vicky: She’s a little thing.
Jim: Who’s this?
Vicky: This is Sailor.
Jim: Sailor, that’s a good name for a dog in Florida.
Vicky: Yeah. My husband’s Navy, so it’s definitely a nautical kick there.
Jim: That’s great.
Vicky: She’s my little shadow.
Jim: For Vicky and Sailor and on behalf of my team and I, just thanks for hanging out with us today. God bless all the business building warriors out there.
Vicky: Thank you, Jim.
Jim: Thank you to Vicki and your husband again for your service.
Vicky: Thank you.
Jim: It was truly an honor getting to know you guys today. We’ll have another great episode for you guys again in the very near future.
Vicky: Okay. Have a good night.
Jim: Bye then.
Jim: Hey, before I let you go, one last reminder about Sellics.com, S-E-L-L-I-C-S.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, so start evaluating your campaigns now for free by visiting Sellics.com/SilentSales. Hey, we’ll see you next time.
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