Amy Hoang is a passionate mother, coach, Amazon Seller and podcaster. She is the founder of Women Sellers, a venture where she focuses on empowering women to be entrepreneurs on Amazon. Her “AliTrage” method for sourcing products has inspired hundreds of people to get started on Amazon with a small budget.
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3 Key Points:
- Always do market research regarding the products you buy and sell—make sure they’re high on demand and have low competition.
- After you break through all the challenges you face, things will become easier.
- Make sure you have a system implemented in every area of your business.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:20] – Amy trained as a pharmacist for most of her life, then started her own business—she wanted to create a community for women sellers
- [02:41] – What would you say your area of expertise is: Amy empowers women to become entrepreneurs on Amazon while juggling life and their own full-time business.
- [03:07] – You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to start selling private label products
- [03:30] – Amy orders a small amount of the product to test the market before ordering more inventory
- [04:12] – “Alitrage” is a term coined by Amy to describe a hybrid between retail arbitrage and private labeling
- [04:33] – You have to make sure that the product you’re finding is in high demand with low competition
- [04:50] – JLD enquires about Amy’s net profit during the first three months of using her alitrage system
- [06:37] – JLD asks Amy about the taxing system of e-commerce
- [07:50] – First failed product: Amy bought a yoga towel that was advertised on a podcast as a hot new product, but due to high competition in the market at the time, sales were not as high as expected
- [08:21] – If you have an idea do it right away – you never know when competition will arise
- [09:17] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Amy was still in pharmacy school and making Amazon sales on the side. On Amazon Prime Day, she was making a lot of sales so she decided to re-order. But, after Amazon Prime Day ended, sales plummeted. It wasn’t until the next year that she would recover her investment.
- [11:47] – Taking care of a business is like taking care of a newborn, there are times where you will face challenges and want to give up, but after you break through everything becomes easier
- [12:14] – Amy says that you cannot put all your eggs in one basket, you have to diversify
- [12:52] – Amy uses several different websites to sell her products such as Aliexpress
- [14:01] – Greatest AH-HA Moment: The secret to life is giving, because it makes you feel like you have a purpose on this earth
- [15:40] – What are you most FIRED up about today? – “Prime Day. So, this is ironic because Prime Day almost ruined us almost a year and a half ago, but now that we are more experienced in this line of business, we are planning for it strategically”
- [16:28] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “My education, the years and the amount of money that I spent to become a pharmacist led me to the “sunk cost fallacy”. Emotionally, it was difficult to separate myself from it”.
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “The best advice I ever received is: the best way you can predict the future is to create it”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Believe it or not, it’s actually something as simple as breathing”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – Google’s G Suite
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
- [20:41] – Amy’s parting piece of advice is to make sure you have a system for every area of your business
- [21:05] – “If you want to be successful, you need to master the art of money or hire a pro to do it for you”
- [21:11] – Connect with Amy on her website and click here to get Amy’s 4 step guide to getting on Amazon the alitrage way, as well as free video training for finding, sourcing and launching your products!
Interviewee: I am so ready to ignite, John.
Interviewer: Yes! Amy is a passionate mother, coach, Amazon seller and podcaster. She is the founder of Women Sellers, a venture where she focuses on empowering women to be entrepreneurs on Amazon. Her AliTrage method for sourcing products has inspired hundreds of people to get started on Amazon, even if you have a small budget. Amy, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that intro and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Interviewee: All right John. So like you said, I’m firstly a mother to a beautiful boy who just turned one and a wife to my dear husband. We, we physically live in Maryland, but secretly a nomad at heart, so life is good on this side of the rainbow. In terms of business, I’ve always referred to myself as an accidental entrepreneur and I have air quotes here, but this is because it wasn’t something that I set out to do actively.
In fact, I spent most of my life training to be a pharmacist because it was something that my parents encouraged me to do, so owning my own business actually came to me organically. I’ve always been a person who sees opportunities, growth and change and then act on it and sometimes it worked and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s okay.
So Woman Sellers came to me one morning when I woke up to a message in my in box asking how come there isn’t a community just for woman sellers, so I loved the idea and I jumped right on Facebook, created the group called Woman Sellers and soon the word spread like wildfire, pun intended. Before I knew it, hundreds of members actually started joining and that’s how the Woman Sellers Facebook was born.
It was actually through this community that I encourage women to feel that it’s okay to have a career change if you’re stuck in a dead end job.
Interviewer: I love it. I love how you say, you know, hey some things work and some things don’t and Fire Nation, even the things that don’t work when you try them, you learn lessons and you pivot, you adjust and you move on and you apply those lessons to the next thing that you do and it makes you better as a human, as a person and definitely as an entrepreneur. Now Amy, today where would you say your area of expertise is?
Interviewee: I empower women to become entrepreneurs on Amazon while juggling life, using smart, effective strategies to pursue a fulltime business.
Interviewer: What’s something that we don’t know about your area of expertise that we probably should. I mean, you and I had actually a little chat about what AliTrage is you know, before we even started the interview today, so give us a little detail about that.
Interviewee: Sure. So most people think that they need thousands of dollars to get started with a private label business but this, it could be true if you’re looking to get your products into retail stores because you need fancy packaging, you need to spend more money, but it’s actually not the only way to go. So after spending thousands of dollars on my first failed product, I came up with a new system to just test out the market before I order huge batches of inventory.
I started with about 200 units, which cost me, you know, less than 500 dollars. Once I validated that this product sells, only then would I order more inventory. The key to AliTrage is to order small batches from Aliexpress instead of the traditional website Alibaba. So on Aliexpress, you’re able to order, you know, one unit if you want. But on Alibaba you have to order large MOQ, which is minimum order quantity, so at first I thought that, you know, maybe I just got lucky with this one product.
I tried it over and over again with different niches and it still worked, so I was able to go from zero to 70 thousand in sales within less than three months using this method and my husband and I coined the term AliTrage, which is pretty much just a hybrid of retail arbitrage and private labeling, but in small quantities. So if your audience don’t know what retail arbitrage is, it’s pretty much just getting stuff that you have at home and going to, or going to the clearance section in big box stores and then selling it on Amazon.
So that’s what AliTrage is but you have to make sure that the product that you’re finding is actually in demand with low competition. You can use any product research tools. I used Jungle Scout, you know, to help me validate the market. But just don’t throw a product up there and pray that it will sell. Always do your due diligence.
Interviewer: Now, let’s talk real quick about that first three months, 70 dollars in sales and the reality is if you’re running a successful business, the 70 dollars in sales is a good thing, but what really matters is how much are you actually putting into your pocket. So what is your net profit percentage on that Amy, like how much of the 70 thousand dollars was actually take home revenue?
Interviewee: With a private label product, about 30 percent or somewhere around there is a good profit, but with the AliTrage, because I’m putting a lot of money up front, I like to have a higher profit margin, which is about 40 percent. So I took home a little bit less than 50 percent of the 70 thousand and, you know, for, some people think it’s crazy that I’m able to find products that little on Aliexpress and still turn profit, but the truth is there are products on Amazon, there are a million products actually, that you can find but you just have to, you know, put in that initial work and use the tools to find those products on Aliexpress.
Interviewer: So you’re looking at about 30 thousand dollars in net profit over those three months where if you were able to replicate that for the entire year, you would be looking at around 120 thousand dollars in total net revenue, like money in your pocket after all expenses. Is that accurate?
Interviewee: Yes that’s accurate and that’s for one product so I replicated it for five products during that, the next, because I launched a product during quarter four, which gave me a little boost, so I was like maybe I just got lucky. So then I did it again during Q one and you know, lo and behold, it still works. So you don’t have to just do it for one. You can just continue. It’s like a, you know, it’s like once you’ve done it the first time, it’s very easy to do it again, and using the correct metrics, you’re, you know, pretty much got a home run product.
Interviewer: Now how do taxes work from that? So are you just paying like regular income, like state and federal taxes based off of the actual revenue that you’re making?
Interviewee: Yeah, so it’s based off of the actual revenue and we used a tool called Tax Jar. It’s an online service that lets you connect to your Amazon account and they will link up to your account and see how much you need to pay in taxes and let you know how much you owe to the IRS. So one thing that people don’t know when they’re selling on Amazon or any ecommerce source is that you have to pay tax for your state that you’re selling it in.
So if Amazon has a warehouse in let’s say Maryland, then I pay tax from Maryland if my customer is buying it in Maryland. So I don’t, I wouldn’t pay for any other states but because they don’t know where the warehouse is, you have to pretty much register in every state if you know that, you know, Amazon is going to be shipping your product out of there.
Interviewer: So I’m not sure if you shared this with us but what was that first failed product?
Interviewee: Sure. I’m not, you know what? When I first started, I listened to a lot of podcasts and one of the podcasts told me, or they were talking about this, you know, great product that was the next hot selling, it was sort of like a fad, I guess. So it was in the yoga space and they said that the yoga mat was what they were selling and in my head I was like okay, the mat would be great but I guess since the word is out, everyone is going to sell the mat.
So I decided to sell the towel and you know, I got the towel in but then everybody and their mother was already selling the towel, so I got it in, you know, too late. So that’s why I encourage people to, if they have an idea, do it right away, because you never know when competition is going to arise and you’re going to be the last man standing.
So with Alibaba that’s what happened. It took me three months to get my product into the warehouse and by that time, it was already too late. So with Aliexpress, I literally can get products from door to door in two weeks.
Interviewer: And I love that phrase, everybody and their mother, because that just kind of makes you picture my mother like selling a yoga mat or a yoga towel and like, that’s just hysterical. So Amy, you’ve obviously had some success and you know, you’re serving a niche, which I like and that you woke up and there was that question in your in box that you know, why isn’t there something like, for women, you know, like the Curves of gyms.
Where’s that for Amazon sellers, like where is that. Where does that exist and you created that. So I love how you found that void, you filled that void and you’re serving that void in that real nice niche where you kind of kept niching down until you know, it quote, unquote, hurt a little bit. Let’s talk about your biggest failure though, within all of this, like specifically entrepreneurial speaking, what was your worst business slash entrepreneurial moment to date? Tell us that story.
Interviewee: John, you’re going to make me get a little vulnerable here. So this was August of 2015. I was still in pharmacy school. I was pregnant and I was just doing Amazon on the side. Our first private label product was doing okay. I was making about 500 a month, which was great back then because it helped pay for some of my personal expenses. But then Amazon Prime Day happened, which is around July. We sold five times our sales, which you know, was amazing for me at that time, so I told my husband, you know, I think we’ve got something good here.
But for those of you who don’t know what Prime Day is, pretty much like Black Friday in the summer. Amazon promotes the heck out of this day. Sellers get to be featured for deals and promotions, so since sales were doing so great, we decided to reorder. We placed another big batch of inventory, but then after Prime Day, sales just plummeted. Just to give you an idea, we were doing about five units a day on Prime Day, right, so we on Prime Day we sold 24 units.
But then after Prime Day, we were lucky if we did one or two. So this was a really dark time for us because we invested a lot of money. I was devastated because I thought to myself this was the entrepreneurial life, so you know, I told you how I was an accidental entrepreneur, so it was like a slap in my face. But fast forward about a year later, we finally were able to liquidate everything and then break even. But the magic really happened when I was just about to give up. I found a new way, which is the AliTrage method and then on October 17th of 2016, I’ll never forget this day because we sold 30 units of one product.
So you know, given it was in the middle of Q four, which was a good time for ecommerce, but we saw that the system actually worked so we tried it again and it still worked for different categories. So I love the analogies and as a mom, I’m going to have to give you a little mommy analogy. So when I was so close to shutting down my business, it was like caring for a newborn. If there are any veteran parents out there listening, you know what I’m talking about.
The late night feedings, the diaper changes, there are times when I, you know, you just want to give up and for those of you who’ve already mastered the skill, it becomes very easy. So the challenges of being a first time parent is just like starting any business. There will be times where you’ll face challenges, struggles and you just want to give up, but it’s when you break through to the next level, things start to get easier from there.
Interviewer: Love that analogy. Even though I’m not a veteran parent yet, it still makes sense to me. Now Amy, what do you want to make sure that our listeners get from that story, like what’s the one takeaway that you want Fire Nation to really walk away with?
Interviewee: I want to make sure that Fire Nation understand that it’s not just because selling on Amazon is easy that it’s easy for you to get started there, but you cannot put all your eggs in one basket and this is the Amazon basket. This is the time that you need to start diversifying. Once you’ve found that home run product and you know that you’re making steady sales, you have to diversify.
So we opened up a Shopify store and then we applied to be a seller on Walmart and we also sell on EBay, so you know, I was really thankful for that down moment because if it wasn’t for that, we’d probably still be okay with just making 500 dollars a month and would never be able to find the AliTrage method, which really works for us.
Interviewer: How’s EBay working out for you?
Interviewee: EBay is okay. We’re doing not as great as we used to because it’s a whole different beast and because EBay, people like to buy used products and you know, little knick knacks, so it’s okay if you start on EBay if you want to make quick cash, but for us, we sell a new product so we haven’t really found a huge success from that, but we’re still trying to, you know, tweaks and make different changes to see what we can do from there.
Interviewer: And what about Walmart? How does that process work?
Interviewee: So for Walmart, it’s just like Amazon. You have to apply but unlike Amazon, they don’t take any and every seller, so you have to get approved. So with Walmart, the thing is that you have to have an established store and sometimes they want to see sales history, so they do ask you for that in the application process, so not everyone gets in, but once you do it’s a little tedious. I’m not going to lie but it’s just another way to get out there and diversify your income.
Interviewer: So Amy I kind of want to shift to another story right now. This is going to be one of the greatest ideas that you’ve had to date. So take us to one of your aha moments that you think is going to be relevant to Fire Nation, kind of walk us through how that idea happened and more importantly how you turned it into success.
Interviewee: I can remember this day. It was the second year of pharmacy school. I didn’t have enough money to pay for my tuition. I asked everyone to cosign a loan for me, from family of friends, to friends of friends to family and nobody was willing to take a chance on me. I even asked one of my closest friends to cosign for me and not only did he refuse, he told me Amy, maybe pharmacy school isn’t for you. You were better off making 40 thousand dollars in your old job.
I still remember that night. I laid on an empty mattress in my newly unfurnished apartment thinking to myself this is it. Maybe he’s right. Of course when you’re about to give up, something great happens. So my husband, who was my boyfriend back then, his uncle agreed to cosign for me and I’ll never forget this day. I asked him so why did you decide to cosign for me and he said that because it was the right thing to do.
So this was the moment when I realized that the secret to life is given because it makes you feel like you have a purpose on this earth, so my mantra for Woman Sellers is to always give back to the community and to be generous with my knowledge and my experience because it’s the right thing to do.
Interviewer: What’s the takeaway that you really want to make sure our listeners get that story?
Interviewee: Make sure that you don’t hold back on anything because it’s the folks that are most generous with their knowledge is the one that is most successful. So see if there’s something that you can contribute to the world and how you can make a different in other people’s lives and the money will just come through.
Interviewer: Amy, what are you most fired up about right now?
Interviewee: Prime Day. So this is ironic because Prime Day almost ruined us about a year and a half ago, but now that we’re more experienced with this business, we’re planning for it strategically, and Amazon actually invited us to participate in the lightening deals, which is, you know, to be featured in their front page and it’s kind of like a quote, unquote made it moment for us to be invited and I’m really excited about the Prime Day deals that we’re going to be offering.
Interviewer: Well Fire Nation, I’m excited about the lightening round, so don’t you do anywhere because we’re going to a quick minute to thank our sponsors.
Interviewer: Amy, are you ready to rock the lightening rounds?
Interviewee: Oh yeah.
Interviewer: Yes! What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Interviewee: My education. The years and the amount of money that I spent to become a pharmacist led me to the sun cost fallacy. Emotionally it was difficult for me to separate myself from it, but rationally if I continued to work a stable job for the next 40 years, I knew it was the right thing to do. However, with the support of my loving husband and EO Fire, I was able to overcome this paralyzing fear.
Interviewer: I’m so glad you brought up the sun cost fallacy. It’s something that’s so real, Fire Nation. I mean, I almost experienced it with law school. I mean, I was like; I’ve already been in here for a semester, 20 thousand dollars. I might as well just stay in for another two and a half years and you know, then it’s going to lead me to get an internship as a lawyer and it just keeps going and going and the question you have to ask yourself is why does a decision that I made yesterday have to affect tomorrow and the rest of my life?
The answer is it doesn’t and in fact it shouldn’t. We all make mistakes with decisions so just say hey, that decision that I made, maybe I was in a different place in my life. I was a different person. Now I want to move in a different direction. Don’t let the sun cost fallacy sink you, like should I have stuck in so I could be make right now, you know, 120 thousand dollars a year as a lawyer miserable and you know, just completely shriveling away as a human being or, you know, I ate that 20 thousand dollars.
I sucked it up for a couple years and tried to figure stuff out and you know, a couple months ago we made 500 thousand dollars in a month, so don’t let the sun cost fallacy just lead and control the rest of your life and Amy I’m so glad you didn’t let it do that for you.
Interviewee: I love it.
Interviewer: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Interviewee: The best advice I’ve ever received is the best way that you can predict the future is to create it. I love this quote because it allows me to take control of what I want to do. Remember your future is a blank canvas and you’re the one holding the paintbrush.
Interviewer: What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Interviewee: Believe it or not, it’s actually something as simple as breathing. I have the Apple watch, which prompts me to breathe for a few minutes. It’s a form of meditation and relaxation and it really works. I would suggest everyone to take just a minute or two of your day and spend it on focusing on your breathing. It helps me to recharge for whatever the rest of the day has to bring.
Interviewer: Belly breathing, Fire Nation. We’re such shallow breathers in our chests, you know. If you look at a baby breathing, their belly fully expands because they’re taking it all in. They’re giving oxygen to every part of their bodies, so I love that and what was that ap called Amy that you use?
Interviewee: It’s called Breathe. It’s part of the Amazon, I’m sorry. It’s part of the Apple watch feature, so if you have an Apply watch, it will prompt you to breath at the time of day depending on your blood, your, the pulse on your wrist and so yeah, it’s really cool.
Interviewer: Can you share an Internet resource that you think would be beneficial to Fire Nation?
Interviewee: G Suite. So G Suite is a Google suite of business aps. I use the aps to email, type up documents, crunch financial numbers and so much more. Everything is saved on the cloud so you can collaborate with other people and the best part is it’s very affordable.
Interviewer: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Interviewee: The One Thing by Gary Keller. This book is about focus. It helps you to narrow your priorities and focus on the one thing matters. We live in a really noisy world so as an entrepreneur, it’s critical to zero in on what moves the needle for your business and this book will do just that and much more.
Interviewer: Now Amy, you’ve kindly thanked EO Fire for helping you out a little bit in the past here and there, like with the sun cost fallacy, et cetera, but prove yourself as a true listener. What does the acronym FOCUS stand for?
Interviewee: Follow one course until success.
Interviewer: You’re so good. A+, gold star all the way and Amy, let’s end today on fire with a parting piece of guidance, the best way that we can connect with you and they we’ll say bye bye.
Interviewee: My parting piece of guidance is to make sure that you have a system to implement on all the areas of your business, specifically accounting. It’s not a sexy or exciting topic, I know, but this is fundamentally important for every entrepreneur to know. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out or raking in a million dollars a year. Trust me; you have to know it the hard way. Don’t let it happen to you.
If you want to be successful, you have to master the art of money or hire a pro to do it for you. The best way to get in touch with me is through WomanSellers.com and I also have a sweet gift for Fire Nation. It’s my four step guide to getting started on Amazon the AliTrage way. You also get my free video trainings which teaches you how to find, source and launch products and you can grab this at www.womansellers.com/fire.
Interviewer: Fire Nation, you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with ATH and JLD today, so keep up the heat and get over to EOFire.com. Just type Amy in the search bar. Her show notes page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking today.
These are the best show notes in the biz. Time stamps, links, transcripts and of course, don’t forget. Go to womansellers.com/fire for that killer gift. Side note Amy. Is that ready right now, because I’m literally going to go there and snag that gift.
Interviewee: Go for it. It is all ready for you.
Interviewer: Yeah! Amy, thank you for sharing your journey with Fire Nation today. For that we salute you and we’ll catch you on the flip side.
Interviewee: Thanks John.
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