Today’s post will be the second month in an ongoing series of guest financial results posts. If you missed the first one, you can find it here.
Take it away Dana:
Hello again! I was on vacation last week so a bit late in gathering my May Amazon results. May was a crazy month for me – and unfortunately I wasn’t able to spend a whole lot of time on my business. While May ended ‘ok’ – I fell short of my sales goal. But met the other 3 goals I had for May.
I think I can honestly say I probably spent less than 20 hours in May working on my Amazon business. Most of my time was spent packing moving boxes and getting our house ready to be sold. You might recall in my last post I mentioned I had quit working my full time job in April and for the past 2 months we’ve been living on just my husband’s salary. We purchased a summer home in Colorado last summer and with only one salary now – there was no way we could afford two homes. So about 6 months ago we decided to sell our house in Arkansas and move to our condo in Colorado – at least for awhile. The past several months have been dedicated to preparing to downsize from a 3200 sq foot house to a 900 sq ft condo. My living room has been full of boxes to go to storage, boxes to go to Colorado and FBA boxes. Many days the piles overflowed into one another. It’s a miracle my kitchen dishes didn’t get sent away with the UPS guy.
But on Memorial weekend, we packed as much as we could fit into our truck and a uhaul and moved from Arkansas to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My initial plan had been to do some RA as we drove out west – but honestly we had no room in the truck for any thing else.
Then 4 days after arriving – we left for a week vacation in Costa Rica. The vacation has already been planned before we decided to move and before I impulsively quit my job. And while timing could have been a bit better – I was definitely ready for some relaxation. I’m now home, and ‘most’ of the moving boxes are unpacked and I’m all recharged and ready to hit this Amazon thing full blast. Especially after seeing the slow start we’ve had for June.
So how did May go? Let’s recap the goals I outlined in last month’s post.
May 2016 Financial Results
My May Goals:
– Gross Sales of $8,000
– Start using a prep center
– Get ungated in Grocery
– MOVE – which honestly will be taking the majority of our time.
Goal 1: Gross Sales of $8000
Given the distraction of moving we fell a bit short of our Gross Sales goal of $8000. We had total sales of just over $6500; with about $200 of those coming from eBay. I experimented a tad bit with JoeLister early in the month and cross listed some items on eBay. For those unfamiliar with JoeLister – it automates the process of selling on eBay and using Amazon as your fulfillment center. I did sell a few items but haven’t really investigated all the fees to know if I was really profitable on those items. I’m really new to eBay – and don’t have a good grasp on all the fees, etc around selling on that platform yet. But the experiment did prove a) items sell there and b) the ease of using JoeLister can’t really be beat. The software pretty much does everything. It was nice to see when something sold knowing I didn’t have to worry with the shipping – or anything – really. It’s an area I’m definitely going to pursue more.
I also think sales were a bit low because the last shipment I sent in May – nearly all of it showed incomplete for some reason. With the move and everything I just didn’t have time to figure out what happened. So most of my newest inventory didn’t go live until this week when I had time to sit down and fix it all. I have no idea what happened – but it wasn’t too hard to fix.
Here you can see the last half of the month really slowed down:
Goal 2: Start using a Prep Center
So part of my moving plan was to address the gap of having a place to send OA shipments while we were moving. I figured with shipping lead times I needed to stop OA purchases about 3 weeks out – which obviously wasn’t ideal for ensuring I had inventory. So I started investigating using a prep center so we could keep shipments moving along. Honestly – after putting together my very first FBA box back in Jan – I always knew this would be one of the first things I outsourced. I can design multi-million dollar software applications but I can’t pack a box to save my life! I’ve definitely gotten better – but I’d much rather be doing something else.
I went with a prep center that is located in a tax free state – mainly because the finances made more sense to me. Their pricing structure is a flat rate and includes all shipping materials and boxes. And one additional perk that was important to me – they keep the hard copies of all invoices received with shipments – should I ever need them. I’m hoping in the future they will move to a cloud based storage system so I can have access to them whenever – but for now I’m happy knowing they have the hard copies and can scan/email me if I ever need it.
To be honest – I had a bit of a bumpy road out of the gate with them. After signing up – I received some outdated instructions. Once I inquired – somehow they lost my account and couldn’t find where I had signed up – although they were receiving and tracking my inventory. But we eventually got it all straightened out – although it delayed my shipment to Amazon about a week. Not a big deal really – just a reminder when you introduce a new process – always expect little bumps in the road. Things happen. I expect to be using them a lot more in the coming months.
Goal 3: Get ungated in Grocery
Ok – so this was a biggy. I’ve been trying since March to get ungated. I think I submitted probably 4 times. I decided to submit one last item before hitting the road just for kicks. I nearly fell over when I got the email. I’m happy to share details of what I did for anyone interested. But the big issue for me was (and this just came to me one night after being denied 4 times) I realized that when I setup my FBA account I set it up under my personal name as a sole proprietor. I have an LLC and EIN number but the way Amazon does things – they wouldn’t accept my EIN – so I just used my name and SSN. The invoices I was sending in had my LLC name on them, as did my sales tax permit. It finally made sense why they kept saying my sales permit was invalid. I sent an email explaining this and a copy showing that I was the owner of the LLC and they approved me about 30 min later. Next, on to Health and Beauty.
I literally read the email 5 times to make sure I was understanding correctly.
Goal 4: MOVE
Words can’t describe how happy I am for this to be done. Now – if only our house back in Arkansas will sell – things will really start looking up!
Looking toward June
So despite everything going on, I’m pleased with May. However I’m bracing for a really bad June. Having the business on auto-pilot in May meant very little sourcing was done and June sales are already showing that. Some of our inventory that was stuck for several weeks – now have lower prices which will eat into our margins. And I’ve discovered (which I knew) Steamboat Springs isn’t exactly the hot bed for RA activities. I’m about an hour away from the nearest town of any significant size and 3 hrs away from Denver. I’m already planning a RA marathon trip next week – so we’ll see. So our new strategy will be doubling down on OA and getting some traction with wholesale. But first – I’ve got to unpack some more boxes and get my FBA workspace set up. There is very little room in a 900sq ft condo to pack and ship boxes.
My goals for June:
– $4000 Gross Sales (yeah – it’s gonna be a bad month)
– Make first wholesale test buy
– Start streamlining more of my processes in preparation for outsourcing some additional activities (buying, reporting, accounting, etc)
Ryan’s last words: Thank you Dana for putting this post together and sharing all of these details!