In this interview episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle Podcast, Anton talks with Drop Ship Lifestyle member Joe about:
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Hey, what's up everybody? Anton here from ecommercelifestyle.com, and welcome to another episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast. Listen, this is our second ever interview style episode. Our last one, if you haven't heard it yet, it's been getting really good feedback. Super amazing, inspirational, and actually informational episode, that I think you would get a ton of value from. So, if you haven't listened to the previous interview yet, go to the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast. You can either find it in your favorite podcast player, or just go to ecommercelifestyle.com, click on episodes, and look for the episode called How John Maintained Sales After Losing the Ability to Advertise on Google. Something that's not that common, but the way that John dealt with it, the way that John grew from there, is amazing. So check that one out.
Now, today's episode, I'm speaking to another Drop Ship Lifestyle member. Today, I'm speaking with Joe, and Joe's story, I'm going to let him tell it, but it was just so impressive. This is what happens when hard work meets an amazing system to follow, meets the type of personality that is just going to make it work. So, I think you're going to get a ton of value from this one. Not, again, just the motivational stuff, which is there, but also some actionable advice that you could put into practice for your own store.
A couple things before we kick this off. If you get value from this episode, and you think, this is amazing, I want to do this, I want to be part of this. Go to dropshipwebinar.com, D-R-O-P-S-H-I-P webinar.com, and there you can get my full free training, that'll show you everything that we do here, and how to get started with Drop Ship Lifestyle. Again, that's dropshipwebinar.com, and if you get value from this episode, I would really appreciate it if you can leave us a review on iTunes. That is my ask of you. That's how we get the word out about this podcast, and about how we do everything here at eCommerce Lifestyle and Drop Ship Lifestyle.
Speaking of that, I do want to say thank you to Becky, who just left a five star review, so thank you Becky. She said, great practical insight. Anton's experience and insight into the drop shipping business is invaluable. I learn something every time. I love his compact format, that's about 15 to 20 minutes versus the hour long pod. His precise and focused bite-size episode is easy to digest, yet packed with information that I can implement in my own business. You are a great teacher. Thank you for sharing. Becky, thank you. I appreciate that, and for everybody else that's been leaving reviews on iTunes, thank you. If you haven't yet, again, please take a minute of your day, go to the podcast app on your phone, and just let me know what you think about the show. Again, it means a lot, helps us get the word out.
So, with that being said guys, I'm going to go ahead and cut into today's episode of eCommerce Lifestyle. Again, this episode is an amazing story from Joe, who is from New Jersey, and yeah, we just had a lot of interesting things to talk about. With that being said guys, let's go ahead and get into today's episode of eCommerce Lifestyle.
What's up everybody? Anton Kraly here with Joe [Cereo 00:03:06]. Joe, really happy to be having a conversation. This is the second interview style episode we've been doing of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast. Good feedback for the first one, so thank you everybody, and excited to be speaking to Joe today about his story, because it's definitely interesting, has had a huge milestone recently that he just crossed. But Joe, yeah, thanks for being on. Don't really know your story of how you got started with eCommerce. So, if you want to introduce yourself and say how you found your way to this.
Sure. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, I guess my eCommerce journey started I guess when I was a lot younger, maybe in college, just not even realizing it, but selling old stuff on Ebay and I actually at one point was trying to fix broken Xbox's and reselling them and then got away from that because it was just very hands on and time-consuming and didn't always work. Then went through college, worked as an engineer for about five years and got really bored of it and stale. I was in a good company, I had great salary, benefits, good culture, but just what I was doing daily was really boring.
Went on a trip to Thailand for about 10 days, met a couple of people that were just like traveling, kind of working, came home, started Googling how to make money online. I actually came across John and the [FD 00:04:33] first and then I got redirected to your course and I think I turned, well that was 2016, turned 26 in May. And then in June I bought the course, I was like, why not? I think it was nine 97 at the time.
So it was a while ago.
Yeah. So it took me three months or four months to get my first store up. That lasted about three months. Didn't work out too well, the niche was not great. But also, first time you do anything you're not going to be a master at it, right?
Yeah. 100%, yeah.
So I started my second store at the end of 2016 and that went on to do about a 100,000 in sales over the next nine months, which wasn't bad, but the ad price was expensive for how much profit I was making. Our main product had a lot of defects, so what we were selling the most of it was the cheapest, margin was decent, but we got a lot of returns and that kind of killed us.
Yeah. Did the supplier, like was there not a replacement for it or something else you could recommend?
There was, but not at the same price point. So it was difficult to get something of quality into our customer's hands when we had this lower priced option available. And also that niche from the beginning of 2017 to when we kind of stopped running ads for it in September, there had to be, I think maybe 10 more DSL stores that popped up in that time. So competition grew immensely over that time as well.
If that store is done, do you mind just saying what it is people get [crosstalk 00:06:13]?
Yeah, that was electric bikes.
Electric bikes. Okay, yeah.
So I quit my job at the end of 2016 and was just doing that. Traveled around Thailand for a couple months, went to the Nomad Summit, like the one that Johnny had done. Came back home. Me and my girlfriend moved out to Pittsburgh from Jersey. She's in her medical residency so working like crazy and I wasn't really making any money to help [crosstalk 00:06:42]-
[crosstalk 00:06:43] lot of single time, yeah.
Yeah, yeah. So I was working on that, didn't work out too well. So I went back working full-time again. That was like September 2017, October 2017. Took a step back from my stores and running any stores, but stayed involved in Facebook group, kind of kept reading and learning things and then this store, that same store, I didn't close it down all the way. It was still open and come April, May, I was getting sales again just from-
Yeah. Yeah. And I was like, damn, if this is getting sales and I haven't even looked at it in four or five months, what can I really do here? So that was the beginning of 2018 I started this current store I'm in at the same time. I was like, I got to get back into this, really pay attention to everything, details, attention to detail, go through the course again, start it all from scratch. And I launched ads June 28th of last year and that first month of July I did about 26,000 in sales.
Wow, wow. That's amazing.
Yeah. It was. And it was like the best month I ever had of the other two stores. I'm like wow, this could really take me somewhere. And I only operated it out like 10%, 10% profits so it wasn't crazy. But then in August, just kind of getting more products, scaling ads a little bit as the sales were coming in. In August I did 82,000.
Like a month, right? So in two months I hit over a hundred [crosstalk 00:08:20].
Yeah. You must've been like blown it away, like what's happened?
Yeah, it was insane, it was insane. But when you look back at it, had I not had those first two stores and gone through everything, learned simple customer service, fulfilling orders, getting products up, doing the SEO and stuff right from the get go, I don't know that it would have taken off the same way.
Probably not. Those are such big numbers. And like you said, obviously who you're selling for and the products have a big part to play of the success, but all that other stuff is necessary and the fact that you've been through the process twice, that's like, yeah, that's practice. So that's awesome. So, the thing that we usually talk about is like the big win, the recent win, so a big milestone. It sounds like you launched what, just over a year ago now, 13 months ago?
So this is 13 months, yes. Yeah. So June 28th of last year. So it's been, yeah. 13 months.
Yep. So where is that store at now?
Right. So on July 11th we had 1,500 sales. So that was-
That's a huge milestone.
Yeah. So our first sale came on July 2nd of last year. So just over a year we had 1,500 sales, and we're about 30,000 from two million overall.
That's a celebration day.
Really close. So that should happen this month. If we stay on track.
Send some emails. make a big promotion and get some emails out and you'll be there. Yeah.
Yep. And then, yeah, so June 28th just last month was my last day of working full-time.
Yeah, about 16 months back in corporate world was enough for me.
So you got to almost two million while working a full-time job?
Yeah, working full-time.
Was that also in engineering? You went back to your profession?
Yeah, went back to the same field. Yeah. So I had originally worked in Philadelphia, then we moved out to Pittsburgh. So I was out here. A smaller market, same industry, but you know, just a little different company.
Right. But in your spare time, in a year you built a business that did two million dollars almost. That's, that's amazing. Yeah. And, I mean there's so much obviously cause that that's a gigantic milestone. And something else I want to point out, just to everybody listening. Like you said you're at 1,500 customers, which that's a lot of customers, right? But that's a big milestone. But sometimes when you see people posting like different Shopify screenshots, when they're selling like cheaper products, they're getting like 1,500 customers a day and I'm curious like from your side, because do you have employees, like how are you dealing and interacting with?
I do it all myself pretty much. I have two people that upload products for me, but everything else is what I'm
Dealing with customers. Inbox, live chats, phone. That's you. Full-time job, two million. So that's amazing. Yeah.
Yeah. So I was pretty fortunate at my job. I was pretty much sitting at a computer all day. So as emails came in I was able to answer them. Chats came in, which we don't get too many chats. People prefer to call or email, was able to take care of those, fulfill orders. You know, early in the morning or after work and calls became tricky, especially around the holiday season because just traffic and revenue just exploded like on November, December time. And that got tricky. But you kind of learn how to do it, walk away from your desk if you have to. I got all my work done at work so my boss didn't really mind too much.
Nice. So I'm curious again, so much must of went into to building this and getting to where the store is now, but for somebody that's just tuning in, listening to this episode. If you can give them maybe like one tip, something that shifted on what you did, to go from maybe those previous stores where you had revenue but they weren't home runs to where you are now. What could somebody take away and implement?
Really pay attention to what your competition is doing. I noticed in this market, not a lot of people are doing email marketing. Not a lot of people were doing even simple abandoned carts, things like that. Response times on emails and chats were slow or nonexistent. So if you can just stay on top of service that way it'll go a long, long way. But I think what really helped me is in my other stores, the way we ran ads was kind of that three tier campaign where you have the generic, the branded and the skew kind of funnel. And we were spending a lot of money, or I was spending a lot of money on generic terms.
So when we started this, I really put that at almost no bit like really, really low. So any traffic that I was getting in was coming branded or skew search term and that, I think that just helped a lot because it weeds out a lot of that non buying customer flow.
Yep. Yep. Yeah. Like it looks good right? When you see all these clicks from adverts every day. But if it's not going to buy then it's a vanity metric.
Especially when you're first starting.
Right. And have you, I'm curious now that it's been growing and you have momentum. Have you shifted more budget to generic or are you still going as targeted as possible and focusing there?
We definitely focus very targeted but I have opened up the generic terms and see what sells there and then focus in on those products. Because we hit, you kind of throw a couple months, especially when we grew so fast you kind of can see what is selling, what the customers like, what people are searching for and if it's a good price point. Because we deal with a lot of products that are not map.
So if it's something we can make profit on at a good price point and it sells well at the skew and branded level, we'll open it up a little bigger on the generic level.
Yep. And those non-map products, just tell you like what we do with them. If you have stuff that you know is proven to sell and they're your moneymakers, those are the things, like if I was trying to hit two million by the end of this month, I'd be mailing those out. Having promotions on most of my lists like crazy. So that's awesome.
Yeah. Around the holidays, those products were massive for us.
Those are the featured ones on your website, right? That's where you're trying to get people to.
Awesome. Yeah, I think people will find that useful. Even like something just like, that I hope people realize that they can take away from this is while you were working full-time, not only did you build such a big thing, but you did it like you were the person, you didn't have...
Yeah, did it all by myself.
Yeah. So many times people will say, say they're new to the community. They'll send an email and it'd be like, hey, can somebody help me build my website? And we'll say, yeah, we can help you with that. But then they'll say, oh, can you also call suppliers for me? And we're like, no, we can't do that. Can you set up my first Google ads account? I'm like it's the, you gotta do the work and make time. You know, there are enough hours in the day if you focus on this rather than the nonsense that's not going to get you anywhere. So, yeah.
And I think just having those first two stores like it really. And I don't think I mentioned I actually set up and went through the process of getting suppliers and two other stores that I never launched, never put ads on or anything like that. Really setting up four stores in the first two years or a year and a half. You learn how to talk to suppliers, you learn how to write emails and set up a site. And you know, just going from niche to niche and seeing what the different sites do and how to, how they're getting customers to kind of buy and different product offers and stuff like that. Kind of putting it all together and the industry I'm in now, it really helped.
So your first store might not be the one that works, but it could just be bad timing for you or not enough knowledge yet. You don't, it's not a failure until you quit. Right?
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And like you said too, if anyone's running a store listening in to this and they're not getting great results, it doesn't mean that you should just shut it down and move on to the next one. One thing that you said that I think everybody should take away also is go to all of your competitors sites. You know, call them live, chat them, like try to order a product from them, even look at their shipping options, look at everything. Because sometimes you'll find those little tweaks that gives you the advantage.
Yeah. I bought a couple of products that I use myself, like this standing desk here. Like I bought that, I know that it was a DSL site.
I'm just going through the buying process with them and seeing how they respond to customers or if there's any issues when buying and stuff like that. I think even when I bought it, the product was out of stock for a couple of weeks
And I didn't have that upfront it was over the holiday time. So then they emailed me on a Monday morning and I didn't have any worry about it. It was fine with me to wait, but kind of seeing how they respond to stuff like that too.
Yep. Yep. Definitely. So, awesome. Really good advice. The third part of these podcasts is where I can hopefully help you if there's anything that you've been struggling with, anything you have a question for. More than happy to provide some feedback.
Yeah. I guess for me at this point is what's your advice or the first step to outsourcing the customer service aspects? The one thing I noticed, and this might not even fall under customer service, but once I started doing this full-time, the past couple of weeks, is how much time I actually spent processing orders. I didn't realize how much it was because I was waking up early to go to the gym and then I come home, send out a couple of shipping, quote emails and then get it done before work or right when I got to work. And then at night and now I'm like, oh this takes up like my whole morning.
Yep. Have you tried before to outsource it?
No, I haven't tried just product uploading at this point.
Okay. Yeah. Yeah. That, I mean, obviously if you would've asked something else, I still would've said that's something you should do. Like starting now. Hiring, it's harder than everybody thinks it is. Even with virtual assistants, even if you hire someone that has five star rating and there's like, it's tricky. So I don't know, I'd say a couple of things. One of them is you'll probably be going through multiple people. Unfortunately the goal is to hire the best person from day one. But what we've found is every way we try to do that, people say things that aren't true and yeah, people are people high and people underperform and they have to be like, oh and somebody else has to come on. So I would say just expect that that is going to happen and be very proactive where, whoever you do bring on, you are basically like pretending to be a customer or a visitor and you're going on from different IP addresses and you're sending emails from different accounts and you're calling from different numbers or having your wife or girlfriend or mom or dad or brother or sister call. And just seeing how those conversations are going. Making sure the phone's being picked up because it's just necessary. And we do this even with people that have been on our team for years, at least a couple times a month, we're still checking in. So make sure, again, when someone's on board, that's always happening and that's where your time's going rather than doing the work. As far as like where we've seen best results from recently for hiring people, for virtual, I should say, it really is onlinejobs.ph so that's site in the Philippines. We still do get the best candidates from there.
One big thing too that I didn't do my first, I don't know, five years of hiring people that once I started doing made a huge difference, is bringing people on that are already better at me than whatever the thing is. So let's just say it is order processing, right? Or it's getting shipping quotes and that's something you want someone on the team for. What I used to do and what a lot of people try to do is just find somebody that says, I can do general admin tasks and I'm available eight hours a day for four dollars an hour. Instead you should find somebody that says, oh, I've actually done order processing for this company for three years. And then when you say, okay, this is how we do it, they should have something come back to you saying, my advice would be, actually we should try to do it this way. Or this is the system I use for tracking, or I actually already have these Google sheets made with this template that we've been using at this other company I was at. So instead of just trying to bring them on and give them your SOPs, which does work, it's always going to be better if they come in already ahead of your SOPs.
So instead of trying to get these generalists. So I would definitely recommend that because what happens when you, let's say you hired somebody, you gave them everything that you follow, you recorded videos of yourself doing everything. They're never going to be as good as you. And there's always going to be little mistakes where you're like, oh why would they do it like that? So instead you just want to give them what you have, but they should already be past you. So I would do that.
The other thing is like hiring. Like let's say you go on onlinejobs.ph. You get a bunch of, you make an application, you get a bunch of applications because you will, you find people with proven work history with long periods of work at each place. So not like. I uploaded products for a month for.
So people that have been doing this for a while. People that references check out. People that will work exclusively for you. That's another big one we found. Even if you don't think you have eight hours of work a day now, I would try to find that much because you don't want them splitting their time and you want all of their effort going towards your business.
And then again, like part of the interviewing process what I would recommend is saying, hey, this is the job. This is how I do it. Make a video showing how you do it. We use a tool called use loom, U-S-E-L-O-O-M .com. It's free, record your screen and your camera like you're doing now. And send them a video saying this is how I do it. What would you recommend that we can do to improve this process? Before you hire them, before they're in your accounts, see what they send back. You'll know right away if it's a good idea or a bad idea. And from there when you hire them, bring them on for a temporary basis. So what we do is 90 days trial period. We know usually within the first month if it's gonna work out or not.
So they don't expect to be coming on and just doing whatever they want for the next year. They know they're in a kind of probation period where you're doing those things. Your calling your company, your log chatting, you're emailing. And it feels like double work. But that time that you would be, let's say you want them to process orders, that time that you would be processing orders, you should be watching them like just by having your tracking sheets open and making sure it's happening. So for probably a couple months you're going to be paying someone while overseeing every single thing they do. But that's how you get a successful hire. We've never had it that we've just hired someone, gave them access to a few SOPs and then they've been off to the races. So that's what it looks like to get a quality person that sticks with the company. Cool. So the two product loaders I have now. I wasn't really sure about how to go about getting them. I mean we had, we put the application obviously on onlinejobs.ph. And then you know, you get 40 or 50 responses and it's, how do I go through all these? So I kind of narrowed it down to the last five or six and I actually gave each of them like a trial upload of five or six products each and then we made a decision from there. Obviously I don't want to have 10 people running customer service at the same time.
Yeah, no, no. Yeah, I would bring in one and something else you could do because like you said, you'll get a hundred applications probably. So let's just say out of the 100 you see 50 that you're like, I don't know, maybe any of these 50 are good. If you took that 50 and sent them all the same copy and paste response, just something like, hey, we're interested in your application. Can you respond with the top five reasons we should consider you for this role? Send that to 50 people. Probably 20 of them won't even respond and out of those 20 maybe like 10 will have legitimate reasons. So that's definitely important too. You want to cut that list down as soon as possible. I have that same thing. I'll get all these applications and I don't do this anymore because I get stuck where I'm like, I have no idea who's going to be the person.
So yeah, you kind of have to make these like these hurdles, where you're getting useful responses from them, but they'll kind of cut themselves down by just not responding and giving up. You definitely want to incorporate that. But seriously that would be my focus. Like when I woke up tomorrow, if I was you, I'd get all the orders processed. Then I'd be putting together an application and having the hiring process laid out because that's going to allow you to, to really scale your business. And even beyond that, I'm sure you know this, but just case anybody's listening and like why this is important. Let's say a year from now you do decide, you know what, this store has been great, but I just want to sell it. I'm not into this anymore. Or I have this other opportunity here.
When you go to sell the business, one of the first questions any broker or buyer's going to ask you is what is your team look like? How many hours are involved. And if at that point you were still saying, well I wake up and for three hours I do this, that's gonna just, any buyer that has a lot of money to spend, it's just going to instantly, they'll buy it, but they'll take a huge multiple, a huge hit on what you could sell it for. So that's just, that reason alone is enough to do it.
Yeah. And that's kind of what I've been thinking of. I don't know if the goal is to sell this store because I do like the market that I'm in and want to be able to, I think the growth potential is just massive.
From what I've been able to do on nights and weekends and how many manufacturers we currently have to where we can really get it. So I don't know that selling it is, but yeah, it does take a lot of my time on just the day to day and getting that back to, you know, call more suppliers and do things like that instead of filling out po's and emailing freight companies.
Definitely. That's good. Again, if you have, if you said, if you said to me right now, I'm never going to sell this business, I love it. I would say still you should build it to sell because you never know and it's just better to be set up that way anyway. But yeah, I mean it definitely sounds like you're more than on the right track and it's exciting now that you can go full-time into this with this history, like where it can go in next. So I'm super happy for you. Again, any way I can help. I'd love to stay in contact. However I can help keep this thing growing. But you've done an awesome job. Seriously that's amazing. You should be super proud of it.
Thank you. I wouldn't have been able to do without the course. And that's honest. I didn't know, didn't even know how drop shipping was a thing. I had heard of drop shipping just from working in engineering, construction. It's kind of like a pretty normal thing where for our suppliers there. But online didn't even know it existed until I came across. So awesome.
Happy to share and help you get started on this journey.
I guess we'll wrap this up, but thanks again for hopping on. Everybody listening, let Joe know in the Facebook group if you've already Drop Ship Lifestyle, if you got value from this, I'm sure you did. And yeah, hopefully we can catch up in person sometime too.
Alright, sounds good.
Alright, thanks Joe.
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