Today I’m really happy to have Ron Eiger on the show. Ron is probably one of my oldest students in my Create A Profitable Online Store Course.
I launched the class in 2011 to very small group and I believe Ron joined in 2012 after I released it to the public. Now what’s cool is that Ron and I have kept in touch over the years and he’s been doing awesome.
He runs the store SunnyDecals.com where he sells children’s wall decals. In addition, he also private labels various products on Amazon. All told he’s on track to do 7 figures this year. Enjoy the interview
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What You’ll Learn
- How Ron came up with the idea to sell childrens wall decals
- How he generated his first sales
- How he recovered from losing 75% of his sales overnight
- Ron’s advice for new ecommerce entrepreneurs
Other Resources And Books
Klaviyo.com – Klaviyo is the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store. Created specifically for ecommerce, it is the best email marketing provider that I’ve used to date. Click here and try Klaviyo for FREE.
Scope.Sellerlabs.com – If you are selling on Amazon, then Scope from Seller Labs is a must have tool to discover which keywords will make you the most money. Click here and get $50 off the tool.
Kabbage.com – If you run a physical products based business, sometimes you need a short term loan to buy inventory to meet demand, especially during the holiday season. Kabbage helps small business owners access simple and flexible funding right away. Click here and get a $50 Visa gift card upon signup.
SellersSummit.com – The ultimate ecommerce learning conference! Unlike other events that focus on inspirational stories and high level BS, the Sellers Summit is a curriculum based conference where you will leave with practical and actionable strategies specifically for an ecommerce business. Click here and get your ticket now before it sells out.
Ron Eiger runs Sunnydecals.com, and he’s on track to hit seven figures this year. He’s one of the oldest members of my class, and he’s had a lot of ups and downs with his business over the years. You’re going to love this episode because it provides a realistic account of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
But before we begin I want to give a quick shout out to Seller Labs for sponsoring this episode, and specifically I want to talk about their awesome Amazon tool, Scope. Now if you know me, I get really excited about tools I like and use. And Scope is a tool that actually increased my Amazon sales on several listings by 39% within the first week of use. Crazy, right?
Now what does this tool do that could possibly boost my sales so quickly? Well, quite simply, Scope tells you what keywords are driving sales on Amazon. So here is what I did. I searched Amazon and found the bestselling product listings in my niche, then I used Scope to tell me exactly what keywords that bestselling listing was using to generate sales. I added these keywords to my own listings, and my sales picked up immediately.
So today I use Scope for all my Amazon products to find high converting keywords in the back end as well as for my Amazon advertising campaigns. So in short, Scope can boost your Amazon sales almost immediately like they did for mine, and 39% is nothing to sneeze at. Right now if you go to Sellerlabs.com/wife, you can check out Scope for free, and if you decide to sign up, you’ll get $50 off any plan. Once again that’s Sellerlabs.com/wife.
I also want to give a shout out to Klaviyo who also is a sponsor. I’m always excited to talk about Klaviyo because they are the email marketing platform that I personally use for my ecommerce store, and I depend on them for over 20% of my revenues. Now Klaviyo is the only email platform out there that is specifically built for ecommerce stores, and here is why it’s so powerful.
Klaviyo can track every single customer who has shopped in your store and exactly what they bought. So let’s say I want to send out an email out to everyone who purchased a red handkerchief in the last week, easy. Let’s say I want to set up a special auto-responder sequence to my customers depending on what they purchased, piece of cake, and there is full revenue tracking on every single email.
Now Klaviyo is the most powerful email platform that I’ve ever used, and you could try them for free at mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s, mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. 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 Ron Eiger on the show. And Ron is probably one of my oldest students in my Create a Profitable Online Store Course. Like I launched the class back in 2011 to a very small group, and I think Ron joined in 2012 just after I released it out to the general public.
Now what’s cool is that Ron and I have kept in touch over the years, and he’s been doing awesome. He runs the store Sunnydecals.com, where he sells children’s wall decals, and in addition he also private labels various products on Amazon. And all told, I think he’s on track to do seven figures this year. And with that, welcome to the show Ron, how are you doing today man?
Ron: Good. Thank you for having me on.
Steve: Ron let’s start like from the very beginning, because I know you’ve had a whole bunch of ups and downs in the past, what has it been like, five years now I guess?
Steve: Yeah, so how did you come up with a niche for Sunny Decals first?
Ron: Well, we were trying to find a good idea. I was taking your classes and you were encouraging people to find a specific niche. At the time our first child was born, and we were decorating the nursery, and I don’t know how most people are, but we were choosing paint with no VOCs, we want to get organic cotton, want to make sure the crib is not made in China. And then we got this custom made decals on Etsy. And when we installed it, we’re like, oh my God, it had such a strong plastic, almost toxic smell, and this was going right by the crib.
And we literally had to open the window and the doors and air it out for I don’t know, five, six days before the smell dissipated. And my wife and I looked at each other, we were like, there’s going to be a nontoxic decal out there on the market, right? And we started searching online, and we couldn’t find it. My wife is a graphic artist, so like maybe this is a good idea. Maybe let’s explore this a little bit further and do something a little bit different than what’s out there.
Steve: What were your motivations for starting the business in the first place, was it because you’re both going to quit or?
Ron: I was actually in the middle of looking for something new to do. Prior to this I was doing something completely different which was Intel marketing at a call center, and that was right towards the end of 2009. This is when the economy started taking a downturn, and we were doing mostly B to B sales, and it just started going downhill, and we decided to just get out of it. So I was in the process of just trying to find something new.
Steve: So your wife’s background was in graphic design. Did you have any prior experience selling online or even selling decals or are making decals?
Steve: Zero, all right. How did you know that they were going to sell?
Ron: Well, I started studying some competitors and some other companies that were doing something similar but not exactly. So I knew that there was enough of a marketplace out there that if you could take a piece of that pie, we’d have a good business. And like I said, we wanted to make something different enough that was not being offered in the marketplace at the time and we thought that idea would work.
Steve: And because the decals that you bought were stinky and toxic, the ones that you were selling were not obviously, right?
Ron: So the difference between our decals and most decals that you find online is most decals online are made from vinyl, which is made from PVCs, and most of it is coming from China especially what you find on market places like Amazon that just mass produce. And ours is made from a fabric material which is nontoxic, and has a water based adhesive. It’s extremely user friendly, there’s no smell, and it’s — I would consider it a high end product. It’s more expensive obviously than Chinese decals out there, and all the vinyl ones, but it’s a quality product.
Steve: Was that a problem, like not the quality part but like you had to price it more expensive, right?
Ron: I mean I guess you could still say it’s a problem in a way to this day, because our volume is going to be less because most people don’t want to spend that extra money. But if the feedback that we’re getting and we get a lot of repeat customers, people understand that you get what you pay for. And it really is a big difference when you compare them side by side. It’s just hard to portray that online when you can’t show physically the product to the customer until they actually purchase it or read the reviews.
Steve: So let’s — so what I was hoping to do for the listeners is just kind of give a realistic view of your journey, because it’s not all like roses and make money all the time, and it’s not like you had an instant hit. So let’s talk about the beginning, like how did you start out, and then how did that kind of evolve — your business evolve over time? Like what was like the eureka moment when you started making money?
Ron: So we started selling on our website first. At first we played it really safe, we found a wholesale printer that was close by to us in LA. We had a very limited catalog, and it wasn’t going that well. And then we decided, let’s explore some other marketplaces. At that point I looked at Etsy first, and as soon as we start listing on Etsy, we started getting sales, which come on guys, Etsy, this is great. It’s a great marketplace, we’re getting consistent sales, things are going well. And after that, I started looking into selling on Amazon.
Then Amazon started taking off way faster than Etsy did, which is obviously, it’s a much bigger marketplace, more eyes, more customers ready to shop. And from there, say about a year or so into the business, we decided to buy our own printer and start manufacturing ourselves. And I had really put the printer in our garage, and worked from there.
Steve: Is it still in your garage?
Ron: Not anymore. We actually grew, we grew more, we got a warehouse now.
Steve: Okay, cool.
Ron: We’ve got more machines; we’ve got people helping us. The nice thing about having our own printer is now we’re not limited to carrying inventory; we could just print on demand.
Steve: Okay, and these printers, did you lease them or did you actually buy them out right?
Ron: We bought them out right, it was an investment.
Steve: Okay, sorry I interrupted you, so okay so you bought a machine, how did you needed to go that route, like was it just a numbers game at that point?
Ron: I saw our sales; I figured that the way we can grow is by adding more items to our catalog. The more options we present in front of customers, the better chance we have of getting a sale. So I knew the machine, having machines would be an important investment, and the only way that we could further grow the business. The model that we had before was just not going to work.
Steve: Okay, now let me ask you this. It seems like decals, you have these designs that your wife is generating, right, like how did you choose like what keywords to target on Amazon and your site? Like what was your strategy for deciding what designs even produce?
Ron: Just researching. We would just look online to see what was getting most traffic and those hits, and really just expand that we wanted to create like I said a wide set of options for our customers so anything good related, I think we have pretty much everything we could think of covered at this point. And right now we’re doubling or tripling the options on those, because we just want to offer more selection. And yeah, we just build it on that.
Steve: And these are all designs that your wife is making, you’re not licensing any designs or anything like that, right?
Steve: We looked into licensing, but honestly it just doesn’t fit our model. To get like a Disney license, you’re looking at 50K or more, and that only makes sense if you have like a master solution, if you get into like retail. And the volume that we’re selling at just doesn’t make sense to do it. So most of the art is either done by my wife, we’ll also hire some artists from time to time to help us with some designs. So we get different ideas, different styles.
Steve: I’m just trying to get an idea of like how you test a design. So you get a design, do you list it on Etsy and Amazon right away?
Ron: I list them on yeah Etsy, Amazon, and our website all at the same time.
Steve: And how do know — like what’s your launch process then?
Ron: Well, before October we had some review groups that we work with. At least it gets some reviews for our launch, but that obviously doesn’t work anymore. So honestly at this point if we launch new designs, if I feel really good about the product, I may send some into FBA, so it’s available for prime, turn on the ads, and we also have access to AMS. I do some headline ads as well to see if we could take off.
And it’s one of those things that I never know what’s going to do well until we just do it, because sometimes I love a design, I’m like, oh this is going to be a huge hit, and it’s not. And sometimes I don’t like a design, and that becomes a huge hit. So I couldn’t tell you why it happens, but that’s how it works.
Steve: So it sounded like you do merchant fulfilled normally, is that correct?
Ron: Well, we have — on a suit [ph] all the variations, we have more than 1,000 skews.
Steve: That’s crazy, okay.
Ron: We could have a million skews really because we could — like I said we print it on the fly, so when the order comes in, we could just make it. But I probably keep 100 skews our top sellers at Amazon that are available for prime. So yeah between the two, I’d say we probably sell more on prime because those are our best sellers and we do a merchant fulfilled. But yeah we have orders that we’ve got to make every single day.
Steve: Okay, and in terms of all the different platforms, do you use any software to kind of just manage the orders and consolidate them?
Ron: The only thing I do for software, I use ShipStation. That just makes it easier that I could do all the labels, and I don’t have to go to these marketplaces and copy and paste. The tracking information, it does it for me. But aside from that I don’t worry about inventory, which is nice except for whatever happens in Amazon Prime. And so yeah, I don’t need to worry about tracking that. Yeah, so it’s just really ShipStation like in a supervisor…
Steve: That’s actually really — your model is really nice because even though you’re doing merchant fulfilled, there’s no inventory, and you just kind of print on demand.
Ron: Yeah, I mean it opens up; we could do a lot of customization which we do. And like I said, I just want to keep adding more and more products, and there’s nothing stopping us from doing so.
Steve: And so for Amazon it sounds like you launch a skew and you run a lot of PPC to it and see if it has legs, and if it does, you send in a whole bunch for prime.
Ron: Exactly. And honestly at this point we’re kind of having a hard time keeping up with some of our top sellers, just printing them as fast as we can, but we’re at a point now we either have to start a second shift, or get another machine.
Steve: Oh is that right? Okay so you are machine limited right now?
Ron: Probably machine and manpower.
Steve: And manpower okay. Can I ask what your margins are, like I imagine ink and paper cost money, right?
Ron: Those are our biggest expense. Our material is our biggest expense. We definitely honestly the price of our material is — I’m not even joking, it’s like five times as much as like your standard vinyl. So it’s a big cost. Our margins are probably around 50%.
Steve: Okay wow even though you’re producing yourself.
Ron: We’re the manufacturer, right, so I don’t have to pay the margin to anyone else to make it for me; it’s all coming to us. But it’s coming to — it’s all our hard work.
Steve: Is that net or gross?
Ron: That would be net.
Steve: Okay net, that’s not — okay so that’s after Amazon fees and everything like that.
Steve: Okay, that’s not bad, that’s good. Okay I see. And okay so Amazon — let’s start getting into the bad stuff now. So okay your Amazon sales are going well, and then what happens?
Ron: Well, there was a point, a couple years ago where we were approached by Amazon, they’re like you guys are doing really great, we want to bring you over and become a vendor for us. And my eyes are like, wow we made it, right because Amazon is not coming to us, they want to sell our products, they’re giving us tools that we don’t have now, like at that time A plus listing. At that time enhanced brand page content did not even exist. We had access to AMS, which was extremely hard to get into; there was no vendor express at that time.
So unfortunately this is hardly any information out there and no one’s talking about it about the vendor program on Amazon, and I didn’t know what to do. I thought about it, the sales rep was super aggressive that was talking to me, and assured me that everything’s going to go really, really well, and they want to transition our account over to the vendor side. I agree to it reluctantly, and it was a nightmare of a process. They basically — the process at that time moving on to vendor central means we had to recreate all of our listings, and move it over to the vendor side.
And what I learned from that is basically everything, all of our history, all of our BSR, all of our ranking got reset. And when this actually happened, our traffic dropped by maybe 75%.
Ron: And it turned out to be honestly the worst mistake we’ve ever made on Amazon. And to be honest now in retrospect, we weren’t a good fit for the vendor program, because we don’t want to wholesale to Amazon, we want control of our listings, we want to sell ourselves. And the vendor program is maybe good for manufacturers who can produce and just ship it, and they don’t want to deal with the sales on Amazon, but that’s not us. And that obviously wasn’t explained to me at the time. It took us…
Steve: How do you recover from that?
Ron: I want to say it took us a long time to recover. The vendor side is honestly awful. You don’t have seller support that you can call and talk to on the phone. Anything that you need, any problem you have, you have to open up a ticket, it goes to India, there’s definitely a language barrier. They hardly want to help, and it was terrible. I mean they changed all of our titles. I can’t — right now, I still to this day I can’t edit a lot of our products, they’re locked on the vendor side.
Steve: I was just wondering, can you create like very similar skews just as your own again, and then just…
Ron: Yeah, I probably could, but I know Amazon frowns upon duplicate listings. So if I let’s say have owls [ph], and I want to sell the same owls on the seller central side, I don’t think they’ll like that I’m creating a duplicate listing on the catalog.
Steve: Or maybe something very slightly different, just so you could put a new skew?
Ron: I mean that’s possible. Honestly our best selling products are the products that we came after this whole transition happened, because those are the products that we have full control over.
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So basically the ones that are now vendor central you kind of just let them go essentially?
Ron: We’re still getting sales from them, but nothing like we did before. It really threw us through the roof because at that time we had a lot of stuff on FBA, and we stocked according to demand. So some of our best selling products, we had a lot of interest in there. Now when everything reset, it’s like starting over from day one. So all those bestsellers were not bestsellers anymore, and we had a lot of stranded inventory, and we had to recall that.
And then all of a sudden things that were not bestsellers were becoming our best sellers, everything flip flopped around. So it was definitely the worst experience, and I think still to this day no one talks about the vendor program. I’m not sure why, maybe because there’s very few people in it.
Steve: I haven’t heard anything good about it actually from anybody.
Ron: It’s a mess. It feels very disorganized, and like I said you can’t — the support is really terrible. And you basically lose control of your listings. So I don’t think I would recommend it for most people.
Steve: Okay, so you started producing new listings obviously as yourself in Seller Central, and you kind of recovered your sales from doing that, right?
Ron: Yeah, it took time, it did take time, and our traffic to be honest till this day, our traffic probably did not recover from where we were before. We had a lot of traffic. Our conversion rate is a lot higher, but our traffic is down. We just — we can’t even buy the traffic that we had before.
Steve: Can we talk about some of the other marketplaces that you’re using, like you have your own website, and then you said you mentioned you sell on Wayfair, at CN House. And I’m just kind of curious like what the breakdown of revenue is there, probably you can just approximate. And I know you told me beforehand, before we started recording that your site actually doesn’t generate that many sales, and I was just wondering like what your take is on all those things?
Ron: Well, okay so Amazon dominates the business for us for sure, probably 70% of our sales, followed by Etsy I’d say maybe 15% of our sales, followed Wayfair, which maybe is 10% of our sales, followed by our website, which is maybe literally 5% of our sales, and Houzz probably not even a percent. So it’s a fraction of that.
Steve: So what are some of your challenges with your own website? I know you gave it a pretty strong go because we were communicating quite a bit in the beginning.
Ron: I’ve lost thousands of dollars trying to make our website work. I’ve hired out — I first of all I tried doing all the ads. I did Google ad campaigns and Google Shopping by myself, I couldn’t get to work. And I hired a Google partner, they promised me the world, and I paid them – I think I paid them a couple of thousand dollars to set up our campaigns. I tried it for six months, they just were not able to turn a profitable campaign, it just was not able to work.
And I think the problem is, our product is like, I compare it to buying art, and if someone is looking to buy like a tree decal, more than likely they’re not going to buy the first tree decal that they land on. They want to see other designs and other styles. Because of that conversion rate is kind of low.
And AdWord – text ads for sure don’t work, and the Shopping, the conversions were just not high enough to pay for themselves. So most of our sales honestly, are probably coming from organic traffic. And people maybe shopping around from other marketplaces, looking for us to see if we have other options or other deals.
Steve: I kind of categorize what you guys do like jewelry and clothing almost, because it’s all about the design, right? And so someone in the search for wall decals or children’s wall decals, they’re probably looking for something very specific, and unless you have this like gigantic library, it’s going to be kind of hard to make a sale.
Ron: That’s pretty much exactly it.
Steve: And your best bet is probably Facebook, where you show a specific design that’s a best seller and attract someone to just buy it.
Ron: We’ve played around; I’m not good with social media. I think that’s like my weakest skill that I have, but we have played around Instagram, we still do have an Instagram account that we post on, we have Pinterest, and there’s entries…
Steve: Has Instagram brought any sales for you guys?
Ron: No, when the ads first came out, I tried to promote that as well, but just wasn’t generating revenue for us.
Steve: What about email, do you have any email list for your business?
Ron: I know this is like a really important thing to have, I swear everyone…
Steve: I’m not trying to get at you, I’m just curious because we haven’t chatted a while.
Ron: No, I don’t and I know I should, and I know how important is, but I don’t have one set up.
Steve: So there’s different schools of thought on that, right? I mean Amazon is working for you, right? And why not press it, why not put all your efforts on Amazon as long as it’s working?
Ron: Well, that’s exactly what we did. When we started our website and then Etsy and then Amazon, and I saw Amazon was taking off, I’m like I’m just going to focus my attention here. And of course our site got neglected for a while because I want to go where the money is at. And yeah, I mean truth be said, like I said Amazon is our biggest producer, and I’ve learned a lot about the Amazon marketplace, all the ins and outs, and how to market products on there. And I learned some very valuable skills over the years on there.
Steve: So can we talk about why you decided to launch other private label products like kind of straight away from decals?
Ron: The deal thing was not always like a passion of mine, I thought it would be a good thing to launch to get something started for my wife because she’s very much the creative type. I wanted to learn how to sell things online. And I think from listening to your classes, I got turned on to other people like Scott Voelker, Greg Mercer, and I started learning about all the private label world.
And I thought this would be perfect, I’m very familiar with how Amazon works, I think about finding the right product, I’ll be able to make it work. And about a year and a half ago, I started another private label and that took off way faster than Sunny Decals. So I think you find the right product just moves more volume, and there’s just more demand. It’s a different business altogether.
Steve: Are you still having those products shipped to you, or do you ship them directly from manufacturer to Amazon?
Ron: I ship it to a freight forwarder, and from there to Amazon. So I do my inspections in China, make sure everything is okay. By now I have good relationships with my manufacturers, and yeah I ship them directly to Amazon.
Steve: So it ends up being less work then, than sunny Decals?
Ron: It is but it isn’t, right, because there’s always work to do. I’m always tweaking campaigns and optimizing, and there’s a lot of customer service. The more sales you get, the more customer service there is. So I definitely put my time into it every single day.
Steve: Okay, but in terms of just inventory and what not right, I mean on one percentage you can always — you have to deal with all the machines probably breaking, and…
Ron: Yeah, if I knew five years ago what I do today, I probably would have done things different.
Steve: Okay, let’s talk about that actually, what would you do differently if you’d start all over?
Ron: I wouldn’t do it myself. I mean manufacturing is hard physical work, and it’s very — it’s just labor intensive, and you have limitations as to — like right now how much we can produce because we have maybe lack of manpower or lack of machinery. And when you produce something overseas, someone else is making for you. You can move more volume; you don’t have to stress out about making it. Maybe the margins are a little bit less, but you’re selling more with no physical work involved. So essentially I’m a manufacturer right, so it’s hard work. I would prefer to white label out personally.
Steve: Have you run into any problems selling on Amazon, whether it be just like copycats?
Ron: I deal with every single issue you could think of. I mean anyone who’s in the marketplace long enough has seen it. I have so many stories; I wouldn’t even know where to start. I mean on the Sunny Decal side, we had for almost a year these brand new accounts popping up like maybe six seven at a time listing our whole catalog all at once at a fraction of the price. And they weren’t sending anything out, they were just basically collecting the money and shutting the accounts down within a month, and moving on, and I get them kicked out. By the time I get kicked out there’s three more replacing them.
Steve: That’s still happening by the way.
Ron: It’s still happening. It’s slowed down for us thankfully; maybe, I mean I was super aggressive on stopping these people. I just ran to something new actually this week. Someone, another seller I believe from China, they literally printed our decals, the image on Amazon onto a clear decal if that makes sense. So they just printed our image that was listed on Amazon, the worst quality ever and yeah and they had the nerve to actually send it to prime. They copied our title, they copied our image, they copied the decal, the bullet points, everything, and they made a separate listing.
Steve: That’s crazy.
Ron: So that’s the newest thing that I’ve seen. And then of course I’ve had people counterfeiting our products in other ways. We had even on the private label, the private label…
Steve: Do you find yourself constantly having to come up with new products because some of your old ones like the competition comes up, and then it’s not as profitable anymore?
Ron: I might be in a unique position because I know that happens a lot, but with my private label, I’m not budging on the price. I decided this is the price I want to sell it at, and I’m not going to do the whole price cutting. And we’re going to focus on the quality; we’re going to focus on customer service. And to be honest our sales never took a hit. I’m not saying that’s going to last forever, but it’s lasted this far.
We are probably one of the more expensive ones amongst the competition, but I’m definitely getting the volume that I want to get. We’re ranking very high up on page one. So k I’m just going to stick to what we’re doing.
Steve: Yeah, would you say that your listing is superior to the rest?
Ron: For sure. I mean I’m probably the only that have the enhanced brand page content, I have professional photography, it’s really well done. In my opinion, not to boast, but I think it’s really well put together.
Steve: And so one of the reasons why I like to have students on the podcast is to just kind of give like a realistic view, and there’s probably a lot of people listening who are on the sidelines who want to know like how hard it was for you to start making money. And so what would you say was like your biggest challenge, and give them some advice, like just from you people, because you started from scratch.
Ron: Well, there’s different challenges on Sunny Decals and the private label. So I don’t know which one would you want me to focus on?
Steve: Let’s go with both of them, we’ve got some time.
Ron: Okay, challenge on Sunny Decals, I guess justifying our price. We’re more expensive than anyone else, and why is someone going to want to spend more. And when you’re brand new, we had no reviews, no feedback, and honestly all this stuff just takes time. There was no shortcuts for us. If you look at our reviews, if anyone goes on Amazon and looks at Sunny Decals, you’ll see our reviews are stellar. We have a quality product; I mean you can’t really compare our stuff with most of the stuff sold on Amazon.
Ours is pretty much like handmade product, everything we do is touched by our hands, and it’s what I consider very high end, but it took time, it took time. It took a long time to get sales, to get reviews and feedback.
Steve: Do you still do giveaways?
Ron: No, I stopped that completely, because I don’t — I understand there’s a point of me trying to get sales velocity, but getting reviews is almost scary these days if you’re doing the giveaway, because Amazon may use that is incentivized. So I just avoid it altogether.
Steve: What about heavily discounted, do you do any of those?
Ron: I’m doing that right now with one of my new launches on my private label, but I’m so funny with challenges. I mean it’s not — still not taking off as fast as I want despite cutting the price. I think I just have to build up over time.
Steve: Okay, what would you say is the biggest challenge in launching a product on Amazon, or the whole product selection process?
Ron: That’s, honestly that’s something I still struggle till today. I am in a position right now; I’m actually kind of stuck. I’m trying to find another product to launch for the private label business.
Steve: How did you find the winner, you mentioned that it sells like 1,000 units or thousands of units a month or something.
Steve: Well, I used Jungle Scout honestly at that point, which Jungle Scout; this is probably in the early days of Jungle Scout, which there were probably not as many users on. I found a product, I read the reviews, I found what people were complaining about it, I found ways to improve on it and make it different, make it our own, made some really nice packaging, which no one else was doing at that time. I just found ways to just make it a little bit better than what else is out there.
But today I want to say I’m kind of scared to use Jungle Scout. I just feel like every time I add something to a tracker, I’m just showing it to the rest of the community. I hope I’m not getting you in trouble by saying that.
Steve: No, that’s okay.
Ron: But that’s why maybe I’m finding it harder to do the product research now.
Steve: Interesting, so what advice would you give someone who wants to start on Amazon today?
Ron: I would use certain tools, maybe not necessarily the tracker, but I still use the let’s say the Jungle Scout plug-in.
Steve: the Chrome plug-in, yeah.
Ron: Yeah, so today you have tools that didn’t exist years ago, and you can validate products that you couldn’t do before, and honestly it makes it a lot easier. You can go with full confidence knowing ahead of time that an item sells before you have to invest into making it and start selling it, right? What I would advise people is just once you find that item is to just do it, and I think people are just reluctant or may be scared of the challenge, and maybe the first product is not going to be like a home run, but you’re going to learn a lot in the process.
It’s learning, there’s a learning curve here, and the only way to learn it, is to actually get your feet wet and do it. And like I said I mean till this day I’m still learning new things every day, so this is part of how it works. I think you just have to try it.
Steve: Let me ask you this Ron, when you place an order for a brand new product that you don’t even have a listing for, how many units do you start up buying these days?
Ron: I always buy a 1,000. Again I do enough research where I feel confident that I could eventually sell them, and I am terrified of running out of inventory. I don’t know, I feel like back in the day of running out of inventory, I restock. I’d almost jump back almost immediately back to where I was before. but the last couple of times I’ve run out, I suck, I’m doing a new product launch all over again. I really had to fight my way back to my position I was before.
Steve: Interesting okay.
Ron: My advice is, don’t run out.
Steve: So what’s interesting about Ron was saying, for the people who are kind of on the sidelines is he’s willing to put down a 1,000 units as an initial investment. I know like the people that I teach, they are a little bit squeamish about dropping a lot of inventory. And so I guess what most people don’t realize is how huge the market place is, and if you do the research right, like even if it takes you a little bit longer to move those units, like eventually they’ll move if you did your research correctly.
Ron: Exactly, and if you got to drop, maybe your margins might not be as attractive as you first thought, but I believe you could always unload it if you really wanted to. So especially if you’ve done your research and you know that there’s enough demand for that item, you’re going to be able to do it.
Steve: Let me ask you this, so most of your sales are on Amazon right, and so are you ever worried about that market kind of changing and like if it — I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten a serious ban or anything like that, but are you worried at all about that?
Ron: I am very worried about that, yeah. I have had issues like that already happen; I’ve had fake people trying to report me for some sort of infringements. So like I said, I think at this point I’ve dealt with almost every scenario out there. Yeah, it does make me nervous. At any point Amazon can decide to sell a product, at any time Amazon can decide to increase their commissions or to increase storage fees or something else that will hurt us.
Steve: I just want to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six-day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products sell all the way to getting your first sales online.
Now this course is free and can be attained at mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email, and I’ll send you the course right away. Once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/free, now back to the show.
So my follow up question for that is, are you worried enough to focus on other marketplaces at this point?
Ron: To be honest I did recently get our products listed on to Wal-Mart. Not on the Sunny Decals, on the private label. So yeah, I think it’s important to try to leverage yourself and get yourself to other marketplaces for sure. It’s just all those marketplaces combined don’t have the volume and just the traffic that Amazon produces. I mean whoever goes to — Amazon is just a beast at this point, and I think they’re unstoppable. People go there to shop for one reason only, so it’s a really — it’s an addiction that I don’t think can stop, right?
Steve: Yeah I know, yeah that’s what I’m finding as I’m teaching my class now, like people get like this huge flood of sales on Amazon, and it’s natural to just put most of your efforts on whatever is working, and kind of ignore everything else. So I was just kind of curious what your take was on that.
Ron: I mean I wish that super sales were coming all from my site. That would be the ultimate. But it’s not for lack of trying; I just haven’t been able to produce those kinds of results.
Steve: Hey Ron, how much money did you invest when you first started because this business?
Ron: The Sunny Decals or the private label?
Steve: Let’s do the Sunny Decals.
Ron: So Sunny Decals initially was very little because we didn’t have the machinery, I was basically buying it wholesale. So I would say definitely less than $10,000, but the machines are expensive. They run anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 each, so that’s an investment. By that time I knew that was going to work, so I’d already — I took a very cautious approach. If I was more risky, then I probably would have bought machines from the get go.
But I validated by how we started, yeah maybe it was a slower approach, it took a little bit longer, but I felt confident that I could spend that money on that machine to get the business started. So yeah, [overlapping 00:38:31].
Steve: What was your initial investment on the private label?
Ron: I started with 10,000.
Steve: Ten thousand also, okay.
Ron: Yeah, $10,000 got me pretty much my first purchase order. I started with just one skew. This is another thing that I feel like a lot of people don’t talk about is liquidity when it comes to private label. The more successful you become, the more you have to invest in the products, and it gets extremely expensive very, very fast, especially when you move a lot of volume. So it takes a lot of money.
Steve: Let me ask you this, do you take a salary for yourself, like it’s really easy to just put all your money back in inventory, right?
Ron: It is. On the private label, I honestly just started paying myself salary a few months ago, and that was after over a year. I was just like you said, I was just dumping everything right back in, but at some point you have to pay yourself for your time, for your effort, you have to give that to yourself. And yeah, I’m just lucky that I guess I got to that point where I feel comfortable to do that.
Steve: Yeah it’s funny, like with our store we always — we needed the money to live in a way. So we always risked running out of stock. It was just a conscious decision, like it stunted our growth for sure, but it is…
Ron: Yeah, exactly. I mean that’s something you have to do.
Steve: How long did it — so with your site or with Sunny Decals, like how long did it take you to launch, and how long till your first sale?
Ron: It probably took longer than it should have, because we’re super picky on how things work out. My wife is extremely meticulous about things, she designed our website herself, it was a lot of work. I’d say Sunny Decals probably took us maybe a couple of months before we could even start selling anything. It took us — we wanted to put enough designs together that we felt we could launch with.
Like I said we started on our website, we wanted to make sure everything was set up perfectly. So yeah, I mean it took longer than I feel like it should have, but it was our first try, our first go at it, we just wanted to be super careful.
Steve: And in terms of Amazon or your last private little product, like how long to the first sale?
Ron: I started researching products in February, not this year, the year before, and by April I was already selling. So I’d say that…
Steve: Pretty fast.
Ron: Petty fast yeah. I did airship the first ones. I was able to do a little bit faster, but I mean at this point our products are just too much. We ship now by 20 foot containers.
Steve: Cool man. So, any advice for anyone out there who just kind of waiting on the sidelines and afraid to take any action?
Steve: I mean given all the bad things that have happened to you and all that…
Ron: I think people today have a lot of information out there to help them that really wasn’t as available when I first started. I was in your class. I wouldn’t be able to do it without taking a class. I’m not just saying that to boast or give you a big boost or anything, but it’s shaped…
Steve: Check the mail man, yeah.
Ron: I do get some people ask me from time to time like, hey how is his class, is it worth it, is worth the cost? And I always say, yes it is, because the value that you gave us at that time, and I’m sure that you still do, it’s constant updated information, nonstop work. You gave me a lot of one-on-one personal attention that I needed when I had questions to ask. And honestly when are you going to get a coach or someone to help you when you run into these obstacles and problems?
I think people today have enough resources out there to get the knowledge that they need, and to just do it. People that hesitate, they’re like; oh they don’t know if they want to take the leap and to give it a try…
Steve: Let me ask you this Ron, clearly you don’t think that you actually need ten grand to start, do you?
Ron: You could do it for less. I know there’s certain classes out there also teaching to start with $1,000 or to start with making very small purchase order let’s say on Ali Express, and to validate products before you invest more money, or to go bigger. So there’s certainly — look like I said, we started very cautiously. We didn’t start right away by buying machines. So there are ways to start private labeling with a lot less money. It just maybe will take a little bit longer.
Steve: Okay, let’s talk about your lifestyle real quick to kind of end this interview. So I mean you have a family?
Ron: I do.
Steve: How many hours do you — I guess has the business made you have less time without a lot more time…
Ron: I mean I’ve been an entrepreneur pretty much my whole life, and I think entrepreneurs work more than one else. I work a lot; I mean I work all day. I come home; I come home at relatively early times so I get to spend time with my kids. But after they go to bed I’m usually working. So whether it’s orders or product research or talking to my manufacturers, I’m still up for a couple more hours at least every single night still working.
Steve: Okay, but you do have the time — I mean you can time shift your time so that you have plenty of family time. I know you’re coming to my neck of the woods tomorrow, right?
Ron: I am yeah. We’re going to go visit family up there. So yeah I am fortunate enough that I could kind of like set my own schedule on the way. I start work a little bit later maybe than most. I get to wake up with my kids, and make sure before they go to school and everything, and then I’m home when they come home, and I get to spend a few more hours with them before they go to sleep. So I do appreciate that I’m not working a typical like nine to five job. Yeah, but my hours are — I’m fortunate that I can work at night and put some hours in at night when I need to.
Steve: You would never go back to a regular job, right?
Ron: Steve, honestly I’ve only had one job my whole life, and it was my first year out of college. Ever since that first job, I’ve always worked for myself. So I don’t think I could work for anyone else, that’s just not my personality Steve.
Steve: Well hey Ron, thanks a lot for your time man. It was really good to hear a very candid interview from you about like what would be good things that have happened, the bad things, and just like a pretty realistic view of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur.
Ron: Yeah, well thank you for having me on, and of course there’s going to be challenges for everyone out there. Nothing in life comes easy. I don’t care what job you have or what you do, there’s going to be challenges in everything. So this is just a different type of problems I guess to have, right?
Steve: Yeah man and congratulations on your success. And I’m going to be seeing you at the conference, at my conference next year which will be really exciting because we’ll finally get to meet after what is like five or six years?
Ron: Yeah, I almost made it last year. But this year for sure, right?
Steve: Yeah for sure. I got you down man.
Ron: All right, thank you so much.
Steve: Bye man, take care.
Ron: Thanks for having me on.
Steve: Hope you enjoyed this episode. What I love about Ron is that he didn’t give up when he lost 75% of his revenues with Amazon vendor central. He stuck with it, and he now makes seven figures with his e-commerce business, and now he’ll be joining me at the Seller’s Summit mastermind in May. For more information about this episode, go to mywifequitherjob.com/episode184.
And once again I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for ecommerce merchants. And you can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on auto pilot. So head on over to mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again that’s mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.
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And if you’re interested in starting your own ecommerce store, head on over to mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six-day mini course. Just type in your email, and I’ll send the course right away. Thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, where we are giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information visit Steve’s blog at www.mywifequitherjob.com.