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March 12, 2020

Amazon Startup Success Story – Teddy Smith

Teddy Smith is an Amazon Seller, eCommerce Consultant, and Digital Nomad currently based in London.

History of Teddy’s Amazon business

Started June 2019 – did a couple before that but not “real business”

Decided didn’t have a product idea in mind.

But kept seeing same products on Jungle Scout

Looked at other ways to source products.

Decided wanted to do handmade and interiors

Through listening to podcasts, decided not to source from China.

So doing what others don’t!

Teddy’s Background

Since learning University in  2011, Teddy was a Management consultant working for big company

Did the functional design for ecommerce

  • Going to stakeholders
  • Building requirements

Eg product like introducing a new payment provider to a big retailer online

Setting up Business systems

And project managing development work.

Developers who would build things.

Didn’t really enjoy the day job anymore

First Business

Previously had another business – photo booths for weddings and corporate events.

Started that because could do on side because evenings and weekends and could do that

Income of that built up income.

Wasn’t sure wanted to be tied to London. And no longer enjoying the events

Sold that business.

What made you decide to go into selling on Amazon?

Didn’t enjoy job that much! Was tied to one place.

Googled “How to make money online”

Things like crypto-currency and drop shipping sounded spammy.

Then came across Amazon. It sounded like you could build a proper online retail business.

Current results

Selling around 12-13K  in Feb 2020 (from first selling this product line in June 2018)

This is in the USA but Teddy is set to expand into the UK in 2020.

Testing the water

Set aside £1000 to test.

Teddy used Jungle Scout million dollar case study blog.

Showed all the steps needed to create the product.

Classic pattern:

  • Find a product on Alibaba
  • Redesign it in some way,
  • Put your own branding on it.
  • Sell on Amazon

Found an air freshener made of bamboo and charcoal.

Not much profit and competitive.

Didn’t cost too much and got money back.

But didn’t really want to get into an area of such high competition.

It also didn’t excite Teddy

What insights did you get from that test?

  • Quite a big supplier, he organised our shipping for-  for someone just starting, very helpful.
  • But also taught about how to do shipping codes
  • How to create photos, inc infographics.
  • Shipped products to Serbia and got them photographed
  • But could do own photography and a good photo shopper

How did you decide what products to sell?

  • While initial product was being made in China, realised things were made elsewhere.
  • Thought it might be competitive advantage to source elsewhere.
  • Considered a whole load of places – Looked at India and Vietnam were  – but these were where

Retail without Borders podcast

Looked into sourcing websites for handicrafts etc.

Ended up finding a few suppliers that did high-quality stuff

Teddy’s first product handmade in Vietnam – didn’t visit Vietnam.

Wished had done as did visit India – found it a great way to do it – found

Finding the kind of product to sell

Websites and profiles showed the kind of products they made.

That showed what was out there.

They knew they wanted to be in homeware space and design.

Used what found THEN did research.

Researching OFF Amazon

Eg Teddy sees what is selling well on John Lewis – a lot of them have reviews on them.

Then looks on Amazon and see if something similar was on there.

Another benefit is that big companies spend a lot of money on design so you’re getting a lot of design.  If something was on John Lewis but not on Amazon, that could be a great product.

Originally used the JS chrome extension -which still uses

Also used the web app but thought lots of people are seeing it too.

Partnership – with fiancée

Don’t talk about Amazon in bed but do talk about it in the evenings!

So they do have to work in the evenings but it’s not that difficult.

Splitting up tasks

Michael Gerber: The e-Myth is a big favourite of Teddy’s

  • Fiancée doing operations side
  • Teddy doing marketing

So the aim is to run things like a “proper business” – and to create a “brand” ie a name  that consumers recognise.

Starting budget

Started with around £7000 (plus £1000 for the test product), which  included first and second order.

They have added in a bit of capital – but most of the investment has come from the profits.

If they want to grow a bit faster, they’d need to invest more or borrow more.

Might borrow money from parents.

Off Amazon marketing or selling?

Started Shopify website but no sales yet.

Amazon seller support may be bad but Shopify is bad too!

Going to start pushing some traffic.

Are you working this alongside the day job?

Quit job last Jan 2019.

Had Photo Booth business –  Sold business as was no longer enjoying it.

Consultant for an e-commerce consultancy

Doesn’t have a day job at the moment but works for another company that has a few project managers and is an accountant manager.

Most of the clients have no Amazon presence at all – building it up from scratch.
A lot are big brands off Amazon doing a few million a year.

That includes PPC, copy. Like being an Amazon business owner

Teddy is a digital nomad although lives in London.

So a remote job was really helpful.

Boss is English but lives in Vietnam!

Plans and the future

Where are you wanting to go in a few years’ time?

It would be great to get the business to a point where it COULD be sold.

Even if chooses not to. Not sure what the numbers look like.

Meanwhile in 2020

Immediate Aim: Teddy and fiancée working on the business together and not having jobs. Her job is based in London so they want to become location independent.

Trying to professionalise it at the moment.

Introducing Virtual assistants.

But Teddy happy doing work as a consultant so not rushing to leave.

Virtual assistants

The bottom level of structure has very specific roles

  • Reporting eg monthly report
  • Running PPC

Teddy is trying to get VAs into those roles so they can take a strategic look at PPC.

Teddy is not very good at the detail of that. Having someone more specialist run it for them is working well.

An Agency was a consideration but they get expensive.

How did you find your VAs?

Upwork.

Got one VA from the Philippines who does emails and day to day operations.

Chose one from the previous (photobooth) business.

Another interviewed and had a few people put together proposals.

Did it for one month and check results.

Eastern Europeans Teddy has used:

  • Photographer
  • Graphic designer  (Ukraine)

What they have given Teddy:

  • Great English
  • Great work ethic
  • Quality work
  • Time difference is small (in UK)

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Parting advice for starting on Amazon?

Go to trade shows

  • You find products you wouldn’t otherwise find
  • You get better prices
  • You can get a holiday out of it too

At Delhi show in October – Teddy wanted to buy everything! There is so much great stuff to discover.

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Watch my full interview with Teddy Smith

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Michael Veazey


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