In this interview episode of the eCommerce Lifestyle podcast, Anton speaks with Drop Ship Lifestyle community member, Anastasia Vankova.
Anastasia started dropshipping in 2014 and is a long-time member of Drop Ship Lifestyle. As a digital nomad, she travels the world with her child and partner in tow. Thanks to the sales from her dropshipping store she's able to fund her ideal lifestyle.
She recently hired her second virtual assistant to allow her more room to grow her business. Her and Anton discuss that, along with some other recent wins and Anton's advice on upgrading to Shopify Plus.
Anton: Hello everybody. Anton Kraly here from ecommercelifestyle.com. Welcome to the fifth interview episode of the podcast. Today I am speaking with Anastasia, and really cool to have you on. Thank you for being here. Anastasia has been with the community for a long time now. I'm not sure how long, but it's been a while. We've met at retreat in person, decided to meet up again in Prague soon where Anastasia will actually be on stage presenting as well as just hanging out and enjoying Europe. So Anastasia, thank you for being here, appreciate you. And if you want to introduce yourself and let everybody know how you got involved in eCommerce all those years ago?
Anastasia: Yeah. Hi everybody. And thanks so much for inviting me. I started back in 2014, it was I think September, when I found your course and I heard Johnny's podcast as a validation. And I think I bought it somewhere around October and started my store right before Christmas, somewhere. And had the first sale within about two weeks.
Anastasia: That was a huge win. I think it was around $800 and I made $200 on that. I was so excited. I just couldn't believe it. I remember I was at the gym and I heard that notification on the phone and I looked, I'm like, "I just made $200!" I couldn't believe it. Back then I was probably making, I don't know, four or $500 a week.
Anton: As you're working out, it's amazing.
Anastasia: Yeah, and the rest is history from there on. I'm still running the same store that I started back in 2014. I started couple more stores along the way and I sold them because I just don't like having too many things to focus on. I prefer to have one and grow it. There I am.
Anastasia: Still, a few times I tried to sell this store, but I just can't. It's always like [inaudible 00:02:02].
Anton: Yeah, have you brought yourself to -
Anastasia: I think last time we spoke, I was trying to sell it, back when, the beginning of this year when I was in [inaudible 00:02:09]. You meet so many people running different businesses, living different lives, and you get all these ideas and you want to start a new project and you feel like, okay, well maybe I'm done with this one and I need to move on.
Anastasia: But it's more of like a FOMO, and then I came back home and then realized that no, I actually enjoy doing this. And there is a lot of things I can do to make it better, to let it grow bigger.
Anton: And yeah, the, the emotional thing. I know we spoke about that, what was it, three months ago? Maybe more.
Anastasia: Yeah, something like that.
Anton: The thing like even thinking about listing it, if that's like getting those feelings going, but once you got to the point where you were on the phone with potential buyers, like I've been through that and it's not fun at all. So it's good that ...
Anastasia: I didn't even get to that. I got to the point where I was listing all the potential opportunities of like, what can you do with the store to grow it? And then I'm like, "Why am I not doing all of this now?"
Anton: Right. Yeah, like wait a minute, I have time. Yeah. So that's actually, that's good. And it makes sense to kind of transition here, then, because you obviously didn't build the store in 2014 and then sit back and just watch all the sales continue to roll in. You've been doing things to optimize it, to try new things, and they have led to a lot of growth. So as far as things recently that you've done in your business that would count as a win, what would you say is a recent one or two things?
Anastasia: The very, very recent one, literally last week I got an email from Bar Rescue. It's a TV show.
Anton: I love it. Yep.
Anastasia: [crosstalk 00:03:46]. I don't watch it. But I know a lot of people who are into design, interior design, and like the restaurant owners and bar owners, they watch that. So they wanted to feature one of our products and the deal looked like we cover the cost of the product or part of the cost. And they give us a blurb, like the actual TV host will mention us in the show and they do a close up of the actual product.
Anastasia: So if they do the close up, the manufacturer agreed to cover the cost completely. And we charged Bar Rescue 60% ... Or no, hold on, we gave a 60% discount, so they paid 40%, which covered the overnight shipping. Because the way these TV shows work, we had a couple of the deals like this before. Basically they message you on Thursday and they need the product on Friday. And it's always like this. So you have to overnight it than like it can be expensive.
Anton: So did it actually cost you anything at the end of the day to get them that product?
Anastasia: It costs me, it didn't cost me anything, no, because the buyer covered the product and I covered the overnight shipping, which they paid for basically.
Anton: Perfect. Yeah. And I've done a bunch of that stuff as well, like sending products out, and you probably, if you've done this already, you probably know this, but what we've seen is not sales from being on the show because they might like zoom into the product and then at the end in the credits they'll have your store name.
Anton: But what we've really tapped into is by taking that logo and the "As seen on" and putting that everywhere.
Anastasia: Yeah, the watermarking.
Anton: So it's showing on your website, "As seen on Bar Rescue," having it like even somewhere on your homepage probably at first, on your About Us page. When we do that we send emails to our lists. Hey we were just featured on Bar Rescue or whatever show it is. Post it all over social. So that's where you get a lot of benefits from it, too. Just like adding that authority and credibility to your audience that might already know you but haven't bought yet. So definitely,
Anastasia: When you do those deals, did you reach out to the shows yourself or did they [inaudible 00:05:52] you?
Anton: They've reached out to us. What we did at first that I think started it was, this was like back in the day, probably like 2009, 2010. I wanted to try magazine advertising. So I reached out to different magazines in different industries that I was in and would take out different ads. So just like a product photo, a logo, call to action. And that didn't result in a lot of sales. But when that happened, started to get a lot of inbound companies reaching out and they were saying like, "Hey," a lot of like TLC shows and things like that. And like that's where they had found out about the company.
Anton: So kind of like an indirect way that people then reached out to try to work out those deals. But what you did is really smart. We always negotiated with the supplier to get money off and haven't done this in a while, but we'd negotiate to get money off with them but never actually got money from the company. So that's awesome that you were able to work that out and have them pay you as well.
Anastasia: The product that they picked was expensive. So I was like, "Well, on this one I can only ... " And you know, it was like a third requested it. And the first two didn't work out, so I was like, oh. And then they needed it tomorrow. I'm like "Ah, it's just probably not gonna work out." So expensive product overnight, probably not going to work out. So I just gave them whatever number I came up with. Without even checking the supplier first.
Anastasia: Yeah, they were okay with it. I think they were somewhat desperate because ...
Anton: They have to film.
Anastasia: You've got to film. But it all worked out good for them. Great for us. They really loved the product. So they're giving us, they already gave us a second deal. And yeah, I'm excited to see how it plays out, and so far it's awesome.
Anton: Yeah. So I think that's probably a big takeaway for everybody listening, how can they apply that? And I wouldn't recommend just reaching out to all these shows and saying like, "Hey, we're here." You could, but it's probably not the most efficient use of time. But if anybody does contact you, like you just said, don't be afraid to put a price on it and definitely don't be afraid to talk to your suppliers about how they can help in, too, to either totally eliminate the cost to you at all.
Anastasia: Yeah, and you have to be quick. You just have to be really fast to respond to them because they're super busy. And get them what they need or offer them something because they don't really know what they need.
Anton: Definitely. And I know you also mentioned something else that just happened in your business that definitely I think counts as a huge win. Do you want to share that as well?
Anastasia: Yeah. I just recently hired my second employee, like a full time employee for product management. Basically she will be ... She's uploading new products, doing all the product updates, like pictures, descriptions, SEO descriptions, and all this stuff that I never have time for. Then she explores new channels, we are adding Amazon and Ebay just now because I didn't want to make things complicated before and now I feel like I have a team that can handled it.
Anastasia: So she's doing that and makes sure products get published with no errors and things like that. And just a lot of basically fixing things and managing things. Because we have about 2,500 products right now, so it's flawed. And manufacturer's always come up with new models, updates, and even price updates. A lot of them are still on pdf files and needs to be done manually. So she does all that.
Anton: Nice, so what made you think like that were ready for that, to bring her onto the team?
Anastasia: I mean, I looked at my to do list and a had it full of all the stuff. And one big thing that happened was this one, I had one supplier that they have a great product but they haven't updated their pictures in a while. So they just released a whole new catalog of pictures. And I was, at the time I was in Bali, and actually it was like one of the days I had time to work. And I did and updated all their pictures. It was before I hired her and stuff, so I did it all myself and I shared it on social media.
Anastasia: Right after this happened, 30 days, their sales doubled. Sales of their product literally doubled compared to what I had before. And it continued like this because nobody else did it. They didn't update their website. And my competitors weren't quick enough to update their pictures. We were already ranking pretty good for the products, but with new pictures it just runs with the roof.
Anastasia: So I was like, "Okay," and I had a list of these kind of updates from other suppliers. Some of them released new pictures, video, descriptions and things like that. Everything needed to be processed and I'm like, "I just need help." Because I'm leaving money on the table. You need to be quick to update your products. You need to be on top of it.
Anton: And the cost that you're paying them, it's so worth it. It's already paid for by you doing that work one time, it'll just continue to compound.
Anastasia: So worth it. Yup. So yeah, that basically was one of the biggest catalyst to make the move and hire her. Hiring is not fun for me. Like I just really don't enjoy doing it, but I mean it's only painful for a couple of weeks and then it's all smooth sailing basically.
Anton: Yeah. And that's another thing you said that I think people should definitely do is keep to do lists. So I go through phases where I forget how important it is, but even the past week I've been doing this again where I just keep a running list in a Google, just a Google document, of what I'm working on and I'm like how much time it took. And then review that after a week, after two weeks, after a month and think where did my time actually go? And if you find that a lot of it is just uploading products or editing these images, there's a lot bigger growth levers to be working on, even though those are, they have to be done and they make more money. That's a good way to find out when it's time to hire and what that new person or people should be doing. So that's a good tip for everybody.
Anastasia: And this new girl also, she has a previous experience of managing social media platforms. So she is scheduling my social media posts, which I realize I spend a lot of time on doing that, too. Even though I would do it like every couple of weeks or every month and buffer and then just kind of throw it online.
Anastasia: Yeah. Basically she runs my social media now, too. She schedules posts and stuff. I can control it and I check it, but I don't have to spend time doing it now.
Anton: Okay, awesome. So yeah, congratulations on both those things. Like the press you'll get and the way you'll be able to leverage that name is definitely is huge. And then having somebody else to do this with all of your product lines, like you said, every season when they have new products, new updates, that's massive. So yeah, awesome work. And everybody listening, if you get those deals coming in, negotiate with the people that are contacting you and like Anastasia said, act fast because B2B is usually like get it done now.
Anton: And look at what you're doing and find out when it's time to bring somebody on. Because hiring, like you said, it's not fun. It's painful, but in the long run that's the only way that you're really going to just continue to grow. So definitely thanks for sharing those things.
Anton: And the next segment of this show has been where I try to help you with something. So anything that you've been thinking about, any questions you have, hopefully I can give you some guidance, help you continue to move the right direction. So do you have any questions for me?
Anastasia: Yeah, I'm just curious about this one thing. I recently received an email from Shopify and they're offering me to upgrade to Shopify Plus. Which is $2,000 a month.
Anton: Starting, yeah.
Anastasia: We got on the phone, I talked to them and I'm just curious if the benefits of a brand new Shopify Plus are really there for drop shipping stores and if it makes sense for us.
Anton: Yeah, the short answer is just no. That's what it is. But just in case anybody like ... Like your store, I know does well, a lot of revenue and people, they see that so they reach out. Just like everybody at Google and Facebook does, where you get a rep and their job is to have you moved to the next thing or spend more.
Anton: And Shopify Plus is amazing. We don't use it. There are a lot of stores that should use it, but for people that aren't familiar, like why you would switch to begin with just hearing it starts at $2,000, it's a lot more customizable. So that's one of the big things. And to be able to take advantage of what you can actually do. It's like ... It's what like Magento also is, so Magento is another ecommerce platform that is technical.
Anton: So if you want to implement just a random idea you have about special ways to group products and have discounts and change currencies and text based on where someone is in the world, you can make that happen. But it's not like the regular Shopify where you just, you can use apps, but it's not as easy as like, okay I'm going to use this app. It's more like, okay I have access to Shopify's API to their entire code base and we can go in there and code whatever we want. So just that part alone, you would need to be at the level, which I don't think any drop shipping store, the way we do it ever is, it doesn't make sense. But you need to be at the level where you have like a full time person that that's what they do. You know they're taking advantage of that.
Anton: The other benefits from it are you have more support but the support's great anyway. Another benefit is it's built for stores that just get absurd amounts of traffic. So some of the biggest ecommerce stores in the world are using that because they're not going to crash when they get a million visitors in five minutes when they post on social media or send out an email. So that's another benefit that we wouldn't take advantage of.
Anton: Another one that makes sense for some stores is they have a built in wholesale sales channel. And what's cool about that is let's say you did have your own product line and you had wholesale clients all over the world. You can just natively add the wholesale sales channel, your wholesale clients can log in, they could have their portal where they order. And then like some of the other things that they have built in are just to automate processes.
Anton: So you use Zapier, right?
Anton: Yeah. So like a lot of things that we use Zapier are for, they have built into Shopify Plus so you don't have to use it. And it's a deeper integration and I guess there's less of a chance of it breaking because it's in Shopify, built by Shopify. So just things like notifications and just having any process go through a series of tasks, you can automate that.
Anton: And then also multichannel, which we could talk about, because I know you're thinking about selling on different channels. They have it built in natively. So if you want to sell on Ebay and Amazon and [Hows 00:16:31] and all those other places, it can be managed through your Shopify dashboard.
Anastasia: You can do it on regular Shopify.
Anton: Yeah. Yeah. But they have it like, so it's like all like in one thing, like everything ... It's more for inventory, really. So like everything is managed in one place and you could see like more detailed reports and everything.
Anton: So you know, you remember Chad from, from DIFF Eyewear that spoke at Hawaii, right? Like for him, he would be crazy not to be using it because he does all those things. He has his own brand, they have a team of people that take advantage of the API and coding different things to test. They sell wholesale to stores all over the world. They sell in different countries. So the fact that it can like auto translate the website and all that. And most of the stuff, honestly, you can do with apps, but if you just want it all built in, like that's when it makes sense. So that's the longer answer. And like you said, though, like let's say you do want to try different platforms and you want to sell on Ebay and Amazon and Hows, you can just do it, you could use an app for it and you don't have to spend starting price $2,000.
Anastasia: Shopify has built in sales channels now, you can add a sales channel like Ebay, Amazon. I just don't know if it's good enough. That's kind of my question. Like would it be better to use the sales channel and post picture ... products through Shopify, like inside the Shopify sales channel or do it natively in Amazon or on Ebay?
Anton: Yeah. What we typically do, I don't sell anything on Amazon now, but when we want to do sell, when we do want to sell on other channels, we do it natively there. So like make an account on Hows and manage it through that. Reason being, because just like you, dealing with a lot of SKUs, you can manage which ones are pushed over. But just like to keep it separate because if, let's just say somebody's listening and they're like, "Okay, I have 5,000 products and 500 of them sell all the time and 200 of them are usually out of stock and a hundred of them are from a bad supplier with quality concerns." You want to like, in my opinion, at least, have your best of your best on those other platforms because if you don't, you're going to deal with things like tons of negative reviews, money being held, accounts getting shut down.
Anton: So I personally see it as more of almost like a side thing like, okay, we're going to pick ... we're going to make our CSV for this platform, we're going to upload it there, it's going to be managed through there, and doing it that way. If I ran a store that had our own products, like again, think of like DIFF for, you know, Natural Snacks from Ben, then I would probably just manage it all through one because we would have our own fulfillment centers and it would just all be on us. There'd be less chance of having those problematic orders from people that, are used to the Amazon experience where you order something and get it in two days. So we do it individually just to have more control.
Anastasia: Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. It's just a little, also, a lot of work to keep track of the inventory and prices on all the different channels.
Anton: Yeah. And that's why like ... You're probably doing it manually, right? Like suppliers send what they have in stock. Maybe they sound like a weekly spreadsheet or have like a dealer portal. So from there, if you wanted to test, let's just say like three different channels, I would go with what is proven, go with what you know ships on time, go with what you know customers are most happy with and test it with that. And if that works, maybe you bring on your third person who is diving deeper into your product catalog and hand picking different products that you want to add into the mix. But I definitely wouldn't recommend anybody just push everything over and see what happens because I don't think that ... Doesn't have a good chance of working out.
Anastasia: Oh yeah, for sure. Amazon is tricky, too. Like they penalize you for if you don't ship the order, you can't have back orders. I'm just now finding it out and it's a lot to navigate. So you need to ... I do have to make sure that you're working with the fast suppliers.
Anton: Yeah, exactly. And it's good that you have that other person now, though. Because if you do want to do that, you could have somebody that's in charge of that channel and or maybe they're in charge of like a group of channels if volume's relatively low. But that's the way I would do it. Because you do, in my opinion, you have to think of them almost as separate businesses. The only way that they're really like an extension is, again, if you have your own brand and products somewhere, then I see it as more of like a different sales channel. But the way that we do business, I see it more of like literally a side thing. Like just not like a, not shifting off to it, but okay, now we're going to do this, we're going to optimize our descriptions and listings for this just like we do for Shopify. Maybe that's different. Let's see how this product looks on Hows. Let's see how this product looks on Ebay. Let's see how this looks on Amazon. And then the products uploaded there would be optimized specifically for that channel.
Anastasia: Yeah. Makes sense.
Anton: Yeah. So it is more work, I mean, but it's one of those things. And then also I'm sure you have all your agreements. You probably had most of your suppliers for a long time, but it's always good to like double check with them, too, to see where you can and can't sell.
Anastasia: Oh yeah. A lot of them are not allowing Ebay or Amazon. And especially like most of the good ones.
Anton: Yeah, that's their move.
Anastasia: They're smart.
Anton: Cool. Do you have any other questions or anything?
Anastasia: No, I don't think so. Oh, have you heard that Google is doing ... They have this new app, Google My Business. Have you heard of that one? I just wanted to make sure-
Anton: Google My Business? Is that one new? My Business?
Anastasia: Sort of new. Google My Business, so they got rid of Google+ or whatever they used to have, and now I see like increasing traffic and organic traffic and good returns from updating my information on Google, collecting reviews there. Like you can get a link, like how it would-
Anton: Oh, right, right, right. Yes. Yep.
Anastasia: Well from there they just send me invitation to download Google My Business app. It's basically like Facebook Business Pages kind of stuff. Although there, you can create a coupon, enticing people to follow you there, give them a coupon like whatever, like a 10% off for a follow. And then there'll be more more likely to buy and stuff. That's kind of new, but like I said, they send me some stats. It's like 400 increase in traffic from just listing on Google.
Anton: Oh nice. Yeah. I know we have completed our profiles there but we haven't done much with it. Like just saw it. I remembered an alert one day probably, I don't know, maybe a couple months ago. And we completed them, but I haven't looked into the data yet, so I will check that though because I'm interested if we had any kind of movement there.
Anastasia: Yeah. And you can post your promotions and add products. They added products recently, I think it's still in Beta. But if you add your top sellers and put them in collections and stuff. Yeah, that's a pretty cool one for organic stuff.
Anton: Cool. Yeah. Maybe we'll have some results about that to talk about in Prague.
Anastasia: Yeah, maybe.
Anton: All right, cool. Well, thanks again for hopping on. Definitely a appreciate it. I'm sure the community you will get value from this. And always good talking, looking forward to hearing your talk and also just hanging out over in Prague in less than a month. It's insane.
Anastasia: My gosh.
Anton: I know.
Anastasia: No time to prepare.
Anton: No time. Yeah, I know. All right, got to finish the slides. But yeah, thanks again. Appreciate it. And we will talk in three and a half weeks.
Anastasia: Oh Wow. Yes.
Anton: All right.
Anastasia: Thanks for having me.
Anton: Thank you.
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