Day 1: Now what?

Today is the first day of my new status. What am I talking about? Well, let me give you some background info. My job allows me to take a voluntary leave of absence when work slows down. The leave is unpaid, and can change due to a fluctuation of work. My busy season is the first six months of the year. And every year around July, I take some time off. My SO and I enjoy taking time to travel, read good books, binge on Netflix and generally have quality time together. In July we go visit family, and take off to fun places that we couldn’t using our vacation days. Well, this year is going to be different. 

I’ve always been a spirited entrepreneur who wants to work for myself. I’ve always had a good job that others would love to have. The problem is I’ve always been afraid to take the leap to go full-time at this. What am I afraid of? Well, failing, of course. Unlike others, I’m not backed into a corner, I still have a job to fall back on. This doesn’t mean I have plans of returning, my goal is to quit the 9 to 5. Truthfully, my private label efforts are doing well enough that I could likely replace my income. But, as someone watching the numbers, my private label after having 6 months of increase after increase, is taking its first nose dive into bad sales. That scares me. That shows me anything could change at any time and if I really want this to work – I have to do everything I know how to do to make this work.

Now, if you’re still hanging on- allow me to get to the point. I’m going to do retail arbitrage and online arbitrage again. This past weekend I finally prepped out a shipment of product I sourced from January. In my adventure to maximize my potential, I will be consulting with others on their full-time ventures and coming up with a schedule to keep myself accountable. I will post new posts on staying relevant in an FBA world, post my schedule of how I’m doing things, and new tips to stay competitive. I’ll still be posting about my private label ventures on the Forty Hour Rebel blog, but this also means you can look forward to fresh content on this site.

It’s 8:30 here in Utah, and that means I’m already 90 minutes into my old work day. I’m pretty sure if you aren’t moving, you aren’t making money. Time to get moving already.

I’m Unemployed..How Do I Make Money with Amazon?

Today, while waiting in a Starbucks drive-thru, Linda left me a comment on my ghost-town of a blog. This is what she said.

Wow, you’re really inspiring! How are you doing now?

I’d love to know how much money I should have saved to be able to use it as startup for my own fba journey to profits. How much is necessary?

I’m currently unemployed, living off of my savings, and the support of my parents. I want to put all my energy in this and make it happen. I’m desperate for a change and can’t find a job. I’ve tried different things online before but I truly believe this will be the game changer for me.

Thanks so much in advance, I’d really appreciate any tips you can share with me. 

I’ll be checking back here for your response!


It’s been so long since I’ve written a post, I felt like this was a great opportunity to answer some questions so many of us have when getting started. Here’s my reply back.


Thank you for the kind words! I’m glad you found some inspiration in the posts that seem so long ago! You can find out how I’m doing with private label at I’ve got awesome stuff up my sleeve for this year so you’ll want to join our FB group to keep up, and get quick responses to your questions from the awesome community. 

A guy I know quit his job after 8 months of hustling in his time off and I know deep inside this is a viable option for anyone. So let’s get you started…

How much money do you need? I know cash is tight, with no money in and money always going out. So I’d really recommend starting by thrifting and looking around the house. You’ll want to go to your thrift stores and scan books, scan new items that are still in pristine condition. Check the VHS tapes, you’d be surprised the real gold here. Now don’t go buying hundreds of dollars here, if you do have some expendable income you’ll want to use that to start you in retail arbitrage. Basically going to your local stores and scanning the shelves for anything. Clearance, sales, anything popular in toys. I don’t want you to get discouraged, this is very much about the hunt. 

You don’t need much cash, if you start today with $100, spend $25 at the thrift store (don’t rush this, be picky!), and the rest at retail. You will need labels that will run you $12 or so, and a working printer, boxes and packing tape. You can start this for cheap. You’ll need to be very diligent with learning. Familiarize yourself with terms in Amazon like best sellers rank, or BSR, gated categories, categories requiring approval, turnaround, ROI, margins. Absorb what you can from blogs like this one and just read read read. Seriously, join the FB group and read every post here. Buy products with a good rank under 60,000 or so. Again you are going to take all of your profits and reinvest over and over. Hold a garage sale and get rid of stuff you don’t use and flip that into your business. 

I know I’m going off on a tangent here, so to answer your question- don’t go nuts. Learn the business by investing a very small amount. Risk only what you are willing to lose. Then flip the money over and over. When you get comfortable, invest more. You’ll need to be approved in certain categories to see faster flips, so like I said focus on learning this week and get your feet wet. 

I’ve tried to send an email, hope it came through. If not, best of luck! Feel free to ask more and more questions! Let’s make this happen. 


Moving too fast : Private Label Confessions

I moved too fast. I kept pushing through and started ordering samples for everything I was interested in. On the private label introduction, I mentioned I was going to go into pets for Product 2. And then…I decided not to. Why? Because. Yep, just ’cause. I decided I didn’t want to go into pets yet, so I’m going to just put that on the back burner. And that’s okay. The samples can sit under my desk while I mull it over.

Then, guys, I decided to jump into another category.

Seriously. What was I thinking? I ordered probably a 6 samples, picked what I liked and ordered 80 units. I’m probably insane. And what better than to tell the world how crazy I really am!

I’ve mentioned it already in passing that I jumped into another category and regretted it almost instantly. What can I say, when I go at something hard, I go for it all in. So I bought 80 units, listed them and have ZERO organic sales. Because the product is newer, its been slower to adapt. The competition is already thick and I know its going to be an uphill battle. I’ve done some promos for reviews and learned pretty quickly what not to do.

So, I’ve learned my lesson- stop seeing dollar signs everywhere I go. And how will I remedy this? By becoming the public guinea pig the world needs. I decided, in order to keep myself accountable – I will be starting yet ANOTHER product, and going against all philosophies in the world. Save the hate mail guys, I know I’m a bit crazy. Think of it as a public service. If I don’t do crazy things, how will we learn from my mistakes?!

With this in mind, next week I’m starting a brand new blog. A brand new podcast. A brand new everything. For 8 weeks, I plan on documenting the ins-and-outs of private label. Every dollar accounted for, every email discussed. (Minus, the actual item) I will not disclose names or companies in the email. Because come on, I’m still in it to make a successful new product. But otherwise, ask me anything, and you will know all the dirty details.

So, now that you know the scoop – visit my new site: Forty Hour Rebel and like the page on Facebook. I’ll still be posting on this blog, and the LF Facebook group will continue on course. But for those of us  obsessed over PL, you now have a new place to come together. Come join me on the dark side, there’s tea.

Private Label Introduction : Where I’m at Today

It’s no secret that the newest “trend” will likely be for entrepreneurs to enter the private label space to become successful. Gone are the days of needing to be a real “make it from scratch” type, now you can find a product and release it to the masses all while at your computer. Not to say that PL isn’t a tough business, doesn’t require market research, cost analysis and team of designers, etc – but PL has never been easier.

This post will go over where I’m starting at, my background and knowledge. If you’ve been a fan of the blog already, you may know I’m planning on implementing big change in 2015 going to private label as my main focus. Retail arbitrage has been a great gateway into this sector and I’m ready to take a stab at it.

My Background: 

I work full time in a completely unrelated field, working my busy season the first half of the year. The second half of the year, I focus mostly on Amazon, and my other venture (Etsy). I was an art major for all of two seconds in college, but have a passion for graphic design. I do not have any other experience, outside of this. My BS degree is in Psychology (just graduated in December) so I’d like to think for the most part this is a level playing field.

Up till now: 

Right now, if you are on the Facebook group, you may know I’m dabbling in private label. I decided to jump right in, without reading any courses, without any knowledge of ..anything.

Product 1 which will also be referenced as Product T (T for toy) was first tested on the market the last week of November. I sent in 10 of this product, 3 color variations. The product sold-out within 2 days. Uh oh. This went a lot faster than I expected. To go into further detail, the product came with branded extras and was poorly packaged in a polybag.

There have been no returns thus far, and I do not anticipate any. My first run was purchased at $6 landed, $6.80 after the extras and sold for $24. As soon as the first sale happened, mind you, it was pretty instant – I ordered 30 more. Big mistake. First of all, the supplier had a big hiccup with their freight company.

It did not arrive into my hands until December 12. I paid for expedited shipping mind you, so it should have been in my hand by Dec 5 if I’m not mistaken. Needless to say, the product reached the warehouse on December 16 and is still being checked in today at other warehouses. The product that has hit the shelf has sold out. Realizing I should have gone deeper…

I have since ordered new packaging, two new colors, and focused more on package design to make it a better customer experience. I bought the domain name of my product, and have a contact page up for now.

If you want more details on anything, let me know in the comments. I’m being pretty broad up for now. I can teach you anything form setting up a domain name to getting a logo made.

Back to the post…

I only bought 100 of the product on this next run because I don’t know anything more about this market. I found this market because of my nephews, and felt there was great potential. I kept the product run low again because I’m quite the chicken. $400 is a lot for me to sink into something I’m still unfamiliar with.

Which also is good news, I got the price dropped from $6/landed to $4/landed. This was due to the mistake with the freight on the 30 order. I will not get this price again if I stay with small runs. With the new packaging, I’ll be adding a 60 cents more until I decide to go all in.

I’m telling you these numbers to show you the real potential here. I’m a small fry in this big world. I don’t want to sink thousands of dollars into this yet. I know there is potential, but I have to know where my next paycheck is coming from (so to speak).

Product 2

I’m really starting to feel that this is the right avenue for me. I have decided to go into the pet niche for my second test. I’m going to keep it pretty vague other than that. The product I have ordered for my test run is 10 of 2 colors.

So 20 total. They are $6 for each because its a sample only. Update: (I just finalized the 20 order and they dropped it down to $4/pc, totaling $81.)When I order again, I will be ordering 100 of each and have the price down to $2.70.

I will be adding my logo which will be an additional cost, along with packaging. I have not decided on packaging. I could go a simple route of no-nonsense cardboard, or make it a true customer experience (think box, inlays, etc). Again, undecided. For now I’m looking at quality of the product, testing it to ensure I like it – and then I’ll make that bigger order.

I have already purchased the domain name of a broad brand name. I plan on using this domain for all pet related products I launch. It will be sort of a “petsmart” website housing all of my pet products. I have not named the product yet that I plan on selling.

It is something I needed personally and noticed the market was pretty non-existent. The 4 products I found all are in the $20-30 range which shows the great potential. It allows leeway for me to offer add-on products, different colors, different uses, and really market the brand.

I plan on having the Bark Box approach with this website and do something similar where they have the Bark Cam, Bark Post, Bark this…and Bark that. My name is nothing as clever so far but you get the idea that I will want them all to be cohesive so that customers know my product is related to the big umbrella.

The Plans

Product 1

I have some of my packaging arriving for product 1 this weekend. I will not be shipping it out until after the holidays as my schedule is pretty packed. I will be reaching out to consumers via Instagram to start doing a few giveaways to get more brand recognition. I do not have a timeline yet for this but will be writing that up. So here’s the focus:

  • Package product
  • Ship product
  • Create VA list of tasks (website clean up, research contests for similar products, blogs etc)
  • Write timeline for more consumer interaction (VA will handle this, with my supervision)

Product 2

I anticipate arrival of the product after the holidays. This leaves me to focus on a different strategy. Here’s the list:

  • Logo creation
  • Website needs landing page to collect emails
  • VA will develop blog posts on similar topics
  • VA will set up Twitter, Instagram and Facebook
  • VA will find 5-10 blogs I can market to (whether I choose advertising, giveaways etc)
  • Determine 3 ways I will market ( Amazon ads, Facebook ads, PPC, Instagram, Pinterest)
  • Determine how to build feedback for product quickly
  • Packaging research, narrow down how I want to package.
  • Product arrives
  • Packaging tests with physical product
  • Product pictures
  • List product

Now you’re probably saying, “Valerie, you’re going about this backwards. You are supposed to do this before you order.” And I say to you… “I expect my sample will take two to three weeks to arrive. I have purchased my competitor’s product for now to see what I like and dislike and to use for quality comparison. It will arrive on Monday.

I am taking a new approach with this product as I want to make sure I try very hard to build a brand with this product long term. I am going to use my VA more for this one as there are a lot of tasks he can do for me. I still want a hands on approach with the development, so I will stay on top of this part.”

Wrap Up

I am literally hoping to have my product in Amazon’s warehouse by end of January. If not, it will be in stock by mid-February. I literally just wrote up my game plan as I wrote this post as I didn’t have one set in stone until now. I’m happy to talk to anyone willing to listen about their PL ventures, or if they want to take the ride along with me!

Just getting started? Tell me all about your PL adventures. Don’t know where to start? Let’s talk. Have a great idea but want someone to help with certain steps? I’m here!

Why I’m Changing My FBA Strategy

This was my first FULL year of selling. I started selling FBA in March of 2013, you can see my original post of How We Made $1800 in Our First Month with FBA.

In 2013, I could say I spent nearly every Saturday sourcing, sending in products and working my fingers to the bone. In 2014, I decided to take the part-time approach. Work 10-15 hours a month and just call it good. I liked this approach, it netted me just under $2k a month if I divided my net profit evenly over 12 months. For some of us, who wouldn’t take $2k extra for 10-15 hours of work?

I’m going to be honest, I’m ready to try more. Most of 2014 I spent training a VA, doing online and retail arbitrage. I decided the only way to scale up using this model was to spend full-time hours doing it, or hire others to do the work for me. Both options are not something I’m highly interested in. Personally, I’m not a fan of shopping. (Crazy I know.) Unless its turning me a profit, I prefer not to enter a store at all. I am doing all of my Christmas shopping on Amazon (yep, you heard correctly).

If I could buy fresh groceries on Amazon, in my area, I would do that too. So going full time retail would drive me crazy. I’m only not interested in hiring others because I don’t want to manage a team while I am working full time at another job. You might ask me, “Valerie, why not quit and go for it?” Because I feel that scaling the business via retail arbitrage will not be the way to go in 2015.

Competition is thick and we are all sourcing the same stores.
In 2015, I plan on continuing to retail arbitrage 10-15 hours a month until my plans come to fruition. My focus on change will be entering the Private Label space. I have no desire to continue to fight for the buy box for retail finds. I am ready to own my retail cyber space and have outstanding months with almost passive income.

Why am I calling it passive income? Because as with all great passive income strategies, once you put in the hard work – research, marketing, product development, sourcing etc.. this product is yours. It’s set. It’s ready for launch. It’s closer to the “set it and forget it” strategy. Once you nail down the aforementioned items, you just reorder and replenish. You are in charge of your own destiny. My goal will be to work from anywhere, hire a company to send my products to Amazon and it’s almost “hands off”.

I’m all for the concept of owning my space, becoming a wholesaler for other arbitrage buyers and just collect the checks. Why not? Don’t even get me started on my own excitement that Amazon could buy out my position selling my own product and I just sit and fill their order.
I’m ready to hit it big in 2015. These $60k years have been great practice. Now I’m ready to go hard. Will you be joining me?

Case Study: Rank Changes Update 2

Its been two weeks since we updated you guys on where things are going. If you’ve missed the point of all of this you can view the original post here.

We have kept an eye on things as they progressed and happy to see that we are sold out of most products here. The items that are leaving me perplexed are the baby item towards the bottom of the list 67197 ranking. I’m going to go check pricing, otherwise I can’t figure out what I’m missing.

The kitchen item at 28831 rank had Amazon come in on the item, we went very deep on the item and haven’t moved any of them. I’ll be pricing low on that item so I can get my money back and move on. The other items, perhaps were sold, and Norris (my VA) just missed them. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen them on the order list so the ranking update will be inaccurate for this.

At this point, you can see that rank if under a certain point, move pretty quickly. After all they are in the top 10% of their respective categories, if not better. People are constantly asking “how many will I sell” or “is 123 a good rank?”.

The answer for the most part is algorithms can try and predict but are never 100%. The product I mentioned earlier, no one could have told me that Amazon was going to move in on the item. We can all say a certain rank is great, but this too will come with experience.

Have any questions for me? Comment below. Otherwise, I’ll update again on rank changes when the NA rank items sell.

Rank Changes Week 2

Case Study: Rank Changes Update 1

Well, here are week 1 update on our case study about rank changes and sales. If you missed what this is all about you can find the first blog post here. The box we are tracking arrived on Monday and instantly saw sales. The coincidental thing is that as soon as a box arrives, it seems we move other inventory.

You can see the first update below, and remember, we are only tracking the first time the item sells.
Rank Changes Week 1

Considering that we buy multiples of each item, (we test at 3-5 deep based on price and rank), I expect to flip the rest of the items that have already sold by end of the week. This means, I’m going to go out and buy whatever the store has in stock. The items selling are commonly toys, so the shelves should be pretty slim to begin with.

What am I basing all of this on you ask? Experience. Knowing what my budget can handle, and how much I’m willing to gamble on an item. If I am buying 3 of an item to test it, and its probably going to sell within the week, I need to stock up for at least two weeks on the next inventory. If it proves to do well, I’ll again double my inventory count to ensure I can have adequate stock while I test other items. Its an interesting game trying to learn what to keep in stock. Its fascinating really. And during the holidays, its all about staying organized and remembering what you need to replenish.

How do you keep track of replenishables? Where is your comfort zone with testing an item?

Case Study: Rank Changes

I’m starting an impromptu case study to see how much a rank will change when an item sales, and in fact how quickly my item will sell based on rank.

I’ve included the category, rank the date it was shipped and it will be updated weekly to include when it was received, the rank as it changed and date it sold. I’m only studying items that I have never sold before and the items going to my closest warehouse. I only studying items available to everyone (no one-offs, and available at your typical big box stores). Excluding one NA rank item for a bundle I created myself. Due to the fact these are not one offs and still items in circulation today, I am not including ASINs. Sorry! Can’t have it all my friends. :)

So, stay tuned and check on this post as the weeks go by. I’ll only update the first time it sells.

Photo 1: Beginning of Case Study 1

Rank Changes

Do you keep track of ranks? How do you know how much to stock? What rank is the maximum you will source to?

Appeagle Repricer Review

You know, for a year, I avoided repricers. I told myself I can do it all on my own. I said things like “I don’t need to waste my money,” “Spending $5, $25, or $50 to reprice my products is not worth it.” Guys, I take it all back. Learning FBA was created so you could learn from our mistakes. Avoid the pitfalls, scams, bad ideas, and poor sourcing ideas. Let us be the guinea pigs while you profit from our mistakes. So what did I learn from Appeagle and repricing software then? I.was.wrong.

1. A repricer is a necessary evil.

I’m the first one to tell you, don’t buy products you do not need. Don’t subscribe to services that are fluff, and don’t pay for things you can do yourselves. Repricing is not one of them. You might think you can reprice your 100 items each day, but you truly can’t. You need to consider the concept that your competition, well they subscribe to a repricer. And every product you sell, well, they are going to beat you at the Buy Box game. You can’t be everywhere at once. Let the software work for you. You have better things to do.

2. Software is both meticulous but worth it.

Appeagle has some fun settings on their repricing software. You can set a minimum, maximum, or just your magic number. Okay, I’m calling it a magic number, but its just a fixed price that won’t fluctuate. How does this minimum, maximum thing work? If Widget A is currently selling for $29. You know after fees that you must make $8 to break even, you can set your minimum for the bare minimum you want to accept, and yes, the maximum to keep a reality check on products.

Don’t worry, the repricer won’t automatically drop you down to $8. It will only go 1 penny below your closest competition. Bad news? If Widget A’s competition has a repricer with a minimum price too- you might go back and forth until you both reach the minimum prices.

Why a maximum you ask? Well, some people like to throw numbers from nowhere into the sales price field. Like one bottle of shampoo could be priced $999. Well, if you’re the only other competition, and the bottle should sell for $19, guess what will happen? Yes you will be $998.99. I don’t configure the maximum price for all of my products, but for ones I’m only competing with one or two others for, I’ll add a maximum for good measure.

Isn’t setting these prices up a paint? Yes, having to set a minimum price on every product is kinda of a pain in the butt. But,However, complete it once, and never again! Well, unless you change services. I had quite an a large number of active SKUs so this took me several sit downs. I would just knock out a page or two each day for a week and I was done.

3. Repricing software updates while you sleep. And well, if you don’t have a repricer… you can’t. Because you are sleeping.

I think that would be the best tagline ever. “Repricers work while you sleep. You can’t, because you are sleeping.” Okay, it needs some work. However, repricing software love to work. Well, they would if they had feelings. What I love is my repricing software works for me every hour like clockwork. I imagine as the holidays come upon us, this will become handier. I can’t wait to see this go full speed soon.

4. The verdict is, I like Appeagle.

Does that mean I don’t like other software? No. I couldn’t tell you if I hate or love other repricers. I’ve never used any other service. But, for now, paying $25 a month is worth it to me. If the price went up, yea, I’d probably shop around. But $25 is a fair price to me for the service it provides. Guys, I told you, it works while I’m sleeping. :)If that’s not enough, I averaged about 12 hours of work in the last two months. Do you really think I want to spend my free time repricing? No chance.

5. One last point: Appeagle was easy.

The design is clean. Set up is simple. It took me no more than 3 minutes to sign up, and start repricing. I can’t do anything in 3 minutes. I enjoyed the fact credit card info wasn’t taken during my trial. That actually was a big selling point. I hate sneaky billing methods. I knew instantly how to change prices, manually price set, and could scroll and sort quickly.

All-in-all, my thought is get a repricer. Don’t wait. Don’t believe me? Review step one.

How to Process Distributor Damaged Items

If you’re a Learning FBA reader, you know that I’m working on Learning to Source materials along with how to outsource your FBA tasks to a virtual assistant. As I am actively working on getting my processes outsourced we are making step-by-step instructions to make it easier for you.

Most recently, my VA took a few hours from his schedule to complete tickets for my distributor damaged items so Amazon would reimburse me. His hard work has already paid off tenfold. In the time it took him to create tickets, and the tutorial linked below, I was reimbursed a whopping $135.

If you need to learn how to complete a distributor damaged ticket, download the PDF here.

Want to learn more about how to outsource your FBA tasks? Join our mailing list on the Learn to Source website here.