What I love about Jen is that she hustles, she’s constantly finding new ways to expand her business and she’s not afraid to try a variety of different business models. Just like the other student interviews that I’ve conducted, this podcast provides a very realistic, in the trenches account of someone who just started their online store.
Enjoy the interview as there are a lot of details that Jen shares that can help anyone get started.
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What You’ll Learn
- How Jen came up with her niche
- How Jen got started without investing a large sum of money on the business
- Mistakes Jen made in getting started and how to avoid them
- How Jen attracted customers to her store early on
- How to leverage marketplaces like Houzz and Amazon
Other Resources And Books
ReferralCandy.com – If you’re already getting steady orders every month, adding a refer-a-friend program to your store can give you a new sales channel. And ReferralCandy is the best in the business. Click here and get a FREE $50 credit towards your account.
Now if you enjoy this podcast please leave me a review on iTunes, and if you want to learn how to start your own online business be sure to sign up for my free 6-day mini course, where I show you how my wife and I managed to make over 100K in profit in our first year of business. So go to mywifequitherjob.com, sign up right there on the front page, and I’ll send you the mini course right away via email.
Now before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to sitelock.com for being a sponsor of the show. SiteLock is the leader in website security, and protects over 8 million websites by monitoring them for malicious activity 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So here is the thing, most online business owners never think about security until they get hacked. Now my online store got hacked long ago, and it was the most miserable experience ever.
I basically lost thousands of dollars as I frantically tried to patch the issues, and get my store back online as quickly as possible. In the event that you get hacked, call sitelock.com, and they will help you out, or even better protect your site before you get hacked. Right now you can get 3 months of SiteLock free if you go to sitelock.com/mywifequitherjob. Once again that’s sitelock.com/mywifequitherjob. Now on to the show.
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 really happy to have Jenifer Depaoli on the show, and Jen is actually a student in my Create a Profitable Online Store course. Now it’s been a while since I’ve heard a student on the show, but last week I actually sent out a survey to my class of about 2000 students and was very pleasantly surprised with the results.
It turns out that 56% of students you’ve launched a product and have been here in the class for at least a year are now all making at least four figures per month, and a whopping 9% of students are actually doing over 50K per month. Anyway Jen runs the awesome store showercurtainhq.com, where she sells shower curtains designed by local artists.
And I’ve had the pleasure of having her in the class for over a year now, and Jen is doing really well with her store where she makes money selling on both her site and on Amazon. And with that welcome to the show Jen, how are you doing today?
Jen: I am doing great Steve, thank you so much for having me.
Steve: Yeah it’s been over a year since we last chatted on Skype I believe, and a lot of things have happened since then.
Jen: Yes, they absolutely have. I took your class and I have to tell you by the way, I found you because of the name of your website My Wife Quit Her Job. I was working at a pharmaceutical lab, and I was very unfulfilled, very miserable, I wanted to just quit and stay home, but the money was good. And I found the podcast through Pat Flynn, he opened up my eyes to making money online, and so I just became obsessed with learning how to do that, and I came across your blog and I was hooked ever since.
And I found your blog and then I wanted to buy your course, and my husband who is like my biggest fan and my biggest skeptic, I remember showing him the course, I was like, “Honey I want to buy this guy’s course,” and he was like, “I can already tell you that looks like a scam.” And I was like, “No you don’t understand, you got to visit this guy’s blog, his wife got to quit her job, they sell stuff online.” He’s like what do they sell online? And I’m like wedding linens and they make a lot of money doing it.
So he finally just said, do whatever you want but I don’t know, it doesn’t look like it would work to me. So I was like [inaudible 00:03:54] determined just to prove him wrong. So I started drop shipping shower curtains, it took me a long time by the way to find my niche, but once I found my niche …
Steve: Yeah, can we talk about that real quickly?
Steve: Talk about the process of finding your niche actually.
Jen: Yeah, I was one of those people where it was kind of like paralysis by analysis for a while, I don’t know if that’s what you call it, but I had a really hard time. I had already bought Market Samurai, and I was just going back and forth, I couldn’t find the right niche, but then – and I would always think about while I was just taking a shower, okay what’s going to be my niche?
I finally just realized, okay shower curtains, unless you have a glass enclosed shower you need a shower curtain and it usually sets the tone for the bathroom, then you know what color to paint the walls and what waste paper basket to get and light fixtures. And a lot of people need to get them, and they fit the metrics that you taught of shipping something small and it’s not an electronic.
So I was like you know what, I’m going to just email Steve and ask him a few things this is a good niche. And I remember you emailed me back right away and you said I already did the keyword research for that for somebody else and I know it’s a good niche, but the good news is, is that person picked a different niche, so you would the only one in the class that is going to do shower curtains.
So finally I just said you know what, I‘m going to do shower curtains. But I was still a little bit afraid to import from China, so I started out drop shipping, and so I just cold called this company. I just started cold calling companies that I found on Etsy and asking them if they would drop ship, and the third company I called it was really cool.
It was a husband and wife team, and they were like, oh yeah we could drop ship for you, how about if we gave you a 30%, we’ll give you a coupon code, and then you can pick out which ones you want, and you can put them on your side. And so I started out drop shipping and I remember my site was live for about a week and then I finally got like that little update on my phone from Shopify that I had made my first sale, and I was like, oh my gosh.
It was like I couldn’t remember, it was like early Sunday morning and I run into the room and like to show my husband like, look I made a sale on my website. And after the site was live for about a month, I remember thinking, okay this class that I took it just paid for itself.
Steve: Awesome. I know you have an interior decorating background somewhat, right?
Jen: I do.
Steve: I just want to ask you this, and this is a question I ask a lot of people, are you passionate about the products that you sell or is it just strictly a money thing?
Jen: You know what that’s a really good question. I do pick products that I would want to put in my own house, and now I’m actually importing shower curtains from China. And again I just keep an eye out on the market like what patterns are hot, what’s trendy, and then if I see something that I think might work, then I go and do the key word research on it to see if it would sell.
I also go and see if there is other competition out there. So I guess — but the answer is yes to both. I also have a sales background, so I want to get paid if I’m going to work hard, and I want to have a type of lifestyle where I can go on vacation with my husband and my daughters and go whenever I want.
Steve: How important do you think it is to like really be passionate about what you’re selling, just in your words?
Jen: You hear different opinions on it. I think that it makes it easier if you’re selling something that you’re passionate about. I mean you’ve had so many entrepreneurs on your podcast that they’re selling something – you’ve even said yourself it’s not like you’re passionate about wedding linens, but your wife is, I mean you guys have a really cool story about how you chose that niche too. So I think there should be some connection to it.
Steve: Okay and you mentioned that you keep up to date with what you think is going to be popular. Let’s say you find something that is popular, how do you go about figuring out whether that particular curtain style is going to sell?
Jen: Well I was able to find some vendors in China that would send me smaller quantities where I can test the market, and then also I have a printer that I have teamed up with. So if I have an artist that will sell some [inaudible 00:08:22] art, and I can put that on a shower curtain, I will try first drop shipping and see if it sells really well that way.
In fact I have two styles that sell really well on my website and then houzz.com, which is a really great market place if anyone sells anything home décor related, and I sell a couple of those styles a day. So I need to just contact the artist and see if I can buy the rights to that and order that one particular style in bulk, because I think that would do really well, actually I know it will do well on Amazon. If people are willing to pay $100 for a shower curtain on Houzz for that style, then I’m sure that if I bought it bulk in China, they would be willing to pay $20 for that same style.
Steve: So back when you were trying to get drop shippers, did you say anything special? So you went on Etsy you said to find these people?
Steve: And then you actually mentioned that you print your own shower curtains as well, how does that work?
Jen: Yeah, that was my second step. So I was drop shipping just strictly drop shipping for a while, and at a 30% profit margin, I didn’t really have any money to do any sort of marketing, so I just figured, okay what’s the next step? I need to find my own printer that can print my own styles.
And so I finally was able to find a printer and I teamed up with an artist who gave me some styles that I only I sell, so own styles they can only get from me from either my website or my brand on Houzz. So it’s still is somewhat of a drop ship business model, because I don’t hold any inventory even though I have my own printer, and my printer isn’t in my garage, the printer is in Kansas city. But then also my husband is a graphic designer, so I was able to have him draw up some really cool patterns that I’m able to sell as well.
Steve: So this printer actually prints on shower curtains, meaning like they stock shower curtains and they just print whatever design that you want on them?
Jen: Yeah. The process is dye sublimation and so this printer they will print shower curtains, they’ll print pillows, they will even print leggings if you want to design your own leggings they’ll print those. I just mostly focus on shower curtains, I also sell a few pillows with the same designs on Houzz, but again the only reason why I’m selling the pillows is because I can drop ship them, I don’t have to hold those inventories, because that would take up a lot of room in our garage.
Steve: Okay and you mentioned how several times now, a lot of people out there they are selling on Amazon, they’re selling on their own site, but very few people have talked about Houzz, so what is the process on selling on there like, what are the margins, how much do they take, and how easy is it to use?
Jen: Okay it’s extremely easy thing to use, and I know that Houzz is really trying to build their market place, and so if you get started selling, you could actually talk to a person live for free where they help you get your whole store set up, and they take a 15% margin every time.
There is no monthly fee, it’s just every time you sell they take 15% of it, and the traffic there is unbelievable. If you talk to any other person that sells on that site, it’s highly worth it. They do recommend that you offer free shipping, so again it’s beneficial if you’re selling something – not like a piece of furniture or a table where it’s going to be expensive to ship. So yeah it’s extremely a profitable hub, anything that you would use in your home, but I’ve even seen stuff that won’t use in your home, I’ve seen baby products being sold on there as well.
So I will say this that the customer that buys off of Houzz is very – I don’t know if the right word is picky, but I do get more returns if the product isn’t completely perfect, they’ll right away and want to return it.
Steve: Okay and they don’t do any sort of fulfillment for you, you always have to sell and fulfill all the goods?
Jen: Correct, yes as of right now.
Steve: Are there any guidelines like they enforce on shipping times and that sort of thing, like how do they keep you guys in line?
Jen: Well the biggest guideline they want is they want the picture on a white background, because it’s an interior designer website, so they really want the pictures to look very professional. I think if you submitted a picture and they didn’t like it, they would say you need a better picture.
And then when you are setting up the listing you need to give a window of time when the order will ship, and since my curtains are – since most of them are made on order I say please allow six to ten days before the order is shipped, and it has not been a problem. The only time I think that they would get upset is if somebody ordered a return and you didn’t respond to them right away, they want you to respond within 24 hours when someone messages you.
Steve: And in terms of the market place, is it just list it and forget it or like are there ads for the platform or anything like that?
Jen: I believe you can buy ads, but I have not, I’ve been able to get enough traffic that it hasn’t really – it’s just hasn’t been something I’ve done because I’m also selling on Amazon and working on my own website. But you can buy – I will tell you this though, they do have newsletters that they send out to their readers every single week.
And there was one time when one of my shower curtains was featured, and I did not know that they were going to feature it, the person just found it and said here’s a new product and it also happened to be the weekend before Thanksgiving. So I think Christmas season was already starting, and I remember selling 30 of those same shower curtains in one day and these were $100 shower curtains.
Jen: So those are really, really nice things.
Steve: So let’s talk a little bit about just – go in to a little bit more depth about some of the more difficult parts about getting your business off your feet. So you mentioned early on that you drop shipped by contacting Etsy vendors, when did you make that decision that you need to go to China to get some stuff?
Jen: It was – okay so I talked to you right after I got laid off from my pharmaceutical job. I was home for about four months and I was researching China vendors, and I knew that if I ever was going to make this the type of business where I was making money in my sleep, I could go on vacation and not have to worry about it, I was going to have to import from China.
I had made that decision, but I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. I remember I was about to put an order in and I was still in between jobs, and so I could tell that my husband didn’t want me spending $6000 with some folk I never talked to before, I was just emailing.
So I finally told him, I said okay I will get another day job, but once I start getting money coming in from my job I’m going to take the money I have made from my shower curtain business and I’m going to import from China. And he said that’s fine, do whatever you want. So I got a new job, totally new industry where I worked from home, I’m an independent contractor so I can make my own schedule but I did have money coming in.
So I found two vendors, put in the orders – and I will tell you this, the first order from China is always the scariest, you wire the money, it’s so scary, you are like I hope that these people don’t scare me, but then the second order that you put into China it’s also scary, it’s just a different scary because it’s not going to get here on time, and you’re going to run out of inventory. So yeah.
Steve: So did you have any problems with quality control at all initially?
Jen: You know what I haven’t, I’ve not gotten one, I’ve been very lucky, I just ask a lot of questions. Usually though whenever you put in a smaller order, they don’t want to accompany with packaging. So these three new styles that I’m launching, they said we’re not going to do any sort of insert cards.
So I’ve had to order stickers and my mom was over yesterday helping me put stickers and labels and barcodes on these new shower curtains, but as long as they’ll sell well and I do a reorder, then they’ll do the insert cards and everything else that I want. No the quality control has been really good, I’ve been very lucky.
Steve: Okay and in terms of your initial orders for testing like how many of these do you buy, like for these three new products that you’re launching?
Jen: Yeah, I bought 300 of each.
Steve: Okay, 300 of each, okay and then usually you start with that quantity and then once you know that it’s going to sell then what do you usually step up your order to?
Jen: Well obviously the more you order the less it is, so as long as it sells a couple a day my second reorder for this one product that’s selling really well – my first order was 1200 because that vendor was not going to do any lower than 1200 for the first order, and then the second order was 3000. Obviously it’s less per unit and again I’m afraid I’m going to run out of inventory by quarter four, I’m going to need to order before Chinese New Year.
Steve: And what’s your turn around time, I’m just curious?
Jen: My turn around time for my website or Amazon or Houzz?
Steve: Oh no, not for fulfillment, just in terms of getting product in your warehouse or in Amazon’s warehouse?
Jen: Oh when I order from China?
Jen: It took about a month, I did everything by sea, I’m cheap so I just figured – once I got that sample and I was comfortable with the sample, I just had everything ordered by sea and it took about a month.
Steve: Okay and then what would you say like your margins are from the products that you order from China, are they north of like 70%?
Jen: Yeah the stock that I had to reorder the style, it sells on Amazon for about $19.99 and I was able to order it for $2.50.
Steve: Okay, so it’s much more than drop ship, like significantly more than drop shipping?
Jen: Oh my goodness yes, yeah.
Steve: Okay, so today I’m just curious do you still drop ship any products?
Jen: I do actually, some of the ones that have sold really well, I’ve cut them on my website, and my website has been around long enough where it has some organic traffic from Google, and if somebody orders a shower curtain that I have to drop ship, I figure okay all I have to do is send an email to order the shower curtain and it’s 20 bucks, I make 20 bucks for an email that takes me two seconds to put the order in for, so yeah.
Steve: And in terms of just your site versus Amazon versus Houzz, like what does the revenue split look like?
Jen: I would say most of my profit right now does come from Amazon and then Houzz would be second and then my website would be third. However, I am working right now, my focus is building my website, because you talked about it on your last podcast Steve that Amazon is very cut throat, I’ve had a lot of piggy backers on some of my styles, and then I have to send them a nasty letter.
So that was the best advice that you gave me was don’t put all of your eggs just in the Amazon basket. Sell on Amazon, sell on your website, have a lot of different revenues and platforms that you sell on. So where I will spend my marketing dollars will be on my own website.
Steve: Before we actually started recording we had talked about certain products that you had on Amazon, have you had any products that were easily found on let’s say like Alibaba where you’ve actually ended up losing margins or having a lot of competition for?
Jen: Yes, the one that sells the most I had that, and what I have zero tolerance for is another vendor selling underneath my listing, I will immediately send them an email and say, “I created this brand from scratch, I don’t know what type of curtain you’re sending these people, but you’re sending them a counterfeit, so I will report you to Amazon if you don’t take down your listing immediately.”
But what you can’t control is that I’m selling a shower curtain and if it’s a cool style and it’s got a bunch of reviews, people are going to know that people want it, and so some people can make their own listing and copy it, and there is nothing I can do to really control that which is why I also need to also sell on other platforms, and I need to continue to launch new products as well.
Steve: So would you say that you’re focusing more on your own designs at this point?
Steve: Okay and with your local artists, can you actually take their designs and sell those on Amazon as well or are you already doing that?
Jen: With my local artists, the only way I would sell them on Amazon is if I could take their art and have it mass produced in China so that the profit margin would be good, and I would pay them for that and it would need to be something that we would agree to. But as of right now the only designs that I’m getting mass produced are the patterns that I’ve either found on Alibaba or my husband has designed a pattern, because I said, hey I like this pattern, can you design me something like it.
Steve: And just as an aside, has your husband come around, because I actually have a lot of students in the class whose spouses aren’t on board when they first launch, and I’m just curious has your husband come around?
Jen: Yes he has. There was someone that I once heard on the podcast describe their spouse as their biggest fan and their biggest skeptic, and I immediately thought, oh my gosh, that’s totally my husband. But yes, he has come around. My advice for anyone where their spouse is not on board with their ecommerce dreams is you just got to show them the money.
Start small, and you can start small, there is no risk in putting up a drop ship store, it’s a great place to start, just know that that’s not where you’re going to make quit your job money, but show them the money and just show them how hard you’re working and then they will get on board. Now my husband is always asking, hey how many shower curtains did you sell today?
And it is fine too because we built our dream house and he built this great big garage to put all of his tools in, and right now there is 3000 shower curtains also sitting in this great big garage that we need to send them to Amazon. So I definitely converted him and I think he’s a lot more open minded too that it really is possible to make money online with this gift that we have of the internet in the age that we live in.
Steve: Just curious, how much money did you invest in this business to start out?
Jen: Initially, well the cost of your course which by the way is worth every penny, you could double the price and it would still be worth every penny and then some, but then to start my website I was — I don’t know like I think I spend 300 bucks a year on Shopify. So that was, I mean there 30 bucks a month to get it started.
Steve: So practically nothing basically?
Steve: Okay, can we talk about your site a little bit, you got your first sale on your sight Right?
Jen: Mm-hmm, I did.
Steve: What sort of marketing were you doing just for that first sale, do you remember?
Jen: Yeah, I was trying to do as much free marketing as possible because I’m cheap. So I set up a Facebook page, I’m addicted to Pinterest, so I would pin everything. I took Pat Flynn’s be everywhere approach, I don’t know if he still sells, but I put it up on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest. I even put it up on Twitter, I remember my brother like texting me, like stop putting shower curtains on Twitter.
So it was a lot of free marketing. I would even like sometimes comment, which I don’t do anymore because now I realize that that was annoying and spammy, but sometimes I would comment on articles, on blog posts and say, oh that’s a really cool shower curtain, if you want another cool shower curtain, come to this website. I stopped doing that.
So I have done some Google advertising, but again I shied away from it at the time because I was only drop shipping and so I felt like the profit margins were so thin it wasn’t worth the investment. But now that I am importing my own goods from China and there is a higher profit margin, I am going to reinvest in Google marketing. Is that where you still suggest the best place to go when you’re marketing your own site?
Steve: Yeah, I mean it really depends on the type of product that you sell, like if it’s a well searched product then Google is pretty good, but if it’s something more noble or more unique where you want to give it a little more originality, then Facebook marketing actually works really well.
And now that your margins are really high yeah you should definitely go and try those out. There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but once you get it, it’s like this channel that you can just pour more money into it and max it out.
Jen: Oh that’s awesome, yeah.
Steve: So what has worked for you, you mentioned a whole bunch of things there, which one worked the best in terms of getting sales, do you remember which channel actually produced that first sale?
Jen: I think it was Pinterest.
Steve: Pinterest, okay. And in terms of your Pinterest strategy, is it just, like how often do you, how much time do you spend every day pinning?
Jen: You know not nearly as much as I used to. When I started my new day job, there was a learning curve to that as well, and so I took some time off of the business, because the curtains had already been ordered and put inside in there, so fulfillment by Amazon so that’s what my focus was. So not very many hours on Pinterest [inaudible 00:25:25].
Again, another strategy though that I did do that I believe you taught me was just long tail key words. I think that those helped me a lot. When I bought your course I had already owned Market Samurai, and so I was just trying to find all of the long tail key words that work with Amazon. Black and white shower curtains is a highly – you know stuff like that.
Steve: So search is probably a good source of revenue for your site, do you know when it kind of kicked in?
Jen: It probably took about six months before I was getting…
Steve: Six months, okay.
Jen: Really good organic traffic.
Steve: Okay, so let’s talk about Amazon for a little bit. You started selling on there when, maybe 16 months ago?
Jen: Yes, September of last year.
Steve: Okay, yeah and how did you get started there and any particular launch strategies that you want to share for your products?
Jen: Yeah, my biggest launch strategy on Amazon was getting to the fulfillment center, set up a listing and then give away enough to get free reviews. And you know I had already practiced on Amazon before, I forgot to tell you this, before I imported from China. I did do a pretty big wholesale purchase for a company that was going out of business, and so I just said you know what I’m going to use this as my experiment on Amazon.
So I had already had a little bit of experience on Amazon before I imported from China, but I remember you told me that there were certain thresholds that you wanted to get in terms of reviews. So once you can get ten reviews that’s the first threshold, and then you want to get 25 reviews, and then once you get up to 100 reviews it’s pretty much organic traffic on Amazon and you don’t have to worry about it.
And so that’s where I’ve gotten my first two styles is they have enough reviews so I don’t need to pay for any clicks, but you give away enough free products and just ask them for an honest review. And then if the product is good, the cream rises to the top.
Steve: Right, and have you ever had any duds that you threw up on there that you just ended up taking down?
Jen: Not yet, no.
Steve: Not yet, okay, so that means you have good taste?
Jen: Yeah, I think so.
Steve: So there’s a lot of questions here that just people who are out there who are just kind of on the side lines probably want to know. So you already mentioned that you spent like $300 to start this business, how long did it take you to put up your site, and did you have any struggles with that?
Jen: You know what, I remember watching the video that you have on your course about how to code, and I remember thinking okay there is no way I’m going to know how to code. Then you came up with another video saying this is why Shopify is my preferred platform, if you’re not going to code yourself, use Shopify.
And so I immediately set up my Shopify cart and I remember setting up my website and almost thinking that I did something wrong because it was so easy. I am not tech savvy at all, and I think setting up my initial site was less than an hour.
Steve: Oh wow, that’s easy provided you had all your images of course right for your products?
Steve: And in terms of your images, did you get professional photography or are they like letterings [ph] that your husband has done?
Jen: You know what; they’re all letterings. Because I was drop shipping, all the curtains are made on order and so at the beginning I was drop shipping, and they were made on order. And so they were computer letterings of the art work on a shower curtain, and so those were the pictures I was using.
Now that I actually have a physical product, I do need to get professional photos taken because I know people like that as well, but it’s amazing that what a really good graphic designer can do with a basic pattern just on picture of a white shower curtain. They can put that pattern on a shower curtain; it would look better than a photograph.
Steve: Yeah you know what’s funny is a lot of people use letterings over photographs because it’s hard to get like all the white balance and everything correct and consistent across your sites. So it’s funny that you say that because I think artist letterings are the way to go if you’re displaying shower curtains in the same way for example all across your site.
Jen: Absolutely and at first I struggled with is this the right thing to do, but if you look at any other really big store that sells home goods, all of the pillows, all of the shower curtains, all of the rags, they are probably all computer letterings over white rug and then they put that pattern that they’re selling on that same picture
Steve: Absolutely, and in terms of finding your niche, how much did you struggle with that, and do you have any tips for people who are out there who you just can’t figure out what to sell?
Jen: Yeah it probably took me about a month to figure out the niche, and I remember – are there ever people that take your class and they never take action because they can’t find their niche?
Jen: Yeah, I think I almost fell victim to that and finally I was just like okay I just keep coming back to shower curtains, and I shot you an email and you said it was a good idea. The advice I would give to people is do your research but then just take action, because even if you try something and it doesn’t work, well you’re going to learn so much on that process and you’ll figure out along the way.
But don’t not take action because you’re scared, you’re probably going to make some mistakes here and there, and that’s okay. But take action because if you don’t take action nothing is going to happen and then you’re going to be just working your nine to five job that you hate forever.
Steve: And how much time did it take for your launch, so you got the idea let’s say after a month, and how long did it take you to get the vendors together and then actually launch your site and get your first sale?
Jen: Well, okay so once I figured out the niche, then I started researching, that took about a week. I remember writing down five people that I was going to call, and the first three people told me, no, drop shipping is not really something I’m interested in doing, and then the fourth person that I got a hold of told me yes.
They had so many products because they were contracting with artists as well that they had enough products that I could launch my store on that. And so all I did was drop ship for probably the first four or five months of the store being live.
Steve: Okay and then in terms of just some of the challenges that you had, what would you say was the hardest part about getting your ecommerce business off of its feet?
Jen: I think I waited way too long to import from China, because I made my first sale and then I got complacent, and then I did the math and I would have needed to sell eleven shower curtains a day drop shipping in order to make up for the income that I was making doing my day job, and there was no way that I was going to get to that point without doing marketing, but I didn’t want to do marketing because the profit margin was too low. So it was I was kind of stuck in that cycle, and so I wish I would have pulled the trigger earlier on importing from China.
Steve: And in terms of finding your Chinese vendors how did you find them?
Jen: I followed the video that you have on your course to a T, just the exact verbiage, just found the ones that had good reviews, where they trade the facility and pretended to be a buyer, which I’m not really pretending, I am the buyer for my store, and I would send them all an email asking for the products and what their minimum order quantity is, and they all get back to you right away.
And so a great time to talk to the Chinese vendors is at night after your kids go to bed, I was emailing them. And I remember it took a couple of months for me to just go back and forth of course balance with people before I found two that I really trusted.
And what’s funny was because my orders were so small, the people that I worked with, they were brand new to their company. They ended up telling me after the fact like you are the very first customer, you are my very first order, I’m so excited, we will help you.
Steve: Oh my goodness.
Jen: I think they figure out pretty quickly when you only want to order 500 of something that you’re not Home Depot or you are not Pier 1.
Steve: Sure, sure, sure. And in terms of getting samples and that sort of thing, like how many vendors did you contact in the beginning until you narrowed it down?
Jen: I probably got samples from maybe five or six different vendors, and that was another place where the cheap part of me didn’t want to take action because – and Scott Walker [ph] talks about this all the time in his podcast, he says that people don’t want to spend $50 on a sample, but you got to just look at it as the cost of doing business.
I would rather lose $200 and find out that that’s not a good vendor to work with, than invest all of this money and then realize after the fact that it’s not a good vendor to work with. So just know that that’s going to be initial a couple of hundred bucks, be willing to spend that, get a really good sample and your vendors will take care of you.
Steve: Okay and then have you had any issues just getting the product over via sea shipment, because that can be a little bit intimidating as well?
Jen: Yes, that process was another – I would say that that was another place that I procrastinated on because I was just – all of the logistics really scared me, so I ended up using a third company, Coppersmith was the company that I used and they are fantastic. So I think that when it was all said and done it cost me $1300 for them to just take care of everything, and I’ll probably just use them moving forward, because or me that’s worth it.
Steve: And you always have everything shipped to you first before you send it off to Amazon?
Jen: I do, I don’t know if I’ll always do that, but whenever I’m launching a new product, I will definitely have that.
Steve: Okay and there is a lot of people on the sidelines who are looking at this interview, or they’re listening to this interview, and they’re probably a little bit hesitant. Do you have anything that you can say to them to just encourage them to even just get started?
Jen: Yeah, I would say this; I would say action cures fear. What’s really weird Steve is my new day job I am a sales coach where I talk to sales people on the phone and encourage them to do the things they know they need to do even when they don’t feel like doing them, and one of the things I always tell them is action cures fear.
Whatever they’re afraid of, the anticipation is way worse than actually having to go through it, and whatever you’re imagining is way worse than any challenge you’re going to come across. So just take action, whatever that next step is do it, because you’re going to regret it if you don’t take action.
Steve: Do you recommend people take your route as well which is like dip your toes in drop shipping, or do you recommend that they just jump right in and just start importing?
Jen: If they’re really scared, then try drop shipping; you really honestly have nothing to lose other than 30 bucks a month to set up a Shopify store. But again that’s one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t import from China sooner.
Steve: Well hey Jen, thanks a lot for coming on the show, I know that a lot of listeners are going to be inspired by what you’re saying here. If anyone has any questions for you either about the class or your store or just your experiences, where can they find you?
Jen: You know what I’m on LinkedIn all the time, so if they want to find me on LinkedIn, or if they email firstname.lastname@example.org, that goes right to my Yahoo account, and yeah I would love to talk to them.
Steve: Oh yeah I know one thing that I actually did want to ask you is when did you start realizing the importance of having your own brand and your own products? Was it when you started getting piggy backed?
Jen: Let me see, that’s a good question. So I guess when I realized I needed my own brand was when I wasn’t making – I knew I wasn’t going to make really good sustainable income just drop shipping because when you’re drop shipping you’re selling other people’s brands. So that was when I realized, but again yeah the first time I got piggy backed, I realized also the importance of having my own store, so they really are mutually important.
Steve: Okay, well Jen thanks a lot or coming on the show, I really appreciate it.
Jen: Thank you so much or having me Steve, and thanks or your awesome course.
Steve: All right take care.
Jen: Okay, bye, bye.