Today we’re interviewing Amy Monarch, who makes money selling different products on Amazon and started this business from scratch. Amy is originally from Albuquerque, spent some time in Seattle, and then moved back to Albuquerque with basically two suitcases and a pillow. She has built this business from nothing to a very successful enterprise, and she shares a wealth of information on this podcast about how you, too, can get started on Amazon. She also talks about her podcast where she’s parlaying her passion for health — she’s a health educator — and some really useful information for people with diabetes.
Amy: My background is public health education with a concentration in community health, so I was always involved in non-profits. I was a telephonic health coach in Seattle, and I started my business while there. Working in corporate America, I found that I don’t take orders well. I do not take the whole, “Let’s have quality and quantity, and we’re going to pay you the lowest, bare minimum, and really screw your life like you don’t need to have one” thing. I was done, so I started a business with a friend of mine, but it never got off the ground because we had a non-compete. We technically couldn’t run our business while we were working for the company we were with, so we just invested all this money and it was a waste. That was a bummer and I was disheartened by it.
I moved back to New Mexico, which is where I’m from, and started wandering around, thinking, “What am I going to do?” I got a retail job at a wedding shop and I don’t think I even lasted a month there. It was horrible, so not my personality at all. But I started going to meet-ups, and that’s when I met a former mentor of mine who’s a serial entrepreneur. We had lunch together and chatted for two or three hours. He ended up saying, “You’re welcome if you want to just hang out in my office, just absorb the environment and see what we do,” so I did. I hung out in his office and got to know people.
Before you know it, his company sells diet supplements online. I didn’t even know what that industry was about. Just by happenstance, being in that office, they said, “We really want to start selling our products on Amazon.” I asked, “You mean Amazon.com, where I buy all my stuff?” and they said, “Yeah.” I’d never even thought of that. I had kind of dabbled in the Internet for a while as far as blogging and trying to monetize them, like old school, but there’s no money in that. So I took them up on their offer. I said, “Okay, I’ll try it.” I’d never done it, so I just jumped in. I didn’t have any resources and, at that time, no one in that office had ever done it before. My mentor said, “I’ll find people you can use as a resource,” and eventually he did that.
At first, listing, shipping the products that they already had, the whole image of it, was like pulling teeth at first — kind of painful. I screwed up a lot of the shipments, so that didn’t go very well. Then I screwed up in doing the listings the first go-around, but, eventually, it caught on and then sales started to kick in. This company had already established their name and reputation. What we eventually found was that people were finding the ads online and then, like everyone else, they go on Amazon and see if its cheaper… and, sure enough, I had our products listed. We saw that huge correlation. That was a really pleasant surprise for me, because it boosted my confidence. Yes, Amazon is definitely a place to start, but
there are a lot of little nooks and crannies in it.
Jasper: Did you actually set up your own Amazon store to do this?
Amy: I sold on two platforms — Amazon United States and Amazon Canada. I did start with an Amazon store, but it really wasn’t helping us at the time. Now there are stores where you create the store through Amazon. It’s like $80 a month extra. It’s doable if you know how to set those up and make them look really nice, but you can just do Amazon Payments and have it embedded into your own website. I personally feel like that works. The Amazon stores work well for others, but we choose not to use it.
Jasper: Fair enough. Just to clarify, there are a couple of different ways to sell on Amazon. They advertise their stores quite heavily, obviously because they make more money on that.
Amy: Yes. A lot of people may not know this, but you can actually have Amazon fulfill your orders for you and not even sell on Amazon. It’s called third-party fulfillment. That’s really cool, if you want to just sell your own thing and do your own thing. The thing about Amazon is that it’s “their” customers, like ownership of your customers. Amazon demands that you have good customer service, but they’re not “your” customers. It’s a really interesting concept, yet there are all these laws and policies that you have to go by. Now they’re changing a lot of the tax laws. You sell in certain states. There are a lot of states that aren’t getting their money, so they’re finding that a lot of these online sales could be a way to tap into that. That’s annoying, for me at least, but that’s something you need to be mindful about as a seller, just paying attention to what’s going on at the national level. I’m not saying to go and be super-versed in it, but just be aware of the fact that there are things changing.
The other part of that is Amazon’s policies. They have all these policies. For instance, when I worked for the start-up and I was selling their products, I had created a listing for a pretty common diet supplement, and it was a good one. We had a pharmacist. She reviewed everything, all the chemical formulas. It wasn’t like some crap out there. On the listing, I had cited a medical journal citation. I did all of the citation correctly. I double-checked it… Amazon pounced on me like white on rice and they shut me down. They were like, “We’re going to kick you off of Amazon altogether,” and I was like, “Whoa, you can’t do that. This product alone was bringing in 30 or 40 grand a month. You can’t do that. That’s not fair. I’m going to fight this.”
The best thing to do when you’re dealing with Amazon is kiss their asses, own it, don’t fight them, and just move forward. Own your stuff. And that’s exactly what I did. I said, “This is my error. I’m so sorry. I thought that I could use a medical journal article in a citation.” I was genuinely ignorant to the fact that I couldn’t do that. And that’s how you learn.
Jasper: What was their problem with that? A copyright issue on using that article or…?
Amy: No, it was actually against their policies. You’re not to talk about any of that kind of stuff on there, any type of external support or collaboration or anything like that. That was two or three weeks of no revenue. To say the least, this company, my mentor, and his other partners were not pleased with me.
But it worked out. I did get it reinstated, which I’m still proud of to this day.
The interesting thing is that the two platforms, Amazon United States and Amazon Canada are different, even though its like the same platform.
You’ve got to decide whether you want to become a professional seller, or rather a person that sells just on your own, as an individual. If you really want to try to create a business, ask yourself, “Do I want to create a big business and make it profitable and then sell it to someone else as a fully-functioning business? Or is this simply something for me to live off of and continue on and not have a job? Again, either one is fine and doable, but it’s a personal decision you need to make, because if its something you’re going to make profitable and you want to flip it later on down the road, you need to set it up correctly from the get-go.
Guest – Amy Monarch- Health educator, health coach, venturer, wanderer, amazon seller, podcast host…
Podcast – The Monarch & Dr T
Certified health coach and successful entrepreneur. Working as a patient navigator with women with breast cancer Amy became familiar with the health care system. As a patient advocate she was side by side as patients not only faced diagnosis but financial issues, transportation challenges, legal issues, and employment to name a few. Amy was a health coach for the second largest company in the nation that provides health coaching to health insurance companies clients. She became specialized in coaching Tobacco Cessation and behavioral change, she maintained a high success rate up until she resigned to move closer to family. Lifestyle management and diabetes which was a part of coaching with various members from diverse backgrounds.
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