PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

 

Sourcing services are usually accessible only to huge conglomerates and big brands, but not to smaller brands. Tim Jordan of Hickory Flats, however, offers alternative sourcing ideas and services to the small guys out there. He founded the Private Label Legion, a community of like-minded entrepreneurs dedicated to great learning and group collaboration. He’s also built a seven-figure business. Tim shares how he found eCommerce and Amazon selling by accident and changed the game, and how it led him to look for alternative resources.

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I am excited to bring to you somebody who was introduced to me by Michelle Barnum Smith. She sent me Tim Jordan of Hickory Flats. Tim has Private Label Legion and he built a seven-figure business. Is it Hickory Flats or previous brands?

I’ve had multiple brands, multiple businesses selling products. I’ve done a lot of things right and I have done a lot of things wrong. That delved into the service-based business, which is Hickory Flats. We help other product sellers in sourcing, development and also platform management.

Tim has some alternative sourcing ideas. I want to dive deep into it. He’s the first person I’ve heard of who offers these services to the small guys and girls out in the world, where usually those alternative sourcing groups are huge conglomerates. It’s hard to access them. Big brands can do it but the smaller brands cannot. I want to learn a little bit more about what got you started in the Amazon selling world. Everybody’s story is a little bit different about what excited them about it. What excited you, Tim?

I actually found Amazon selling by accident. I found eCommerce by accident. I was working for a company that was providing products to the State Department. Government, overseas operations, everything nonmilitary and one of the things that we sold was a lot of automotive truck parts, a lot of oil filters. One day, I was looking at our wholesale cost sheet. I came by this oil filter for $3 and I happened to Google and find it on Amazon for $29. I was like, “There’s a big discrepancy here,” and I had no idea that you could sell on Amazon. I literally posted a Craigslist ad, “If anybody knows how to sell on eBay, I’ll hire you to show me.” I’m thinking I can sell these things on eBay. This guy walks in, he looks at the catalog and he says, “You need to sell on Amazon.” On the wholesale model on the first twelve months, we sold well over seven figures. That was my first introduction to eCommerce and it changed the game.

You mentioned it wouldn’t be Product Launch Hazzards if we didn’t talk about all the mistakes and misses. Usually I save that until the end because I want to talk about the sourcing as our primary conversation here. There’s a lot of things that go wrong. The second product was probably the number one thing.

The way to change an entire civilization is to empower the women. Click To Tweet

I’d wake up every morning and I go, “Are we going to lose our vendor? Is there going to be another seller on our listings?” We needed something that was our own. We needed our own product. We needed our own brand. I knew that but I didn’t know how to do it. The first thing I did is I went out and started listening to the Amazon selling gurus. Do you want a mistake? There’s one of your mistakes right there.

It’s not that they don’t have the good hearts, they didn’t start out or they weren’t successful in their face if the information’s a little old.

Things change. I’ll tell you, the first product that I found that was my golden ticket item was an emergency car hammer. It’s these little orange plastic hammers that break out the windows of your car if you get stuck or run into water. I didn’t know anything about hijacking listings. I didn’t know what that meant. I looked and there was a listing on Amazon that sold his hammer for $15. I already had been sourcing in China. I had an office set up over there, I had sourcing agents. I said, “Find me this hammer.” They said, “Here’s your hammer.” It was the exact same hammer and it was $0.60. I said, “Send me 300,” and I got the 300 and I sit them in the Amazon on their listing. They all sold in seven hours.

I was like, “I figured it out. I’m going to be a millionaire.” What I didn’t know was that other product that had a little brand sticker on it protected that listing. My Amazon account got shut down. We were doing a six-figure revenue a month on Amazon and it got suspended. We went six weeks and we had to get reinstated. It was a nightmare. I said, “No problem. I’ll set up my own listing.” I’ve reordered and I’ve got 6,000 of these hammers. I’ve got to set up my own listing and it was tough because there were already 500 listings for the same product. I had that happened to me a few times, where I had a piece of software tell me, “This is a great product to launch.”

We invested a ton of money, time, energy and effort in launching this thing and it was a me-too product. There was no barrier to entry. There’s nothing unique. There was no way to break into this market. We were following the leader. I didn’t give up. I started beating my head against the wall and figuring out, “There’s got to be a way to create a unique product that we can sell, not just on Amazon but to sell on any platform.” We went through an extremely lengthy process of trying to find products that were in demand before there was competition.

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

Alternative Sourcing: Most people don’t know it but Pinterest is one of the biggest search engines in the world.

 

It’s a lengthy process and it’s manual. There’s not a software shortcut. It’s all manual and I love that. How did that lead you to looking for alternative sources? Is that how that happened?

The first step was finding products and alternative idea sources. Most people don’t know it but Pinterest is one of the biggest search engines in the world.

Here’s the tip on Pinterest. This is my secret weapon that I’d been using for my clients. Keep in mind that my big brand clients would never go on Pinterest. They would never know to do that. My secret weapon is to go on Pinterest and find stuff. Most of the stuff that frustrates Pinterest users is that most of the stuff’s not available for sale. It’s old, it’s out of stock already.

It’s do it yourself stuff. A lot of home decor is DIY. What we started doing is figuring out, “What was trending up in Pinterest?” We would replicate it. We sent pictures to China or somewhere, make prototypes and we try to narrow it down. That was going okay but we were still not scaling the way that we want it to. Parallel to all this time simultaneously, I was doing a lot of work down in Central America and down in the Caribbean. Before I even got into the State Department job, I was a full-time firefighter paramedic. I was on a FEMA urban search and rescue team, got deployed down to Haiti in 2010 of that big earthquake. I’ve done a lot of medical stuff. I’ve done a lot of home building stuff and I had a heart for it.

I met these husband and wife who moved down to Honduras years ago and they were down there doing philanthropic mission work type of stuff. They felt for the extremely impoverished culture. Everybody in politics is talking about the migrant caravans coming from Central America to the Mexican border. They’re desperate, I get it. The gangs are awful. The unemployment is 70%, the World Health Organization lists extreme poverty at living under $1.60 a day per person and 65% of Guatemala and Honduras is in that extreme poverty zone. I understand it. The answer is not to pack up everybody and walk 900 miles and try to enter the US illegally.

When you stabilize a culture and you educate a culture, then things start progressing through generations and get better. Click To Tweet

They want to stay in their homes. Everyone wants to stay where they grew up.

These friends that I had, when they went down there, they started doing a lot of research. They found out that the way to change an entire civilization almost is to empower the women. The reason that they determined empowering women is so important is because the women spend all of their money, time, energy on their children by doing two things, creating stability: food, clothing and shelter, and creating education. When you stabilize a culture and you educate a culture, then things start progressing through generations and things get better. They set up this mission. This mission was to empower women by educating them on trades. They were using free funding. They’re raising funds for sewing classes, secretarial classes, jewelry making and even cooking.

What they would then do after this free course to these women that applied is they’d give them micro loans. They’d say, “Here’s $150, go out and do your thing.” These women would go out and buy an old sewing machine, some silk thread, some fabric and they’d go and check on them six months later and they’ve got this booming business out in the little village they’re at. Their family is stable. They said, “This is interesting. Let’s double down on this.” They started raising more and more funds. The name of that organization is called Mi Esperanza. If you go to TheWomenOfMyHope.org, you can find their website or type Mi Esperanza, google that out and you’ll find them in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

At the same time, parallel to that going on the Toms Shoes phenomenon happened. Toms Shoes is a $1 pair of shoes. It’s canvas with a rubber sole. You can buy them at Walmart for $7 but people pay $60 to $70 a pair because of the story, buy one give one. If you go to their website Toms Shoes, the first thing that shows up on their website is not a pair of shoes. It’s a picture of a community in India, Africa or somewhere that’s extremely impoverished and they’re telling the story of you. What Toms Shoes figured out how to do was instead of creating a sales funnel, you have a landing page in a website and you filter all these people down, leads and try to get them to buy. They figured out to make a product where the people that hit the bottom of the funnel would flip that funnel up and turn it into a loud speaker.

They’re blasting out about their brand. It’s free advertising. They made the consumer the hero. People are taking pictures and posting on Instagram, “Look what I did. I bought these shoes. I’m a hero.” They changed everything. I’m looking at Toms Shoes, I’m looking at Mi Esperanza but so were some of the big brands. There are some big brands, big subscription boxes. One of them was called Tribe Alive. They do a lot of women’s jewelry and stuff. Tribe Alive was going, “We need that story to sell our jewelry.” They started googling around and they found this little nonprofit organization that teaches women how to make jewelry down in Tegucigalpa Honduras called Mi Esperanza. They called Mi Esperanza and they said, “Do you do production?” They said, “No, we teach and then we do micro loans.”

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

Alternative Sourcing: It takes a long time to start developing trust and credibility.

 

They were like, “How many women have been through your jewelry making academy?” They were like, “230,” or whatever the number was. They said, “Are they looking for more work?” She said, “Maybe.” She called up a few and they said, “If you want to do a private label production run, we can all meet up at the workshop and do this.” Tribe Alive gave the design, they replicate it, did a prototype and gave them a quote. I remember being down there and Lori Connell, the lady who runs it, she was talking to a group of us and she was like, “It’s so exciting. We might actually make somebody else’s products now. It won’t be many but it will be something.”

A couple of weeks later, she gets a call from Tribe Alive and says, “We have a purchase order for you. We hope you can handle it.” Lori says, “How many is it?” Tribe Alive said, “82,000 bracelets.” I’m sure after Lori picked her fainted body up off the floor, they figured out, “We can actually do this. Let’s make production capabilities and let’s set this up.” I’m watching these big brands trying to reach out to them and I’m going, “I’m over here beating myself up trying to sell me too products from China. The big corporations, the big brands are having a hard time pivoting but we’re nimble. We’re quick, we can be responsive. We can do anything.” I decided there’s got to be a way to help the problem with unemployment in Central America, while building a business of great products around a story that makes the consumer the hero.

I went down, I had some contacts in Guatemala. Guatemala and Central America is the hub of commerce and logistics. I went down there and I got these guys together. These were all entrepreneurs down there. I said, “I’ve got an amazing plan. I want to start sourcing products here to sell on Amazon.” They said, “No, it won’t work.” I said, “Why won’t it work?” They said, “You’re a gringo.” I said, “What’s wrong with that?” They started explaining they said, “The artisans and the workers here have been exploited for so long for cheap labor.” I started learning that it’s not the gringos. There are giant corporations in South Korea years ago that want a cheaper labor and had a ton of capital. They set up deals with the Central American governments to set up these giant manufacturing facilities in Central America to produce goods to come to the US. They produced them there because you can actually trade cross border from Central America or Mexico into the US tax-free.

This is early NAFTA.

Essentially, they’ve been exploited and they said, “We don’t want to do it.” A long process went through and I said, “No, we’re going to figure this out.” We started reaching out to individual artisans we had contacts to. Our first product that we sold was actually reverse-engineered. What we’re doing is all of these products that are saturated on Amazon, the first seven pages of a highly ranking keyword are all ceramic glass or stainless steel made in China. I’m like, “Let’s make one out of wood. Let’s make it handmade, let’s make it beautiful and let’s do it.” These items that are selling for $18, $19 on page one of an Amazon result, I can get made for $3 without haggling their price and make sure that their employees are fair-waged, fair-trade and certified. That product doesn’t have to compete with that $17 or $18 price point because artistic and handmade, I can sell it for $30.

You're not selling a product, you're selling a brand. Click To Tweet

We tested it and with no promotional stuff, none of that black hat ranking stuff. One day we woke up and we’re on page one and we were like, “We stocked out overnight,” and we even had launched for a week and a half and we were like, “How do we ramp this up?” Now we’re trying to figure out how to ramp up production. These artisans are going, “You ordered 100 and you want how many?” We’re like, “1,500.” They picked themselves up off the floor. We started looking into, “How do we start scaling this up?” There are a lot of other sellers that want to be able to source these products. We actually set up a forum down there and we set up a forum of those same guys that told me it can’t be down, brought them all and said, “Guys, we’re going to do this. How do we do it?” They said, “If you’re going to do it, one, you have to have local management.” I said, “No problem.”

We actually set up a company in Central America that is partially owned by Guatemalans. They worked for us and they’re also part owners. Their entire job is to protect two people, the artisan and the buyer. What we can’t do is break the trust of these artists. It took us a long time to start developing the trust and developing the credibility down there. What would happen, even the artisans, someone will come in and say, “I need this order. If you send me 200 units, I’ll buy 2,000 next time and I need it at this beat down bottom of the basement price.” They would buy extra machinery and buy extra labor. The second order would never come in and they never made money on the first order. We stick to our guns about pricing, we make sure this price’s fair.

We’ve had artists since give us a quote and we say, “That’s too cheap. We know you can’t do that cheap. You’re saying $3, you should probably be charging $4.50 because we’re going to sell that item for $30 on Amazon. There’s enough margin for us.” We started building credibility and then we opened it up to our Hickory Flats clients, our public clients. Things got interesting because we found out there’s a massive flood of people that were looking for alternative sourcing and nothing was set up. One of the first companies that got involved with this is called Mayan Tikal. They released their website and Mayan Tikal were not even looking at selling eCommerce but they were looking at high-end leather products in these retail stores and Central America has some of the nicest leather you’ve ever seen.

I’ve sourced leather over the world mostly for office chairs and everything. They have some of the most beautiful leathers.

It took us nine months and at the end of nine months, we had over 40 prototypes in three different colors. We had a catalog built out and sales reps were taking orders for the fall order in Q4. Working with these relationships, these artisans, producers and everything, we’ve got amazing stuff that nobody can replicate. The quality is amazing and they’ve got a story behind it. We’re a normal company that says, “I want to sell a leather product.” They’re looking at some that are inexpensive like China and they’re trying to find something that’s the cheapest. When you have a better product and a better story, it doesn’t matter.

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

Alternative Sourcing: Stop trying to sell a generic product. Create a unique product with a unique story and it sells itself.

 

You’ve hit on something though that is unique. Because you have people on the ground, whose job it is to protect the artisans, then you also have someone who also can bring the artisan ideas forward, which means that you have something people have never seen before. You have something fresh in a fresh new perspective. The thing that I find that my skill set has helped with over time when I go to Asia and other places, I show them things that they didn’t imagine they could make before. You can also exploit. I don’t mean that in a nasty way. What I meant was that you can also take advantage of what they do best. They have the most beautiful leather or they have an amazing stitch style that’s never been seen before, isn’t typically seen on purses and handbags.

You can make something that they can do extremely well. You can utilize that in a way in which you make a signature piece and a signature product for your brand. Being able to have that conversation and that collaboration is essential to that process. When I see the Amazon sellers who buy from the distance or the eSellers who are buying from this distance, their email, their numbers, they’ve never been to the factories before. They don’t understand what they can do. They don’t understand the possibilities and the opportunities. To be honest with you, they’re setting themselves up so that there’s this wall between you, the manufacturer and you’ve not done that. You’ve created this dialogue.

It goes both ways because the manufacturers have limited themselves too. The manufacturers have no idea what people want because they’re disconnected too.

They want to hear that, they want feedback because they’ll make more of it.

We do sourcing retreats. A sourcing retreat is we literally take people down and do this week-long immersive trip. We’d go down to Guatemala, five-star accommodations. It’s an awesome thing we do, workshops and training but mostly what we’re doing is educating people on what can be made there. People sign up for this thing. We’ve got one coming and people are emailing me, they’re coming in like, “Tim, what research should I be doing?” I’m like, “Quit doing research. Let’s get down there first,” and we’ll set up the workshops and we’ll go to these artisans. Once they see the materials and the construction site, it’s mind-blowing. We are limited on the types of products.

It's scary standing on a cliff thinking about jumping into the water when you don't know how deep the water is. Click To Tweet

We do leather, textiles, ceramics, woods and good coffee. There are people that want to launch a product of coffee accessories. That’s saturated but if you can come down on our trips, we take people to these co-ops that are all organic co-ops of local artisans. It’s all coffee that’s cupping out at 90, some of the best coffee in the world. They’re like, “I figured it out.” Instead of selling on Amazon, let’s set up a click funnel campaign. All those products that I want to sell from China, the French presses and all that stuff, I’ll start bundling it with this amazing coffee that tells us a story about this organic co-op that’s run by these families. I’ll do Instagram pictures of the families and not even the coffee.

I’m going to sell more French presses. People’s minds are getting blown. Part of it is going out and experiencing but then people do come in and they say, “Tim, I’ve got this product line of office accessories and everything that I sell is from China and I’m getting beat up on price,” or “Tim, I’ve looked at twenty products on Helium 10 or Jungle Scout and they’re all saturated.” I’ll say, “Do you want to sell those products?” They’ll say, “Yeah,” and I’ll say, “Buy one of each and put it in your suitcase.” We go down there, when we meet with these artisans and introduce our clients to the artisans. Not only are we getting to see what they do and getting this immersive experience but we’re literally opening up suitcases and going, “Can you make this?”

They’re picking up this thing and they’re going, “This is garbage. I can make this better.” What we’re doing is we’re taking data and we’re taking analytics of those saturated items. Let’s say there’s a men’s iPad sleeves made of cheap leather from China. It’s selling for $14.99 but it’s got 500 reviews. The size is perfect and the shape is perfect, everybody loves it. Buy one of those things, let’s take it down to two or three artisans and let them look at it. Touch and feel the leather that you want and let’s literally reverse engineer that thing, assuming it’s not patented or something but make it in a lot nicer leather. Let’s tell the story of the artisans, the producers. If you want something cool to do, throw on some tag. “Every one of these that you sell, we’re actually going to give $30 a month to a family in the community where these artisans live to put their kids through school for a year,” adding those stuff.

You’re not selling a product, you’re selling a brand. You’re not worried about selling a product on an ad. When I speak to these conferences, I pull up a slide and on one side is a woman weaving this awesome back strap weaved cotton and she’s looking at the camera smiling. The other side of the slide is a purse. The purse is made by her of the same fabric and I pop the slide up and I don’t say anything. I sit there for about fifteen seconds and I look at everybody in the crowd and I say, “What have you been staring at for fifteen seconds?” They’re staring at her, they’re staring at the woman who is smiling that’s making the stuff. Stop trying to sell a generic product, create a unique product with a unique story and it sells itself. That’s when everything went nuts for us. We figured out there’s an unlimited supply of product ideas.

There should be, “Thank you for saying that because that’s how I feel.” People are like, “I can’t find anything.” I’m like, “You’re not looking hard enough.”

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

Alternative Sourcing: If you put all your eggs in one basket and one product that doesn’t work, you’re hosed.

 

You’re looking the wrong way and maybe you’re looking in a way that you’ve been taught that is not accurate. Maybe you’re not stupid but you’re a little naïve. I’ve done it too. I’ve beaten my head against the wall and I’ve still got pallets of stupid car hammers stuck in a pallet somewhere. I get it, I understand it. We figured out that we can access amazing products elsewhere. They’re a little bit of a limited catalog. On our sourcing retreats, we take people down there. We take them down to the largest market in Central America. It’s thousands of vendors and a lot of them are honestly selling a lot of the same things for tourists to buy. We go down there and there are a lot of ideas that are generated because there are some unique items down there.

Most of what we do is we walk around and say, “Do you see this product that’s made of this fabric?” Go back to Amazon and find a woman’s accessory that’s selling well and let’s put it in this fabric and they’re like, “I get it.” The options become endless. When you use data to back that up, you don’t have to guess. I understand that it’s scary standing on a cliff thinking about jumping into the water when you don’t know how deep the water is. I get that. Designing a new product, designing a new variation of a product and launching a new product on the new platform is scary if you don’t know how deep the water is.

Going to Central America and having a unique product created that you’ve never sold before, no one’s ever seen it before in this product style and variation is scary. You don’t know how deep that water is but we can take the data of other sales, other sellers and other products that are selling and reverse engineer that. The water’s clear and you can see the bottom, you can see it is deep enough. You’re not jumping into this dangerous situation because people have walked that path before you, you’re going to do it better and you’re going to do it differently.

You’re already in an environment that doesn’t have this high-volume expectation to begin with, so it allows you to do this. You test it, model it and grow it. They’re expecting that because they need to scale as well. They need to get their systems in place and start to turn it into a production line at that point for themselves. You’re scaling with them, you’re in cooperation, and the sales process and the production process are aligned. Being aligned in that is very important. When the sellers came into China, I was working there and we were doing and sourcing products in 1999 to 2000. We were early on sourcing our very first products over in China. We could barely fax back and forth. When my husband went over on a trip, we couldn’t afford the phone calls back and forth between us.

It was like, “You’re gone for a week. If I’ve got a fax, you’re there.” That was it. It was a different world but when we were going there, there was no negotiating first volume and everything. What’s happened is people will say, “I can do a thousand pieces.” In the back of their minds they’re like, “Those people are never going to make it to 10,000 so I’m going to amp up the price.” It’s a bit adversarial in the process because the selling community is not aligned with the way the manufacturing facilities are set up in Asia. They’re not set up for low volume. It’s not easy and functional for them. They want to be accommodating, they want to grow with you but they also don’t believe you’re all going to make it.

One of the biggest hazards that people run into when launching a product or identifying a product is thinking too small. Click To Tweet

I have to straighten up people’s perception of China and I had it too. The first time I went to China, I thought I was going to walk into a second world country. They’re smoking our tails in technology, infrastructure, everything. When I say people, I’m going to say US product buyers to resell. Amazon sellers in my circles, they think that the Chinese manufacturers need us more than we need them. I’ve hold up into the dirtiest, nastiest cities in China, this giant factory and there are Maseratis pulled up out front because they’ve got orders coming in from all over the world. They don’t care about your little order. They do not need you. They’re filthy rich. They’re crushing it. I’m not saying that we use people’s desperation to exploit them but because they don’t have tens of thousands of units being ordered every week. They will do lower because that’s what they want to do. I’m sitting in the office with our products team. We’re talking about these new products that we’re launching and testing and we’re ordering quantities of 30. There’s this kitchen item that we found. It’s trending up, not even on Amazon yet but it’s trending up on Pinterest and Google trends.

Not only do we want to be the first step product to Amazon but we’re going to have something unique that nobody can copy. We actually found a handmade one on Etsy. We bought one off of Etsy. We shipped it down there to one of our favorite producers and artisans down there. He’s like, “I can do this.” He gives us a price that made us freak out. It was so cheap, “Make us 30.” We’ll get those 30 and then we’ll run test campaigns, we’ll run PPC ads to see if we have high impressions and low cost per clicks, a little competition. We’ll put it out there on social media and see how many times people are liking this thing. We’ll see what interest we get with a Pinterest picture and it’s 30 items. What’s amazing about that is you can go very wide but not deep. It’s so important because if you put all your eggs in one basket and one product that doesn’t work, you’re hosed. We’ve gotten pretty good but we still screw up. We still have failures. If 30% of our attempts work, we are raking in the sales.

This is what most people don’t realize. It’s a shotgun approach for big brands too. I designed the most popular office chair that was ever made and bought at Costco. It was a $99 mesh office chair. It’s sold there for seven years and it’s at $20 million a year each one of those years. It just came out of circulation. Products don’t last like that at retail. In order to make that chair, we made over the course of three years 800 different designs and samples. Not just for that but for the whole brand that the company was going on, we shared it with Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart and all of those places. We made 800 different office chairs samples. That’s how it works out there. Out of all of them, they get one platinum record, one that does that out of that whole grouping of that. If you’re not out there sampling and trying, you’re not trying hard enough relief. 30% odds is actually good. If you’re getting 30% success, that’s common. I have a flipped odd. I have seven out of ten.

We do too, we’re about 70%.

When you flip the odds like that, you’re in a very elite percentage of people who can do that. It’s an elite percentage of brands who are capable of that. That’s because your process, your manufacturing and your products are all in line with what consumers actually want. That product market fit is already there. You’re already more successful than most people. You have a high likelihood. Keep doing that because that is unheard of. I’m going to have all the information for how people can get in touch with you. I will make sure that we update so that you are up on the latest retreat that Tim is running. You’ll be able to contact him because he will have a profile on the Product Launch Hazzards Resources section.

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

Alternative Sourcing: It doesn’t matter how much money you move, it’s how much money you have and how much you made your profitability.

 

It’s the Right Resources because we talk about the right things in the right order with the right resources. That’s what Tim has all lined up for you. He’s got resources but he’s got the right things in the right order. You’re doing it at the proper process. I want to make sure that you have him available to you. He’ll have a profile there. You can simply click the button and get an email sent off to him and his team and get in touch with them directly. You can go right into their website and go, “I want to come on your sourcing retreat. It sounds like a lot of fun.”

It is a lot of fun, I’m not going to lie. We traveled a few different cities and there’s this place called Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, have you been there?

I’ve never been. I’ve always wanted to go to Guatemala.

Atitlan is this volcanic lake surrounded by volcanoes and it’s gorgeous. One of the workshop nights that we have like a mastermind night that we have, we’re literally sitting beside this infinity hot tub looking at the moon behind these volcanoes in this giant lake. It’s always like a perfect 68 degrees there. You forget that you’re working. We’re learning so much, we’re meeting artists, we’re looking at products but it is phenomenal. We do sourcing retreats to China too. We take a lot of people to China and we teach them the ropes and help them find products but you don’t get that sense of vacation, you get that sense of work. Guatemala is amazing. There’s no way to describe it except amazing.

It’s a very different ethic in China. I do ten trips a year to China. Now, I do about one or two maximum. That’s because I have a team on the ground who represent me well and I can handle it. There are very few places where you get to have that time off because they’re working seven days a week many times. The culture is already in that working mode. It’s great that you’re finding the locations and the places in which you can wind down and think. That pace of a trip to China for me, it’s great. You get a lot of work done, you get a lot accomplished but you don’t get a lot of thinking and processing done.

I liked that it’s only a three-hour flight and there’s no jet lag too.

It wouldn’t be Product Launch Hazzards if we didn’t ask you the biggest hazard that has happened to you and your business. You talked about a little bit of the small mistakes and other things. What’s the biggest hazard that’s happened to you in the Amazon business, which is your cautionary tale? You’re like, “Don’t do this.”

Being an Amazon seller. I tell people all the time, stop being an Amazon seller and start being a product seller. I have close friends of mine that are doing $6 million, $7 million and $8 million a year in sales on Amazon and it is all online arbitrage or retail arbitrage. They’re selling Nike shoes on Amazon and they can get shut down at any time, it’s awful.

I was at Prosper Show and someone was up there totting they had 8,000 skews and they’re not profitable at all.

One of the biggest hazards that people run into launching a product or identifying a product is thinking too small. For thousands and thousands of years, commerce was regulated to a geographical area. If I made bread, I sold to the people on my street. If I made shoes, I sold it to my community. It’s only been the last several years that we had the internet where somebody anywhere in the world with a cell phone can sell nearly anything to anybody else in the world with the cell phone. We are in a historic time. We’re in the time of history when it is easiest to be an entrepreneur. This is unprecedented, you were talking about back in 2000 going to China and having to do a fax machine. You can get on the internet and access 70,000 Chinese suppliers on Alibaba. I wouldn’t necessarily trust them all but theoretically speaking you can do it.

There are more information, tools, resources, community, support, free training, amazing podcasts like this that give you buttloads of great information. If you want to do it, stop thinking small. I have people that have been sitting on the fence going to Amazon conferences for three years and they’re like, “Next year I’ll open up an Amazon account and launch my first product.” What are you doing? This is the time. The biggest hazard I think from a philosophical standpoint that people can make is thinking that they can’t do it. There are things I suck at. I’m terrible at it but there are a million people out there that want to be in my tribe that wants to help me because I can help them with the things I’m good at. Find your tribe, find your people, find a community, find those free resources and step out there using the tools, resources and testing that’s available to you and get your feet wet and go.

I’m so excited you said that because we believe the same thing. We believe that time is of the essence too. There’s market timing for things and we so often sit back too long and we miss our shot. It’s always going to be risky and we’re going to have lessons. It’s those lessons learned at those hazards that we come across that teach us the important thing about how we’re going to make it work in the future. Those are harder and things that don’t happen unless you dive in. I agree with you, thinking too small. Thinking too big on your volume size, that’s not what Tim’s saying. You want to be careful. I do not want you to have a garage full of striped shirts. Google or YouTube KickStopper stripe shirts and you’ll know what I mean. That’s what we don’t want you to do. We want you to have opportunities for success and having this low volume scale up.

High profitability, high demand and low competition.

It checks all the boxes. That’s what you’re doing.

I was at a marketing conference, Funnel Hackers. There’s a guy that was like, “I don’t care if you’ve got a two-comma club X award, you’ve done $2 million or $10 million of revenue. I want to know how much money’s in your bank account right now.” I’m like, “Hallelujah, this man is speaking my language.” It doesn’t matter how much money you move, it’s how much money you have and how much you made your profitability. I’d rather sell $500,000 a year of an extremely profitable item than $1 million a year with the headaches and 3% margins. I don’t want to do that.

You are speaking our language. I can tell we’re going to have you back again. There’s no way we’re not going to have you back again. Private Label Legion and Legion Radio, you started your own podcast. I’m looking forward to listening to it that I know that that’s new and out there. You can find Tim Jordan on ProductLaunchHazzards.com. You can click on the Right Resources, go to his profile. Thank you so much, Tim, for coming on the show. We appreciate it. Thank you to Michelle Barnum Smith for introducing us. Everyone, try and expand your product lines in smart ways. Take some lessons from Tim. I want you to take what he’s saying to heart because he has your best interests at heart, so please listen and come back again to another Product Launch Hazzards.

Tune in to Tim Jordan‘s next Office Hours. Connect with and find out more about Tim Jordan in our Experts Directory.

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 About Tim Jordan

PLH 107 | Alternative Sourcing

After various other jobs and experiences, Tim accidentally found e-commerce and took it on head-first! By following commonly-taught methods and strategies in his early days, Tim discovered several methods that do NOT work…. But, these led him to some surprise successes and methods. In addition to founding Hickory Flats, their team consistently launches new products and brands which are in high demand, with low competition.  One of the COOLEST discoveries he made is the ability and methods to souring products in Central America and other third-world regions, which gives is products a VERY unique story and turns the BUYER into the ADVERTISER.

(or something like that lol)


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