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My Amazon FBA Failure
Amazon has quickly become the biggest e-commerce platform in the world. When I caught wind that about 50% of the sales through Amazon Prime are coming from third-party sellers, I wanted to know exactly how to get my slice of the pie!
You see, I have been home with my kids for almost eight years. By the six-year mark, I was ready to do something more with my time. Of course, I wanted to help contribute financially, but I also just needed something to call my own. I wanted something that would be a hobby of sorts but pay for itself.
I’ve always been interested in making extra money on a flexible schedule, and I’ve dabbled in my fair share of money making activities, but until the point of this story, I had never considered trying to make a real income online.
Discovering Amazon FBA & Retail Arbitrage
One night while I was researching ways to bring in extra money I ran across an article that talked all about shopping clearance items from retail stores and then selling them on Amazon. That is when I found out about Amazon FBA(FBA=fulfilled by Amazon) and retail arbitrage.
The basic gist of retail arbitrage is to find items in your local stores that sell for about three times more on Amazon. This is pretty simple to do because Amazon provides a scanner in their Seller’s App. Walk into the store, avoid the employees, and scan away! There are a few key numbers that will tell you whether an item is worth buying or not. Then, you send the items to an Amazon warehouse. When they sell, Amazon will handle the transactions, take their cut, and the rest of the money is yours. Depending on the product, this can leave huge margins, and not having to deal with any customer service or shipping as a seller seemed like a dream!
My heart was pounding as I considered this new option. I had some seriously savvy shopping skills, so I thought hey, hey! This would be perfect for my natural skill sets. I love shopping, and I know how to find great deals. Of course, there were a few obstacles. I would need to actually make the shopping trips, and have the money to buy items before flipping them. Then, there was a monthly fee in order to act as a business and be an Amazon Seller. That was the real kicker. Would I be able to be serious enough to make this a real income and pay a $40 fee every month?
Related: How To Overcome an Identity Crisis in Motherhood
Taking a Risk: Starting Amazon FBA
I knew that if I invested any money into myself, that meant that I had to justify the expense and be fully committed. I would have to research every move I made and be consistent. It would take dedication, and I would have to fit it around what felt like a full plate with the kids and my home.
I was pregnant, about six months along. I knew that things were only going to get more crazy, but I also knew that if I was going to make a change, it needed to happen before I had the baby. Money was only going to get tighter, and I was only going to get more tired. I decided to invest that forty dollars and all of the time needed after days of researching. It felt like a huge leap at that time, but I went all in.
Now, the timing of this decision wasn’t the best, but I knew that when I started. It was January of 2017. I started reselling right after Christmas. I was broke, right along with everyone else. It is common knowledge that the beginning of the year doesn’t typically show huge sales without a good strategy, and I was so new to everything marketing that I didn’t even realize I needed a strategy to be successful. I spent about $200 on clearance toys and I sent them to Amazon. Then, I sat back and waited to make some money.
Related: Frugal Shopping Tips That Will Help You Score The Best Deal
My Amazon FBA Failure: Lack of Strategy
I remember checking the seller’s app every few minutes, antsy for a sale. It was invigorating. I made my money back when a few of the items sold, some of them catching me completely off guard! A toy train that I had bought for a buck had sold for about twenty dollars! However, most of the toys just hung out, slowly working their way to be the next in line as I continued to drop the prices in order to make them sell. I realized that I wasn’t the only one that had raided the toy clearance. I had gone for the low hanging fruit.
After a while, I started to recognize when items were ranking well(popular) and when they weren’t worth my time. At that point, I had already sunk enough money into the first trip that I had to be choosy about what I brought home. I was out of any seed money, so all of my profits were going right back into restocking my inventory.
I took a chance and made another big shopping trip, but I had decided that this could be a real income if I just learned what to sell, when. After thinking it over, I made another big decision. I signed up for a credit card.
Investing in Myself In the Wrong Way
This was one of the biggest mistakes that I have made, even to this day. At that point in time, I was not doing well emotionally. It’s not something that I recognized then. I knew that I wasn’t doing great, but I didn’t realize how much I had really digressed.
You see, my dad had just died in a car accident, and I was pregnant and hormonal. We had bought our home, with intentions to renovate it ourselves, but we were struggling so much emotionally that we hadn’t made any progress. We were struggling financially because all of the financial impacts that I had made before, like meal planning had disappeared.
I just felt so exhausted that days blurred by. Everything I cooked, I burned because I couldn’t focus. My life felt desperate and out of control. I just couldn’t keep up. This side-hustle was supposed to be my ticket out of the situation. I thought that having something that was just mine would help me, and it did, but not financially!
Having “instant money” with no willpower to tell myself no led to overspending without even recognizing it. I bought lunch every time I went shopping. Nothing fancy, but $5 here and $10 there adds up faster than you think. I took my kids shopping once. I spent more trying to keep them cooperative than I earned on what I sourced that entire day. Then, I bought gas with the credit card, even if it wasn’t for a sourcing trip.
I didn’t completely recognize the extent of my spending until I went in to make a payment. Even if I sold every item that I had listed in my store, I was still going to be about $100 shy. Rather than investing the money into tools or knowledge, I had just blown it.
Trying Something Different With Online Arbitrage Sourcing
After this realization, I knew that I couldn’t keep making the trips to shop. It just didn’t fit my lifestyle.
I decided to try online arbitrage. This is when you source the products online. Without the expensive search tools, it was miserable. I spent hours and hours researching deals, and would only find a few. Then when I finally found a few awesome products, the competition had found them too. The prices would drop, and I would have to make a decision on whether to wait them out or sell at a lower price than I had planned.
Greed got the better of me, mostly because I was worried about making up for my earlier stupidity, and the prices only kept dropping. I was panicking! This big risk and it wasn’t panning out. I was losing faith. The business wasn’t going to be scalable for me after making such a big dent in my starter budget. I was afraid of going into the hole even more if I kept trying to make up for my prior mistakes.
Related: How To Empower Yourself To Overcome Struggles As A Mompreneur
Finding My New Direction With Amazon FBA
This is about the time when I decided that retail arbitrage wasn’t the right fit for my lifestyle at that point. However, I also found that even though I had tried something that wasn’t quite right at the time, it had opened a whole new door of opportunity. I was actually feeling motivated, and excited about something other than my kids. I was waking up, and focusing more than I had for a long time.
Taking a risk, and going for something that I wanted against all of the doubt had sparked a change in me, and that spark wasn’t going anywhere. Suddenly, I was a mompreneur, and I had some debt to pay off so I couldn’t quit yet! I decided to try something different with Amazon FBA. (You can read more about that here.)
Selling Through Amazon FBA
Although I didn’t continue retail arbitrage, with the right strategy and tools, reselling on Amazon could be very lucrative. I don’t think that my journey is completely over. However, I do know that I will not go into it without a plan. I have since learned about The Selling Family, and their course that explains exactly what to do to be successful in this line of work. I would highly recommend looking into it if you think that you might be interested in giving retail arbitrage a shot!
Don't forget to check out The Ultimate Christmas Shopping Planner to help you enjoy the Holidays on a budget!