Saturday, November 2, 2013

September Numbers

Here is a quick rundown of my September 2013 numbers. The chart and the downloaded spreadsheet sales revenue don't match. I am sorry for any confusion that may cause. I am not certain why the numbers don't match. I used the spreadsheet data to calculate my monthly numbers because I needed the formulas in the spreadsheet to calculate everything. It was not done to try to make my sales look higher. :)

Total Sales: 12,707.92
COG: $5,103.77
Profit: $3532.51
Profit Margin: 28%
ROI: 69%

My Coaching Course

The blog has been quiet for a while. Between group coaching and 4th quarter prep there hasn't been much time for blogging. The group coaching was a Huge success! The attendees and I learned quite a bit from each other. We worked through sourcing strategies, avoiding competition, and breaking down our numbers to make sure with all that work we are making a profit! :)
We also formed a Facebook group where the sharing and learning continues almost daily. It was so successful that I have had several inquiries about when it would be available again. With 4Q taking up so much time 1-on-1 coaching will not be available until early next year. But I have decided to do one more Fast Turns webinar (I did one for the Online Empire Academy in September). Also, if you would like access to our Facebook group and the recordings of the coaching presentations, that will be made available. So what does Duane Malek Coaching look like? Here is the breakdown:

1. A 45 minute presentation on Fast Turns where I explain what makes a fast turn, why they should be a part of your business model, and what the potential risks are. Followed by 30-45 minutes of Q & A. This is the foundation of my business.

2. Coaching Week 1: Off-The-Shelf Replenishables. How to find off-the-shelf items, how to test them, and what to do when the testing is done.

3. Coaching Week 2: Bundles, Multi-Packs, Parent/Child Listings. I explain what those are, why you should create them, and the benefits of each.

4. Coaching Week 3: Know Your Numbers. I walk you through breaking down your numbers so you know what sold, how much you made, and how to use that to project future growth. There is also a lengthy Q & A with Brett Bartlett, Co-Founder of the Online Empire Academy.

If you are interested in joining me for the Fast Turns webinar and the recorded coaching sessions you can sign up here.

If you would like to read some comments about my coaching there was a thread started on facebook. It's hard for me to talk about myself and to know how to respond to such kind words from others. So I will simply allow others to speak for me.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Make Yourself Available When Opportunity Knocks

If you have been selling on Amazon for any time at all you have probably heard of the Proven Amazon Course (PAC), Silent Sales Machine, and Jim Cockrum. In November Jim Cockrum and his team will host an event called CES Conference 2013 in Orlando, FL.

I signed up to go as soon as I found out tickets were available. That was almost two months ago, in early August. Since that time I have been following Jim a little more closely so I am fully up to speed by the time the event takes place and I can consume as much information as possible while there. One of the ways I am following Jim is through the event's Facebook group. In that Facebook group on Friday September 20, 2013 Jim posted the following:

"We'll have a few segments at the conference where we interview many of the successful folks who are attending. If you don't mind sharing your story for a few minutes (in interview fashion on stage) please drop me an email with a brief version of your story and we'll see if it's a good fit for what we have in mind."

I took a deep breath, thought about my career goals, and decided if I want to succeed in this business as a coach I had better learn to put myself out there (not an easy thing for a self confessed introvert). I wasn't sure whether or not my story would resonate with the crowd of heavy hitters that will be in attendance or if it was even the kind of story Jim was looking for. Either way, I wrote Jim an email with a 2 paragraph rundown of the last 18 months of my life, from wanting to leave the corporate world, to finding Brett Bartlett and Amazon FBA, to working an FBA business, then one-on-one coaching, hiring a team member, giving a training webinar, and preparing for my first group coaching.

About 5 minutes after I sent the email, nerves still shaking from taking the step to contact someone I hold in such high regard, the phone rang. It was Jim Cockrum!!! He told me my story was exactly the kind of story that he wanted. Since the conference will be recorded he is confident it will help to inspire others in a similar situation as the one I was in 18 months ago and to show them the success that can be achieved if you are willing to work for it. So with that, he assured me I would be on stage to tell my story! The thought of being on stage in front of close to 200 people while the camera is rolling scares and excites the crap out of me! I can't wait! It's amazing how much opportunity can open up to you if you are willing to take even the smallest step.

Jim was extremely generous with his time and talked to me for about 30 minutes. Some of our conversation was about the event, some about coaching, and even a little about running. It was an absolutely surreal moment. I can't thank Jim enough for giving me so much of his valuable time and advice. It was simply incredible.

Hopefully you will be attending and able to be a part of this exciting experience with me. If you haven't purchased your ticket for the CES Conference 2013 you still have time. Click the link below and you can sign up today. I truly believe if you are running a business you won't want to miss this event.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Cut Through the Clutter When Sourcing

When people give advice on sourcing you will hear them say, "Scan everything." which sounds good in theory, but is ridiculous in practice. You cannot truly "scan everything", so what I tell people is to scan what you buy. To me this is the best way to get a feel for what kind of items are popular on Amazon and at what price point.

The one thing that helps me cut through the clutter when sourcing is Brand Names and Character Themes.

Here are some examples of popular Brand Names and Character Themes that have served me well.

Hasbro, Lego, Nerf, Transformers, Sesame Street, Marvel Super Heroes, Star Wars, Disney, Cars, Toy Story.

Home & Kitchen
Cuisinart, KitchenAid, Oxo, Sharper Image, Simple Human.

Health & Personal Care/Beauty

Aveeno, Braun, Conair, Philips Sonicare.

The list goes on and on, but I think you get the idea.

If you happen to come across a great brand with a well know character theme then you get items like this:
Lego Captain America
Sesame Street Chutes & Ladders (this was a FAST seller at $15)

Here are a few other examples of Great sellers whose names we all recognize:
Oxo SoftWorks Salad Spinner
Braun 32B

So, the next time you are out sourcing look for easily recognized brands and character themes, check the rank, and see if you can find some treasure.

Thank you for your time, please ask questions or leave comments below.

~Duane Malek

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What's A Good Rank?

Everyone (including me) wants to know, "What is a good rank when scanning products to sell on Amazon?" Rather than go into a lengthy discussion about what rank is and how to effectively decipher good from bad, I am simply going to give you what I consider to be a good rank for fast turns on Amazon.

Toys: 150,000
Health and Personal Care: 100,000
Health and Beauty: 20,000
Home and Kitchen: 10,000
Grocery: 50,000
Baby: 5,000

In general I would say any category with a rank of 10,000 or less is a good rank (Except Baby, it fluctuates way too much!).

Here are some screen shots from some extremely fast sellers:

There are other factors to consider when deciding whether or not to buy, such as, Brand Name, Margin, Cost of Goods, Number of Sellers, Is Amazon Selling It, etc. If you have any specific questions please post them below I will do my best to answer them.


Monday, August 19, 2013

Getting Started with FBA

As you begin to explore the world of Fulfillment By Amazon you will find there are so many tools and options that it can become very overwhelming very quickly. Once you decide to sell on Amazon you are immediately faced with decisions:
What type of account should I set up, Professional or Individual seller account?
How should I ship my orders, FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon) or MF (Merchant/Seller Fulfilled)?

Then you start to ask yourself things like:
Do I need a business license?
Do I need a separate bank account?
How do I structure my business, Sole Proprietorship, LLC, S Corp, C Corp?

Once those questions are answered you start to get into the physical tools of the trade:
What kind of printer do I need?
How do I remove labels?
Where do I get boxes, tape, bubble wrap,etc.
And list goes on from there.

I am not going to spend a lot of time weighing the pros and cons of all of the different scenarios you can run into. If you have specific questions pertaining to your situation please comment below or contact me via Facebook or Email. Instead I am going to layout what I have done in my business. While you may agree or disagree with how I have set up and run my business, please always remember the number one thing I stress to people over and over again, This Is YOUR Business! Set it up and run it as you see fit.

When I started selling on Amazon I already had an existing business. It was, and is, a Sole Proprietorship with a DBA (Doing Business As). I have a business license which, in the state of Georgia, gives me all the information I need for my resale certificate, so I can purchase items Tax Exempt. Also, I used my business license to set up a business checking account. Setting up a separate bank account (business or personal) is an absolute must in order to track your business expenses. If you go to Walmart and purchase items for personal use and then purchase clearance items for resale, even if you buy them in separate transactions, at the end of the month you are going to pull your hair out going through receipts trying to figure which transactions were personal and which were business. Set up a dedicated checking account for your business.

With a business license and bank account set up it's time to choose between Pro Seller and Individual Seller (see side by side comparison here). There is 1 undeniable reason to be a Pro Seller. A Pro Seller account charges a flat $39.99 monthly fee to sell unlimited items on Amazon. An Individual Seller account does not have a monthly fee, but charges $0.99 per sale closing fee. Meaning you pay $0.99 every time someone places an order. That's all you need to know to make your decision. It's this simple... If you cannot sell 41 items per month to make the Pro Merchant account the cheaper option you do not have a business and you will not succeed at selling on Amazon. I sold my first item on Amazon on January 10, 2013. That first month we ended up with 74 orders for 77 items. I used the $39.99 fee as a personal challenge to make sure I sold at least 40 items that first month. I would make that same challenge to you.

Tools of the trade.

There are a seemingly endless number of tools and services to help you run your Amazon business. I am not big on paying monthly subscription fees, so I don't use many services. New tools, on the other hand, are something I will gladly pay for and test out in my business. I always try to balance customer experience, cost, and time. For example it is very cost effective to use stretch wrap to bundle products together, but it takes more time and does not give a professional looking finish to your product. Poly bags with suffocation warnings cost a little more than stretch wrap, but present a nicer looking finished product and saves time. Shrink wrap bags cost about the same as poly bags, take a little more time to prepare, but give a very professional looking finished product.

Here is my list of products I currently use. **These are NOT affiliate links**

Brother MFC-7360N Laser Printer

Avery 5160 Labels (1 x 2 5/8 30 labels per sheet) (Laser)

Avery 5126 (2 labels per sheet Shipping Labels) (Laser)

Avery 8160 Labels (1 x 2 5/8 30 labels per sheet) (Ink Jet)
Avery 8126 (2 labels per sheet Shipping Labels) (Ink Jet)

Zebra LP2844
4x6 Thermal Labels (You can also get these free if you have a UPS account)

Sticker Removal:
Embossing Tool (Heat Gun)
**If I had to buy a Heat Gun I would recommend The Wagner Heat Gun.
Scotty Peelers

Stretch Wrap
Shrink Wrap Bags (100 gauge 8 x 12 & 12 x 16)
Shrink Wrap Film (75 gauge PVC 16" Centerfold 500 ft.)
Poly Bags with Suffocation Warning (Variety Pack)
**Self Sealing Poly Bags (Recommended if you do not have a sealer)
16" Impulse Sealer

Packing Materials:
3" Packing Tape Dispenser
3" Rolls of Tape
Large Bubble Wrap
Small Bubble Wrap (I buy mine at Sam's Club for $13.00)
Card Board Boxes (I purchase locally at Lowes or Walmart)
Box Sizer Tool (How To Use video Link)
DG200 Shipping Scale (Sam's Club $39) or SE-50 Low-Profile Shipping Scale ($26 Amazon)

QuickBooks Pro 2013 (Windows)

iPhone Apps:
Profit Bandit (Sourcing Tool)
MileBug (Mileage Tracking Tool)

Helpful Links:
DBA Explanation
State DBA Filing Requirements

~Duane Malek

Monday, July 29, 2013

What's Your Route?

"What's your route?" is  a question I get a lot. While it's easy enough to answer, the problem is my answer doesn't apply to anyone but me. Every area is different, every store is different, every person is different, that makes answering this question with any value almost impossible. I will do my best to give you my thought process as I built my route.

I started by going to every store I could find within an acceptable driving area. I live about 40 miles from Savannah, Ga, so for me what I determined as acceptable was one hour's drive time. I hit all the grocery stores, drug stores, retail stores, discount stores (TJ Maxx, Tuesday Morning, Big Lots) that I could find. I finally settled on the few that seemed to have a decent turnover of the kind of items I felt comfortable with that I thought best allowed me to utilize my time.

The next step was to group those stores together by location. After all, when it takes up to an hour to get to a store to start sourcing you want to go to as many stores in that area as possible. I have 3 main routes that I hit weekly or every two weeks. There's the Target Route, usually I do Target on Tuesday or Thursday because of their markdown schedule. Then I have my TJ Maxx Route, usually on Wednesday, and finally my Local Route on Friday. Depending on what I find where I don't actually hit every store every time I go.

Here are the stores included in each route:

Target Route: Target, Dollar Tree, Staples, Big Lots, Sam's Club, Walmart, K-Mart, Target, Walmart. Yes, I realize I listed 2 Targets and 2 Walmarts, it's all based on location. If I don't get to every store (which I normally don't) I will hit the stores I missed during my TJ Maxx Route.

TJ Maxx Route: TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Tuesday Morning, Homegoods, Big Lots, Walmart, Dollar Tree, Dollar Tree.

Local Route: Walmart, Big Lots, Bealls Outlet. This is my short Friday Route. Bealls has 15% off your  entire purchase on Fridays, so that's always a good day to make a quick stop.

This is what works for me, adjust your route to fit your area. In reality I end up hitting most of these stores about every two weeks because there's not enough time to hit them all every week. Some I only go to once a month. I also occasionally look at Publix grocery store and Kroger grocery store. CVS and Walgreens I source when funds are low and I am couponing. That usually happens on the weekend between my disbursement and when the funds actually lands in my account.

You will notice Garage Sales and Thrift Stores are not in my route. I have had very limited success with both of these, so I have decided to no longer go to these places and I instead use that time to work on other parts of my business. That doesn't mean they are not great options for you.

As always, I hope this information helps. Thank you for reading my post. Please comment below with any feedback or questions you may have.

~Duane Malek

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Monthly Numbers June 2013

This is my June FBA snapshot for 6/1/2013-6/30/2013. Here is the breakdown of the story behind the sales:

Total Sales: $7382.56
Cancellations (Approx.): $221.00
FBA Fees (Approx.): 1904.18
Actual Sales (after Fees & Cancellations): $5257.38
Cost of Goods: $2880.58
Profit: $2376.80
Profit Margin: 32.1%
ROI: 82.5%
Miscellaneous: Storage Fees: $5.32, Subscription Fee: $39.99, Inbound Shipping: $147.30.

If there any other numbers you are interested in, comment below and I will add them.

Welcome to Malek FBA

Hello and thank you for stopping by Malek FBA! I am not a blogger, I am not a writer, I am a small business owner. You will not find well written captivating stories here. What you will find is everything going on in my Fulfillment By Amazon business. It will include obstacles I run into and how I overcome them, different revenue streams I am exploring, and the one thing we all want to know about each other... Monthly Numbers! I will break down all my Sales, Cost of Goods, ROI, etc. Thanks for checking out the blog and I look forward to sharing my FBA business with you!
~Duane Malek