Announcement: I’m Going Back Into E-Commerce: An Amazon FBA Real-Time Case Study

Michael MicheliniBlog, Business, Case Studies16 Comments

Stop sitting on the sidelines, and take action creating an Amazon FBA business!

We are starting a new e-commerce division at Global From Asia. We will be starting a new brand in a category on Amazon and sharing the progress on a weekly update with the community. Global From Asia started out as a Hong Kong business podcast in late 2013 and has evolved more and more into helping Amazon FBA and cross-border e-commerce businesses. So let’s get back involved ourselves in the industry and share it with the world.

Plus I am sick and tired of everyone I talk to afraid to share what their product is. You will see our product, our brand website, and the actual ups and downs (hopefully more ups than downs!) from beginning to scale.

Background of Mike’s E-Commerce Business Experience

So today’s announcement is big news for me. I was an e-commerce seller from 2004 to 2012. While most of those years aren’t during the heyday of Amazon FBA, I did do Amazon for a couple of years towards the end there. I started it in New York City while working on Wall Street in my studio apartment with Andrew Moran, my hometown friend. Leveraged eBay, Google Adwords, and Stores Online shopping cart “business in a box” system to grow from nothing to a half a million dollar a year revenue business.

That business is what led me quitting Wall Street, moving to China, starting a B2B sourcing business, and finding my passion in blogging / internet marketing (launched Mike’s blog in early 2007 just as I quit my job).

Everyone asks me why I got out of e-commerce in 2012. It was a bit of burnout in the grind of inventory replenishment (I had 3 fulfillment centers across 3 continents) and I wanted to do something new. I sold the business in a couple pieces (Ebay account and website shopping cart as 2 parts) to my old team (Kent and Marie) and went to Chinaccelerator to start a tech startup in China – Social Agent.

I said I would not get back into physical product businesses.

Funny how things come full circle. But I love the world of international and cross-border business – and that space is dominated by Amazon FBA. Let’s have some fun and share the story live with all of you.

So How Did This Amazon FBA Case Study Idea Develop?

I was visiting my friend Meir Simhi (also a top speaker at Cross Border Summit and part of our GFA Expert workshop network) and explaining I want to do more workshops. He said, why not get back into e-commerce myself – I have the network and experience. I told him, as he already knew, that I am not good at inventory management and operations. He said, why not find a partner for this side, since I have so many marketing and business resources to add to the business. It is true, I have had plenty of chances to partner with others in an Amazon FBA business, but then he said something that made a ton of sense:

Why not open it up as a case study to the Global From Asia audience? Instead of just interviewing others about Amazon FBA and cross-border e-commerce – have a public case study. Plus I am sick and tired of no one wanting to reveal their product as well – as you can only dig so deep with general information and how-tos.

So – let’s open up the chance for others here today. I want to invite you to get involved in this new business opportunity with me. This is an exciting new Amazon FBA business venture – aka “ad-venture (adventure)”.

Many In The Community Have Requested Amazon FBA Assistance

There has been some trends of what is coming to my email inbox for years now. Many listeners, readers, viewers reach out and have similar pain points and requests such as:

  • Lack of Resources – not sure what service providers to approach to get started with setting up their Amazon FBA seller central account and incorporation. Not sure how to source products from China, not confident they are finding the right trusted partners. They are asking me for those contacts, those resources to get them to skip past those pain points of partner selection in a good Asia B2B service provider.
  • Shortage of Knowledge – Even though the team here at Global From Asia spends so much time providing free content on blogs, podcasts, and video blogs – still people need more knowledge – more education. They want to see how it is done. To watch it unfold in front of their eyes. To have something tangible instead of theory and examples. We want to provide people with a real, working case.
  • Desire To Have Guidance – Many readers feel a lack of confidence if they are making the right moves in setting up their Amazon FBA business. Each step of the way, they want to have guidance if they are making the right decision in the business. They ask me for confirmation if what they are doing is on the right track.

So because of this overwhelming trend of requests from you, the audience, I want to offer something special today.

Interested To Join Me In This New Amazon FBA Business Opportunity? Let’s Do It Together!

So let’s start from “ground zero” together. Here is the opportunity to work alongside me in a new business venture. I am proposing:

  • Setup a new company with shareholders. This will not be part of a current business any of the partners who join have. I will join as a shareholder from my corporate company – Shadstone Limited – a Hong Kong business that also owns Global From Asia.
  • Open a new bank account. I believe a Hong Kong company structure is the best but I am aware banking is a nightmare – and I’m a US citizen as well so may not get approved for a bank account there (luckily I’m grandfathered in with my current HSBC HK account). So the banking problem and depending on which business partners we get in the corporate structure will determine where we register the company.
  • Open a New Amazon Seller Central Account. We’ll start from scratch, and share the progress.
  • Register a new brand / trademark / website. Start from scratch. We’ll do our product research, pick a category, source products, all live with you watching / listening / reading (trying all content mediums for this one).
  • Grow our leverage with suppliers – we may even partner with a Chinese manufacturer, or simply buy from them (we have some readers who are Chinese factories – you’re welcome to apply to cooperate!)
  • Build a long term product brand – on and off Amazon. If you listen to my podcasts, you’ll see I often tell people to diversify. We will start on Amazon FBA to get traction – but always have our own website and brand. I almost immediately want to setup a shopping cart (debating Shopify or Woo Commerce) but will do that after we get the Amazon sales rolling.
  • In and Out of China (go both ways) – I want to sell this new product brand around the world. First step is Amazon FBA, then we want to go into markets around the world – as well as Mainland China.

Who We Are Looking For in this E-commerce Business Venture

I can’t wait to review applications from those interested to partner with me on this. Let’s first outline what I am able to provide on my side

What our side can offer:

  • Network of connections in service providers and marketplace platforms. – As I’ve been in China 10 years, and doing this podcast 4, I know quite a few people in the industry of China and International business and cross-border e-commerce. Basically, any type of service or platform I can think of a person who can help.
  • Corporate Structure and Financials – we have a partner CPA firm – Unipro Consulting Limited, that has bookkeeping, incorporation services. My partner there – Ray Ng – will be available for tax help (in HK) and other corporate services.
  • Technical Setup – I love doing internet marketing, and can get the e-commerce website up right away. So website structure, optimization, plugins, integrations – I got that.
  • Internet marketing knowledge and strategy – Can’t wait to rank this brand in Amazon and Google. Can’t wait to take all this experience (since 2004) of building traffic and awareness of a new brand and apply it to this e-commerce business.
  • Freelancer Network – Working already with over 10 people online on a regular basis. We can leverage the current staff (if needed and all partners agree this person can help), or I have a long list of other freelancers and contractors who can help us out that I have worked with in the past.
  • Mentor network – already Meir has said he will mentor us live along the way. Other mentors, friends and more want to see this succeed and will help us achieve our goal.

What we are looking for:

* Trusted People – of course we need to get a good vibe about you. We are equity partners in a new business. So while I’ll look at your “numbers” on the application – we’ll talk to you on a call and also do some checking around before going into business together.

* Operations and Detail Oriented – Anyone who knows me knows I’m the “trailblazer” and the person pushing ahead and being innovative and creative. I need others in a business venture to assist in the project management of the various departments. I have the experience and knowledge on managing an online team, doing well at Global From Asia, and making a course on it now (scalebyoutoutsourcing.com) but want a team member who is an equity holder that “owns” this process in the business. I’ll work with you on the systems and structure, but want another person on the team to oversee it.

* Inventory Control – We are looking for partners to invest in the inventory and be comfortable to scale as the business grows up in sales and reach. Let’s be smart about investing in inventory until we are sure we have a “winner”, but there will be some investment of inventory to start. In future updates we will discuss how much capital we want to start with. Product research will start right away once we formalize the partnership.

* Financial Controller – while I have a corporate agency to work with us – similar to the operations and detail oriented need – I want a partner on the team who will be watching the numbers of the business closely. One who enjoys running a report on ad spend and inventory turnover and can show us how much money we are actually making. Many Amazon FBA sellers, or business owners in general, sell and sell and sell, only to realize they are just recycling money and not earning a decent bottom line. I want someone on the team to watch this closely.

How Many Partners? How About the Share Split?

We were discussing how many equity partners we would have in this new e-commerce business to start. Three seems like a good number: me, and 2 others.

And how much percentage is the split? On my side, I’m not looking to be a majority owner of the business. I see this as a long term asset where I can share the progress with the Global From Asia community, and also learn new tactics and strategies that we can sell. Here’s my proposed split:

Partner 1, Global From Asia = 25% shareholder
Partner 2, Inventory Investor and Financial Management = 40%
Partner 3, Operations Manager and Detail Oriented = 35%

We plan to re-invest the majority of capital back into the business, but allowing enough distributions each month to sustain those who are actively working on the business.

What Are The Contract Terms?

What is the terms and how will the contract work? Building out the contract now, and once we get you past the initial application stage of the process can share you the full terms of engagement:

* New Company Setup and Banking
* Initial Investment to be used for Inventory and Business Setup
* Founder’s Agreement – each partner will have clear roles and responsibilities from the get-go. If some partners are not delivering, we will have a clause for how they can exit the business. No hard feelings.
* KPIs – we will set clear targets and goals for this business.
* Exit Strategy – my goal here is a long term asset and cash flow. And the extra kicker for me is I get to make a great public case study of an Amazon FBA business. I don’t plan to sell this business for the first 3 years. After 3 years, I am open to selling it and finishing up this case study.

Some Risks and Challenges

This is an interesting venture, and I am excited to have you along for the ride. But this is a financial business, so I feel compelled to state the “risks and challenges” now that we are getting close to the end of this blog post:

* Conflicts of Interest – I do worry if I can stay neutral to the community of service providers and tools in the ecosystem we use. I personally know many of the founders of overlapping Amazon software companies and financial service providers, logistics companies, etc so may have my own personal preferences and biases. So I will have my vote in the business as an equity partner (25%), and because there are 2 other partners, they can outvote me. I’m still a bit nervous I may upset some of Global From Asia’s sponsors and partners if we do not end up selecting their service, thus outlining this as a top risk.

* Risk of loss of investment – there is a risk this venture can fail. The product may be a dud, and the inventory doesn’t sell. I believe we will be able to recover our initial investment, as Amazon FBA and e-commerce is a rather “tried and true” business model- but no guarantees. If you are selected as a business partner here and invest money and time, remember any business has the potential to lose all your investment.

* Public failure / embarrassment – my wife Wendy already mentioned to me “what if this fails, everyone will see it fail”. Sure, that is what will make it an interesting case study! Others will see the mistakes we make, and I hope we can fix them in real-time before complete failure. So yes, I am putting my “reputation” on the line. But better to try and fail than to never have tried at all.

* Make Some in the Community Feel I’m a Competitor – I hope I don’t pick a product that is similar to someone in our community. It’s not my intention to compete with you! This is probably why a lot of Amazon sellers don’t tell others their product, as they fear they may have a face to face encounter with a competitor. Also I have clients in Unipro Consulting – and I will not compromise client confidentiality for this e-commerce business venture.

* Doing Too Many Things – so many people tell me I am already doing too many things. This is adding another project on my plate – but I feel it is very aligned with what I am already doing. I am building up so much knowledge and network in this industry it is a waste to not use it.

Probably a few more points I’m missing, but like anything in life, there are risks and you may upset someone. Just gotta act anyway. Courage is acting against the fear.

Time To Take Action – Want To Join Me?

Are you ready to witness this Amazon FBA e-commerce case study happen in real time? How about apply to join in as a partner as well? I’d love to review your application and see if we can be business partners.

Applications will open the day I post this (July 25, 2017) and close on midnight Hong Kong time on August 8, 2017. That gives you 2 weeks to hear about this, consider it, and apply.

E-Commerce Venture Partner Application Form

Apply before Aug 8th below – form will be removed afterwards.

applications currently closed – follow along the progress here and sign up for our newsletter to be the first to hear about new venture projects like this – we had a great response!

Let’s Get Notified!

On August 8 we will start to review applications. Give us another 2 weeks to followup and prepare interviews and other feedback. On August 22 we plan to announce the partners in this new venture and kick things off.

From August 22 onwards, we will be updating everyone on the progress in weekly updates. Still deciding the exact format of the updates – do we put this inside of the current podcast as a section in the interview shows, or make a new series? Also, I feel we can make some video updates and blog posts like this one too. I’m excited to be transparent about this and the partners who join me will also have to be as open as I am on this.

What do you think? Ready to join me in this venture – either as a partner, or a community participant? I’d love to hear comments and feedback from you in the comment section below.

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Rose
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Rose

Excited to see this project launched, Mike! I’m based in Asia (outside of China) and about to get into the world of Ecommerce myself. Just discovered your blog today while researching how to get myself started.

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Jesse
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Jesse

Hey,

I’d love to be a part of this as a community participant. I am just starting my Amazon FBA and would love to follow along. How do I get your updates or become a part of the movement? Thanks a lot and good luck!

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