From the archive: This episode was originally recorded and published in 2019. Our interviews on Entrepreneurs On Fire are meant to be evergreen, and we do our best to confirm that all offers and URL’s in these archive episodes are still relevant.
Agie Sihotang is a cellphone-seller from Indonesia who came to the US at age 15. He taught himself how to sell online at age 16, and built a million-dollar wholesale company in 9 months at age 25.
IndoTradingUSA – Agie’s website
Automating & Streamlining Growth – Enroll and take advantage of ITU’s exclusive offer for Fire Nation!
3 Value Bombs
1) Your profitability will be affected greatly by your hospitality.
2) People will help an acquaintance much sooner than they will help a stranger.
3) Don’t restrict yourself to one niche; if the demand and supply are there, why not go for it?
**Click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.
Today’s Audio MASTERCLASS: Online Businesses Are Moving Rapidly; Do You Have the Right Vehicle to Keep Up with Agie Sihotang
[01:20] – Agie shared something interesting about himself most people don’t know.
- He loves talking to people and that’s why he always keeps a mouthwash handy.
[02:18] – Agie discusses the 5 misconceptions of online businesses.
- First – Being engaged with your customer is not necessary when selling online.
- Your profitability will be affected greatly by your hospitality.
- Second – Going direct to manufacture is the ultimate goal.
- Always think whether the small percentage of discount is worth the contract and obligation that you will with the manufacturer.
- Third – Be as secretive as possible with everyone around you when something is working.
- The reality is, people love to help.
- People will help an acquaintance much sooner than they will help a stranger.
- Fourth – A few suppliers are enough to keep your business rolling.
- Have as many suppliers as possible.
- Create your own group of people for your business.
- Fifth – A niche category is key to a successful business.
- But don’t restrict yourself to one niche; if the demand and supply are there, why not go for it?
[10:13] – If you make it as a good online retailer, is wholesale the next step?
- Agie shares the exact moment that made him decide to go wholesale.
- The wholesale world is much more open.
[12:34] – How do you thrive when everyone is selling online?
- Passive income is good, but because Agie came from Indonesia, he learned that you need to work hard to earn money.
[15:27] – A timeout to thank our sponsor!
- HubSpot: Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and making things easy is how you’ll win. Learn more about how HubSpot can help your business grow better at HubSpot.com.
[15:32] – What should we do if we’re a one wo/man show?
- Agie is a firm believer in creating teams around you.
- Find somebody who is willing to do work for you in exchange for your services.
[19:01] – Agie talks about the quote, ‘don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish’
- Anyone can teach you how to source, but you don’t know which aspects of sourcing you’re allergic to, and that could hurt you in the end.
- When someone teaches you how to do something, analyze it so you don’t have as many barriers between you and being successful.
[22:22] – Agie’s key takeaway for Fire Nation, and his final call to action.
- Focus on your business and creating the right team by networking with as many quality people as possible.
- Agie’s motto – ‘The more money I make other people, the more money I can take from them.’
- Make your customers money and they will come back to you again.
- IndoTradingUSA – Agie’s website
- Automating & Streamlining Growth – Enroll and take advantage of ITU’s exclusive offer for Fire Nation!
[26:42] – Thank you to our sponsors!
- HubSpot: Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and making things easy is how you’ll win. Learn more about how HubSpot can help your business grow better at HubSpot.com.
Who's ready to rock today, Fire Nation? JLD here and welcome to Entrepreneurs On Fire brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network with great shows like Salesmen. Today, we'll be breaking into the EOFire archives and pulling a classic episode to break down how online businesses are moving rapidly. Do you have the right vehicle to keep up to drop these value bombs. I have brought Agie Sihotang into EOFire studios. Agie is a cell phone seller from Indonesia who came to the US at the age of 15. He taught himself how to sell online at 16 and built a million dollar wholesale company in nine months at the age of 25. And we'll talk Fire Nation about how your profitability will be affected greatly by your hospitality.
We'll talk about how you should not be restricting yourself to one niche. If the demand and supply are there, go for it. And so much more. When we get back from thanking our sponsors. Business made simple hosted by Donald Miller, takes the mystery out of growing your business. Recent episodes, like how to attract and retain top talent and how to make more money with your current products are straight fire. Listen to business made simple wherever you get your podcasts. Agie say what's up to Fire Nation and share something interesting about yourself that most people don't know.
1 (1m 20s):
Hello. Hello? Hello, everybody. Most people don't know that I was born and raised in the country of Indonesia. And I've only been living in the United States for the past 13, 14 years. And one more thing, I always have a mouthwash everywhere. I am. I have him in the car. I have him in my office, my house. I just love talking to people and I want to make sure my breath is not the reason they don't want to talk to me.
0 (1m 49s):
Well, I'm glad you added that last part at inner, because we all know about that first part because of the introduction, Agie. Hello. But anyways, the mouthwash thing was a pretty good addition there. And Fire Nation. This audio masterclass is about online businesses that are moving so rapidly. Do you have that right vehicle to actually keep up? And I want to just dive right in because I love numbers. And you talk about the five misconceptions about online businesses. Break those down for us.
1 (2m 18s):
Yeah. Well, the first one is being engaged with your customers. It's not necessary when you sell online because a lot of people are currently selling on popular platforms, such as eBay, Amazon, or Poshmark. They think that once the upload, the products and everybody can just buy the products without talking to the seller, that's a misconception in my opinion, because it doesn't mean that you can connect with the customers directly, right? Being a Laker doesn't mean that you're a Kobe Bryant, just because millions of people visit the marketplace. You're selling doesn't mean that you're going to get the sales. So customers are historically known to follow brands, not platforms, no one cares where Nike sold foot locker or a Nike outlet, but customers will always look for Nike because of the brand.
1 (3m 4s):
So just because they buy online, doesn't mean that they don't have emotional feelings. Your profitability will be affected greatly by your hospitality. Everyone is so used to exchanging goods for cash. And so if you are connecting with your customers in other levels, then you'll be able to set your company apart. So there are many ways of doing that. We all know campaign dribs. Thank you letters with the order, yada yada yada. For example, we have a department that specifically deals with Poshmark, resellers, people who sell on Poshmark, they sell clothing, apparel, clothing from even shoes, but what they get when they buy a box of shoes or a pallet of clothing from us, they get a customized poem or even a funny story that is signed by one of my team members.
1 (3m 54s):
It, it just makes them smile and makes them happy. And, and we always get positive comments because of that. I
0 (3m 59s):
Love that. Break it down for number two.
1 (4m 2s):
Number two, going direct to the manufacturer of the brand is the ultimate goal. People think that the higher they go up in the supply chain, the better pricing they'll get for the most part that is true, but it's a small percentage of discount worth the contract. The obligation. For example, we have a brand that if you buy through us, the cost is $20. But if you go directly to the brand, the costs would be $12, but you have to put in a hundred thousand dollars PO on a monthly basis. So is it worth, is it worth it? Maybe not. When you go direct, oftentimes they would require a certain amount of PO on a monthly basis.
1 (4m 45s):
It's better to buy two cars at a time at a dealership instead of getting a better discount by being the dealership. So you just have to know at what level of the game are you in right now, and also on the customer viewpoint when you sell to your customers, could they violate map pricing or cause problems? Now your relationship with the manufacturer or the brand is in jeopardy? So my advice to the Fire Nation is that if the ROI, the return on investment allows the more layers that make more money, the more favors you can cash in when needed. I'll give you an example about a year or so ago, my business was slow because we lost one of our biggest contracts.
1 (5m 30s):
But throughout the years, I had made a lot of people, a lot of money. And so all I did was called two, three people. And they were able to help me out with what I needed at the time. So going to a couple of different distributors or quote unquote middleman for the same goods can actually be to your advantage now. And in the future, when you need help, boom,
0 (5m 50s):
1 (5m 50s):
Three, number three, be as secretive as possible with everyone around you. When something is working. I see a lot of entrepreneurs are doing that, but the reality is people love to help. I'm sure JLD you can recall some, some occasions when you have to ask for help from people and they want to help you out, right? Cause you've been good to them and you, you don't just call them when you need help. You don't just call them when you need a favor, you call them to talk to them and, and, and actually share your success. So talk about your successes. Don't brag about it, but talk about your success and your challenges with your clients and suppliers. So when things get tough, they will help you.
1 (6m 32s):
It's easier for someone to help an acquaintance than a stranger. So we want to keep that in mind, even in our business side, I've certainly experienced that multiple times in my, what is it? Eight, 10 years in the business,
0 (6m 45s):
Love that people will help an acquaintance much sooner than they'll help a stranger Fire Nation. Number four,
1 (6m 52s):
Number four, a few suppliers is enough to keep my business going. That is a misconception that I hear on a weekly basis, even on a daily basis. That's like refusing to go to any other store, but Costco, do they have everything you need almost, but in the ever-changing business world, we would want to have as many suppliers as possible. Suppliers don't hesitate in dumping online retailers. Unfortunately, I have to break the news because it's easier to replace an online retailer than to replace a supplier. So we want to look at it from our suppliers viewpoint, if they can easily leave us behind if there's a bigger fish out there.
1 (7m 33s):
So when business is slow, the Morris people supplying us with ideas or with supplies, the better have your own auto mastermind. I would call it meaning that create your own group of people. You don't necessarily have to have your own mastermind. As we know, mastermind's definition is today, but at least have your own mastermind. When it comes to your business, where you keep a team around you, whether you have it or not, you can create one with the people you do business with.
0 (8m 2s):
Okay, let's end with a bang. Number five,
1 (8m 5s):
A niche category is key to a successful business. I have a buddy who came from the toy industry when he first started selling on Amazon. All he wanted to sell was toys because he said, Agie, I know toys. I know what sells and what doesn't. I can see if a toy can be a winner or not. Nobody really cares about our opinion, right? The marketplace will dictate that. So unless you have a website, that call that is called doc toys.com. Don't restrict yourself to just one niche selling dog toys, especially when you're selling in a big platform like Amazon, eBay, or even Poshmark.
1 (8m 45s):
For example, Amazon sellers. A lot of them are staying away from apparel, but if the spread is there, the demand is there. And the supply exists. Why not Poshmark sellers. For example, they sell clothing instead of shoes because of weight costs, et cetera. But if the spread is there, the supplies there and the demand is there, why not? The problem is not. Commodity is full of utility. That's where we have to keep in mind. That's why in my personal experience, Inish category is key to a successful business. Not so much
0 (9m 21s):
Fire Nation. The five misconceptions about online businesses. Number one, being engaged with your customer is not necessary. Wrong. Number two, going direct to a manufacturer is the ultimate goal. Wrong being secretive as possible is the way to go wrong. If you suppliers is good enough to keep your business rolling wrong, Inish category is key to successful business wrong. And now, like I just said, Fire Nation, everything's not a hundred percent black and whites like, like Agie says sometimes going direct to manufacturer is the right move, but not always. So that's what he wanted to break down with these misconceptions. Now, if we make it Agie as a good online retailer, like we're rocking, we're rolling.
0 (10m 6s):
Money's coming in. We're generating that good revenue profit margin is all there is wholesale. The next step.
1 (10m 13s):
That's a very good question. A lot of people will say no, but let me just explain this. An online retailer, when, I mean Jodi online retailer, I mean, somebody who sells on eBay, Amazon, or Poshmark, right? They have their own business. They're a retailer can sell one item with $10 profit per unit a day, but a wholesaler can sell the same item. A thousand of them with $3 profit, multiple times a day. So I started selling on eBay. Then I turned to selling other people's merchandise on eBay and Amazon.
1 (10m 53s):
But all of a sudden, one day at the place that I was working at, they have 3000 pairs of shoes. I put them up on Craigslist. And then all of a sudden, boom, after a couple of small sales, somebody came up and brought a $30,000 cashier check saying, I want the entire thing. I get a pretty decent at that time. That was a big commission check for me. But then I thought, why don't I do this more often, the market is getting flooded with online retailers. It doesn't mean that it's not a good time to get in, but business is getting a bit more tough if you just want to focus on selling in one platform.
1 (11m 34s):
However, this is the news. The wholesale world is much more wide open
0 (11m 40s):
Fire Nation. For all those reasons that Agie just shared the wholesale world has to at least be something that you're considering. And again, you may be really happy as a good online retailer. You've got your niche, you're rocking your role and you want to experiment here and there. We're not saying that's the next step you have to take. Or like, it's something that you want to explore because of those benefits that Agie just shared. So just had that mindset open. You know, those misconceptions that oftentimes will just break people down because they're just so stuck in that rut that like that misconception is a hundred percent true. Think about an open your mind Fire Nation. There's such a world in a sea of opportunities out there. So let's talk about thriving in a crowded market.
0 (12m 22s):
I mean, everybody's selling online right now, Agie. I mean, you can go anywhere from, you know, somebody that's nine years old, selling goop online all the way up to somebody in their eighties, you know, who are selling, you know, I don't know, foot warmers online. I mean, you just have everybody selling something online because that's the world we live in today. How can you still thrive in this crowded market of online selling?
1 (12m 45s):
That is a question that I get asked quite a bit. I mentioned earlier. Wholesaler could be your next step, but don't let that hinder you from starting your own online business. I'm an advocate for, for people starting their own businesses. You can still thrive when you separate yourself. Unfortunately, a lot of people who are getting into the business or the game of selling online, they are bombarded by this idea of passive income. Of all you got to do is spend an hour every other day and your business will pay off everything else. I, you know, I came from Indonesia JLD and in Indonesia, you, you gotta work hard to earn your money, right?
1 (13m 29s):
And you've got to provide quality service and you got to provide this great customer service to your customer base. So when you apply that to any business, including the selling online business, it'll work out for you, meaning that you find the right suppliers, you develop the network that you have, you create a brand that people want to follow, and you create an exceptional customer service team. When I mean team, I don't mean just hire five different people. It could be just you or your business partner, but have a good customer service team. And all of course always putting your customer first. We, we have a, a team customer service team that their sole goal is to make sure that at the end of the day, everybody who calls is happy and becomes our customer.
1 (14m 15s):
Again, you can't win everybody, but by doing so, and by trying hard and doing so, you can thrive when even if everyone is selling online, also the network that you have, if you diversify your portfolio and not just focus on one specific category, you'll be able to find so many categories out there that, that still don't have that many sellers be one of them. And exploit that by focusing on the right network, the right product, the right category,
0 (14m 47s):
The right network, the right product, the right category, Fire Nation. That's where your focus has to be when you want to thrive selling online. Now, don't you go anywhere because Agie's not done dropping value bombs. We're going to talk about what you need to do. If you're a one man or a one woman show, and we're going to talk about fish, but not what you're expecting. When I say fish, after we get back from thanking our sponsors, this year feels like the official return of conferences and in-person events. And I'm very excited to be speaking live onstage at this year's Inbound 2022 events in Boston. Inbound 2022 is happening in person and online September 6th through the 9th.
0 (15m 30s):
And Kate and I would love to see you there this year. The in-person experience will include festival style stages, including the podcast age. What's next stage. In the main stage, aside from hosting a live interview on the podcast age for Entrepreneurs On Fire. I am fired up about the connections and inspiration. That'll be all around us at this year's event. If you can't join us in Boston this year, there are several other pass options available like the startup pass, which is your free ticket to the spotlight. Talent prices are increasing and there are only a limited number of VIP tickets available. So be sure to check out Inbound 2022 today. Inbound 2022 was built by you powered by HubSpot. Learn more or get your tickets now at Inbound.com.
0 (16m 14s):
So all you were back and what should we do if we're a one man or a one-woman show, if it's just us and we're getting up and we're rocking the rock and we're walking the walk and we're talking the talk, we'll do it, all the things, but it's just us. What should we do?
1 (16m 28s):
I am a firm believer in creating teams around you. And just like you said, if we're just getting started or we don't have the capital to do it, people love to help. There are so many people out there that can provide services for you in exchange for your service. So if you're good at something, find somebody who is interested in helping you out, be part of your network, whether you help them out in another service, or you tell them that you're going to do this in the future, in return for their favorite today, there's a plethora of people out there who you can create as your team, right? Even though you're a one man show or one woman show, you can have a team show a one team show.
1 (17m 12s):
Let me give you an example. If you're selling on Amazon, Amazon is extremely complicated, yet, very beneficial. And we all know that. So the profit that you get might be good, but what about the mission? Shipments? The merchandise, they get returned by the customer. Amazon took out the money from us, but Amazon actually never processed the refund. So the products that are being returned, Amazon has this thing where you can file different cases to get reimbursement for the things that are lost in the one of many warehouses. That is your right. That is your money.
1 (17m 52s):
That is your product. The steps, however, are very complicated. And not only that, Amazon doesn't want you to use software. There's a lot of criteria that are quote unquote illegal. If you use it, however, what are you going to do? If you're a one man show you, you got a source. You got to look for products. You got to sell, you got to manage your store. And now you got to do this. Well, don't just do that. I'm not saying you have to go to Indo trading USA because we provide that service. But you can go to other companies where you can have them going to your account with the limited user permission, get that reimbursement for you. And they take a percentage of what they curate. So now you're not a one man or one woman show anymore.
1 (18m 33s):
You have a team behind you that provides a service that you need to increase the revenue and keep as much money, save as much money as possible for your future investment. And they're benefiting from it. You're benefiting from it, even though you're not benefiting a hundred percent, but 70% of a hundred dollars is better than a hundred percent of $1. So that's the way I look at it. There's so many different services, no matter what businesses you're doing, there are companies and people out there that are willing to help you out. So you don't have to be a one-man show, be a one team show. You don't have a team create one
0 (19m 6s):
Fire Nation. Listen, we all to start somewhere. Nothing is wrong or there's no shame in being that one, man. And one woman show. When you start, you gotta bootstrap. You gotta make things happen, but you've got to invest in yourself. As you start to get traction, invest in yourself, invest in a team. So you can outsource things that you shouldn't be doing so you can do what you do best. That's what the team does. It allows you to focus on what you do. Best Fire Nation. My team allows me to focus on this, the interview process. They do everything else so that I can focus on stuff like this. That's the power of the team. Now argue. We've all heard the phrase. Don't give a man a fish, teach the man to fish and he'll be able to feed himself for life.
0 (19m 47s):
But you have a kind of a different saying a little bit. You say, Hey, listen, everybody is teaching other people how to fish. Do you know which kind of fish you're allergic to? What the heck do you mean by that?
1 (19m 58s):
Well, I have a friend. She can eat seafood, but she's allergic to cheap seafood. For some reason. I don't know why she can eat lobster. She can eat crab, but she can't eat regular fish or regular shrimp. I don't understand why. So that got me thinking about this. Everybody's teaching us how to fish do, do, do I know which kind of allergic to everybody's teaching you how to sell online? There's so many quote, unquote, gurus, coaches, information companies out there that are teaching how to sell online, but which kind are you allergic to? Here's what I mean by that JLD in our personal lives.
1 (20m 38s):
For example, a person might be afraid of a large body of water. You ask them to swim. You ask them to get on a boat. They say no. Why later you'd come to find out that when they were little, they were almost drowned with their friends or with their family. So now they're afraid of this large body of water. Unfortunately, as business, men and women, as we grow up to be adults, we would try to push aside the bad things that we don't like about our business. And we think that we can operate our business without dealing with it. I'll give you an example in the online business, we all know one of the key components is an ability to source product, right?
1 (21m 24s):
If you have a good product and it's highly demanded, it's going to sell no matter what, however, maybe you in the back of your mind, no, you subconsciously you think I don't want to talk to people. I don't want to get on the phone and call people. I don't want to drive or fly somewhere and meet the sales manager or even the owner of the company to become my supplier. But you don't want to deal with us. So what do you do? You, you go online, you send an email, you send an email, you send an email and you get no replies, but it's hurting your business. Your need to source. And the key component is to be able to meet the right person. Talk to them, make them feel good, make them feel comfortable with you.
1 (22m 4s):
Then you do business. If you're not dealing with that type of barrier, so to speak in your business, then everybody can teach you how to source, but you don't know which kind or which aspect of the sourcing that you're allergic to and it's hurting you at the end. So what I mean by that is when everybody teaches you how to do something, analyze it, put it on a whiteboard, analyze, what am I good at? And if I'm not good at this, why not? Can I work on it? Then you won't have as many barriers in being successful in taking your business to the next level
0 (22m 38s):
Fire Nation. That's why we're listening right now is because we want to take our businesses to the next level. And as people like Agie who have done that, I've been doing it now for seven years. You're listening right now. So you obviously want to be doing that or continuing to do that. If you already are, that's the process. That's what it's all about. Agie you've dropped value bombs. There's been some really cool themes have developed throughout this, but what's the one thing you want to make sure a Fire Nation gets, give us that one value bomb. That one takeaway then share with us how we can find out more about you, how we can connect with you and then we'll say, goodbye.
1 (23m 13s):
Sounds good. JLD Fire Nation. I want you to focus on your business and creating the right team by networking with as many quality people as possible. It'll help your business. You don't have to just stick with one company. You can have multiple companies and people around you to help you take you to the next level and always have one thing in mind. And this is the motto that I have. The more money I make other people, the more money I can take from them. I say it in a jokingly, in a loving, because if I make my customer's money, they're always going to come back to me and I can take more of their money. So how can you find us?
1 (23m 53s):
You can find us on indotradingusa.com/fire. That's Indo like Indonesia Trading USA all one word, indotradingusa.com/fire. JLD is it okay if I tell Fire Nation what I have in store for them and that website,
0 (24m 12s):
Please do, bro. All right.
1 (24m 14s):
So again, I appreciate you JLD having me on the show and because of that, I want to give everybody all the financials. If you are interested, or if you're starting out, you can enroll for free. We are a membership based company, but you can enroll for free to view the products that we have. It doesn't matter if you're selling clothing on Poshmark shoes, on eBay or electronics, toys, home goods, and tools on Amazon, you have everything that you need to view it. So you can do your analysis on there. Now the next step is if you want to become a member, there is a heavily discounted rate.
1 (24m 55s):
We actually created a software where think about it like, like yellow pages specifically for online seller suppliers, you can type in case phone for iPhone or, or a logic tech mouse. And it'll give you 7,000 plus suppliers that have sold this type of merchandise in the United States. So you can source directly to them. It's also on the page. And if you're doing more than $20,000 on a monthly basis on any platform, we can do a strategy call with my team and we can help you out. It's a 15 minute strategy call. It'll be free all for Fire Nation. And because JLD, I want to do that for all of you
0 (25m 34s):
Agie, you are the man and Fire Nation take advantage of stuff like this because these opportunities are amazing because you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And you've been hanging out with AS and JLD. So keep up the heat. And of course, head directly over to indotradingusa.com/fire. See all the greatness that Agie has waiting for you there. And Agie, I just want to say thank you for sharing your truth, your value with Fire Nation today. For that we salute your brother and we'll catch you on the flip side.
1 (26m 9s):
0 (26m 10s):
Hey, Fire Nation today's value bomb concept was brought to you by Agie. And successful entreprenuers they accomplish a big goals, big goals that's why I created the Freedom Journal. So you can be guided step-by-step in accomplishing your number one goal and just 100 days. So visit the FreedomJournal.com use promo code PODCAST for a seriously nice discounts. We're talking $15 discounts as a thank you for listening to my podcast and I'll catch you there. Fire Nation, or I'll catch you on the flip side. Business made simple hosted by Donald Miller, takes the mystery out of growing your business. Recent episodes, like how to attract and retain top talent and how to make more money with your current products are straight fire.
0 (26m 54s):
Listen to business made simple wherever you get your podcasts.
1) The Common Path to Uncommon Success: JLD’s 1st traditionally published book! Over 3000 interviews with the world’s most successful Entrepreneurs compiled into a 17-step roadmap to financial freedom and fulfillment!
2) Free Podcast Course: Learn from JLD how to create and launch your podcast!
3) Podcasters’ Paradise: The #1 podcasting community in the world!