First Product Failure To 7-Figure Amazon Seller w/ Robin Brown – #21

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The Brand Builder Show
First Product Failure To 7-Figure Amazon Seller w/ Robin Brown – #21

Welcome back to another episode of the Brand Builder Show! This week we’re joined by Robin Brown. Having launched his first product only to find himself struggling against a saturated market, Robin dug deep and worked hard to build a real brand on Amazon. He recently hit 7 figures in annual sales and is building towards a significant exit.

Key Topics:

  • How Robin split tests his products before he even sources them
  • The keyword research deep dive approach behind his growth
  • What specific actions Robin is taking to prepare for an exit in 2 years

Connect with Robin on Twitter.

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Useful Resources:

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Talking Points:

00:00 Ben talks about Robin Brown

01:28 Robin talks a bit about himself

03:59 First learning experience on Amazon

07:48 Doing it again on Amazon

13:55 Million dollar mark

18:56 Robin’s current team

21:30 Comparing first product launch vs. second product launch

25:48 Talking about Data Dive

29:01 Robin’s PPC strategy

32:25 Preparing for Q4

38:09 Advice to new Amazon sellers

42:15 Planning for the future

45:12 Where to find Robin

Ben Donovan  00:00
Hey folks, and welcome to another episode of The Brand Builder show. It’s an honor today to have a good Twitter friend, Robin Brown have been following Robin on Twitter for a while now. And he is constantly dropping some great knowledge sharing his journey to seven figures on Amazon. And it’d be good to get him on the show and talk through that journey, what it was like to launch his first product and actually fail with that first product. And then that journey through to seven figures. This was a great conversation, which I know you’ll get a lot of value out of. He is a just real clear thinker, clear communicator, and is clearly a good operator. So without further ado, let’s jump into this episode with Robin. Awesome. Well, I am here with Robin all the way from Australia this morning. Welcome to the show, Robin.
Robin Brown  00:52
Thanks for having me, man.
Ben Donovan  00:54
Yeah, I’m excited to dive into your journey. We’ve kind of connected a little bit on Twitter, the growing Amazon army on Twitter, and just seeing some of your progress has been super inspiring. And so yeah, I’m excited to dig into your story, your progress, how you’ve got there, where you’re headed, and and all that kind of stuff, really. So take us back to the beginning, man. How did you? Firstly Yeah, you’re in Sydney, but you are not from Australia? How did you find yourself in that great part of the world?
Robin Brown  01:28
Work basically a so well. I keep wanting to say I am a film artist. But I guess I’m not because I’m making the transition to FBA. And I do it full time now. But in my head, I’m still a film artist. And it can be quite transient work. You can travel wherever you want. And I came out here maybe six, seven years ago for what was supposed to be a five week contract and ended up staying five months and met my now partner within the first weekend. So I was actually living in Canada at the time. And then by the end of the five months, I started thinking okay, this might work. So we did long distance for a little bit and then moved here three years ago now.
Ben Donovan  02:06
Nice. It’s it’s an amazing place of the world. I like I sent you before I lived there for a couple of years. And it’s yes, it’s a beautiful place. So a little bit jealous at the moment in our English winter. But thankfully, spring is coming around and looking forward to some warmer weather. But I thank you for joining us. It’s like seven in the morning for you. Right? So.
Robin Brown  02:26
Yep. But we got a seven month old baby. So I’m used to early hours at the moment.
Ben Donovan  02:33
Good stuff, I appreciate it a lot. So yeah, let’s dig into your journey then. So take us back to the beginning. When was the first time you heard about the opportunity to sell on Amazon and what kind of got you into it?
Robin Brown  02:45
I think it was 2017. I was working on a film and at the beginning of films, it is always a very quiet time. And it’s been as I was kind of bored. I was searching around for podcasts to listen to and run into one that was is eventual millionaire and it was an interview with Adam Hudson, talking about the FBA FBA model. And I thought, huh, that’s kind of interesting, like something that yes, you can front load the work. But then after that it’s kind of passive. And I thought I just piqued my interest, I guess and listened to more and more stuff and probably took me about a year before I pulled the trigger and actually ordered something quite a lot of analysis paralysis at the start. But yeah, that got me going. And then first sale, I look this up just before because I thought this might come up with April 2018 was our first sale or our first nine sales in April. And then kind of grew from there with with various bumps and and things along the way.
Ben Donovan  03:48
Yeah, nice, man. Nice. And so your sort of journey from there? Did it grow quickly? Did you have any false thoughts I was at first sort of year for you.
Robin Brown  03:59
Very much a false start. So the first product was actually a failure, which I think is a lot more common than people let on age aid. So I’d found this product in December of the previous year and made the order and then three days after I place the order. I was going through the Facebook groups and saw someone posting saying okay, this this guru group has put out a list of ideas for their students stay away basically. And my products, which was a felt letter board at the time was on that it was on that list. Oh my god. So it wasn’t sure what to do but the product got in but but by the time it had it was like hyper saturated. So yeah, that was my first learning experience with Amazon for sure. But got me a bit of a taste for it. And up until that point I’d kind of done it. self pay So followed what I find on YouTube podcasts and the like. And I’ve done a little course not like a largely structured one. And I thought, Okay, I think this is for me, it didn’t work out this time. So I bought another course. And it was one where you could kind of vet your ideas before you went ahead with the order, which was super important to me because of my first experience. So went from there really think it was just trying to remember, probably seven or eight months since that first product launch where I launched product, too. And yeah, went from there. Really?
Ben Donovan  05:46
What was it that made you carry on? Like, if that first product didn’t work? A lot of people would just say, well, this doesn’t work and give up and walk away? What What made you carry on?
Robin Brown  05:59
Well, the reason that I thought about doing FBA, like the film work actually pays really well. But the hours can be crazy. You can get to 80 100 hour weeks during peak time. And that can be for months on end. And I always had a view that wanted a family and the like. And I just thought how does that work with kids? How do people make this work? They do make it work, but kind of disappearing for a couple of months on end. And being a zombie around your kids, because you’re so tired wasn’t something that I wanted to do. So I said it. Maybe there’s something else I could do. And I thought that this was a good option, like something that I could dip my toe into at the same time is still working. I could kind of see how it went that way. So yeah, I guess that’s why I stuck to I’d kind of plan to do real estate actually before, right before I found FBA, but just because of going back into between Canada and Sydney, that was going to prove difficult. So I had a little bit of capital saved up for some doing something else. I just wanted to give FBA go.
Ben Donovan  07:02
Yeah. And so that first product experience wasn’t enough to put you off.
Robin Brown  07:10
Definitely stung at a time. Not gonna lie. But no, no, I thought the the model is brilliant if and it has its challenges, for sure. But it’s absolutely scalable. And I think it’s absolutely achievable. As long as you don’t give up. See, if I wanted to stick with it, I thought I’d give it another product with kind of the new tuition that I was going through and then reevaluate. Like, if that hadn’t worked out, I maybe would have questioned myself a bit more, but I thought I’d at least give it another crack.
Ben Donovan  07:41
Yeah. And then how did you approach that second product? Did you do things differently? So the first one?
Robin Brown  07:48
Yeah, so the person that was running the course was really good. Actually, I had a call with them. And they said, because I had another product in mind. And I showed it to them. And he said, like, it’s okay. But because you’ve had this first experience, we need to get your win on the board, basically. Because if you get another failure, then that’s going to, that’s going to be a really uphill battle. So I spent more time looking for another opportunity and found one that kind of tied in some of my like film design experience, it was a product where it was designed based. So I was quite comfy doing that sort of thing, and ended up running my design versus the competitors via PickFu, making little tweaks to it until it always got, like the favorable response and PickFu. So I had a pretty decent idea that it should convert quite well. Yeah. And that gave me the traction that I thought like, I went in with the expectation, okay, if if it makes 5k a month revenue. That’s, that’s like first base hit, that’s good for me. And I ended up doing like 10 to 12k a month. And then it was actually something that I thought I probably can’t build a brand around this. But now I’ve got the experience. Now I’ve got a bit more of a plan about how to launch products and the like. I’ll look for other opportunities and grow from there. So that’s what we did.
Ben Donovan  09:13
Yeah. Yeah. So real good bit of insight that you use PickFu to, you know, really study the market before you’re into it. For anybody that’s listening doesn’t know what peak flow is. It’s like a almost like a split testing, you pull an audience for two different options, right? And then they can choose and it gives you that insight of real customer data. So it’s, I think, really, a lot of people would think to use it to test their main image or infographics, you know, once they’ve got their product, but you used it before your product was sourced to help you in the product development process, right.
Robin Brown  09:50
Yes, and it’s something that I almost always do with all new products now. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world to the Petri tests, but it’s invaluable and as well as Just getting a comparison point like, oh, the audience prefer a to b, you can also ask them a question and get feedback that that way. So like, what would you change? Or how, how might you do this differently? Or questions like that. And you can pick up little nuggets from that as how to tweak the product? How it’s how to merchandise it more effectively, basically.
Ben Donovan  10:22
Yeah. Yeah, that’s really smart as well. And so the second part of that you launch, that’s something that you’re still selling out?
Robin Brown  10:31
Yeah, yeah, it’s definitely suffered from margin compression, more more competitors come into the niche. I think he’s probably doing about 8k a month now. And to be honest, I’ve not paid a lot of attention to the list. And we could probably do with a bit of updating, just be more focused on growth of new products. So I’ve kind of deprioritize that. But it’s something that we’re looking to get to in the next month or so. But yeah, that’s had a good product lifecycle. It’s maybe three years we’ve been selling that now.
Ben Donovan  10:59
Yeah. And then did you continue to launch products in that same niche?
Robin Brown  11:07
No, so I, yeah, I was a bit confused what to do at the time, I guess there’s there’s definitely different ways to approach this industry like you can do the scatter grown, kind of opened brand accounts or more niche down and I think that now is FBA is consolidated the brand is a lot more important than it was back in 2018. I ended up launching another product in a different niche and kind of brute grew out a brand around that. So the first product that we have is a bit of an anomaly to the brand, but it’s making revenue. And it kind of fits isn’t a work, really. So I’ll just keep it going. But the next, the next products that we launched were four ASINs centered around a specific kind of arts and craft product. And that was a little bit different to the first approach that we took based upon some of the learnings from the course. So first product, first product was more around the typical Jungle Scout, like find something small and light fits in a shoebox and low reviews and that kind of thing. The this product was actually different in terms of it was an electronics item, and it was a bundle. So I thought that that’s going to be a pretty decent moat at that time. And it definitely proved that way. Not it’s not a highly competitive market at all.
Ben Donovan  12:44
Yeah, that’s good. That’s given. And so that’s the one you’ve sort of been building up until now. That’s the the main brand you still own now.
Robin Brown  12:52
Yeah, so that’s the main revenue branch. We also started a secondary one. Start of this year 2022. That is in a gifts niche. It’s definitely a tricky niche. And we’ve got a couple of products in there, but I think, really want to focus on one brand because it it is good diversification as risk mitigation on the like, but it definitely splits your focus. And I want to scale quite quickly. So I really want to double down on the brand that’s working and the one that I think has more potential long term. So really gonna focus on one and just kind of leave the other brand selling through at the moment.
Ben Donovan  13:34
Yeah, sure. Okay. And talk to us about that then in terms of the journey, where you’re up to now, as much as you’re comfortable. Obviously, I follow you on Twitter, and you post your progress and your updates. You had a pretty good q4 From what I remember, you’re comfortable sharing with the audience kind of where you’re at in terms of revenue and progress.
Robin Brown  13:55
Yes, so yeah, by December last year, we just hit the seven figure run rate was the first time we cracked the million dollar mark within a year. And it always be my Northstar. Like just a vague kind of goal. Okay, I want to get to seven figures. I got that I was like, Okay, that’s cool. Now what? Took took a few weeks to try and try and work out a plan because it just seems like a strange thing just to throw out a random arbitrary number. And think, okay, that’s now my new goal. But I thought that kind of I got to seven figures just by throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. I’m not a very structured person, like I’m a creative from a creative background. So Excel spreadsheets and structure isn’t my forte for the most part, but to scale beyond seven figures, that’s kind of what you need to do. You need more structure, SOPs, that sort of thing. So I’m at the point now where we’ve set new goals and want to have an exit within. Well, my initial plan was two years. But through getting more structure and doing forecasting and things like that, I don’t think that’s a likely timescale for us. So, two, two and a half years is the goal now. But yeah, I’m just doing trying to put in things, things in place to get to that point. So I’m hiring a coach and getting more advice that way. And yeah, trying to scale.
Ben Donovan  15:30
What has what moves that goalposts from two years to two and a half years is like a number that you sit you want to achieve or what’s changed?
Robin Brown  15:40
Yeah, so. And this was one of the things that my coach really helped with. So I know this isn’t the best thing to do. Revenue was always always my target. Okay, I’ll get to the seven figure mark. And then after that, I thought, Okay, should I just throw out a random like, 2 million, 3 million number or whatever. And through speaking to him, he said, Okay, let’s work backwards. So when do you want to sell and what do you want your business value to be? And that was a very better lens to look at it, just because I could build a business safe, My target was now $3 million, or whatever, I can build a business that gets to that point before the two year period. But because businesses are valued on the previous, trailing 12 months, you really need to get to that point, 12 months before you sell so that you can have a whole year cycle. And especially with a brand that’s centered around q4, like q4 is a massive part of our revenue. So you need to maximize that. And ideally, you need to be not launching new products in that trailing 12 months, because they’re going to be a drain on your profitability and the like. So that made me realize, okay, if we had a two year goal, that means I need to get everything done in the next year. And then if you consider, okay, it takes three months, on average, to get a product produced, get it shipped into Amazon, get the listing ready, get it launched, and then you probably have another six months before, you’ve reached the point of profitability of covering the cost of the initial order and the reorder and the hike is like, okay, there’s my 12 months has now reduced by nine months. So I’ve got to kind of launch all these products in the next three, three months, that’s not going to work. So I went through a forecasting exercise and that realize that my brand, my plan was not going to work. But through modeling different scenarios, I realized that, okay, two and a half years is more likely, that gives us gives us a nine month window to launch so many products. And I’m also going to approach that slightly differently that I think will help us scale. So I came up with an EBIT a goal, and kind of worked out what my average revenue per product was currently, and realize that that would be a lot of products. So rather than launching all those individual product terms, that’s a lot of outreach, a lot of different suppliers to manage, kind of going to try and approach it more on a category basis. So finding niches are products that will hit certain level EBITA and then just have, say, five of those or six of those. And then it’s just five supplies to deal with and all being well, you should get kind of economies of scale through doing it that way and better, better terms and the like. So it will be a more slightly riskier approach, doing it that way higher high revenue, but it should be a way to do it more quickly.
Ben Donovan  18:47
Yeah, sounds good, man. Sounds good. And what’s the team’s look like? Is it just yourself? Or do you have any help at the moment?
Robin Brown  18:56
Yeah, I’ve only got one part time person at the moment, looking to grow them to a full time role. I think with kind of the current team in inverted commas, it’s only been one of the person, we can probably launch one to two products a month. And I think that’s probably doable with our time scale. The forecasts that we’ve done, it is kind of an early days once we might have to move up, we might find down the line. Okay, this isn’t going to work. We might need to scale the team a bit. But yeah, keeping it quite small and lean at the moment. Because it’s also less of a drain on cash flow and the light to
Ben Donovan  19:34
Yeah, yeah. What do they do for you?
Robin Brown  19:39
She’s a bit of a Jill of all trades, actually. She’s great. She’s from an accounting background. So she does a lot of the accounting stuff. And then she does product, research and then supplier outreach and kind of consolidates all the suppliers, quotes into one main sheet that I can look at and organizes samples. inspections, shipping. Yeah, she can dip into she’s been been with me a couple of years, she can dip into various aspects of the business like setting up PPC campaigns and that kind of thing. So we have a lot of kind of overlap of jobs where she can step in if need be. I kind of keep myself more to the second half of the FBA process. So design work and listings and general business strategy, really, and she’s more with the sourcing and that side of things.
Ben Donovan  20:34
Yeah, that’s awesome. is crazy, right? What other business model could you run where you could own a million dollar business with you and a part time member of staff? It’s pretty cool.
Robin Brown  20:48
Yeah, it’s Yeah, it is. It is not. It can be so scalable. It’s just the the upfront work that you have to get out of the way. And then once you do that maintenance is is much less. So it’s all about how aggressively you want to scale after that point. But yeah, crazy.
Ben Donovan  21:04
Yeah, for sure. You mentioned your product launch plan, you’re launching lots of products. And you also said earlier about how you learnt from your mistakes and from the learning and you know, the training you’ve gone on to do. You’ve learned how better to launch products. Can you talk us through what you do now to launch a product that’s different to maybe a year ago, two years ago?
Robin Brown  21:30
Yeah, I guess if you compare it to the first product we launch is night and day in terms of the technical approach. I think that’s one of the big changes in the Amazon space in the last year or two, particularly as aggregators have come into the space and just, well, the with the influence of all the Chinese sellers, it’s just got more of a technical approach. So I think PPC is really essential, and having a great strategy for that can make or break your launch. With any product launch. It’s a lot of it hinges around the product itself and the way you’ve merchandise it. So obviously, the the product research and the merchandising you do up front makes everything easier if you do that. Right. So really focusing on that. But yeah, it’s definitely a different climate now, in terms of giveaways have been explicitly out rule. So there’s a lot more of an emphasis on PPC, and how many keywords you can kind of hit for a product. So with that kind of my approach has been centered around using Data Dive Brandon Young’s tool to see for new products, okay. Because you can have a product that has a lot of sales, or search volume, excuse me, but it might just be on a few keywords. So if you’ve got a few competitors, or scrapping over those few few keywords, it’s going to be a lot tougher for but if you can find products that have to 300 different keywords, a lot of the sellers aren’t going to hit all of those keywords. So it gives you a lot more opportunity to rank on longer tails and succeed that way, as well as the main search terms. So that’s really a focus right now. But honestly, I haven’t launched a product in the last four or five months. So that’s my plan to go into it like very PPC, heavy, expect to launch. Expect to lose, excuse me, money upfront. And honestly, I listened to your Kevin King podcasts last week and listen to his approach was really interesting, great interview, by the way. So yeah, I’m going to aggressively discount my product launch as well. And whereas before we would do giveaways and expect to lose money via that I’ll probably take that budget, that I would have done forgiven giveaways and just roll that into product, steep product discounts to get traction at the start and approach it from that way.
Ben Donovan  24:07
Yeah, no, that’s exactly what we’ll be doing. got new product launching in a couple of weeks. And yeah, we’ll definitely be doing that. Whether I can go to $3 or not is another thing, but
Robin Brown  24:18
I thought, Oh my God, that’s a big discount. I thought yeah, maybe if you do a 50% discount or something with a coupon that I definitely grab eyes. That was a cutthroat discount that he was doing.
Ben Donovan  24:33
It’s funny though, right? Because you I would happily do rebates six months ago 100% rebates. So I suppose you know, doing 90% off on Amazon is the same thing, but it’s just the mindset, isn’t it?
Robin Brown  24:45
I thought the same. Yeah, totally. Looks good.
Ben Donovan  24:49
I’d love to hear more about Data Dive because I’ve heard a lot of people talk about it. And I haven’t looked into it too much myself yet. But I did notice though because I looked at the for it, because I think previously, it was only available to Brandon’s kind of like inner circle members. But now they’re putting it out to a wider, wider audience. How does it differ to say, you know, Helium 10? Is keyword research tools? I know it kind of lays on top of that, I think but yeah, talk me through how you’re using it.
Robin Brown  25:19
Yeah, I guess it is a fantastic way to consolidate the Helium 10. information along with additional stuff like brand data analytics. So for a given product, you put in, say, 10, or maybe 20, of your top competitors. So find the most, find the most relevant keyword pull the best competitors for that I kind of arranged them by revenue to see who’s selling the best, pick the most relevant ones, and then you can do the Data Dive and that Paul’s gonna sound like an infomercial, I’m not getting a kickback for this. That pulls all the polls, all the Cerebro info like Google Trends, brand analytics info, and it shows, it basically shows the quality of your competitors. So say, for a given product, if it looks at those 10 or 20 competitors, and it finds, okay, for this product, there’s 300 keywords, it will then show you for each competitor, at what percentage of those keywords are they ranked, ranked well for, and also the percentage of search volume. So you could have a niche where there’s only a few keywords. And obviously, if they hit all that, they’re going to hit all the search volume. But if you have a key and escape, excuse me a niche that has a lot of keywords, they might hit the top couple of keywords, well, but they might be missing a ton of the search volume on the the longer tail. So it gives you two different analytics to look at in terms of how well they’re ranking for keywords specifically, and how well they’re ranking for search volume as a whole. Additionally, to that, which is also really useful, it can find out by keywords that people are ranking and doing sales well on. So I’m in the arts and crafts niche show, you might well you might rank well on product specific keywords for the product that you’re selling. But you might also find there are certain top competitors that are ranking that product for in terms of generic keywords like arts and crafts for girls, or dinosaur toys or, or whatever. So it can give you a little insight into potential areas or the areas or even possible ways to merchandise your product slightly differently, to give you larger keyword and search volume possibilities. On top of that, it’s it also has its own, like separate tabs for writing listings and comparing your title to all the other titles. So there’s, there’s so much to it, to be honest, it’s really a great tool, it also gives you insight into kind of the root keywords that you need to target. So every product will have certain root keywords that have their own long tails. And it gives you insight into okay, we’ve probably got five or six routes that we really need to to target well, because hitting one route keyword generally brings up all related keywords to that. Yeah, great tool.
Ben Donovan  28:30
That’s good. There’s a level of insight and research that the average Amazon Seller just just doesn’t do. So it’s interesting to see how, you know, big sellers like yourself, and are using these kind of this kind of data to really grow. And it’s exciting. It’s good. How then are you using that data for do you use that for your PPC campaigns as well? does that play into your strategy there? And what is your PPC strategy?
Robin Brown  29:01
Yeah, it definitely plays into that. Especially in terms of what I just said, like, you have to make sure you hit the roots hard, so that hitting one route hard will bring up all related keywords. So that is part of the strategy and and having that insight allows you to pivot in terms of okay, I’m launching my product, keeping an eye on keyword rankings and you can kind of see, okay, this route really isn’t getting traction. So you can put extra effort into that. You perhaps you now put that into your title and try and raise up that route and start to get that ranked in terms of overall strategy. It’s so different to when I first started, like, back in the day it was kind of an auto in a manual campaign and cross your fingers and not that sophisticated at the slightest. Brandon has I am Out of his inner circle, he has a highly technical approach to PPC and an SOP to follow. It mostly centered around trying to gain ranking relevance really quickly. So manual campaigns only two very discreet terms that you’re highly relevant for. And then, within the first week or so, if you check Amazon suggested keywords, so say if you went to create a new PPC campaign, and Amazon actually further down, gives you suggested keywords, and you can kind of infer from that, okay, they think I’m relevant for this item or that item. And you’ll you’ll notice it at the very beginning, it will have a tiny bit of insight just from what is in your copywriting and the like, and the Browse node that you’re in. But it’s not super dialed in. And after the first week or so, if you’re doing a good job, those suggested keywords should really hone in on your product. And if it’s not, then maybe you’ve got something that you need to tweak. But yeah, the PPC strategy kind of focuses around getting ranking quickly and relevance so that Amazon knows what you are. And using that data to really try and understand. If you’re not converting well, perhaps you need to change imagery, like if your click through rate isn’t going well, then I would swap out my hero image. If you’re not converting well, overall, then maybe you have some work to do on your listing in terms of imagery or copy. As well as having kind of the strategy just in place to launch and rank for keywords. It’s also a good diagnosis tool to see, okay, I’ve got some work to do, or, or not basically. So for example, if you have a very good cause out the gate, then you kind of know that, okay, there’s a high chance that it’s a leading indicator is that there’s a high chance this product will be successful. Whereas if you’ve got 400% A cos in the first week, then you probably know that you’re in a bit of trouble, and you need to do a little bit of work.
Ben Donovan  32:03
Yeah. Well, that’s good man is no auto campaigns when you launch is a bit of a contentious issue on Twitter as of late, but it’s good, you know that, that strategy of great relevance around the product is, you know, yes, it’s interesting. I really like it. Talk to us a little bit about your q4 experience, because you said you’ve got a very q4 centric brand. And I know the stresses of that. So how are you working towards that for anybody that does have a brand that’s very, you know, giftable, or toys or anything like that? What are you doing even now, you know, March when we’re recording this, you thinking about q4? How do you how do you go into
Robin Brown  32:53
Thinking about q4 in terms of it really makes me want to launch products now? Well, prior to Now, ideally, because for q4 products, you especially with all the shipping delays and issues, you really need to be placing your orders like June, maybe for q4, so q4 sizing. So in terms of new products, I really want to get them in now. So that I have that chance to prove the product and get chance for my second audit to be q4 sizing rather than the problem is if I’m launching in the second half of the year, I need to do much larger orders for my first order. So it’s a bigger capital risk. In terms of other q4 things, you need to be aware of cash flow is a major majorly impacted. So if I’m launching a new product now, like I would order for three and a half, maybe four months, depending on the situation. But I need to be aware that my reorder will probably come around June July and then that’s depending on the amount of q4 lift you get it could be anywhere from like three to 10x the amount, maybe even more. So my second order is probably going to be six to eight months worth of stock so much bigger capital investment and because of that, you’re you’re not going to be profitable until you hit January just because that second order I mean profitable on the product as a whole. That second order is going to be so large you can’t kind of offset that and profitability and within the first order what was kind of key for us last year, and why we hit the seven figures really was maximize my q4. I had huge problems the previous the previous year with logistics and really getting on top of that. I kind of diversified my supply chain a bit and intentionally sent some with two different freight forwarders to two separate three fields and The other thing that was really key was having a three PL that could do live trick and loads. So I sell in the States, it might not be as much of an issue in the UK. But if using Amazon partner carrier, like sometimes it can take weeks to get an appointment or weeks to check in. And last year, there was a big issue with restock limits. And they weren’t given us enough limits to send in the amounts that we needed for q4. And I tried everything like beg, steal, borrow, emailed every different person there to try and get the limits raised. But they were having none of it and having a three PL that that sent in dedicated live trucks. Sorry for more context. So rather than have an Amazon truck, come pick up your goods, typically, they’ll go back to Amazon, and then they’ll just hold them like they might sit there one or two weeks whilst they’re clearing backlogs before they’ll check in. Whereas if you have a three PL that sends in their own trucks, because Amazon don’t control those trucks, they have to unload them immediately. So you lose all that like two to four week potentially, where Amazon would just stick your products to the side. So they check in much more quickly. And that was absolutely pivotal like that. Because our recycling rates were right on the edge that was kind of make or break between our q4. So having a three PL that could do live trucks for us with a high q4 brand was really important.
Ben Donovan  36:30
Yeah. What kind of lift did you see in q4?
Robin Brown  36:37
It varied a lot from product to product. So our hero SKU was about 12x. Whereas other ones were maybe three to 4x. Yeah, it can go bonkers. But thankfully, although our q4 was a little bit of a disaster, I had kind of data in the curves of sales to kind of, say sales run out November, I could kind of work out that trajectory of how sales would go in and a guesstimate based on that. But inventory planning around q4 For, excuse me for a q4 brand can be quite stressful. Because if you miss by a couple of weeks of q4, like 12x growth, like that’s a lot of months of non q4 sales. So that’s something else to look out
Ben Donovan  37:23
for. You Yeah, thankfully, the restock limits seem to have really relaxed now. For now at least.
Robin Brown  37:34
Yeah, big relief? For sure.
Ben Donovan  37:37
You know, we’ll see, we’ll see how long that lasts. Because who knows going into q4 what Amazon will do, but fingers crossed, they keep it that way. Good stuff, man. Good stuff. So would there be sort of, you know, coming towards the close? For anybody that’s listening. And, you know, it’s just get started with Amazon? What would your advice be to them? What’s different now than what it was when you got started? And how should they approach this business coming into?
Robin Brown  38:09
They should approach it as a business. It’s definitely a change in the last couple of years. So back when I started, to an extent, I still do view it as a hobby. But it was just a little hobby, something that I was trying out. Whereas just because the skill set has to operate on Amazon has grown considerably. You just have to go into it a lot more intentional, I think and have a plan and honestly have a course that gives you some kind of structure. Yes, you can do it in my in my view, yes, you can do it by yourself. But you will ultimately save more money. If you follow someone that has a proven path. And honestly, it takes a lot of stress out of it if you have someone that you can refer to that has experience and if you’re following their kind of methodology, then they have specific experience to that methodology and can help you course correct if something’s going wrong. And outside of that, like if you’re just starting I think the the issues that new sellers face back when I started outside of the technical approach are still the same today. So analysis paralysis and just been distracted by so many different approaches because there are so many different approaches that you can do in in in this world. Just focus and yeah, having having some kind of known approach to follow.
Ben Donovan  39:51
Yeah, it’s good man. It’s good. It’s why I like this business right because you if you try and trade crypto or buy NFTs or whatever You know, there’s can be so much luck involved, you have to time the market, that kind of thing. Whereas with this business, if you just, you should work hard and just keep taking forward steps. You know, that’s the key to success, right? Not some luck, not some, you know, it’s, it’s a business that rewards your your diligence. So as you know, Twyla, you’ve clearly been diligent,
Robin Brown  40:22
Diligent and grit, like, we’re doing seven figures. Now, if I’d given up after that first product, like I would have been one of the many failure stories for Amazon. And they, I’m from a creative background, I have no business experience at all. And I’ve just got to where we are just through not giving up and learning from mistakes. And that isn’t something that’s unique to me, that’s something that anyone can do.
Ben Donovan  40:53
Really good. Well, I think, you know, you, you should be proud of what you’ve achieved so far. And super excited to see how the next couple of years pans out. Is your you’ve got a coach now, you said, is that kind of changing how you’re running the business day to day, like the input that you’re getting from them the advice that you’re getting from them?
Robin Brown  41:16
Yes, in terms of, so I started with a coach maybe six weeks ago. And his first approach was to give me more structure. So we did a proper forecast, which made me realize my plan wasn’t going to work. But because of that, it really gave me a focal point, okay, we need to launch this many products in this timeline. And to do that, I really need to front load my product research so that we have like a pipeline of ideas that we can start to get in production. So I basically dropped everything. And I’m just focusing on product research for now, because that is the first component of our scaling. Outside of that, my that kind of next big boy exercise is working on cash flow, because we do have decent cash reserves to launch products. But I think expanding at the rate that we want to, I’ll probably get to the point where I’ll need some external funding. And doing cash flow forecasting is really going to give me some insight to how that might pan out. Or also, how might get in better terms from our suppliers might help to mitigate some of the requirements for external cash.
Ben Donovan  42:32
And then, what’s the plan? Final question? And what was the plan? Once you do sell the business in two to three years time, whenever it kind of does happen? You’re gonna ride off into the sunset, you’re gonna use it to invest and start something again, what’s your thoughts?
Robin Brown  42:51
That’s a great question. So like I mentioned, I discovered this as a sideline, I’m from a more creative background. And honestly, I find this is an incredible business for achieving what I would like to achieve monetarily. But it doesn’t necessarily give me the fulfillment that I had in my previous job. And selling random products, doesn’t give me fulfillment outside of hitting random numbers, which isn’t a great life goal to have, in my opinion. Everyone’s different, but for me that that doesn’t really kind of rev my engine. So along with growing this branch, I’m a big dog guy, I love dogs. So I want to grow a dog brand, and then use that to help to give back to like, dog related charities or causes. And I really think that that’s something that I would love to do. And I’d love to grow a brand that way and kind of have that as like a longer term project that I wouldn’t necessarily look to sell but building this business and having a sale. That would kind of hit my goals of what I would like to do for our family. So we both my partner’s from Australia, I’m from the UK, we’d like to live in both at some point so we can be around my parents as they age and her parents so kind of want to be able to have accommodation in both locations, and that’s what selling this business is for. And then the dog brand is kind of more for an auger term fulfillment goal.
Ben Donovan  44:33
Awesome, man. Well, I’m excited to watch all of that unfold and slightly jealous that you live half the year in Australia. But such as my wife’s actually Australian as well. So I don’t know why mon because if I really wanted to, we could actually in Australia.
Robin Brown  44:50
It helps we’ve just had massive flooding. So it’s very, very British summer over here.
Ben Donovan  44:56
So we’ve got a lot of friends in Australia now. I saw some of them You know, neck deep in water is pretty crazy. Crazy times. Good stuff. If, if people want to follow your journey Robin, where’s the best place for them to keep in touch with what you’re up to?
Robin Brown  45:12
On Twitter? Yep. I just started posting on Twitter, I guess in the last six months maybe it’s just @BrownTRobin, my name backwards. Robin T. Brown eternity Robin.
Ben Donovan  45:24
Good stuff. Yeah. Well, I thoroughly enjoy following you. There’s some good banter, but some great, great updates from you as well. And looking forward to seeing more of those updates through this year. And thank you so much for coming on and sharing your insight and wisdom. I know, it will have helped a lot of sellers just that maybe are, you know, are struggling with some aspects or finding something hard having seen your journey. You know, you get through some challenges. And now seeing some real great growth is super inspiring, man. So we really, really appreciate you coming on.
Robin Brown  45:54
Thanks for having me, man. Fun.
Ben Donovan  45:58
Good stuff. All right. Well, we’ll have to hopefully get you back on again in, you know, a year or two find out how it was we’ll go and see what the journeys look like then.
Robin Brown  46:06
Yeah, for sure. Let’s do it.
Ben Donovan  46:08
What an episode that was with Robin, what a guy what a conversation. And really looking forward to seeing how his journey goes. Do make sure that you do check his Twitter out if you want to follow his journey. We’ll leave a link in the description below. And if you like episodes and conversations like this, do hit that subscribe button if you’re listening on the podcast, hit the like button just to let us know if you’re watching on YouTube. Leave us a comment. Let us know they enjoyed the episode. And we will keep working hard to get great guests on the show like Robin some more. I will see you in the next episode. Next week.