It’s been about six-weeks since I first got interested in Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) as a possible way to make some money online… and it’s been both interesting and at times a little frustrating!
The first thing to understand about dealing with suppliers in China is that everything takes longer than you think it will!
I guess it’s to be expected, but it goes to show that focusing on your supply chain is going to be one of the most important parts of this business to get right.
Let me give you an example of some of the frustrations I’ve faced over the last month… one of my first goals is to just get something up and selling on Amazon FBA. I want to prove the process, learn what I need to learn and actually complete the end-to-end process once:
Find a supplier >>
get product made >>
get product shipped >>
have it arrive and checked into Amazon FBA >>
start a ppc campaign >>
make a sale >>
get money from Amazon paid back to my bank account.
My reasoning here is that I’m going to make mistakes – there are going to be things that I don’t know about – and I have two options for getting past that:
#1 make a small order as soon as possible and complete the end-to-end process to force myself through each step of the process, or
#2 Keep studying up, get a detailed plan in place and do it properly.
…I don’t know how long it would take to use option #2 – there are too many opportunities to stall and I still wouldn’t be sure if I was missing something. Option #1 makes a lot of sense to me – start small and work everything out as you go.
Jumping right in… Getting something to Amazon FBA quick!
So, that’s the approach I took and things started off really well. While I was doing my product research, I stumbled across a product that was small, light, cheap to make and I found a supplier on Alibaba that seemed to make things almost too easy. This supplier had a pre-packaged item that bundled this product with another related product that was showing up on Amazon as ‘frequently bought together’ with the one I was looking at… and no one on Amazon is selling these two items bundled together – easy win!
I started talking to the supplier – she was quick to respond, provided heaps of info, we sent maybe 6 or 7 emails back and forth – everything looked great. I was going to skip getting samples, they were happy to do a small test order to start with, I was planning on using their standard packaging for this first test run… I was ready to order. I emailed her back with a list of 6 points that described the product and the terms as I understood we had agreed to and waited for her response.
…and waited. It took her a week to get back. She said sorry for the late reply, but agreed, that yes – everything I stated was how she saw it too, everything is good. I was a little red flag that it took so long, but ok… maybe this is how things are, so I said ‘great – send me an invoice and we can start this moving’.
…and again I waited. Another week went on, and I decided to reach out to another supplier (I still liked the product idea, but couldn’t find another supplier who pre-packaged those two items together). Maybe I should have chased things up a bit harder? Maybe I should have given them more of a chance? My gut was telling me to move on though.
While all this was happening, I made enquiries about some other products and have made major progress on one, with a supplier who has been great.
I’m not convinced that this new product will sell all that well (essentially, it’s giving people two of something, where they may not actually need two of them)… but I’m confident that I’ll at least break even and they were happy to do a small run (120 units). It only took 8 days to produce (that’s quick!) and it gave me a great chance to actually work through this process (I have learnt so much in a very short time, this has been a great way to really understand what is going on and where I still need to dig deeper – definitely worth it).
Total cost so far: US$600 (production costs + shipping costs)
The good news is that about a week ago I got the news that my product was ready and was sitting in the warehouse in China ready to be shipped – I even got photos!
As part of the negotiations, I agreed to a shipping rate they could get me that used UPS Air Express shipping with an expected delivery time of 5-7 days (seemed like a good compromise between cost/time)… after a few days of not hearing anything, I finally got confirmation that shipping was underway (#Excited!)
As I write this article my first shipment of 120 units is sitting in Hong Kong waiting to make it’s journey across to the USA… I’ve been refreshing the tracking page info way too much..
Back to Product Idea #1
I’ve also found a new supplier for the first product I was looking at. While I couldn’t find anyone else who already had the items bundled together, I’ve found a supplier who is really switched on to detail and it’s been a vastly different experience working with him.
This time I don’t need to rush through and prove the initial process, I’m adding in the extra steps of specifying the bundle and designing the packaging (since they don’t already have a pre-bundled product like the last supplier I was talking to, forcing me to learn a few more steps of the supply-chain puzzle).
I am also getting samples shipped to me first before the production run starts, and that’s where I’m at right now… I’ve just been to the bank and done my first international bank transfer (T/T) to pay for production samples (payment on my first product was via Paypal) so I can get a few copies (in my newly designed packaging) delivered to me before committing to (and authorising) a larger production run.
…those samples should be ready in about 10 days (up to 7 days after they receive the payment).
So there you have it – that’s where my Amazon FBA journey is currently taking me… exciting times, I can’t wait to see what happens during the next month!