Recently I was on an awesome podcast with host Timothy Bush called “On The Shelf“. This podcast is a popular source for helping entrepreneurs get their products into Big Box retailers. Timothy Bush works with our entrepreneurs in The Canton Fair Experience course to help them on their journey to big box retail when they are ready to take that step. If you are wondering what getting your products into retail is all about, check out Tim’s podcast.
On this podcast, I talk about my journey as an entrepreneur and inventor, my Amazon sellers podcast, and my work as an E-Commerce business consultant. We spend the bulk of the interview talking about The Canton Fair Experience, a unique course where you learn to develop and source unique products, validate your ideas, advanced negotiation tactics, and then meet us in China to attend the largest sourcing event in the world with us by your side.
Listen to the podcast or read the full write up of the interview text below.
How To Get Your Product Produced Right The First Time! with Amy Wees
If we were sitting in the same room, your mind would be blown. We have some back to back shows going on. Things are on fire and I feel good about it. I feel good about being able to sit down, get some stuff done and get some information out to you. Thank you for all the support that you have shown to myself and the show. It’s greatly appreciated. For those of you who responded off of the last show and have an interest into the mastermind series that’s coming up, thank you for emailing me. I know that I got back to each and every one of you with the applications and I’ve already received a few back, so thank you very much. If you’re still interested in getting into the June monthly mastermind group, you’re going to want to email me at Tim@OnTheShelfNow.combecause that one is almost filled. Please shoot me an email quickly so that we can get your name in there if that’s what you want to do.
If you’re wondering what it is that we’re going to be talking about, these masterminds are all about getting your products into retail. It is a step by step monthly accountability group on how to get your products into retail. How do we do at TLB Consulting and how do we do what we do? We’re going to be teaching that to you. I’m going to be teaching that to you. The best part about this is that you are in this mastermind with people that want to do the same thing as you. You are running the same race and you’re not necessarily competing against each other. If one of you falls down, the other one is going to reach down, grab ahold of that person and drag them up because we’re all trying to get to the same place. There’s enough room for everybody. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see people start to bounce ideas like, “I did this and I tried what Tim said and this is what happened and things get rolling.” I’m super pumped about it. If you want to participate in that, if you want to be part of that, email me. By the way, Tim@TLBConsulting.com, that’ll lead to me too. Get your computer, send me an email and we’ll get you enrolled.
The person that’s coming up, her name is Amy Wees. She is just magical and she didn’t set out to be. That’s the coolest thing about her. She’s a great human being and super fun to be around. We haven’t known each other that long, but we’re already creating a little bit of a friendship that I hope will grow to be a great friendship that we’ll have. She is magical in the things that she does. She’s very driven and she’s, “I’m going to do this thing myself. I’m going to figure it out myself.” Once she did that, once she figured it all out on her own, she didn’t keep it a secret. Her whole life’s purpose with respect to her knowledge is to share that with other people. She does that a couple of different ways. She’s an entrepreneur. She is a former military strategist and planner. She’s an expert in Canton Fair in China and she has her own podcast. She and her colleague have their own podcast, which I’m going to be on. I’m super excited about that.
How has she given back? How is she sharing her knowledge? She’s a consultant. She lives in Texas. She works from home. She has a website called AmazingAtHome.com. She also has her Canton Fair of business. It’s called the Canton Fair Experience where they have a concierge program where they take and handhold people all the way to the Canton Fair, show them the factory and show them how to negotiate for their product. It is amazing. I had an opportunity to speak to the last group that went to the Canton Fair and what an experience that was. What an honor it was to get in front of those people that are pumped up about getting products and starting that journey of developing their products and then wanting to get that into retail at some point. Last but not least, her podcast is Seller Roundtable. You can reach that at SellerRoundtable.com. You can learn about the Canton Fair Experience at TheCantonFairExperience.com. You can reach out to her for some of her consulting at AmazingAtHome.com. I can talk about Amy all day long. I can tell you how great she is. I can tell you how much knowledge she has and what a wonderful person she is, but it’s easier for you to hear that yourself. If you don’t mind, let’s get right into it.
Amy, thank you for being on the program. I appreciate it.
Thank you for having me.
I don’t know if you know, but my audiences are called Big Boxers. That was submitted by an audience back when I was trying to come up with what my audience was called. I couldn’t do it on my own so I put it out there, “Guys, come up with your own name.” It’s not about big underwear. It’s about people wanting to get into big-box retail. The Big Boxers are my audience. I’m super excited to talk to you about a bunch of different things. We have the Canton Fair. You just got back from that so I wanted to talk about that. I know you have a product that you’ve built and you’re selling now. You have consulting that you do on eCommerce. We have a lot to get to.
I’m looking forward to all of it. I love the audience name, Big Boxers. Your podcast is great. I have a podcast too. I know you’re coming to my podcast soon as well. It’s great for the audience to get different aspects of all of the retail.Life is not just about growing up and getting a job.CLICK TO TWEET
You have a partner on your podcast. You are co-hosting.
He calls me his cohort.
When you record the podcast, are you in the same room or are you in different cities?
He lives in California and I live in Texas. We record on Zoom and we do this cool thing. It’s a live format where we invite our following. Both of us have a following, we invite them to come on the live recording so they can ask us questions about whatever topic we’re covering or if we have a guest. We have a shipper coming in to talk to our audience about terrorists because that’s the latest hot topic that everyone is concerned about. We invite those audience on. They can ask questions and we answer them on the podcast. It’s a different way to record. It’s a different dynamic. It’s fun.
Is that a Facebook Live format almost?
It’s Zoom. We don’t do Facebook Lives because we want to make sure that we can edit it later. If anything comes up, we want to make sure that it’s a clean edit for the podcast. Usually, people ask questions via chat. They don’t unmute themselves and ask questions. It’s a cool dynamic. We decided to try it out. Initially, it started out as free coaching and, “Everybody come on.” We were like, “This is great. Let’s turn this into a podcast.” That’s how it was born. We’re having a lot of fun with it.
What’s the name of it?
It is called the Seller Round Table.
Let’s go back a little bit. I know that you’ve had an interesting past. What did you want to be when you were growing up?
There are so many things. I’m one of those overachievers. I’ve always been a straight-A student. Ironically enough, in government class in high school, I won a stock market competition. I got an all-expense paid trip to New York City and I got to stay in the Trump Tower. I got to be a guest of honor at the New York Stock Exchange. I got to go to NASDAQ and AMEX and all of that. That lit a fire for business, finance and everything that that was. I’ve always been fascinated by a business simply because you can come up with any idea and monetize it. I love how creative businesses can be and how many different types of businesses there are. I’ve always had that entrepreneurial bug. That was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I want to be involved in finance and business and ironically enough, I joined the military. I guess that didn’t work out, but it sure paid for college. I was able to get a bunch of business degrees and I have that all paid for. I served my country, live all over the world and do some cool things. It worked out.
You joined the army. Did you join the army out of high school, or you went to college first or paid for college and so you went to college after?
I joined the Air Force, but I had a bunch of odd jobs before that. I worked in retail. I worked at Target. I was an executive over their Garden Center in California. I had a job as a nurseryman and accountant. I’ve done a bunch of weird and odd jobs. My first job was at McDonald’s. I worked there for many years, lots of different odd jobs and cool different businesses that I worked for. What I was trying to do was go to college while working a job. It was so hard to go to college and work. That’s when I decided that I’m going to join the military. I joined the military at nineteen. I turned twenty years old and then I turn turned 21 while I was in boot camp. I was laying in a mud puddle and I looked at how much they brainwash you in the military. I was looking at my watch while I was laying in a mud puddle. We were on this training hike. I looked at my watch and I saw the date on the watch and I was like, “That date means something.” I was so focused I didn’t realize it was my 21st birthday. That was fun. I was like, “I’m 21 now. I’m not going to tell anybody. They’ll pick on me.” It was a cool experience. I was in the military and worked for the government for eighteen years. I retired to become a full-time entrepreneur.
I’m assuming I’m quite a bit older than you. I was trying to think back about what I wanted to be. I always wanted to be a cop when I was younger. My vision of what was available in the mid-‘80s was so much smaller than it would have been. I didn’t know there were guys and gals that could drive trucks across frozen lakes and make a whole year salary in a couple of months. I didn’t know that I could go out to Boston and make a ton of money on a crab boat. The internet wasn’t there. It was a small thought process of things. I didn’t know I could run a hedge fund if I went to business school and make a pile of money. I didn’t know any of that. I look at my daughter. I’ve been an entrepreneur for several years and she’s sixteen. Since she was six, it’s most of what she knows and she’s been privy to the great times in being an entrepreneur and sometimes the horrible things about being an entrepreneur.
We lost 80% of our clients in one summer and it was this avalanche of people running out of money, this and that. It all piled on at the same time. What it taught her was you’ve got to have people in the pipeline. You can’t stop selling. You can’t stop filling your pipeline because these things can happen and you’re going to have your own business. You’ve got to know that. She had seen the great part, which is all the time that we got to spend together because before I started my own business, I was working. I was gone before she got up and it was almost time for her to go to bed when I got back. She has seen a lot of it. She has a much bigger leg up on and the world is her oyster than I did.
My kids are the same way. I’m a serial inventor now that I know that I could do it. I’m always coming up with new prototypes and building new things and like, “We’re going to Lowe’s. I’ve got to pick up some stuff for a new idea.” My kids are so used to that and we have a warehouse in our home. We put together some of our products and ship them off for our eCommerce business in our home. Our kids are used to that. They’re used to seeing that all around them. I’ve definitely taught them how to run their numbers and all of that. I go and speak at my daughter’s career days. I tried to get the kids all excited about thinking outside of the box about doing something that’s different. My daughter is in the third grade, I went and spoken on her career day. There was a doctor after me and another person in cybersecurity or something after me. I brought some of my products and I had them run the numbers. I held up this product and I said, “I put my own design on this. I had a factory do it for me. How much do you think I paid the factory to buy this from them?” The kids were like, “$100.” They were lost. I was trying to get them to focus. I was like, “No, not $100. Would you pay $100 for this?” I was joking around with them.
We get out there on the whiteboard and I was like, “We’re going to do some math. I paid $2 for this. I have four different colors. If I can sell twenty of each color every month on this platform and this one store, how many units am I selling a month?” We calculated profit margins together, then we calculated the potential profit and inventory turnover. Ironically enough, a lot of my clients in consulting have a tough time with their own numbers that way. Once they saw that on one channel with one product, they were like, “That’s so cool.” I was like, “Who wants to be an entrepreneur when they grow up?” They were all coming up to me afterward and even the teacher was like, “I need to talk to you after this. I’m rethinking my career.”
The doctor was in the next room. They were rotating classrooms. I stayed in the same classroom, but they came back to my classroom afterward and the teacher said, “We couldn’t keep the kids quiet for the doctor. They were still talking about being entrepreneurs and their ideas.” That made my kid popular so I was excited about that. It’s cool to see the kids get an idea like, “I don’t just have to grow up and get a job.” It’s not that there’s anything wrong with getting a job. That’s great and you can learn so much. I’ve learned so much from every career that I’ve had to prepare me for being a good entrepreneur, taking care of customers and all of that. It’s good for them to think about innovation.
My daughter had a slime-making business. We talked about that. Even before she got started on that, we had worked out the business aspect of it. She goes to a private online academy. They call it portfolios, which is a fancy name for a project. Her project was to build a business. She wanted to build a slime business. When she decided to make slime and sell it on Etsy, we had already done all the profit, the items that go into making slime and all of that stuff. The way her mind started to work when she figured out that she could go to a restaurant supply shop and get little containers, 50 for most of what she was paying for four containers at the grocery store or buy Elmer’s Glue in bulk and how her profit margins were changing. I watched her get all lit up about that.
She was like, “I’m making so much more profit now.” I said, “You make a lot more profit because daddy doesn’t make you pay him back for the cost of goods.” Uber has ushered in this mindset of, “Instead of hiring a taxi, I already own a car so I can put myself out there in this time that I have that I’m wasting, drive people around and get paid for it on a car that I already own. It helps pay for the car and it helps pay for this.” People’s mindset is changing. “I have ideas. I can put them online myself.” Once Amazon went to the Seller Central, you didn’t have to sell them anything anymore. People start thinking, “I can do these things myself. Be my own boss, make my own product and sell it.” You have a product that sells on Amazon.
I have a full line of products. Most people know me for inventing SiftEase. My whole thing started with an idea. I had this idea because I have three cats and the litter box is terrible. It smells.
Do they each have their own litter box? Do they have to share?
No, they each have their own. It’s recommended one litter box per cat. We have three litter boxes and we were cleaning them. I have chronic severe migraines. They’re triggered by smells and all kinds of different triggers. The smell is a big one along with lights, sounds and that stuff.
Do you walk by the candle aisle at Bed Bath & Beyond?
No, that’s a nightmare for me. I was having this problem because we love our animals, but no matter what we did, we were scooping litter boxes several times a day and they still stunk. There was nothing you could do. We were dumping all this litter and wasting it. I was trying every kind of litter box. The rolling ones, the sifting ones, the automatic ones. I even considered spending $400 on a robot litter box. I knew after trying all these other litter boxes that it was going to be the same problem. I’d read the reviews. The thing is, do you want to have this big robotic device to take apart and clean? Do you want to scrape pee off? I looked for everything and I tried all the products on the market and all of them are terrible. I was working for the military at the time and I was traveling a lot. During my trips, I would sketch new litter boxes. I was thinking, “I can create a better litter box.” One day, I woke up and I was like, “The litter box is the problem.”
I realized that if I could create a device outside of the litter box that you could dump the litter box into that would do the work for you, then that takes care of the problem of the stuff sticking to the litter box and you need to properly sanitize the litter box. You wouldn’t have to touch, scoop anything, take apart any complicated device or anything like that. I woke up and started playing around with some laundry mesh and a bin. I was at Home Depot as soon as it opened and I was scouring the store trying to figure out what kind of material could I use to make this apparatus. I was in there trying to be all secretive and talking to the guys that worked there like, “I’m trying to make something that sifts something.” I learned long later that you don’t have to worry about that because most people will never follow through on their own ideas nonetheless, yours. I put this prototype together and it works wonderfully. It’s amazing from this ugly prototype.
I was like, “I’ve got something here.” This is super easy. It takes me less than a minute to clean the litter box. It effectively separates the waste from the clean litter. I have a place to store the clean litter while I take care of the rest of the business. I started developing and changing it. I realized that if you want to bring a new product to market, an idea from scratch, it’s not easy. I can’t take this prototype to a manufacturer and be like, “Will you make this for me?” That’s not the way it works. I had to learn the hard way. I ran into a lot of design companies and then I started calling design companies like InventHelp, “How can I do this?” All of them want $30,000 to help you put your idea together. I was like, “I don’t need help with that. I already know what my idea is. I need to know how to develop this. I’m innovative. I can figure this out.” I started cold calling manufacturers and I was like, “I need help. This is my idea. This is what I want to do.”
A few of them hang up on me and others were like, “You should do a 3D prototyping.” I started learning the steps of how you do this and how you bring this product to market by calling and talking to people. I started sharing my experiences online. I started a little group. I started posting videos and sharing my experiences. I had already been selling on Amazon since 2007. I knew I could bring it to market once it was created. I had to figure out how to create it. I went through all of that. I got a mold created, I had a friend do my 3D CAD for manufacturing. I went through all of that whole process and I shared my experience along the way. Now, it’s on the market and people are loving it. We get new five star reviews all the time and it’s very simple. It looks like a colander on top of a bucket and it works. It’s very easy to use and it makes this ugly nasty chore very easy.
Once you separate the waste from the litter, what do you do with the waste so that it’s not sitting there stinking?
It stays at the top. It’s like a sifting basket and it stays in there. That sifting basket has handles and this big shovel scoops on the side. It’s a giant litter box scoop that you pour the litter box into with a holding bin underneath. The clean that passes through to the holding bin below and the nasty stuff stays in the sifter up top. You grab it by the handles, you tilt it and all the nasty comes into this scoop. You can pour it right into a bag and take it right out to the dumpster. I designed little feet right into the sifting basket. It sits up on its side so you don’t get nasty stuff all over your floor. You pour the clean litter bag in the litter box and you’re done. You can even dump two litter boxes into it at once and get rid of all the waste at once. It takes a chore that used to take us fifteen minutes of scooping, then sweeping up the floors, replacing all the litter because it still stinks after that. It makes it super simple. Dump, pour it back in and you’re done. That’s the story of SiftEase and how I became an entrepreneur.
We had 21 cats at one time when I was a kid. I’m not even kidding you because we lived out in the middle of nowhere out in California. People said, “Don’t get your cats spayed and neutered because the coyotes will kill it,” before that even matters. Back then, we bought this spec house out in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of baby avocado trees. The house had been there for two years so the coyotes were not used to anybody living there. I kid you not, I would wake up in the middle of the night and there will be twenty coyotes on our front lawn howling. It was super loud, but finally, they got used to the fact that we were there. Three years later, all three of our cats were still alive and they would have kittens all at the same time.
Did you have a cat farm?
My sister was in Girl Scouts and my mom was in charge of all the Girl Scout cookies for the troop. It seemed like it always corresponded. I don’t know how that happened. When the girl scouts would come to pick up the cookies that they ordered to sell, they would get cookies and a kitten. That’s how we dealt with that. If you’re out there and you have kitties, go on Amazon and check out SiftEase if you’re dealing with the smell. The reason I know that about Bed Bath & Beyond is because I used to be a Bed Bath & Beyond store manager. I would have people that would stand outside the door and say, “I need this thing, but I can’t come in because the candles are right near the front. I can’t handle the smell.” They couldn’t even come in. My wife is super sensitive to smell so I’m right there. Our kitty pans are in the garage. They weren’t in the house, but they still stunk. You’re an inventor and I know that you just got back and you’re also a consultant though. You’re teaching all the things that you learned and all the crazy questions that you’ve been able to answer, the product you’ve been able to solve and now you help other people solve those.
It’s a rewarding thing. I still run my businesses and we started this Canton Fair Course to address everything at once. How you come up with an innovative idea? How do you get it created at a factory? How do you source it for a reasonable price? How do you get it back to America? How do you get it into multiple retail channels? How do you get the costs right? All of that. That’s how the Canton Fair came into it because many of us source in China. We said, “It can be pretty overwhelming to go to a trading fair like the Canton Fair for the first time as an entrepreneur.” Even as an established brand, it could be very overwhelming to go to a foreign country to think about meeting with a factory. What kind of things do you say? How will that work out? Do you need a translator? I can imagine the things that are going through these people’s minds. We try to remove that fear. We have a two-month-long course that starts from the process of coming up with an idea or new ideas for your current brand and all the way through. We talk about manufacturing.
You are consulting, by the way. Amazing at Home is really more eCommerce focused, is that true?
Yes, I am mostly in eCommerce.
In the eCommerce space, people come to you to help them with what?
There are a lot of new brands out there that are wanting to start either on eCommerce or established brands that are wanting to get into eCommerce. Amazon is only 4% of all of retail, but it’s still a large eCommerce channel along with Walmart.com, Jet.com and even your own eCommerce website. All of those are great channels to sell your products along with social media and everything else. Now, you can even sell your products on Instagram or you can sell them on Facebook and it’s all integrated. You can integrate all of it logistically. You can even fulfill it through Amazon and sell it on your website. There are so many cool things, but it all is surrounded.
In order to be successful in the eCommerce space, you have to understand or get someone to help you with search engine optimization because everything online is based on searches. Somebody has to be able to find you. Your potential customer needs to be able to find you. That’s what I specialize in. I specialize in search engine optimization, copywriting, advertising and everything else. I specialize in anything that has to do with keywords and getting your product recognized, found out there and then sold and closing that deal. I help businesses with that. I help them establish their eCommerce presence. I help them make sure that their copywriting is on point so that they can get eyeballs on their product listings across multiple platforms. I help them to scale that.
A lot of businesses come in and they have Amazon vendor express or vendor central. The tough thing about it that a lot of businesses struggle with is they’re wondering how their products are being represented and they don’t have an eCommerce team to deal with that. They sell to Amazon and Amazon puts their products out there, but their listings are terrible and they’re not being found. Their sales potential is huge, but they are not taking advantage of that because they don’t understand how to get their product listings to where they can be found and then close that deal. That is what I specialize in. I’m helping brands of all sizes, whether they’re startups all the way to very big brands with hundreds of SKUs. Getting those SKUs online, setting up their websites, their social media platforms and all of that stuff so that they can be successful online.
The things that I tell you is because I’ve done those things. If I tell you not to do something, it’s because I did it and it didn’t work or I did it and I got crushed. The things they tell you to do are because those are things that I’ve done and they did work. Amy falls directly into that category because she is doing it with her own business. She’s done some things that haven’t worked. She’s done a bunch of things that have worked. What I’m getting out of this is if you work with her, she’s going to give you some advice because she’s done it and it’s already worked. It’s more of a knowledge-based understanding and knowledge-based consulting rather than, “I took a course on it so now I’m going to reteach that course to you.” When you’re listening to the things that we’re saying is because we’ve been there and we’ve done those things. Just like Big Box retail, sometimes people think getting in as the hard thing to do. It’s hard to get in.
Although it is hard and it takes some time, selling your product through Big Box retail and getting a reorder is the much harder part. Although you probably could get your products set up on Amazon or get your own eCommerce site up and running, you’re like, “Why is nobody coming to my site? Why is nobody buying? My stuff has been on Amazon for a year and I’ve sold three pieces. Why is that?” That’s because nobody is finding you. Amazon is huge. Getting people to take a look at what you’re doing, what you’re telling them and how you’re telling them, that’s what we’re talking about. We’re going to talk about Canton Fair, but before we do, for those of you who don’t know what Canton Fair is, it’s a trade show in China. Instead of going and looking at products, you’re going in shopping factories. If you have a product that you want made, Canton Fair would be a place that you could go and talk to multiple different companies that might be able to produce it for you.
To give an idea of the volume of Canton Fair, it’s the largest in the world and it happens twice a year. There are three different phases. Each phase lasts about a week. Let’s talk about each phase. You have phase one, which is electronics and technology-based products. Phase two is housewares, gifts or those kinds of premium things. Phase three is sporting goods, medical textiles, clothing, but one phase of the fair lasts a week. You get there and it’s a huge complex with three large buildings and there are 60,000 manufacturers there. Let’s imagine you’re there for phase one for electronics, your companies and technology-based products like phone accessories and that kind of stuff. You have the length of 217 football fields to walk through. It can be quite overwhelming but imagine the opportunities to be able to walk into that booth, touch their products and feel a sample.
If you’re creating new pillows for the home or something during phase two, you can walk in and feel the materials of those pillows. You can look at them and touch them versus you going online to an online source, trying to imagine what that looks like and getting a sample sent and all the time that takes. What’s great about going directly to Canton is you have all these suppliers in one place. There are 60,000 booths. They’re all competing with each other so they bring their most innovative stuff. They work on it all year long and that’s their Canton Fair exclusive. They try to get people into their booths with new and innovative products. They try to get these buyers into their booths. You’re going to see stuff that you’ve never seen before that your brand can bring to market. It’s an incredible opportunity to have 60,000 entering each phase. During that week in between the phases, we were there for all three phases. During the weekend, everybody clears out and goes home that was during that phase and then new people come in and you have a new 60,000. It’s an incredible and exciting sight to see. You walk into there and you’re like, “It’s incredible. It’s awesome.”
Let’s paint a little bit of a picture so you can understand what Amy is offering in their concierge Canton experience. Let’s pretend that you have a product idea and you want to shop it around to see who could make that for you and how much it’s going to cost. If somebody tells you, “Why don’t you go to Canton Fair?” You look it up online and you find out that that’s in China and you’ve never been before. You don’t speak the language, you don’t know the city. You’ve never talked or negotiated with a factory before. You don’t know whether or not what they’re telling you is true or not true. Let me give you an example. When I worked for the Oreck Vacuum, our IT department was run by a team of people. There wasn’t an IT manager that you went to if you needed a program written or anything. There was just a team of people. Every time I would go in there and I would say, “I need a program that will tell me this or spill out this report,” they would always tell me, “That’s going to take about six weeks.” I’m not an IT person. I don’t know how much time it takes to write a program or whatever so I would be like, “Six weeks. Let me know when it’s done.”
Eventually, they decided that it wasn’t a good program so they brought in a VP of IT. The very first time I went to him and I said, “I need a report that does this.” He was like, “We’ll have that ready by the end of the day.” I was like, “What do you mean by the end of the day? I need to do this.” He goes, “Maybe even a couple of hours is when we’ll have it.” I didn’t know, I couldn’t dispute what I was being told before. Think about if you’ve never negotiated your own products, how do you know if you’re getting the best deal? How do you know even how to do it? Would you jump on a plane by yourself to China, go to Canton Fair and walk around? Would you maybe jump on Alibaba instead and try to use one of those factories? Would you dump the entire idea altogether? I think most people dump the idea and say, “I don’t know enough about it so I’m not going to do it.” Amy and her partner thought that most people would do that so they created a course.
We created a comprehensive course because we could take you to Canton. We could meet you at the Canton Fair, but you’re not ready. You’re not ready for those 60,000 booths. You’re not ready to talk to those suppliers. We created a course with over 25 hours of webinar-based training in a closed group mastermind type environment. Every week you have three hours of classes to do and then we have a mentoring session once a week. We start out with ideation. We start out with, “You’ve got this idea. We’ll help you work through that idea.” The second most important thing we teach you is how to validate that idea. You might have an idea, but you don’t know if anybody is going to buy it. You don’t want to go spend thousands upon thousands of dollars creating a mold or bringing this idea to market when it might not be a great idea. Your mom might tell you it’s nice, but we teach you how to validate it outside of mom, sister and brother. We teach you all the different methods to validate a product so that you can have a great list of ideas by the time you go to Canton Fair.
Also, it’s not about inventing a product from scratch. There are many things that you can do to existing products to make them hot sellers and still make them unique. You can make unique bundles. There are so many different things that you can do. We help you open your mind to the possibilities and build out your brand and your product line. We teach you about manufacturing, prototyping and then we take it into negotiation. We tell you what your costs need to be at, how you get to a 7x to 10x multiplier when you’re talking to factories. We talk to you about how to look at your costs, how to make sure that they are right. If you were to go on Shark Tank with your idea, they’re not going to shoot you down because your margins are terrible. We talk to you about the factories, how to communicate with them, what to expect, how to vet them and how to protect your intellectual property in China. A lot of people are worried about that.
We introduce you to those concepts so that they’re not so foreign and that you can take the driver’s seat of your business and go, “I’m ready to do this. I am ready to meet you in China. I’m ready to start talking to manufacturers.” We take it one step further. We meet you in China a few days before the Canton Fair. We all stay at the same hotel and we’ll take you on a factory tour. We’ll introduce you to factories and these are great factories. There is manufacturing stuff like GloveStix, the entrepreneur that was on Shark Tank. It came up with the sticks for putting in hockey gloves. This is a rather large company that has factories in China. We take you to those factories because that’s what you’re going to do. When you go to Canton, you’re going to talk with that supplier and you’re going to arrange a factory tour. That’s what we’re going to encourage you to do because we want you to be looking at that factory and see and that’s where negotiation begins.
We take you on that factory tour and we show you what to expect because business in China is not like business in America. We went on a factory tour for one of our own products outside of our group factory tour and we didn’t even talk business. We spent the whole day with them and we need them to talk business until 5:00 in the afternoon. We started our day at 10:00 AM. Business in China is different like in any culture. It’s important to understand that because if you’re trying to be an American like, “Let’s sit down for an hour. Let’s identify what we need to do, what you need to do, what I need to do and let’s get out of here.” You’re not going to have the same result in China if you try to take it that way. That’s what we focused on.
We try to help you with all of that so that by the time you leave China, you’re ready. You have manufacturers lined up, you understand your costs, you understand your margins, you understand exactly what it took to get there and you’re ready to then go home and start the sourcing process. We help you with logistics as well. We hook you up with logistics partners to ensure that you can get your product safely from China to wherever you’re sending them in any market like European, US and all of that. When you get those orders from Big Box retail, independent retailers or you want to start your eCommerce business, whatever it may be, you’re ready to do that.
Think about going and doing it yourself or think about going with somebody who’s already done it. Somebody who’s prepared you ahead of time that went there with you got you there early, got you all acclimated, showed you how to negotiate and took you around to a factory. I know a lot of you out there already have products. I know you’re wondering whether you’re getting the best price or maybe you’re trying to take those products into retail. You’ve been selling it and discounted it on Amazon for so long you don’t know whether you can handle a 50% or 60% margins in retail. You’re wondering if you can get your product made for less. That’s exactly it. It’s not just creating a product. If you already have a product but you’ve never shopped at Canton Fair, you’re also a candidate to jump into this program. You’re a bit ahead because you’re not conceptually thinking.
Tim, we had several entrepreneurs that came with us that already had established brands and they were wanting that aspect of it. They were wanting to redesign or get their costs down on their products. With the things that we taught them and the way that we prepared them, one of them was able to get their costs down 40%. They started with 30% down and the way that they were talking with their factory, the relationship that they had established, the factory was even helping to reduce it with an additional 10%. They were up to 40% off of their original costs when they went back to China with the techniques that we had taught them. That makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
It has to. Tony Robbins always talks about decades, the days and the amount of time. You can always contact Amy and find out how much the whole experience is. I guarantee you how much you save in costly mistakes at a time, maybe a lot of you have a broker in China or somebody that lives in China that’s a middleman. They’re taking a percentage to help you manage that process. What if you were able to get rid of the middleman? I know a lot of you don’t know this and don’t do it, but if you’re going to get products made in China, you have to go there at some point. You have to go to your factory and meet people.
Culture-wise, they have far more respect for somebody who’s going to take the time, get on a plane, come over, sit down with them, have a meal, talk through and get to know them on more of a personal level and then walk out to the factory. You can see your products coming off the line, open up a box and make sure that the quality is where you want it. I talked to a lot of people that one batch they get from China is good and the next box they get is not so good. I have a client that sends every product they get from China to them and then they open it up to see it. Efficiency-wise, that’s not going to work for you in the long run.
There are other things that you can do too. We encourage you to go to the factory. They want you to come. They’re excited. If you asked them at Canton, “Can I visit your factory?” They’re all about it, “Yes, let’s arrange a tour. Let’s do it.” They’re very excited about that. There are other things that you can do because you may not be able to jump right back on a plane and go right back. If you can, that’s great especially if you’re developing a product because many of these factories have designers. You could sit down with that designer and work through. We’re designing a bag and I am getting samples from Canton. As soon as I get those samples in, I plan on picking the supplier that I like the quality and the communication with. I want to go right back to China and sit down with them, sit down with their designers and design it with them. I can buy a plane ticket to China for $500 round trip. The amount of money that I’d spend back and forth hiring designers here versus going and spending that time with them is night and day.
We help you with those things like factory audits. You can get it done remotely. You can send a factory auditor in and they will check out your factory, product inspections and lab certifications. We help with all of that. It’s part of our course so that you understand exactly when you can’t be in China, how to have that last batch right before it leaves inspected for quality. It’s very affordable to do. For some reason, it seems like a mystery. It seems unreachable, but it’s very easy. You can order it right online and they do it within 24 hours. There are a lot of things that you can do to prevent your client to have that problem with the whole batch being sent. That should have been inspected before it left China. For a couple of hundred bucks, you can get the whole thing inspected, AQL inspection, and all of that. Those are the things that we teach during our course so that you’re fully prepared to be successful.
I guess it could be called a mystery, but I think a huge difference between somebody saying, “This is a company that we trust. This is the company we use. This is a company that I’ve used personally in the past. I know that they can inspect the product for you. This is what you’re looking for,” and looking it up on the internet, sending people money that you don’t know anything about and you’ve never worked with. You might go through two or three before you find a good one. There’s a difference between that and a recommendation from somebody who’s doing it and knows.
That’s why we’ve added people like you to our course Rolodex. We want to make sure that anyone who comes through our course has those resources of people that they can trust. When you walk through Canton Fair, you’re inundated with supposedly shipping companies and inspection companies. If you know enough about the subject and you can vet them, they’re not good. They’re not people you’d want to do business with. They’ve been paid off by factories to pass things. It’s not a good situation and you’re going to deal with that anywhere. In any company and any market, you’re going to have scammers. You’re going to have companies that aren’t so good. That happens in China too. It’s very helpful to already have that vetted list of trusted providers.
If you’ve ever gone to the airport, you get off your plane, you go down to baggage claim and there’s a person there with the iPad with your name on it. That’s your driver. That’s who was hired specifically to pick you up. Think about flying into an airport. You go down there and there are a bunch of people that are like, “Do you need a ride?” If you travel much, you run into that a lot. One, you have a vetted person that’s been hired to specifically pick you up and take you to where you’re going or you have hundreds of people trying to give you a ride. What feels better? I’m on my way to El Salvador. I’m going to be running into that so I’m going to hire somebody ahead of time to pick me up and take me to my hotel. They have a hotel van but El Salvador says, if you look at the US Embassy, they’re like, “Don’t go if you don’t have to.” It’s always better to have a trusted person with you or helping you navigate through there. As they come back, we’re working together to put them into a TLB mastermind group to continue that education. Now that you have your product, what are you going to do with it? Where are you going to put it? Are you going to get it into retail? In the end, it will be this phenomenally comprehensive concierge course from A to Z and you are learning about it. Right now, they’ve only taken one group and that was a huge success.
We didn’t even know if we can pull this off. My partner and I said, “This is something that we’re passionate about. This is something that we’d want to do, but can we pull it off?” We put it out there as a beta. We lost money in our beta because we undercharged extremely. We had no idea what any of this was going to cost or how much time it was going to take. We said, “Can we do it? Let’s go for it and see if we can do it.” We had 21 people sign up to come with us. Some of these folks have already been to China. Some of the people that participated with us, they’ve already been to China with other programs because we do have competitors out there. There are other programs that take people to Canton Fair. The difference in ours is that we offer a comprehensive course before the Canton Fair. Most of our work is done ahead of time. The other courses that are out there, they are more for eCommerce and Amazon-based sellers. They’re not doing the factory tours and all of that. I don’t like to compare, but there are competitors out there. You’re free to shop around. Some of our participants had been before and they said, “This is chalk and cheese.” It does not compare to what they were prepared to do with us.
We have paid dinners at night where everybody came together. We had a Chinese attorney there one night answering their questions about how to put proper contracts with their suppliers. We had shipping companies there another night so that they could do Q and A with them. We have an inspection company there another night so that they could understand and ask all their questions about product inspections and everything. We would also do mini masterminds while we were there. We got them together and said, “Who wants to talk about business financing? Who wants to talk about that kind of stuff?” All of that is included. Not to mention our participants, because they had worked together for two months in this course with all of our homework and everything, they already knew each other. It was so cool to see them meet each other and get right to talking. They’ve made friends for life. It was phenomenal. It was more than we could’ve ever hoped for. We’re ecstatic about taking our next group. We got great feedback from our first group. We didn’t think we can pull it off or we didn’t know if we can pull it off, but we did. It’s an exciting thing to think about what this will even yet become.
They have a huge waiting list already. If you ever want to go with their group, you’re going to need to get there and get your name on the waiting list, so that you don’t lose your turn. I have a feeling as this thing ramps up, it’s going to get big. Right now with stuff that you buy, you’re not getting what you pay for. People are not over delivering and you hear me talk about customer experience. That’s what keeps people coming back. Your product when you open it, use it, play with it, work with it, does it create an experience that exceeds their expectation? This is one of those things. This Canton Fair Experience is one of those things that far exceed expectations so the word is going to get out. This is the first interview that Amy has done on the subject.
Outside of my own podcast, this is the first thing. It’s exciting. We do have a waiting list on this. There are a lot of people that have already decided because they’ve followed our beta and they’re into late to join us. We can’t wait. We’re excited to take the next group. We hope that more people will get the opportunity but at the same time, we want to keep it a little bit small because we want to maintain that experience. We want to be able to give that level of personal mentorship and keep those masterminds small so that those folks are able to succeed together and get what they need out of the courses as well.
I’m excited to be even a small part of it. I’m thinking about going with them next time to Canton Fair so I can offer any advice or help while I’m there, while people are looking at products. That will be exciting. What else should we talk about?
We’ve pretty much covered it. We covered eCommerce, we covered the Seller Roundtable podcast for those people wanting to get into eCommerce. We covered the consulting business, we covered the inventing process and we covered the Canton Fair Experience.
We have a mastermind group starting so I’m excited about that. We started to get some of these people together that went to the Canton Fair and go to that next stage where a lot of you Big Boxers are in right now. Thanks so much for taking the time. I appreciate you coming on. It’s been fun to learn a little bit more about you and your experience. I hope you got something out of it. Amy, thank you so much.