At Amazing.com, we work with thousands of entrepreneurs on a daily basis. Paul & Rachelle, a husband and wife duo, are two of them. They began their journey with Amazing.com and with Amazon in April of 2015. By May of 2016, their business was generating over 25k per month in revenue on Amazon. While their journey has been a successful one, it has by no means been an easy one – they’ve been short on money, have run out of inventory, and have had unsuccessful products. Paul, a serial entrepreneur, and Rachelle, a stay-at-home mom, have worked hard to build a sustainable, long-term business for their family, and have learned a lot along the way. Here’s their story, and some of their lessons-learned:
Tell us about your background and what you were doing before beginning your Amazon business:
Paul: As far as two people are, we’re about as opposite as you can get. I was basically born an entrepreneur. I would take drawings I made when I was 4 years old to the grocery, and I would sell them to grandmas. I would give them to the old grandmas and I’d ask “do you want this?” Of course they would say yes, so I would say, “okay well that’s 10 cents.” That’s just part of my nature, that’s just who I am.
Rachelle: I, on the other hand, am completely opposite, and prefer to be given a paycheck for a set amount of work that I do. I am not a risk taker, so starting my own business, and stepping out, is definitely not something I am normally prone to do.
Paul: Meanwhile, I literally did anything you could think of. When I was 7 or 8, I had a paper route, I started a lawn mowing business when I was 15. I worked at various waiting jobs, and I worked in construction. I’ve always wanted to start businesses, and I never took the leap until I was in my mid-twenties. My first was a total failure. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. The next one after that was a total failure. I’ve started 6 businesses in my life, and each one was less of a failure than the one before. Leading up to ASM, I had about 8 years of experience in the digital marketing world.
Rachelle: My background is in retail. So product stuff and customer service is what I’ve been trained to do, and what I know a lot about. So picking a product for me was probably a lot easier than for him. Because for him, there was so much opportunity, whereas I was able to narrow down and focus on one thing.
What tips do you have for people starting their Amazon business, while working a 9-5 job?
Paul: First of all, don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t get discouraged. This may sound like a platitude for people that haven’t been there, but failure is necessary to succeed. I would challenge anyone to find anyone who has been successful without a string of failure that led them to be successful. So if there are people who feel like they’re struggling, embrace the struggle.
Rachelle: I think it’s really important to at least be checking your emails each day. Make sure that you don’t go past your 24 hours. Get those done each day, and move forward from there. That should be your main goal.
Paul: To follow that up, my best bit of advice is don’t feel like a failure if you don’t meet every goal you set. Set realistic goals. If the realistic goal would be to make sure you reply to emails on time, that’s great. And if you don’t hit that, don’t get discouraged. So if your goal is to do 2 hours a night, but you work a 12 hour day and you don’t meet your goal, don’t be too hard on yourself. Keep pushing on, just be doggedly persistent.
The biggest thing that will keep you from succeeding is being afraid. You can’t control the unknown at all. The only thing you can control are your actions and what you do every day. So do what you can control, and let the unknowns be unknown.
You recently shut down your last business venture. Has focusing purely on Amazon helped you ramp up sales?
Paul: I think so. We’ve grown 20% every month since January. When you run and own a business, you have to be fully committed to it. Whether that’s a full mental commitment or it’s a full time commitment, it has to be full. You can’t “half ass it,” as my dad would say. You can’t just do a little bit of effort, and expect to make a lot of money. That’s one lesson that I’ve learned from all my failed businesses prior to this.
So if that means you’re working 40 hours a week, and 100% effort for you is 2 hours, that’s great. For me, the mental challenge was, “I’ve been doing this other business for about 2 years, and my heart just isn’t in it. I’m really excited about our Amazon business, but I’m not so excited about the other thing.” I’m doing this for myself, and I was disengaged from what I was doing in the last business.
What has been your biggest challenge in building your Amazon business?
Rachelle: Our biggest issue has been financial and cash flow. We have to wait every two weeks for our payments [from Amazon], which slows down product. One of our biggest problems has been staying in stock. Just a couple days makes a huge difference.
Paul: We’re literally bootstrapping this. When I told Rachelle we were doing this course, I put it, and all of our inventory, on a credit card. It was great as it got us started, but I don’t like that. So for us, that was my impetus. For us, we had no option other than to succeed.
Our first order was about 400 units. Then it was 800, and then 1000 units. We’re just continually recycling the money into the inventory.
Can you talk about your long term goals for your business?
Paul: I’m a really long term, big picture person. In 5 years, I want to have a manufacturing plant that we own. I want to manufacture our own products. I want to employ people, and I want to do it all in America. This isn’t a short play for us. So the brand that we’re building – it’s extremely important to me that it’s lasting.
What’s kept you motivated to do this business?
Paul: So there’s the fake answer and the real answer. The fake answer is there’s a 20 million home in Steamboat that I want to buy. But that will never happen because our ethos as a couple is that we want to give back. The thought of being able to go and travel and build a business motivates me. I’m also motivated by the charitable partnerships that we’re working with and being able to make a lasting impact in our local community and the world. And being able to provide a better and solid life for my son – so that he would think it’s normal to be an entrepreneur. Like that’s what you do. Why would you do something else, when you can work for yourself?
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.