Last year I stared checking out Amazon FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) and stumbled upon Jessica Larrew’s blog, The Selling Family. I was amazed at the business she has built doing retail arbitrage, and inspired that she and her husband were able to be home and sell on Amazon full time.
If you are interested in selling on Amazon, Jessica and Cliff have developed a course called Amazon BootCamp that will answer all your questions. It is also worth reading through their blog in general!
Jessica was kind enough to answer some questions I sent her about FBA, work/life balance and how others can get started in the same business.
What is Amazon FBA?
The easiest way I know how to describe it is that you have an online store run by Amazon. It’s your choice what inventory you want to sell, which is one way to set yourself apart from other sellers.
There are different kinds of sellers on Amazon. You might not have noticed, but there are usually multiple sellers on any one product; whenever you see that an item is being sold by someone other than Amazon, that’s a third-party seller like me.
If a seller is signed up for the FBA program, like I am, their items are available for Amazon’s Prime shipping (free two-day shipping for those with a Prime account). This is a huge advantage because many buyers will only search for items that have Prime shipping; also, those products tend to sell at a higher price than items sold by sellers who ship products themselves.
As an FBA seller, you ship your inventory to an Amazon fulfillment warehouse, and they store it. When a product sells on Amazon’s website, Amazon packs and ships it. They handle customer service, too.
The great thing about selling on Amazon instead of somewhere else is that you get to take advantage of Amazon’s credibility and brand recognition that Amazon already has. People can start selling on Amazon FBA without having to hire employees or rent warehouse space because Amazon’s already done it.
We describe in detail how what an FBA business is and how to get started in our free Why Selling on Amazon Works ebook.
How long have you been doing Amazon FBA? How did you get into it?
My husband Cliff and I have been selling Amazon FBA for nearly seven years, which is more than half of our married life!
I got into it after selling on eBay for a few years. In 2008, I was let go from my job and decided to pursue online selling full-time and was able to replace my income within a few months.
About a year later, I really wanted to scale that business up but found that it would take a lot more time because I had to pack and ship every order myself. I had heard some talk about selling on Amazon and decided to give it a try.
First I tried selling books but decided that wasn’t what I wanted to focus on, then moved on to something called “retail arbitrage” — finding a product in a store that you can sell for a higher price on Amazon.
I then decided I wanted to replace Cliff’s income so he could leave his job and be home with me and our new baby. It took about one more year for that to happen.
When Cliff left his job (that he hated!), I had replaced the almost $5,000/month that he was making working 40+ hours a week. And I was only working at night and weekends when he was able to be home with me and our son.
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How long have you been blogging about it?
I started teaching because friends and family were asking about it, and started officially blogging in 2012 to share stories about what people were asking and to connect with other sellers.
It started as a blog under my own name, and then in 2014 we came up with The Selling Family brand, which represented our whole philosophy. It wasn’t just me anymore; our whole family was involved. So I transferred the content over to our new site and expanded our presence there and on social media.
How many kids do you have? And how do you work around their schedule?
I have one son, Aiden, who’s 5 years old. He will be 6 very soon! He went to a private preschool and a public T-k (transitional kindergarten, it’s a confusing step between Pre and Kinder).
Before I ever had kids I had this dream of being a stay at home mom and being able to homeschool. I didn’t do that those first years, and decided that we would start homeschooling this year for Kindergarten.
One of our biggest goals is have our business work around our family’s schedule rather than the other way around.
So with homeschool now in the mix, we spend the mornings doing school, and then work in the afternoons a few days a week. He is finally at the point where he really “gets” that we do have to work and actually likes to help while we are processing inventory at home. He unfortunately doesn’t enjoy the shopping for inventory part though!
One of the ways we’re able to accomplish this balance is by working really, really hard for a short period of time during the Fourth Quarter. We take advantage of the Christmas rush and make more than half of our yearly income during November and December alone. This allows us to relax a bit the remainder of the year.
Before Cliff came home, I would work at night and on weekends. That’s one of the great things about this business — it allows you to be very flexible and also doesn’t have to take a lot of hours.
Do you work with your husband? How does that work?
Fortunately, Cliff and I work very well together!
The two of us are very aligned in our goals as a family, and this sets the tone for how we build our business together. When your goals are in sync, then it’s a matter of figuring out the smaller details.
I’ve always had a knack for finding good inventory, so I still do a lot of that. Cliff helps with a lot of the prepping and packing. I consider shopping the “fun” part. So we will go out for a few hours and buy a bunch of inventory and then I like to hand it over to him from there.
Since he does a lot of the heavy lifting in the Amazon business, I have some extra time to focus on teaching others to sell on Amazon. I really enjoy this aspect and it brings me a lot of joy to be able to see the impact that this business has on other people’s lives!
What are the tools that you use to do this business?
Another big benefit to selling on Amazon is that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment and the tools we use are relatively inexpensive. In fact, there are a lot of things you can use or get for free!
Assuming that someone already has a smartphone, computer and a printer, they can usually get the rest of the tools to get started for $100 or less. Many people will upgrade right away and spend up to $500 on tools. Even that is an insanely low price to start a business with!
Our list of bare minimums to get started include:
- Computer – where you work inside your seller account
- Smart Phone – what you use to look up products in the store
- Scanning App – you can use the Amazon Seller App for free
- Printer – to print box shipping labels and product labels
- Paper or Shipping Labels – used for sending your products to Amazon
- Avery Address Labels – used to label the items you send in, so Amazon knows they are yours
- Scale – to weigh the boxes you are sending into Amazon (can be a bathroom scale)
- Boxes – don’t have to be new, just have to be clean. You can get free ones from stores like Walmart or grocery stores. Or buy them for around $1 a piece.
- Packing / Shipping Tape – To close the boxes you are sending to Amazon
I go into more detail on the specific versions of these must-have tools in this blog post.
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What has been your biggest win?
My biggest win is that we’ve met our goal of being able to stay home with our son and spend time together as a family. Our son doesn’t know what it means to have parents who work outside of the home, and I’m thrilled about that.
As far as any particular big win when sourcing inventory, we have a great story about finding $12,000 worth of inventory on a date night.
Would you suggest that other moms do this type of business?
Absolutely! This is a perfect business for mothers. It doesn’t matter if they work in or out of the home, their kids’ ages, and whether they’re single moms or have a partner.
If you are a stay-at-home Mom, you can do this business during nap time, after the kids go to bed, or on nights and weekends. I was able to replace my income and Cliff’s income just by working nights and weekends.
It’s the same if you have a job outside of the home. If you can consistently fit in a few focused hours a week, you can definitely make some extra income. You can spend a couple of hours finding inventory and then another hour or two prepping and packing it. Just do that week after week and your business will grow.
It also doesn’t matter how old your kids are. You can sneak in some work while the baby is napping, put the 5-year-old to work sticking labels on products, or recruit the teenager to help source inventory.
How hard is it to get started in this business?
I always say this is one of the easiest and least expensive businesses to get started in. You can start for less than $1,000 and spend a handful of hours per week and grow a legitimate business.
Of course things will go faster if you have more funds to invest and a bit more time, but the great thing is that that’s not mandatory. How many other businesses can you say that about?
Even if you only have $100 to start with, you can shop thrift stores and find items at home to sell.
There is also a ton of free information on how to get started, including on our website at thesellingfamily.com. We also have a great, active Facebook community as well (you can search The Selling Family Community to join), where people from all levels of experience ask questions and share information.
What tips would you give to someone who wants to be in this business?
If you want to make significant income, remember to treat it as a business and not just a hobby. People can get fooled into thinking the low cost and part-time hours means they can tinker with it, but you do need to be focused and dedicated.
Make sure to track your expenses, speak with an accountant, and take care of any of those other details you would think to cover when embarking on starting a business.
I also recommend working with a mentor that has been where you want to go (shameless plug). I have helped 1,000’s of people get started selling on Amazon and I would love to help you too!
Check out our Amazon Boot Camp for a complete step-by-step guide to starting on Amazon FBA.
Remember why you’re doing this! It’s so important in this or any other endeavor to keep your “Why” in front of you at all times.
For me, the why is I want to be at home with my family, while bringing in a decent income. Your why may be different, but it is just as important!
There will be snags and frustrations as well as highs, but if you remember your reason for starting this business, you’ll be much better equipped to handle the highs and lows.
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