Today I’m thrilled to have Jason Weisenthal on the show. Jason is someone who I met at a mastermind group meeting that I attended in San Francisco last year.
And what’s cool about Jason is that he has managed to combine tech and ecommerce together to form WallMonkeys.com, an online store that offers more than 20 million images that you can print and stick on your wall.
Not only is his business model ingenious but he can basically run his 7 figure ecommerce company with just a handful of employees because of all of the automation that he has developed.
What’s also cool is that he has encouraged and raised his son to be a seasoned entrepreneur as well which something that I plan on doing with my kids. In fact, I really wanted his son on the show today, but Jason told me that I had to interview him first. Enjoy!
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What You’ll Learn
- Jason’s motivations were for starting his business.
- What he was doing prior to Wall Monkeys.
- The ingenious way Jason obtains the content for his stickers.
- Why he chose the licensing route instead of creating his own images.
- What a licensing deal looks like and how much it costs.
- How to manage millions of images and products listings.
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Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here is your host, Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job podcast. Today I’m thrilled to have Jason Weisenthal. Jason is someone who I met at a Mastermind group meeting that I attended in San Francisco last year. What’s cool about Jason is that he has managed to combine tech and ecommerce together to form Wallmonkeys.com, which is an online store that offers more than 20 million images that you can print and stick on your wall.
Not only is his business model ingenious, but he can basically run his seven figure ecommerce company with just a handful of employees, because of all the automation that he has developed. What’s also cool is that he has encouraged and raised his son to be a seasoned entrepreneur as well, which is something that I plan on doing with my kids.
In fact I really wanted his son on the show today, but Jason told me that I had to interview him first. Fine, I’ll guess I’ll settle for dad. Welcome to the show Jason. How are you doing today man?
Jason: I’m great Steve. Thanks for having me.
Steve: Give us a quick background story about Wall Monkeys and how you came up with the idea of selling wall decals online, and what you were doing beforehand also?
Jason: Before Wall Monkeys, I was in a completely different business. I owned a retail children shoe store for about 14 years in New Jersey. Business was good, grew the business, was kind of …
Steve: Was it brick and mortar? Sorry.
Jason: Yeah, brick and mortar. Everybody walked in the front door: Nikes, Air Force Ones, Jordans, Timberlands, all that good stuff. We really had a good business, solid crew of employees and was finding myself bored in my office too often. I started to look at other businesses. It’s right around when Fathead came around, and I’m sure you’re familiar with Fathead. They have all the professional athletes. I thought it would be really cool to put … My son was playing little league baseball and so was my daughter. I thought it would be really cool to put my kids on the wall instead of Derek Jeter, A. Rod or a football player.
I checked out, looked around online and no one was doing it. That was the extent of my market research. I knew nothing about it, I just bought a printer. I did my research and bought the proper printer, found someone to help me learn how to use it, had someone to build a custom website. I just found people to put the pieces together and just learned step by step on my own.
Steve: Wait, so just based on that, you decided to start a store where people can upload pictures of their kids.
Jason: Yeah. I pretty much bought the printer.
Steve: Lease or did you buy?
Jason: I bought it.
Steve: Oh wow!
Jason: My retail business was doing fine. The printer at that time I think it was about $25,000. I didn’t want a monthly payment. Again there really wasn’t too much research. Shopify wasn’t around. It was just at the very beginning. It actually turned out to be a good idea that was just too soon. Cell phones didn’t take high enough resolution images. Parents who wanted to order, they had a hard time uploading the proper file sizes. We really struggled at the beginning. It was a good thing that it was a hobby and not my source of income, because we would have failed for sure.
Steve: I can imagine that’d be a pain in the butt, right, because a lot of people don’t know about images, and what’s required for printing.
Jason: Yeah. At that time I think most cell phones had about like a 1.3 megapixel image, and then email programs were compressing images. People would send a picture of their kid was like a spec in the background. A lot of times the sales we did make we were refunding … We didn’t have content at that time, it was all custom. While it was a good idea, it was too soon. I was able to stick it out and keep trying different ideas until I found a better way to make money in that same business.
Steve: How do you get your content today actually?
Jason: The majority of our content comes from licensing deals with companies like National Geographic, and Corbis Images, and Stocktrek images and some other stock photography companies. I looked for over time just to fill in every possible niche for medical images or animals, or just whatever I thought we needed more of. I found a company and made a deal. Now we have access to … Oh God probably 60 million images if you wanted to look.
Steve: That’s crazy. Do you still let people upload their own images anymore or no?
Jason: We do. Custom is a big part of our business. Whether it’s professional photographers or companies uploading business logos, things for trade shows … One of our strong suits is we are really good at turning orders around quickly, and it’s made in the USA. Custom is actually growing quite nicely right now because our quality is great, and our turnaround time is faster than practically anyone. Maybe it might be faster than everyone.
Steve: I’m just curious though. Why did you choose the licensing route instead of creating your own images and your own artwork?
Jason: When I first stumbled upon the idea of some content, I started with basic silhouettes and I was literally in my basement by myself. Again I wasn’t a graphic artist or anything … Clipping images in Photoshop and Illustrator, and saving them, and file naming them. I noticed they were starting to sell and just like any good entrepreneur, you do 100, you do 200 and you say, “Of 100, 200 sells, it’s going to take me a while to get to a million. What’s the fastest way to get a lot of images?” That’s through a licensing deal. That’s what we did. We went from nothing to a few 100, to millions. When you offer millions, you sell more.
Steve: What does a licensing deal look like, I’m curious? How much does it cost you guys and how is the deal structured?
Jason: There is 2 ways. It depends on the company you’re dealing with and the amount of money that you’re maybe either guaranteeing them, or based on your relationship. You’re either paying them a percentage of the sale. If you make $100 sale you might pay as an example, 10% or you can pay a flat dollar fee.
Steve: 10% of the sale or 10% of some other number you agree to.
Jason: 10% of it. It’s a retail. Print on demand … That’s an example. Not every deal is that, that’s just an example number but yeah, it would be on the retail selling price. Then we do have a couple of deals that are just based on … Because we print a lot of images, a flat fee per image. That works out to be a better deal for us, but because the volume is high, it works for us and for our partners.
Steve: I see. Is there any upfront cost?
Jason: For the licensing deals?
Jason: Again if you are a new person coming into the business, it depends on the brand, the licensing. We don’t have Disney. If you wanted Disney … Even if you could even get it, there would be a huge upfront cost. Some of our deals, I can’t tell you the exact numbers, but because of either our history or because of the confidence and knowing we would sell, some companies, you have to make sure you pay them say $25,000 or $50,000 over the course of the year to get that. It’s a volume discount just like anything else, so either based on if you’re willing to agree to a guaranteed minimum, or if your purchase history proves that you’re worthy of a better rate you can … Just like calling up anyone else to renegotiate, you can work out a better deal.
Steve: For you though when you were starting out with nothing, how did you approach your first company?
Jason: Actually he’s a really great friend of mine now. There is stock photo company … No one was really doing this for print on demand like APIs for … All these stock images were relatively new. The industry was totally different. I had this idea to rather than buy the images upfront which is what people were doing, I wanted to offer all of a company’s images, let my customers browse them, and then only pay when a sale is made.
That really wasn’t how it was happening. I just pitched my idea. You probably know or you’ve read how people say it all the time, just ask, somebody might say, “Yes”. I made my sales pitch and said, “I think this will benefit your company and mine. This is what I want to do. This is my vision.” The person that was in-charge of North America pitched it to the CEO, and they trusted me, and we made it work.
Steve: This is when you had nothing and your friend was instrumental in opening up the doors for you so to speak.
Jason: He wasn’t a friend then. Its just this company is our longest standing partner. The company is Fotolia. They got bought by Adobe several months ago. Chad believed in what I said and pushed it through. Just because it’s been so many years and he’s such a great guy, now we are great friends. At the time he just believed in what I presented.
Steve: One thing that I’ve been wondering is our online store only has 480 skews. Here you are talking about 60 million. Does that imply that you have 60 million product pages or just a library of 60 million products on your sites?
Jason: We filter down and we’re about to … It’s going to look really good in probably about definitely less than 2 weeks. It might be ready in a few days. Our search is pretty complicated. We have a Solr database. If we have access to 60 million, we’re going to offer far less than that. There is a lot of filters we use to purposely eliminate many images. It probably ends up being about the top 10% is what you could search through my site.
Steve: How does it work? Did you have to develop your own search algorithm or you have a Google Box or something? How do you do that?
Jason: We use Solr which like MySQL. Solr is a search program. I don’t know how to explain it. I don’t know if your people would really care so much about that, but because we had so many images we needed to create a custom solution. We couldn’t use Google search tool. We couldn’t use some of the other elastic search.
There is companies out there that will handle your database and do things like predictive texts and making suggestions and learning from sales. We built ours from scratch because we are importing so much metadata and images that we just needed to build it ourselves.
Steve: I’m curious, how many people do you guys have now? The last we talked it sounded like you only had a handful of people, right?
Jason: The business is really … The simplest way is its 2 pieces. We have the office where it’s customer service, production, shipping. Everything that has to do with the customer placing the order to the order leaving. That all happens 5 minutes from house in Maryland. In the office we have about … Not about, we have exactly 6 people and then outside of that is where everything else is: IT, things to do with SEO, pay-per-click advertising.
Those people are all outsourced freelancers, but I have pretty good relationships with them now. Most of them are giving me more than half their time. I’m definitely primary source of income and there is 8 people that do that. They are all part time to some degree, but there is a lot of IT.
We are constantly working on something, whether it has do with how we send information to Amazon or something to do with … Right now we have 3 people that are working to finish improving search on our site and how navigation works completely, how you can go through the user experience. That project is going to end and those 3 guys are going to drop off. I’ll probably dream up something new 5 minutes after that.
Steve: Everything is project based, and they’re of … You just hire them on a consulting basis.
Jason: For that kind of project. My pay-per-click guy has been with me for over a year now. I did hire a woman who is operations manager. She’s really helped become a go between the developers and people in the office and just to really take away a lot of the tedious tasks from me so that I can focus on bigger things. That’s been very, very helpful.
Steve: Are you a technical guy at all?
Jason: I am not technical programming wise but I have … The only way I can explain it, I can think it and communicate it very clearly. I know what skills are needed. I can and then hire the right people. I also have one of my IT guys who used to do a lot of programming. He is pretty much oversees all of the IT projects. His role, he doesn’t program anymore. He just takes what I say that’s in English and communicates it to these guys to the final …
Steve: Sure. No that’s all you really need, yeah.
Jason: Yeah, I know what I’m good at. Then I found people that fill in those places where I need help.
Steve: One thing I was curious about, you mentioned in the very beginning that you purchased your printer right off the bat, did you ever consider just having a printing partner because I used to work for a printing company. I know those machines are finicky and they require maintenance. I was just curious why you went that route right away.
Jason: At the very beginning, I could have looked for a partner, a company to print but I feel very strongly that’s our core competency is printing and we do a lot of rush orders a lot of things that are time sensitive, a lot of things where errors are not acceptable. If it’s your core competency, you need to do that in-house.
There’s no way that I would outsource printing. That’s what we do. If I outsource that, most of what we say, and most of our advantage over other companies would vanish, they would be in the hands of someone else to do the job.
Steve: Okay, and so you do it yourself mainly for customer service reasons and deliverable reasons, why we do our own embroidery, right?
Jason: It’s quality control. It’s our processes, it’s our procedures. It’s our automation. It’s our … If we make a mistake we can learn from it. There’s just no other way in my mind.
Steve: How much did it cost you to start the company then? Actually how many partners do you have now, I’m just curious.
Jason: We have 4. We use different printers now. We also now have cutters so we have … There’s 6 pieces of equipment in the office that are either printing and cutting or printing or cutting. How much did it cost us to start the business? I guess the printer cost $25,000. I probably spent another, God I don’t know. I’ll say $50,000. By the time I learned how to print and made a bunch of mistakes, built a website, painfully because it wasn’t really that easy back then, probably about 50 grand.
Steve: What platform are you on now? It was custom before but did you change platforms over the years?
Jason: Yeah, we use Magento.
Steve: Magento okay. Enterprise or regular?
Jason: Regular but it’s very highly customized. We’ve spent a lot on customizing that platform.
Steve: Okay, let’s talk about your process a little bit. Do you guys carry any inventory at all or is it all print-on-demand?
Jason: We ship some of our best sellers to Amazon now FBA. It is all print on demand. Orders come in and around 6 or 7 am every morning, we run an automation procedure that goes and pulls all the orders from the various sales channels, and then runs it through another automation that will identify and grab all the images that much the order and resizes them and renames them and puts them into the proper folders.
We print and ship over 95% of our orders within 24 hours. There’s no reason to hold inventory. We just print on demand and we get it right out.
Steve: As a tech guy, I’m really in awe of this automation that you have. Literally an order comes in, and then machines just automatically resize everything and then is it as simple as it being sent to the printer automatically and someone just needs to be there to pick it up and box it?
Jason: I wish. It’s not exactly but yeah, most of the steps it’s just, you just broke it down step by step so it’s not one big magical automation. We use … Our Amazon orders come in through ShipWorks. The program we wrote goes into ShipWorks and grabs the orders. The resizing, those are actions that we add written, scripts we had written that work in Photoshop and Illustrator and then we rename files with certain naming patterns. I had someone write a program that nests the orders to make the optimal use of space.
Once it gets through the whole process, the automatic part, the orders are nested. They are groups of orders that we just because of, just to make sure in case there’s a cancelled order or there’s a size change. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, that’s where the humans come in and will then take those orders and you are pretty much just dragging them into the rip software that’s going to print them.
Yeah, we print and we just have to cut the sheets off as they come and then they go to the back and the shipping labels are ready to go and the guys cut the orders down and march them up and put them into the shipping tubes, put the labels on. It’s still a process but we’ve just taken away a lot of the like the key stroke errors and a lot of the time wasting.
Steve: Sure, sure. No that’s incredible. You mentioned that you are selling on Amazon FBA as well. Given that most of your business on demand, how does it work for Amazon? I think I heard a rumor from someone. I can’t remember whether it was Jason or not who told me that you have a million skews on Amazon?
Jason: Yeah, we have more than a million. It’s a long tussle. We don’t have a million best sellers. We have a way to put a lot of listings up there and then the ones that are the best sellers, those are the ones that we’ll print in advance and send those to Amazon for FBA because they are going to show up as prime and the customer is going to get them faster. It’s important but it’s not that large of a percentage of our business because it’s such a long time. Everyday about 30% of our orders are images that are being ordered for the very first time.
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Steve: Okay, in terms of Amazon then, how does your process work? Do you just ship a bunch there, see what sells and then drop some of the ones that aren’t selling?
Jason: No. We are going from historical sales data. We didn’t start to use FBA until I’ll say maybe a year or so ago. We have been selling on Amazon for years already. We have whatever tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of sales and we can look in. We know certain things where you see them print 10 or 12 times every single day or whatever the number is.
Those were the items that we sent to Amazon first because they are going to sell even more and also it’s going to save time on a day to day basis. It’s a lot easier to send a 100 or 200 of something to Amazon than it is to send 10, 10, 10, 10, 10 every day to 10 individual customers.
Steve: I was just thinking; when you have that many listings, how do you do, do you spend a lot of time on the listings then? Amazon search is very important and I’m just curios how you manage so many different skews and still put out an optimized listing on Amazon. Do you run ads?
Jason: Yes we run ads. We’ve been trying to ramp up the spending as much as we can. It’s a lot easier to spend money on Google than it is on Amazon. The Amazon ads have been the most efficient ads spending that we have. To create the listing you have to optimize them, they are not as optimized as if you did them by hand. We have an automated process that creates the listings for us and it uses a combination of I call it static and dynamic information. The static information to be the brand name. Every listing has to say Wall Monkeys, wall decals but then it will take a look at the … Then grab from the image the title for example and say Picasso whatever.
We know to create all the sizes it’s … Everything is automated where it makes the size, it knows our pricing, it adds the shipping weight. All these things are preprogrammed in so that if we have a new batch of say 50,000 images, we can create those listings. We have software that sits on Google cloud and we can create those listings completely and send those to Amazon within 24 hours including the images. If you have a picture of whatever it is, a dog, it needs to also go on a wall and looks like it’s a wall decal, we’ve got that part of the process automated also where most people are doing that manually and it’s really time consuming.
Steve: What about SEO on your own website? With so many different listings, is it the same procedure as Amazon essentially? You take the title and you create a page, with that as the title tag?
Jason: Yeah. It’s similar. We do pay attention to the differences and say, how many characters are allowed for the title or what are the subtle differences that we are aware of. We are indexing many, many pages. It’s similar but different. We are just trying to make the changes where we can. With the new site, with the new Solr search, there’s going to be much better improvements as far as landing pages for categories and sub categories and different artists and things which I think is going to help our SEO. That’s an area that we can definitely improve.
Steve: Just curious, where for your main website, where do you most of your customers come in. Is it through SEO or other means?
Jason: SEO and we disband a fair amount on pay-per-click. Then, ripping customers are, especially our business customers, come back more frequently.
Steve: Business customers. That implies … Is that a large part of your business the business customers as opposed to the consumers?
Jason: It’s growing. Amazon, about I would say 18 months or 2 years ago, it became a little bit scary that Amazon was such a large percentage of our sales. Just like everyone, you need to diversify. We started to put a lot more effort into just getting sales from anywhere else and business to business jumped out as a really good place to go after. That’s something that we are focusing on.
Steve: That’s totally what we did also because those guys they don’t want to order on Amazon. They want to talk to someone on the phone and they have consistent business. That’s been really good for us as well.
Jason: Yeah, and the concern it’s not a race to the bottom with pricing like Amazon is, different … Is a different beast completely. A lot of the business customers, what they want is really great service and if they need it on a certain day, they want to have confidence that it’s going to get there. They are not as price sensitive as they are professionalism and accuracy sensitive.
Steve: Just curious, do you price your products the same on Amazon as you do on your own site?
Jason: We do but most of the business sales are going to be custom. We are just working off of what our pricing is; per square foot versus how much does that picture of a pink puppy cost or something.
Steve: Do you guys do anything with your Amazon stuff to get them back on to your website or you just keep the Amazon channel completely separate?
Jason: If I’m answering this with Amazon listening. That’s what every man … We follow the rules. We follow the rules right closely. I do look at it as Amazon’s customers are, all those sales, those are Amazon’s customers, not Wall Monkeys’ customers but we definitely know that and we see sales from both places. We don’t actively try and break rules and divert people, but on Amazon we are Wall Monkeys wall decors. You probably don’t need a PhD to figure out that if you type in WallMonkeys.com you might be able to see our website and find other things.
Steve: Let’s talk about the early phase of your business when you first got started. How did you get your first sales?
Jason: We got really lucky. One of the biggest breaks even though we didn’t make much money at the beginning, something that helped a lot was about 3 weeks after I started the company, 3 weeks after I got the website up, the contact number on the website was my cell phone. I was running it from either printing from my basement or running it from my kitchen table.
Steve: That’s awesome.
Jason: My phone rings and it was Darren Rovell. He works at ESPN now but he was a sport supporter for CNBC. Says he’s Darren Rovell and I knew who he was. He said, “Hey I was just checking out your products. It looks really great. I was looking at Fathead and I just think this is such a great idea. How would you like to be highlighted as one of the best gifts, best Christmas gifts for dad for 2009?”
Steve: I’m sorry how did this happen?
Jason: He was just doing research on Fathead and bumped into my company because we were one of the first. He just called me on the phone and asked if I wanted Wall Monkeys to be highlighted on CNBC right before Christmas. That was just a huge break because that made sales, but then we also from that we ended up … Somebody, a guy wrote an article for ESPN, the magazine and a couple of other outlets reached out. We got a bunch of press which really helped with sales for months after that. We were making sales every day off of the momentum of Darren Rovell.
Steve: Was that before you had all these licensing deals in place?
Jason: We had nothing, we just had customers, we had 3 weeks. I didn’t even really know how to … Had to have a graphic designer setup the orders to print. I was … We knew nothing.
Steve: That’s amazing, okay they must have found you through search, then I guess…
Jason: Yeah Darren Rovell found me through search. I still talk to him once in a while. I have printed some stuff for him and now he works for ESPN. He is just a really great guy. He was like right time, right place and it was just really fortunate; it was like a nice break.
Steve: Can we talk about search strategy? Do you pump out a lot of blog post? What’s your content strategy to get ranked?
Jason: It could be a lot better. We were blogging a lot more, right now we are not. Right now we are focusing on social media more. We have a visual product so every day in the office where everyone is taking pictures and putting them into this Google cloud … I’m sorry Google drive folder and Instagram and Pinterest right now seem to be best for us as far as driving traffic.
Steve: Okay and in terms of pay-per-click, are you running Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Pinterest ads?
Jason: Almost all of our spending is Google and Amazon. Amazon we are trying to ramp it as much as possible they just don’t seem to use our whole ads spent. I’m not sure where the magic formula is there yet.
Steve: In terms of Google you have so many different images that I can’t even imagine running one of your campaigns. How do you structure these campaigns, or are you bidding on more general terms like wall decals?
Jason: We are not bidding on wall decals, those are general terms.
Steve: Yeah because that would be a really expensive …
Jason: We just have niches. Different business niches, maybe veterinarians or nail salons, hair salons. We know what images. Again we have … We know what sold. We know where we want to drive people and we … It’s taken a long time to build them out but we built out very specific campaigns to target very specific niches.
Steve: Are you using the display network or just search ads?
Jason: Just search ads. Again I pay … I have, I see all the reporting. We have a lot of reports that come to me as well as talking to my pay-per-click guy every once a week but we get … I get reports like crazy.
Jason: We are constantly trying to spend more and refine it and he’s got metrics to hit and luckily we’ve actually we’ve really been hitting them which is nice. I think once, I got to keep saying but once that new searches works on our site, I think all of our numbers are going to get better.
Steve: Have you tried some of the other ad platforms like Facebook and Pinterest. I would imagine those would work pretty well for you guys?
Jason: Facebook we just haven’t … we need to build out … I still feel like we are a start up. I can make a huge list and tell you all the things that were either not doing well enough or not doing yet that I want to. Facebook we’ve … Facebook ads haven’t been great for us but we are also not employing the strategy that I would want to. We need to build out a lot more landing pages to send people to where we really want them to go. Like I said yeah I would say for right now Google and Amazon it’s … And Amazon in particular it’s just keep trying to spend more because it works the best.
Steve: Let’s talk about what’s working well for you guys in terms of getting business. What are some of the things that you are doing that’s generating a lot of business for you?
Jason: FBA definitely is where we’ve been adding more and Amazon’s is huge.
Steve: Have you run into any problems with Amazon?
Jason: We have problems all the time. Recently there has been a lot … We have Wall Monkeys as our brand, it’s trademarked, we are in Amazon’s brand registry. Recently we’ve been spending hours every week. People are getting onto our listings and we have to send cease and desist letters and it’s a real time suck.
Jason: Its seems to be more of a free fall than never which is another reason to focus on, to put some more energy on our ecommerce side and on business to business and other things. There is just more sellers than ever and I don’t know when they are going to lock it down or put a limit on it. It’s getting … I see it getting diluted.
Steve: Oh yeah totally I give it 1 or 2 more years until it becomes saturated with junk and then Amazon has to do something about it.
Jason: I think they need to do something now. They don’t protect … they don’t want to get involved fighting for us for us for the brand. They will only get involved if the customer isn’t getting the product as described. Otherwise they are just going to make the money and they are not going to get involved.
Steve: Yeah in that regard, when you guys are doing customer service for Amazon or your own site generally do you just … I imagine your costs are pretty low. It’s just the cost of the paper and the ink right? When you guys run customer service, whenever someone complains do you just essentially give away the product and give them refund or?
Jason: Pretty much.
Jason: Yeah if we think someone is really trying to be deceitful we’ll address it but yeah it’s just kind of the … one of the prices you pay especially for doing business on Amazon.
Steve: Does it worry you at all. What are some of the things that you are doing to shift away from Amazon to your own site?
Jason: There is a couple of things. It doesn’t worry me. I think if you are entrepreneur lots of things worry you. If I wanted to worry all day long I could probably do that. One of the biggest things that we are doing is we do have a pretty good scale at creating these mass listings on Amazon, and how we do it on our website also. We just started helping a couple of other companies create listings for their print on demand products on Amazon.
Companies that don’t have … Again they are facing the challenges that most people face. They might have 1000 listings or 2000 but they have access to say 50000 images and they can’t create those listings. Other companies are now paying us which is really great. Let them enable them they make money and we don’t have to … we are not going to enter that category anyway.
Steve: Is this software that you are selling?
Jason: We are not selling them software. It is software but we are doing it ourselves, we are not putting it in the hands of the customer. We are … There are bigger relationships. We are managing them. We are working hand in hand to create the listings for them and make them live.
Steve: I see okay, a services based thing. Are they your competition though?
Jason: No never. If we sell wall decals there might be a company that sells picture frames and they want to put images in those frames. Picture frames, pictures … A framed picture isn’t going to compete with a wall decal. Putting those images on a coffee mug as an example but you could go on Zazzle and look at hundreds of products. Getting the images is no problem it’s creating listings and all the metadata that needs to be plugged in in the right places, that people have a hard time with.
Steve: Okay going forward, you’ve been doing wall decals for quite a while now. What is your focus right now? Is it to grow the company; is it to enjoy life, what is your end goal with it?
Jason: I don’t know about end goal but right now my focus has been on for a while and I have been spending a lot of energy on just efficiencies in the office, and having creating a better work environment and happy employees. Then personally the same thing. I guard my morning rituals and the way I want my day to go and how I spend my time.
I guard that and always work on that religiously. Now that those things are a lot more in line I think now we are going to be poised for a really big phase of growth for the Wall Monkeys business. I felt we needed to get these other pieces straight before we grew sales more.
Steve: Where is that growth going to be coming from you think?
Jason: I think it’s going to come from all over. I think the biggest drivers are going to be … I keep saying B2B but there is a lot of businesses out there that don’t know we exist, and we are going to let them know that we exist. We also …
Steve: How do you plan on doing that? What’s your strategy for reaching out to B2B?
Jason: I don’t think I want to share it.
Jason: I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we go after businesses and …
Jason: Yeah, that’s something I guess everybody doesn’t need to hear.
Steve: Yeah, okay sure. I was curious because we are doing the same thing, maybe after this.
Jason: Yeah, we could talk about it after we hang up the phone.
Steve: Okay, sorry you got B2B, are you, A, Amazon is just going to grow naturally on its own. Do you have any specific strategies for growing your Amazon business?
Jason: We are going to update our listings, there’s … When we update our listings it’s not like going in and updating one, it’s like a pretty big deal because we are … We might be making some pretty major changes across a few hundred thousand listings. You want to really think about it and test it and make sure that they are going through the right way.
I guess the best way say it is, I feel we can do … Aside from the way we process orders and how quickly and accurately we do that, that’s majority of the time, almost every other part of our business can be improved. Whether it’s the ecommerce site, the search, our listings on Amazon, the quality of the content on Amazon, I feel we can do everything better.
Steve: Yeah, but it’s … Maybe you have limited resources, I’m just curious, are you going to be focusing on other ad platforms like Facebook? You mentioned you didn’t feel like you have been giving it any justice, are you going to start blogging again …
Jason: Facebook ads, when the search is done, there is going to be many landing pages for categories, sub categories, artists, lots of different businesses and business niches and types of images. Targeted Facebook advertising is going to be a pretty big part as well as I think our Google advertising has been … Is going to become a lot more efficient because we can change the pages that we’re driving the traffic to.
Steve: Okay, and in terms of staff, do you plan on growing that or do you feel running really lean is one of your goals?
Jason: Running lean is definitely one of my goals. One of the biggest challenges is managing people, I’ve learnt … Again I ran a retail business for 14 years, I’ve been doing this for 8 years, and I feel I’m learning all the time. Running lean is key and paying for A players is something that I learned too late, whether it’s programmers or the people putting in the images.
With programmers especially with Upwork and things like that, you can hire … There’s such a range. You could hire a $15 an hour php guy or you can hire someone who makes $100 an hour or more and there’s times when it really makes sense to hire those guys that are … To search out who’s the best in the world and just pay for it.
Steve: Where do you find these people, are they referrals or are you using services like Upwork?
Jason: Yeah, I’ll ask my network or I’ll use Upwork. For our search right now for Solar I went into that, I knew it was complicated, and I knew it was a specialized skill, and I took the approach on that one. Where can I find who is the best in the world, and I’m going to pay him. I looked on LinkedIn, LinkedIn is a pretty good resource just to look in groups and find … Get leads that way.
But for Solar this project I found the guy on Upwork and you just have to really know what you are looking for very specifically and check their references and make sure you are getting what you pay for. Hiring IT, IT project especially custom work, those are very expensive mistakes to me, because you are starting over you are wasting time, the money and time loss there is it’s expensive and exhausting.
Steve: We are coming on 40 minutes now, I was just curious, do you have any advice for people out there who want to go and into ecommerce? I’m just curious would you if you were to start all over again today, would go be doing this again? Your particular nature, physical products?
Jason: I like what I do, we have a niche, I feel we are … There’s lot of opportunity in my niche; selling on Amazon in general I think is pretty full. I think there might be more opportunity in helping … If I was going to start all over again I would, or if I just close my business tomorrow, or something happened, I would probably focus on using the knowledge that I have to help other sellers sell more, or help companies that have a weak or no presence, establish a strong presence. I think there is more money, a better opportunity, a better freedom helping others than there is in trying to fight it out on your own.
Steve: Interesting. One thing I also forgot to ask you, are you guys using email marketing at all for Wall Monkeys?
Jason: Yeah, we use … We actually use Constant Contact.
Steve: Constant Contact, okay. Is that a large part of your business?
Jason: When we send a good one, it is.
Steve: Okay, these are one offs, do you have auto responder sequences or?
Jason: We do, we have auto responder sequences and things, but I … They are fine, I like to look at the effectiveness of the weekly emails that we send and see if we’re crafting those messages the right way.
Steve: All right Jason, well hey thanks a lot for coming on the show man, I’ve always been really … I admire your business mainly because to me you are not really an ecommerce company, you are like a tech company because of all these process that you’ve put in place. You just happen to sell wall decals but the whole process was well thought out, and the fact you are able to run such a large company with still few people is pretty amazing to me.
Jason: Thank you.
Steve: Does that mean that I can have your son on next?
Jason: Yeah, you could ask him all the questions about being as teen entrepreneur, the websites he built and all that good stuff.
Steve: All right, thanks J.
Jason: All right.
Steve: Take care man.
Jason: Thank you Steve.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed that episode. What I find especially cool about Jason is that he’s managed to turn his wall decal company into a tech company by automating most of the processes. I also find that his business model is pretty ingenious. There are a lot of wall decal companies out there, but Wall Monkeys stands out, because they have the largest selection.
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