Brandon Fuhrmann Interview with Nick Shucet

Nick: (00:03)

All right. Welcome to the Million Dollar Sellers podcast, I'm your host, Nick Shucet. And today we have Brandon on the call. Super excited to have you on here, man. Why don't you let the listeners know where you're at today? where you're calling in from?

Brandon: (00:17)

I'm calling in from Long Island, New York.

Nick: (00:20)

Nice. So how long have you been, uh, in New York?

Brandon: (00:24)

So I grew up in New Jersey. Then, I moved in with my wife in the city of Manhattan, East Village for a while. And then about three years ago after we had our first baby, we moved out here and we've been here ever since.

Nick: (00:40)

Oh, man. How's life in New York treating you during these interesting times?

Brandon: (00:45)

It's okay. I'm happy we bought a house in August or September. I'm happy to finally be in a place with more space that's for sure. I can't imagine being in that small apartment in Manhattan during all this, but that's been... yeah, it's been, it's been fine though.

Nick: (01:01)

So are you, do you work from home? Did you get an office? how are you doing that?

The Basement Office

Brandon: (01:06)

I do a little bit of both. So I have an office at home that I worked out of—out of the basement. And then I have my own office in a co-working space a few towns over that I actually share with another MDS member. And, we just kind of go in occasionally, probably both of us. We say we both have an office, but we're rarely there together at the same time.

But we go in once or twice a week, I guess I would say.

Nick: (01:31)

Cool man. So is Amazon your first thing as an entrepreneur? Or did you try anything else before that?

The Entrepreneurial Journey: The First Website

Brandon: (01:40)

No, I've been doing entrepreneurial stuff for quite a while. So I guess I'll start by saying I had my first website, in the early mid-nineties, with a friend of mine in high school. And it was an NCSA mosaic cool site of the day, which is like really dating us. I mean, quite a bit. And that was probably the first time I tried to start something, and it did pretty well.

But we were in high school, so you really didn't do anything with it. So we probably could have done a lot more with it and cashed out in the .com boom. But, I was kind of concerned with other things. And after graduating, I tried to start another company that was basically seamless or a grub hub, but like way, way early. And that just had no shot of working out.

There weren't even cell phones then like people use for meetings like that. It was just way too early.

Brandon Fuhrmann: My First Ecommerce Site

Brandon: (02:36)

And then I started an e-commerce site selling oil paintings, which was my first e-commerce site. And, it did okay. And, I ran that for a couple of years and that was basically beating my head against the wall, trying to make that work. And the reason why I picked oil paintings was because I had them made to order. So I didn't have to pay for any inventory or order anything from companies or drop ship or do anything like that. 

And this was in the mid-2000s and there was no Shopify set up and it was still pretty early for that kind of thing. But it was really hard. And one day, I went to a meeting in the city. And a bunch of other companies were there. You know, big galleries that were selling paintings or selling all kinds of things online.

E-Commerce in the Art Space

And, the person who was talking about e-commerce in the art space was like, “Okay, raise your hand if you've sold a hundred dollars online. And like some hands went up. And then they were like, raise your hands if you sold a thousand dollars online. And, me and like four hands went up. And I was like, “All right, I gotta get out of this.” These were people from literally the top galleries in the world.

People who had, you know, so much money at their disposal versus 20-something-year-old me in my room working. It was just like, well, if they can't make it work, then there's just no way I'm going to be able to make this work for myself.

From Law School Back to Amazon

So I went to law school at that period and I passed the bar. But I never practiced because during law school I started selling my books on Amazon. And I realized there was something to this whole Amazon thing. And you know, fast forward a few years later I started my Amazon business and here I am today.

Nick: (04:15)

Wow. I had no idea you went to school to be a lawyer. I didn't know that

Brandon: (04:19)

Yeah. I passed the bar in New York, and in New Jersey too.

Nick: (04:22)

Wow. That's intense, man. So that's pretty cool, man. It's a good journey where you try a bunch of different things. You tried a few different things and, you know, kind of stumbled, into Amazon. It sounds like... which I think is super cool. I feel like I was forced into entrepreneurship. And I kinda got lucky with finding eBay and Amazon and they didn't really thrive too much.

Before that, I had a landscaping thing that I was doing. But, I love hearing the story of just trying and trying and trying. And you know, you encounter all these challenges, but you just keep pushing through. That's the critical factor to success as an entrepreneur, right? Like just don't fricking give up and, uh, something will work out.

Brandon: (05:12)

No, I'd say yes and no. I feel like probably, from my art, oil painting business, I should have given up much earlier. But yeah, I definitely keep trying. But don't be afraid to pull the plug if it's just not working

Nick: (05:25)

Yeah, definitely. Don't be afraid to pivot for sure. Where do you feel that kind of drive came from to be an entrepreneur? I mean, did you feel that way as a kid that you were determined to do something big or was your family doing their own type of thing? What motivated you to chase that?

‘Doing Your Own Thing’ Comes Naturally to the Family

Brandon: (05:44)

I don't know. I think that... I mean my dad was a lawyer and he was in business for himself and his dad was an accountant and he was in business for himself. And so I think I kind of never... I kind of saw no one in my family... And even on my mom's side, my grandfather was a sales rep for a mattress company. So he was kind of always out and about doing his own thing.

So I was never really, I guess, modeling, growing up saw either my parents or grandparents in any capacity, like working a nine-to-five job continuously for someone else. So I don't know if there was ever a point where I was like, “I'm dying to be an entrepreneur.” But I think it was kind of built into me a little bit. And you know, I cut out a little bit in my journey, but I had some jobs there.

And there were points where I'm like,” Yeah, okay this is fun. This is good. I can do this.” And then it was like, “But forever?” And I remember, after I graduated college, I lived in London for six months. And that was probably the longest that I actually worked anywhere. Just because you know, when you're in school, you're working for a few months here, a few months there.

And when I was in London, I was working for six months straight. And I remember, you know, towards the end of my time there, I was just like, I can't believe people do this forever. Like, it's really hard. And that's... I think maybe that was more of the germination than anything else.

Nick: (07:06)

Yeah. That's kind of how I always felt too, growing up. Like, man, I cannot do this forever. You know, requesting time off and you know, Like one day I'm going to have kids and I'm going to want to spend time with them. And like, you know, what if it's my son's birthday and I have to go to work? Like I don't want to have to. And if I do have to go to work, at least it's me making the decision.

Right. Like, you know, “Hey son, I gotta go into work today. Why don't you come in with me? And like, you know, see what dad does” or something like that. But yeah, the idea of working for someone else forever definitely, you know, pushed me to try different things. And kind of rebel against school and things like that, man. I kinda got out of school pretty early. 

So I mean, how do you feel about where you are now in that sense? Like you feel pretty good that you've taken control of your business. Obviously, you've been successful selling on Amazon doing over a million dollars in revenue. What does life look like for Brandon right now?

At a Crossroad Figuring Out the Next Move

Brandon: (08:09)

Yeah. It's pretty good. You know, I'm kind of at a point now where I’m a little bit of a crossroads or I need to figure out how I want to grow or what my next move is. I think as you keep growing, there are always different challenges ahead. And I kind of feel like I'm at a little bit of that pivot point right now. When I was, you know, selling a lot less it was easier to manage more myself or with a smaller team.

And now, as I keep growing, it's getting harder to do that. And it's taking too much of my time to do things that, you know, don't really bring money into the business. So it's kind of what I've been trying to focus on fixing a little bit.

Nick: (08:46)

What are some different things you're thinking about doing? What are these other pivots you're looking at?

Dealing With Compliance Issues

Brandon: (08:53)

Well, it's really just like, you know, so much. I mean, I sell in Europe, I sell in Canada. I obviously sell in the United States and Mexico. And with Brexit and just a lot of the, you know, compliance issues that have kind of cropped up over the last year. I feel like a lot of my time has been spent dealing with that. And dealing with figuring out how we're importing goods into the UK.

Or dealing with the responsible person rule in Europe, or just a lot of minutiae that, you know, it's, they're all... Nothing's too crazy where it's like, oh, that's nothing, but everything requires a bit of time. And it’s important because you're dealing with government entities. So it kind of has been sapping a lot of my output over the last few months, for sure.

Is It Worth the Stress

Nick: (09:38)

Yeah. I imagine some of that stuff, probably, would be difficult to outsource, right? Like, especially dealing with those government authorities. You want to get that stuff right. Do you feel like it's been worth it though? You know, selling on these other marketplaces, like are the numbers making you feel good about it?

The Regulations Clean Up the Market

Brandon: (09:55)

Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't do it if I didn't think it was worth it. And as much as I complain about the laws and the new regulations in Europe, for a lot of things, I think it's amazingly helpful. In that, it cleans up the marketplace and makes it so there are fewer fly-by-night sellers, fewer scammers, and fewer people selling counterfeits.

It Creates a Barrier to Entry

Brandon: (10:15)

And it also creates a bit of a barrier to entry because it's a lot more expensive to get started there now than it was years ago. So for me, like while it's challenging and difficult and annoying, you know, once I'm out the other side, it's going to be a lot easier. Because there's gonna be a lot less competition. It's going to be a lot easier to grow.

Nick: (10:32)

Yeah. And hopefully... I imagine I haven't dealt with a bunch of the other government organizational stuff like you have. But I imagine as you're able to take a step back from some of this stuff you might be able to outsource some of that stuff. Right? And, plug someone else into it.

Some Things Are Difficult to Outsource

Brandon: (10:48)

You would think. But, I mean, it's yes and no. It's just, there's a lot of, you know, like don't you don't do anything. And then it's like, “Hey, we need these six documents now.” And then you've got to dig into your tax returns or dig in for some kind of certificate from the state of New York, showing that you're okay as an entity. And things like that, where it's not necessarily easy to outsource because it's like, you need to request the right document from the state authority.

And then scan it and then sign it and fax it. And it's just, there's a lot of little stupid steps, but I'm hopeful to kind of pull out the side. But the point of a lot of it is saying that you know, I understand I need to be doing it. It's hard to outsource, but it doesn't mean necessarily that our marketing should suffer. Or anything else should suffer because I have to handle all that right now.

Nick: (11:33)

Did Amazon help you get with any of that global expansion? I think they have those programs where like the guy, you know, the people from Amazon Global will reach out to you and they'll kind of help with some things.

Brandon: (11:45)

So, I would say along the way they had, but you know, I've been selling in Europe for a while now, so it's not like I've just started selling. I’ve been selling for four or five years now. But really in terms of Brexit and the new rules and restrictions in place, I would say they did the exact opposite of help. They only made things harder and more difficult. more complicated.

But you know, it is what it is.

Nick: (12:11)

Right. And I'm assuming the US is still probably a majority of your sales. Like probably significantly if I was going to guess

Brandon: (12:19)

Definitely the majority. Significantly, I'm not so sure about that. I mean, between Europe and Canada… every year for me, my Europe and Canada stuff keeps growing against the US stuff. So at this point, it's not evenly split, but it's getting closer and closer to that.

Nick: (12:38)

Nice. So, yeah, that's definitely exciting. Seems like it's still kind of a... like you mentioned, like it's just less competitive, less fly by night sellers, a little harder, the bigger barrier of entry to get in there. I got on the UK stuff, man. I had someone from Amazon get in touch with me a while ago. And you know, they connected me with Flexport and helped me get set up with that and stuff like that.

But I kind of dropped the ball and, and didn't really follow through with it. I think they still send me... I still get letters from the HMRC. They still hit me with letters and stuff. I probably should take care of that.

Brandon: (13:26)

They don't quit. I've been under audit for what's now 27 months.

Nick: (13:35)

Okay, geez. So like what? Like a tax audit

Brandon: (13:39)


Nick: (13:41)

That's interesting. But I’m sure that won’t be fun.

Handling Tax Audits

Brandon: (13:45)

No, but that's another one of those things where I'm just like, I need to produce documents or find data for them or something. And you know, it's difficult because especially with the pandemic, there's not like one person assigned to your case. It's like a team of people and those teams of people just kind of rotate based on various things.

So a lot of times it's explaining the same things to different people that you've explained before. Or clarifying things or having them understand things. And like, they don't really understand e-commerce. So like we had a determination which I guess is like their preview of what it could possibly be that I would owe. And like, one of the things on there was saying that you owe X amount of money for not paying VAT on these orders.

And me having to explain to them that those were all replacement items that I sent out. And then we didn't collect that cause we didn't collect money, so we didn't pay money on that. So, and we don't have to and then they had to have me go back and they selected like 20 different orders. And I had to go find the conversations with each of the people where I was explaining to them that I was sending them a replacement item.

Nick: (14:49)

Oh, wow, man. That's intense.

Brandon: (14:51)

And that's just like a piece of what it is

Nick: (14:57)

Well, what are some of the more exciting stuff that you do in your business? Like what do you really enjoy doing in the Amazon business?

Running the Business for the Thrill of It

Brandon: (15:05)

So, I guess I like a few things. I love picking out new products. I like doing the research and trying to find a little niche inside, you know, the broader niche. I saw kitchenware, so it's pretty competitive. There's just tons of different options on there. So I love looking and digging in and trying to find those little niches and, and creating a product around them. And creating the page and marketing the page towards that. 

Other than that, you know, I enjoy just running the business in general, outside of all of that compliance stuff. Pulling the levers on marketing, pulling the levers on sales, and trying to make things grow. You know, I generally enjoy that. I get a thrill. Sometimes I look at the order page and see orders coming through for a new product that I just put on. So yeah, there's a lot that I really enjoy.

Nick: (15:57)

Nice, man. So what does your team look like? Do you have some virtual assistants or anybody locally?

Brandon: (16:03)

So, I guess I have a bunch of people right now. I have a sourcing agent in China that I use. She's not exclusive to me, but they handle all the sourcing needs that I have. And then in the Philippines, I have a VA who handles a lot of the order processing, let's say off of Shopify or Fair or Wayfair or Walmart. And just be selling on a bunch of marketplaces and kind of making sure that it was all run smoothly.

A lot of that's automated, but some of it just needs a manual touch and customer service. And then I have another VA, which I've recently hired, who handles things like tracking shipments creating labels, and keeping track of the cost of goods. And, just keeping things orderly. So we can make sure that we're tracking what we're doing, what we're ordering, and keeping good numbers and good tabs on what we're doing.

I've got a bookkeeper. I have an accountant, which obviously everyone pretty much has. And then I have two PPC agencies that I use, one for the US and then one for Europe. And I think that's everybody. Yeah.

Nick: (17:12)

Nice. So yeah, you definitely got a good-sized team, man. Uh, yeah, that's exciting. You know, I enjoy seeing those orders come in too, man. Especially when you get something new and it works out. And you find like you realize that you found that exciting niche and it's kinda cool. Because I get to see that with doing the brand management stuff where, you know, we bring on a new brand.

And it's like a completely different niche that, uh, you know, I didn't even really know about or something like that. And you start to see what type of people are buying these products. I like to look at that ‘frequently bought together’ section. And you can kind of start to discover like, ” Oh wow.

You know, these people that do like lawn treatment are using this product and I never even expected that lawn treatment guys would use this product or something like that. Uh, Amazon reveals some pretty interesting things about people what they're looking for, and what they're buying. Have you come across anything really weird that sticks out to you or you're just like, “Oh man, I can't believe, you know, that's going on right now or that they're buying this product or using it for this reason.

Brandon: (18:23)

Um, yeah, all the time with our products. You know, some of our products, especially during the pandemic have been repurposed as mask holders or things like that. You know, we've gotten a lot of customers when they, you know, leave reviews or support issues where they're using our product. And I'm like, well, why would you use it like that? And like, of course, it's going to break or something like that.

Or, there's always something, you know. One woman complained that our product broke and then she wouldn't be able to take care of her special needs parrot. And like, I didn't even know such a thing existed. You know, the thing’s, every day we come across that. I'm surprised that they're being used for, or even in a lot of ways, also surprised that people find utility for, you know, some products that I thought looked nice.

People, will chime in and just be like, “I'm so glad you made this product because it helps me because I have Parkinson's” or “I have some other condition and your product is the only one that I found that I can use'' or something like that. So like, there's always amazing ways that people find to use products that I never thought of, at least when I was designing them or picking them. No.

Nick: (19:30)

Yeah. That's exciting that you know, you're... it's good, it feels good to like create products that, you know, make someone's life better. Like, do you think that's a big part of what you enjoy doing in the business as well? Like finding that niche where you can really provide something that people need?

What I Enjoy About the Amazon Business

Brandon: (19:48)

Yeah. Just really providing something unique. It's easy to look at Amazon and think that you can't because there's just so much out there. But there are really so many product variations and so many ideas that can exist in... and that you can come up with or even products that maybe the person who launched them on Amazon just failed at, but it's still a great product.

And, and trying again with, you know, mere marketing can make that become a big product. So that kind of thing happens all the time. So yeah, I mean, I really do enjoy that aspect of it for sure.

Nick: (20:21)

Yeah. And you know, you said something. It makes me think about how the landscape of Amazon is changing right now. And I think a lot of guys like us who have been in it for a while, we've, you know... we see people say, “Oh, it's getting competitive.” But, in my opinion, it really is just now starting to get competitive where you see these really big companies starting to play the game. Like people with some really, really deep pockets. 

And now I am starting to get actually a little concerned. Like it's not just, you know, mom down the street that started reselling on Amazon. It's like some multi-billion dollar company that just bought 10 businesses. And now they're your competitor, you know. So, did you kind of think that way before? Like, “Oh man, it's getting competitive.” I mean, it's gotten harder, right? It's gotten harder to launch a product.

But what's your opinion on the landscape at Amazon now?

Bigger Players Don’t Deter Me

Brandon: (21:27)

So what I would say is like, I don't think it deters me at all. So I would say a few, what was it? Three or four years ago? One of the big companies, they're still out there, I'm not going to say who they are. But they're still out there. And they became this massive company and they were pretty big back then. But they copied one of my products exactly.

Bigger Company Selling Same Product at Less Price

Brandon: (21:48)

And I was really angry. And they were charging a lot less for it to the point where they're making almost no profit margin on it. They were just trying to churn sales, basically, and probably didn't flip their numbers for their investors or what have you.

Brandon’s Response

Brandon: (22:03)

And it was really tough. And I went in there and I started advertising on their listing and advertising heavily on their listing. And I started taking all their customers. And it was a point where I looked and it was like, I was taking about 120 to 150 sales a month. Just advertising on their listing with my exact same product that cost double the price.

To a point where they ended up discontinuing the product because they couldn't make it work. And I won. I'm not saying it's gonna happen all the time. But when that happened, it made me a lot less scared of bigger players in the space trying to put muscle behind products that maybe will compete with me.

Nick: (22:46)

That's cool, man. So you said you had a higher-priced product. You were doing some product targeting ads on their listing. What do you think grabbed the consumer's attention? Was it the title? Was it the image? Or what do you think it was?

Better Title, Images, and Reviews

Brandon: (23:04)

There were a few things, and the title was better. The image was better, reviews were a lot better. One of the big mistakes that they made was, there are two versions of the product and they took the version that breaks more often. And, had they read the reviews of my product, which they apparently didn't, they would have not done that because I did that at first. And I switched very quickly.

And so their reviews kind of didn't really take off as well as mine did. But I already had a big headstart in terms of number of reviews. I had, obviously, a better review, you know, star rating, better title, better pictures, better copy. So like in every regard I thought I outperformed them other than them being willing to charge a lot less for the product.

Slightly Reduced Price to Compete

Brandon: (23:55)

And to be fair, I lowered my price a couple of dollars back then too, just to make it a little more competitive. But I was still definitely much higher than they were.

Nick: (24:02)

Nice, man. I tell you what. I learned the lesson the hard way that having a lower price does not lead to more sales on Amazon.

Brandon: (24:11)

Sometimes not all the time. Yeah.

Nick: (24:14)

I got beat up on a product where, you know, I thought I could kind of bully my way in there by being the lowest price person. And it just didn't work out that way. It was in a pretty competitive niche too. So, you know, I definitely won't rely on that. I think it boils down to that marketing strategy, right? Like that launch strategy and getting yourself in there that way, and then maintaining that position.

And from what I saw, the low price was not... it didn't really move the needle that much for me. So that's, that's exciting to hear that you kind of had a similar experience where you were able to maintain a higher price and capture those customers still.

When Price Doesn’t Affect Sales vs. When It Does

Brandon: (25:01)

Yeah. Sometimes it definitely doesn't matter. And something I try to look for in a niche, just try to pick a niche where prices are kind of all over the map. You know, some niches you'll look at and everything is, I dunno, $17.99 and or somewhere around there. And then obviously there's not much you can do price-wise. But if you're picking a niche where like, I don't know, the metal one is 24 and then the granite one is 58 and they're just kind of all over the map.

You have a lot of room to price yourself and to come up with a price based on the fact that people are willing to pay varying prices for varying kinds of units.

Nick: (25:35)

Nice. Yeah. Well, that's definitely a super good tip, man. I always try to keep a list of things that we should look at when we're doing product research because I enjoy that part too. And, we've got a pretty long list of stuff that we look at. And I have, like... we do look at the different prices, but I guess I've never really given it that much thought of like, “Hey, you know, they're all over the place, man.

So this is actually a good signal that the price is all over the place.”

Brandon: (26:08)

Yeah, I have a column in our research. It’s just like price variability. And then I'll dig in before we start ordering samples. But like, yeah, it's definitely a big piece that I look at.

Nick: (26:18)

Nice. So are you managing that just like in a Google sheet? Excel sheet?

Brandon: (26:23)

Yeah. I have a pretty intense process like finding products. And I look at obviously, like you do, like a lot of different metrics to figure out what I want to sell and what I don't want to sell. And a lot of that was before COVID hit. I used to go to the Canton Fair every year. And before you go, it really pays to have your research just done and know exactly what you're looking for. So a lot of it came out of preparing for that.

But, you know, I ordered a bunch of samples this year and I didn't even do the research. You know, really because I just kind of knew intuitively based on previous research, what niches I wanted and what was good. And I couldn't go to the Canton fair. So I just ordered a bunch of the catalogs from my current suppliers and figured I'd just go that way. But like, yeah, it's a pretty intricate process, I’d say.

Nick: (27:07)

Did you ever do any sourcing on sites like Alibaba or any other platform?

Brandon: (27:13)

Yeah. In the very beginning.

Nick: (27:14)

How do you think that compares to actually going over to China and getting to know them?

Brandon: (27:20)

No, it does not even... between that and I have a sourcing agent now who also can help find products. Between all of that, there’s nothing that's even remotely comparable.

It's so much better.

I hated Alibaba. I hate using it, so I'm like overjoyed that it's something I don't have to do anymore.

Nick: (27:38)

Yeah. It seems like there are these guys, like they've gotta be kinda arbitraging Alibaba. They're like sourcing it from someone else. Like on 1688 or Alibaba.

Product Ideas for the Sourcing Agent

Brandon: (27:48)

Exactly, yeah. And it makes it like... sometimes I'll do a little research there. If let's say there's a niche I'm looking into and get an idea for products, but I won't actually contact anyone. I'll forward it to my sourcing agent. And then she'll figure out who to talk to. It cuts out all the middlemen and makes that all work. It was definitely a benefit that she also... I'm not her only client. So she works with other clients.

So sometimes, you know, I'll refer her something and she'd be like, oh, I already deal with this factory for a different client. Let me talk to them. And then obviously there’s a report of better pricing because they're already used to dealing with her. So it makes it easier to get things started a lot of times.

Nick: (28:24)

I've even seen a wide variety of pricing, like in brokers, from the United States. You know, you reach out to them and they're like, yeah, we can source this for you. And then you reach out to like one other one and the prices are so... in my experience, have been so different from two US-based brokers. And like, it makes me think man, did this one guy just put out an RFQ on Alibaba or something like that?

Like I can do that. I don't need someone else to do that for me.

Brandon: (28:55)

I mean, everyone's taking money off of the orders. You know, everyone is… When I switched to my current agent, I had her... and I think everyone should do this. I basically had her audit my current suppliers and just be like, “Get me quotes for products I already sell.” And I think everyone should do that every couple of years just to keep everything honest and see what's going on. But she went in and she got me quotes.

I think everyone should do this. I basically had my agent audit my current suppliers and get me quotes for products I already sell.

And I, you know, went back and looked, which is one of my products. I was like, we're going to make an extra $10,000 a year just on this one product. And, the discount wasn't even that much.  It was, but it was like just enough where it was like this compound's overselling in the US selling in Europe. So yeah, it's... it definitely pays.

Nick: (29:43)

So you had a product, you already got, you sourced through someone else or you sourced on your own.

Brandon: (29:49)

My previous sourcing agent.

Nick: (29:50)

Yeah, okay. And then, you had a different sourcing agent hit up the same factory and get a quote. Nice.

Yeah, that's definitely a good tip.

Brandon: (29:59)

In different factories. Yeah.

Nick: (30:01)

Okay. Did you meet your agent while you were in China? The one that you're currently working with?

Brandon: (30:06)

I actually didn't. I wasn't actually with her on my last trip. I was with my previous agents still, but I knew of her and we had been talking. And I actually got her contact from someone else who's now in the group, but I’d known before either of us were in MDs. And he was telling me I should switch to her and I didn't want to. And then I was like, “alright, fine, I'm ready for this.”

And then I did. And it was like what I've been waiting for. This is so much better. And, you know, she's helped negotiate better terms. And help... really helps on that end and really push suppliers and make sure that the orders are going through. And making sure we're getting containers, which is now a thing too. That's a problem. So she's really done just so much for our business.

Nick: (30:48)

Yeah. I kind of ended up circling back to someone I met through MDS a couple of years ago. And, you know, at first, I'm one of those guys who like, it just seemed too good to be true, right? As somebody says, yeah, you should contact this person and you contact them. And like, it goes really well. And, then I was like, “Man, well, maybe I can do better.” You know, maybe I can do a little bit better.

I tried and I tried and we just had him do another product for us. And he beat the quote by like 70% or something. Something ridiculous that I was... that, you know, I had gotten quoted and he beat it by a significant amount. And he also handles all the logistics, you know, I can have everything shipped through him and photography has gone through him.

Brandon: (31:35)

Yeah. That's definitely helped a lot too. Because sometimes if we have to send less than a container, she would be able to combine that with other clients she has. And save us all a bunch of money.

Nick: (31:44)

Yeah. That is a huge deal right there. Absolutely. So we've kind of, talked a little bit about MDS, you know, mentioned that we met some people here and it's helped the business a little bit. But, you know, what is like one or two things that stick out to you that, you know, MDS really provides value-wise or maybe even something specific that they've really helped you with?

Brandon: (32:08)

So I would say number one, to me running these kinds of businesses, especially ourselves, is a bit of like a solo endeavor that we've all undertaken. And it can be lonely. And it's hard to find people who are feeling your pain and doing what you're doing, um, at least for a while. And it's one of the reasons why I run the New York Amazon seller meetup group.

Which is a free group that we run for people in New York to just meet up with other sellers. We get all kinds of sellers, big sellers, and small sellers and we get great content. But, it's just really, that networking is really the main reason why I run it. Because it really is a very kind of solo endeavor and join MDS. And I knew a lot of people in MDS before I even joined.

But joining it just makes it that... whenever you have people to talk to. I talked to people from MDS every single day. People who I met in MDS, who really are in the same shoes that I'm in, who have the same problems, the same issues who were just really great people. But it really, the people in there really feel like they're like, we're all kind of one and the same.

We're all kind of similar people in that regard. And it's really great to just meet people where I'm like, “I found my people.’ And be able to talk to them and really commiserate with them and strategize and get ideas and, and things like that. Where before I was in MDS, it was a lot harder to do. So, you know, every time I had a problem, it was just like me trying to solve it myself or contacting the four people that I knew.

Now, you know, I've got an archive of posts to dig through. I've got friends to contact people who I know have issues, or they know people, or sometimes people know it. It's just, yeah, it's really just made it so much easier to really run my business. And I guess even through the networking, I'll say the ability to kind of see preferred providers.

There are a lot of people out there selling terrible services, I'll say. And being able to try to find someone to do a job and being able to search or talk to people and be like, okay, this guy is good. This is a good 3PL, this is a good... has saved countless amount of hours and dollars and everything. Just to know that even if I don't like them, they're at least on the shortlist of someone else.

I've already narrowed it down quite a bit past like just trying random people that I found myself on the internet.

Nick: (34:34)

Yeah. I love the trust factor inside of MDS. It's like, you get a recommendation from someone, maybe you haven't even necessarily actually spoken with them yet, but you see what they recommended somebody on a post. And it's almost like instantly, you know, that, “Hey, this person is going to be a good shot at providing what I need. Or, you know, this plan of action that they use to beat a case is going to work for me, and I'm going to try it out. 

Yeah, I love that trust factor inside of MDS. And just like, you can almost instantly connect with any of them. And you hop on a phone or hop on a Zoom call with them and it kind of feels like you know them already a little bit.

Brandon: (35:19)

Exactly. Yeah, or see them at any of the events.

Nick: (35:23)

Man, I'm... I know you're not able to make it, but I'm excited about the event coming up in Mexico this month. But, (I'm really sad). Yeah, no, we'll definitely miss you there, man. I know we have some more plans, so, you know, hopefully, things will normalize here soon and we'll get back to meeting in person pretty regularly. So what's on the horizon for your business, man? Are you working towards a sale? Like, are you just growing more and more and more like what's the, what's the exit strategy?

Brandon: (35:56)

Like I said, I'm at a crossroads. So I'm kind of at a point where I'm deciding if I'm going to lead towards the sale or grow my team further or both because both are definitely possible. So I'm really kind of on the fence about all of that. And I'm kind of feeling out my options in all regards and seeing, you know, what I'd be worth on the open market and what it would be worth to keep going. So kind of in the middle. Yeah.

Nick: (36:22)

Well, yeah, I definitely wish you the best of luck with all that stuff, man. I definitely look forward to seeing, you know, what route you go and how it works out for you. Before we sign off, what's one big piece of advice you would give to anyone who's listening to the podcast?

Brandon: (36:42)

I guess my big piece of advice is really networking is probably the most important thing you can do for your business in every regard. So, you know, I, I would really work hard on that and because people have answers to problems, you don't, you can help other people too. People, you know, like I said, know who to contact for problems. Just joining MDS has really accelerated our business so rapidly in those regards.

I would never be in the position I'm in now if I was still doing this on my own.

Nick: (37:18)

Nice man, yeah. It's definitely a good piece of advice. It took me a while to figure that out, you know. I used to try and do everything myself, and keep things to myself. But when you really open up to other people, what is possible changes exponentially when you start to include other people in your life and your business. And I've definitely seen that play out over time. And it's been great to see that.

Well, thanks for coming on Brandon. It was great chatting with you, man. Thanks for all the great information you shared about your Amazon business. I think there are a lot of good tips that you shared that people could take action on and really see some benefit from.  Is there a... if anybody wants to reach out to you, is there somewhere they can find you to talk a little more with you?

Brandon: (38:05)

Sure. I can give out my email. I’ll probably give out my personal one. I don't care. If anyone is in the New York area and wants to join our New York meetup group, it's free. I don't know when the next event will be but just look for the New York Amazon seller. Intermediate Advanced Amazon Sellers on meetup. And the conference we run, AMZ Innovate, will hopefully be happening in the fall.

So, look for me there as well.

Nick: (38:36)

Alright, Brandon. Well, thank you for your time. It was great chatting with you and I'll talk to you again soon, man. Thanks.

Brandon: (38:43)

Alright. Thank you.

Listen to Weekly Conversations Featuring Top eCommerce Experts

Catch Every Episode First

Get every new episode straight to your inbox before anyone else does.
Yes, I Want to be First