Approving The Product Sample, Procedure and Steps for Amazon Beginnings

Michael MicheliniEcommerce Series, Podcast0 Comments

Lorenzo brought the samples down to Shenzhen. We had our Global From Asia epic event – Cross Border Matchmaker – and the majority of the Para Living team made it in town. Great timing for the Amazon business, as Lorenzo had collected the samples from various factories he has visited for our Sisitano brand.

Meir invited us over to his place last Saturday to guide us on the sample acceptance procedure. In this week’s podcast, Cadrian Chan – our partner in the business – and I discuss the sample process and our thought process on next steps in making this Amazon business a reality!

Topics Covered in this Episode

  • Introduce Cadrian

    He’s a partner in our Para Living Inc Amazon Ecommerce business, been on the show a couple times before. He’s a co-founder, investor, and our CMO – Chief Marketing Officer.

  • Recap of Cross Border Matchmaker

    Cadrian came to the CBM 2017! Thanks for making it buddy. How was the conference and other takeaways.

  • Saturday’s Gathering

    Visiting Meir’s place, post-CBM. An e-commerce startup, any startup for that matter, never sleeps. Andrew Voda also came over – and we had the team there except of course Roland (In Europe) and Jack (In USA) as they couldn’t make the flight over.

  • Keeping Track of the Samples

    How we numbered and kept track of which supplier is with with sample product.

  • 3 Parts of Sample Acceptance

    Meir’s formula, as he has mentioned on previous podcasts, is a three part system – usability, durability, and quality.

  • Checking Instructions

    Read the instructions included in the packaging and see how easy it is.

  • Reading negative reviews

    Learning from the competition – what users don’t like. How to make the product better.

  • Taking detailed notes

    Learning from each product

  • Quality Issues found

    Already found some issues in various samples. Documenting, photos.

  • Learning from Mike’s previous experience

    Mike has had some rushed jobs with product sourcing back in the day. What he has learned about the importance of product samples and acceptance.

  • Timing for Christmas

    We are trying to get the Christmas sales rush. Is it still possible?

  • Next Steps

    Decisions that need to be made – what do we need to do to get this business rolling.

People / Companies / Resources Mentioned in this Episode

Cross Border Matchmaker

Episode Length 25:38

There you have it – we are pushing forward. And as I promised – keeping things real time and open. Cadrian is discussing doing a more simple product to just get it in time for Christmas rush. There is a ton of pressure building up, the team is on the edge of their seat and we can’t wait to get the business flowing forward.

Also at the end of the Saturday afternoon session, we had to capture some images of this milestone.

Images of the Sisitano Team During the Sample Process

Meir inspired us to get a group photo – and also record a funny video – as shown below

How is your experience with sample acceptance? We all want to rush through it (I do anyway!) and get to the sales and marketing – but it is important to ensure the product is quality and the foundation is sound.

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Podcast Transcription

Welcome to the Global From Asia podcast where the daunting process of running an international business is broken down into straight up actionable advice and now your host, Michael Michelini.

Mike: Episode 15 of the Ecommerce Gladiator Series here at Global From Asia podcast and we are keeping it real as I promised. This is the samples. Samples Lorenzo came down from Hangzhou, we are at Cross Border Matchmaker this past week. I’m still, it was amazing, amazing event. I’m still catching up to be honest on this show, a lot of work. It was just an amazing conference we’re we do what we said. We brought together top sellers from China and overseas and we put them into a room and amazing things been happening. So this week we have Cadrian Chan co-founder at Paraliving Inc and meet, talking about this past Saturday. We met at Meir’s house and had some Israeli coffee that he brought from Israel, all ground up and Lorenzo brought samples down from Hangzhou and we were testing things out. Meir’s pretty advanced to this stuff. We were really lucky to have him as a partner and adviser on the team. We spent the afternoon together drinking lots of amazing coffee. I have like a joke I don’t drink coffee, I started drinking coffee now, again. So we have been testing this samples and we’re all really, really anxious. Of course we want to start selling and make some money. But we got to make sure we do this right. A lot of times myself included we make mistakes. So this sample process is very important and we think that this would be a show in itself to discuss and we go through that Cadrian and I recap what we did on Saturday and some thought processes for you guys as well. We can’t cut corners here and we got to make sure the product is good. So let’s listen in.

Today’s podcast is brought to you by Aureliapay. I use it personally for sending money to my Chinese suppliers from Hong Kong. It’s a cross border payment solution between China, Hong Kong, and Southeast Asia. So, if I need to make a payment to a Chinese supplier, I just hop online to place the remittance, pay to the Aureliapay Hong Kong based big account and Aureliapay will settle RMB within the same business day. So, check them out online at A U R E L I A P A Y .com or check them on their link at our show notes.

Mike: Alright everybody. We are in the arena here. I was just talking me and Cadrian, one of our partners says Cadrian thanks for coming on today.

Cadrian: Hello guys.

Mike : Just to update the audience we got the samples and Lorenzo came down to Shenzhen from Hangzhou and he’s travelling so we give him a break on the podcast this week. But he brought a bunch of whole bunch of coffee mocha pots and all these different accessories. So just past Saturday after the Cross Border Matchmaker event, thanks Cadrian for making it those are pretty intense event. I’m still recovering honestly right.

Cadrian: It’s my honor to be at the conference actually.

Mike: Yeah so that we have Lorenzo.

Cadrian: That was a great event, great huge event.

Mike: Thanks buddy. Yeah, it was a lot of work. Also thanks to my amazing wife Wendy, too she help. So we have Lorenzo down from Hangzhou for that and he brought all these samples so today’s podcast is about sample process and our amazing advisor Meir who’s also shared that to Matchmaker. Few times she’s very active at the conference, too. But he’s one of our partners and the advisor so we met at his apartment on Saturday afternoon. It was you, Cadrian, me, Meir, Lorenzo and also Andrew Vota, Andrew’s birthday actually just passed. He came down from Nanjing. He worked with the Global From Asia before and still helps out a lot so he’s just awesome and he wanted to kind of witness this sample process. So the bunch of us not really dining I guess it was dining room table like Meir’s apartment in Shenzhen and we were testing it. So Cadrian you want to share a little bit of what you saw happening.

Cadrian: Sure, so we tested the samples there from 3 factories and we made coffee out of them and we tested the quality and we find out some potential issues and also we look at the design and the actual looking at it physically as you find out a lot more issues like for example the handles or the cover doesn’t close smoothly, etcetera, etcetera. So as we group to see it physically and we actually did find out some potential quality issues and for example I’ll talk about one of the samples when we made coffee out of it, it has this little aluminum particles. It’s not actually very noticeable, because we were doing quality assurance then we look at it and every detail and usually when people buy a new product, they wash it for rolling, and they probably make a few rounds of coffee before using it or steam it.

Mike: Maybe, maybe. Some people do.

Cadrian: Yeah my parents, too. They’re very like freaky about this. But we’ll be prank to you let’s say it ‘s we try all around and experienced that when the customer first open the package then it’s already a quite experience, you don’t have to concern, you don’t have to do so much preparation work. You can just use it, right. So I think we’re kind of too detailed about the quality check but I think it’s a good thing because our positioning is we want us to be like premium brand experience.

Mike: True, so Meir’s been guiding us a lot. I think he mentioned maybe a few podcast going with our guest. But we have this 3 criteria that we’re looking at, just to help listeners also which is durability, usability, and quality. That was funny, Meir’s got a lot of gear right. I think he’s stronger than this than I am on the product side. I’m on the marketing side. But he had like a pressure, air pressure thing to blow air onto the, to clean it with the pressurized air machine. He was doing that before when he made the coffee. Some of this Israeli coffee, ground coffee that he brought over. That was a treat. And but yeah like you said some of the, we’re really being mechanical and systematic. We numbered each to the 3 different pots and we made coffee, we didn’t drink all that, so we just started using water. But I think what’s important we pay very close attention to detail. We look at the of any water leak that seems how much do we feel it, the directions were not clear. So we were actually taking notes about how to make the directions more detailed which I think is also helpful for the usability right to make clear directions.

Cadrian: Right. And also we still have to work on this, we talked about documenting the whole testing process. So as Mike mentioned processes are important at this business especially in quality check, right. So we’re trying to make this like streamline process so in the future other products we can do the same thing.

Mike: I’s true, yes systems set us free, processes set us free I think. I got Roland excited about that, that code I think is on his desk now, but it’s true the heart is of course is the first time we do it especially as a team because it’s important on the show recording today. We’re asking who’s in charge of what. So once we know who is in charge of what, but I think we’re kind of towards the end, I bring some again later. But at the end like Lorenzo wanted us to keep the samples. Lorenzo is like ohh do I need to carry this back to Hangzhou. Can somebody else hold this here and then Meir’s like, No you’re the product manager of this product you know the suppliers, you know the story. So he has took them back to Hangzhou with them. So we just need to know yeah like processes and people who is emotional intelligence who’s in charge of what piece of the business and the process as well as how to do the process and you know kind of almost goes into habit forming when you do things, you know the first time you do something we both have kids, right. So the beginning is always the hardest, the kids learning to walk, they fall, they get back up again. But you know a lot of us, people forget that even as adults we do know things. So right now we’re spending a lot of extra time maybe to figure out but hopefully by creating systems and processes and who’s in charge on that person becomes the expert. Then they can do it naturally without thinking about it but as much. But we definitely need to make more systems.

Cadrian: Right, I agree. It’s kind of by seeing of investment. I read this book The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I read the Chinese version. But anyway it tells about setting systems and processes it’s like an investment. You don’t really see it until you go further when you have more products. If you don’t have a system it’s going to get messy.

Mike: Yup, so basically you and I are wondering if we will share this on the podcast today. But I think it’s okay to share like yeah you mentioned aluminum pieces or small pieces floating in the coffee on one of them. And that was even after Meir’s spied pressured sprayed air and also cleaned it before. So it was a lot of potential detail before so we, I love the surprised even at the second time around it. It was still showing this small pieces of metal in the coffee. So that was a little bit scary.

Cadrian: Right. And we’re kind of facing a dilemma because this one that has a little bit of quality issues especially it has a shortest lead time all of the 3 factories. I know the audience now we’re trying to get into the Christmas season. So we have an internal discussion. Of course we want to roll out the mbps as fast as possible but we’re not going to miss this kind of quality issues. So, we’re still discussing internally about this or should we like change our bundle a little bit or other stuff. So idea is still floating around.
Mike: Yeah I kind of chuckled. I didn’t, it makes more sense, but you’re like the one that’s fastest to make this. This got the quality problem. I wonder if this will gonna skip a step or 2 in the process of your checking or finishing the product. I didn’t think, you said that. You’re like yeah the fastest one has the quality problem .

Cadrian: I think it might probably be packaging as well because we just got it fresh from the factory. You know like the, maybe there’s some cleaning process that needs to be done.

Mike: But I think that the factory should make sure they send us a sample. The simple should be the best quality that they want ‘coz they should know that’s what we are gonna decide to buy from them or not, right. So if they send us lower quality product in the sample that doesn’t really make, I don’t know but if it doesn’t make me feel very confident that can make a thousand or 500 pieces good, right.

Cadrian: Right, of course. And that’s why we also talked about the minimum order quantity. Shall we share about this? The situation.

Mike: Sure, I think that’s fine.

Cadrian: So we’ve been talking about this, of course we’re not getting the best price if we order a lower MLQ. But when we actually started with it, we knew there will be a lot of potential issues but we at least personally, I didn’t expect it to be so complicated. So now, we’re discussing, maybe we gather higher price and less profit margin but we do it in a small sample so we can keep testing the market keep reiterating.

Mike: Yeah I mean we’ve been having a lots, of course we’ve met in person, a few of us of course not all, Roland couldn’t be there, he’s over Europe and Jack is in America but a few of us and Andrew was there. But it’s obviously still very anxious time, we, all of us want to go as fast as possible and I said like ‘coz we had a management call on Sunday and people were saying, you guys are asking me, how many to buy, would it be 500 or 1,000. I think people on the show might, at least a few did know that I didn’t start directly manufacturing in China when I started my last Ecommerce business. I started by doing wholesale and dropship. And then I moved up to supply chain and I learned more about it. That’s so, same here of course to lower, Meir said 500 with a maximum we should buy. It’s also about the quantity but the amount of money that we need to buy that we invest in the product. Of course the lower amount of money you invest the more nimble you are even if you are, the margins, the profit might not be as high. But the idea is we limit our risk. So of course the smaller amount we can buy. But the other side is, if it doesn’t make it for Christmas we sell out faster, that’s the negative of not buying as many, right. Not just the amount of money but if you’re right and it sells out, it’s gonna be annoying ‘coz this is gonna take a long time to restock that order.

Cadrian: Yeah, actually going for the Christmas season is not just about make a profit. It’s about to experience as well. Because as the most, as the peak season, there will be the most like we can test our sales, are we capable of handling the peak season or maybe can we handle a lot of say, returns. Of course we’re ensuring the quality but I’m just saying like there will be a lot of issues that you experienced only on the peak season. So I kind of want to catch this opportunity, too.

Mike: True, so back to the sample process and with the samples. Is that important to accept the sample and then what happens is we tell the factory, we want to buy 500,000 whatever amount but the contract, the agreement should be based on the sample. So I’ve made the mistakes before my previous sourcing days and it cause me a lot of headaches is the factory, if we want to change something. So we’re talking about change the handle. We’ve been reading a lot of negative reviews of the competitors. Trying to get an idea of quality problems or ways to improve the product. So I always recommend people to read negative reviews and we’re reading them as definitely seems like the handle is the problem. So we want to improve the handle but one big mistake. I think a lot of sellers make is we tell the factory, oh can you change the handle and they will buy 500 pieces. People want to skip that step of waiting for another sample to come back. Where even the factory might push you to just order, “okay yeah will change then handle, okay place the order”. But you want to have a 100% exact production sample of what you’re gonna get before you place the order. Because that is what you’re contract will be on, that’s what the factory will need to make the quality based on. So that’s just something else to keep in mind.

Cadrian: Yes, because it’s kind of like a new design to the factory as the customized new design that you’re requesting. Of course you have to do the QA process again. So I’m in the software business before. So everytime we change something we have to go through all the test again. So it applies to every industry.

Mike: Yup, so basically we’re at the point now where Lorenzo, we picked the best quality 1 out of the 3. We gave feedback. Lorenzo is documenting all the feedback and then we need to talk to the factory and we need to move forward with the next steps which is, you and I should talk about with the team. Like you said we all want to make it for Christmas. Yeah but I’m starting to back down a little bit of pushing the speed because when you go too fast is when you make mistakes that could be very problematic. So I think what were leading towards is maybe doing accessory or a smaller product or easier product or something that we have access to just to get something in there for Christmas I think Cadrian’s what we’re talking about.

Cadrian: Well right. Yeah we’ve been thinking about lock type latte art set. Because originally the latte art set is like a, we’re providing this extra accessory as a bundle to upsell and to like differentiate our products against the other competitors and then what we thought us maybe we can take advantage of this and just create a latte art set. Because we’re targeting the millennials college people. I think they’re very into at least in Hong Kong. A lot of coffee lovers, they are very into making latte art and there are courses that teaches people to do so. And they’re charging like very expensive fees for this course.

Mike: True. So then it seems like we start to make some more decisions but as we promised with the Ecommerce Gladiator Series here from Global From Asia. We promised to share people the real time updates so they are getting, this is the real stuff. I mean it seems like this product has a lot of work. Mocha pot their handle. We don’t seem to like the handle. There are some other modifications but making those kind of modifications. Lorenzo told me we need to get like 3 to 5,000 pieces or something like that. He’s still stuck on the idea doing the kickstarter. I don’t think we should do that right away. But sure if we really make a huge innovative new product out of this. I think it should go into crowd funding. But for now, for just making small modifications, I don’t know if that just fine of crowd funding campaign. But yeah I mean it seems like this products got to be more challenging. But we’re doing it the right way, right. Even if we want to go it fast, we’re getting samples.

Cadrian: Getting about the quality.

Mike: So again, for everybody listening, we will wrap this one up but I think. But again Meir’s 3 criteria the durability, usability, and quality are the 3 word checking. It also of course reading the reviews. It’s easy to learn from negative reviews and competitors and we have your survey. We should be using more and trying to understand the market. So thanks Cadrian for helping on this week’s episode.

Cadrian: Yeah thanks Mike. And also credit to Lorenzo. He actually couldn’t join the meeting because he’s actually having another meeting now working with the coffee provider.

Mike: He saw like 2 or 3 today. He met them up at Cross Border Matchmaker which is awesome and now we, if anybody else listing what’s to get involved with coffee, let us know. Or we got to make more of those podcast, too for for our Sisitano brand. So yeah it’s all good. It’s good to get you, you have been on for a while anyway Cadrian. I know some of our listeners get confused with all these, but everybody is learning about us. So thanks for coming on our show.

Cadrian: It’s great. Thanks for having me.

Mike: Great.

Mike: Thank you Cadrian for coming on the show and sharing with everyone. Just to recap. All the different partners we have here and this Paraliving Inc. Cadrian is the shareholder he’s based in Hong Kong and we have Meir, he’s advisor and also shareholder. Lorenzo is the new shareholder. He is on the ground in Hangzhou going to the Yiwu markets as we all having following along. I know people been all interested to hear about Yiwu. And then we have Roland based in Europe. He’s our partner as well, helping with the product management, project management kind of overseeing the operations. And then finally last but not the least our awesome guy Jack. Jack in North Carolina, America. He’s up with the financials and keeping things running there and our man on the ground in America which we do seem to need. There’s lots of requirements to do business in the US. So that’s just the recap I know some of our listeners make confused with all our different partners and people and it’s happening that we’re doing it and we got to make sure that sample is done correctly. We got to make sure that we are focused on quality and long term foundation because, of course we can mark it and selling all these hacks and tactics for marketing and optimizing on Amazon but if the product doesn’t good, it’s all wasted. So we got to make sure we have a selling product and we’re again appreciative that we have a great team and Meir helping us out, too. With the product, he’s a very good product manager and brand master. So I personally weak on this side, to be very honest. I told listeners in previous shows I think, some might strong point, the only product manufacturing in the sourcing. So I’m glad we have a great team to help us out. I can’t wait to really start focusing on marketing. But we do have a coffee journey podcast. We do have things happening fast there so let’s all stay positive and keep this show, keep it going. Thank you for your feedback everybody and thanks for listening. Have a great day. Bye.

Welcome to the Global from Asia Ecommerce Gladiator Series where you can follow along the progress of setting up a Cross Border Ecommerce business from start to finish. Hear insights of real product research, Amazon FBA, China manufacturing, branding, marketing, and all the blood, sweat, and tears of building a global business from Asia.

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