Thursday, December 21, 2017

From Rags to... Well, Not Rags

I wanted to share the story of my business, how it developed, and how it brought me and Robbie from financial ruin to - well, not to jinx anything, but, on a major, major upswing.

As most of you are now aware, I am working on a new Holistic Fertility Program that is exclusively long-distance. That is still an ongoing endeavor, with new and exciting additions nearly every month, and BIG plans for 2018.

But this is not that story. Rather, this precedes that story, and helped to fund that story with its success.

Starting From Zero

This is the story of the past year and a half. The story of starting a business from literally nothing, incorporating before knowing what the income source would be for the Corporation, and learning a brand new trade that was all at once intimidating and exhilarating: selling products via wholesale on Amazon, fulfilled by Amazon (FBA).

If you're like me, that probably sounds a bit weird and questionable to you. "But, I thought stuff for Prime delivery was all sold by Amazon, itself?" or "Aren't 3rd Party Sellers on Amazon the ones who ship the product themselves from their own warehouses?" These were the questions I had when someone first mentioned to me that I may look into this as a possible revenue source. I was confused beyond belief. But, I decided to learn more.

Losing it All

My entire adult life, I had worked/earned income and been the sole provider, up until Robbie was born April 2015. Once I had the baby, I was able to collect maternity disability and unemployment, and then the income ran out. We lost our house to foreclosure in August 2015, and just beforehand, claimed Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I moved our little family to my hometown that same month, and was able to pay our rent on that until unemployment ran out.

I wasn't sure what would happen, but sensed I was going to have to start looking for steady work, soon, despite the desire to stay at home with Robbie. In November of 2015, we applied for gov. assistance, and were approved for food stamps right away, WIC (assistance for Women-Infants-Children) as well. Temporary Assistance (welfare) followed shortly thereafter, and we suddenly had a little bit of income per month again, after the rent was paid. I convinced Robbie's father to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), while I continued to look for work, and he was approved for that a few months later, which put a stop to the temporary assistance. (We were able to keep the food stamps.) This was now March 2016.

I was antsy, soooooo antsy. With a not-even year old nursling, I felt like I had to do everything in my power to earn an income without succumbing to the fact that I would simply need to go and work anywhere, outside of the home, and away from Robbie 5 days+ per week. I wasn't ready to accept that, and knew there had to be a better way. 

So, I incorporated. I started reading a ton on businesses, and tax shields, and building something from the ground up, setting a strong foundation. I stumbled upon Selling on Amazon, but was not a big fan of going out and shopping clearance shelves at multiple stores per day to do what is referred to as "Retail Arbitrage." To me, the whole point was to be at home, to be a mother to my son, while building a business to support us all. I also wanted to build a business I could be proud of, selling products I believed in, and making it something (sooner than I realized possible) that stretched beyond simply eCommerce.

Furthermore, the best aspect of 'selling' on Amazon was that I could do so by representing brands and products that were already in demand, with a significant monthly turn rate. I could help provide a high quality partnership to the brands and high quality customer service through Amazon, without ever needing to SPAM my friends and family. I would never need to ask a single person to please buy something I sell, a) because it was already being bought at a predictable rate by total strangers all across the country, and b) because I would make only $2-3 profit off a single sale of a family member or friend.  I was not at all interested in running a "please buy from me, a struggling, newly single mom of an infant" type of business where I capitalized off of my own victimization. Nuh uh. But Amazon? That wasn't at all how it worked. And, I was sold.

Shortly after opening my new Amazon Seller Account, I found a couple of guys who would, frankly, change my life in a profound way. Dan and Eric popped up on a webinar hosted by an Amazon Selling group I had joined, and they spoke about their model of selling via wholesale accounts directly with brand owners. I was immediately intrigued! THIS sounded like exactly the kind of thing I was interested in doing. Helping brands improve their sales while also helping my returns. That's my business style - partnership. I started working with them immediately, and almost as immediately, began to see the growth potential. 

Starting from $0 was, of course, more than a little difficult. And, with obliterated credit from the bankruptcy, I had to use "credit cards" that were actually debit cards only, and every purchase of goods needed to be covered by what was actually IN my account at any given time. So, it was slow building, but with Dan and Eric's help, I was watching as the number in the account grew each passing week.

A Complicated Back-Story

So as not to leave out an important piece of this story, while also hoping not to focus too much on it (as it is part of a bigger, more complicated story - for the book!), I do need to say that while this was happening, May-August of 2016, Robbie's father continued to collect SSDI, but wanted nothing to do with the business, requested that I start paying the rent on my own since he wasn't "seeing a dime" of the business money, and things were also coming to a head in our final marriage therapist's sessions.
When he left in August of 2016, with him went the SSDI, and the business was ALREADY ABLE to pay the rent and bills from profit (thank God). In 3 months, I had passed the $10,000/month in sales on Amazon.

Seeing the Potential to Expand

All of my product was sent to prep centers to be packaged, stickered, and sent into Amazon warehouses, and so the bulk of my work consisted in beginning these Partnerships with vendors, showing the value that I could add, and then following through on that promise. The divorce ended up taking a full year, Sept 2016 - Sept 2017, and so that 12-month period also slowed things down a bit as I went through a lot of soul searching, spiritual direction, and personal discovery. While the Amazon business reached a "still-paying-the-major-bills but no room for extras" plateau, the Holistic Fertility Program was born from the depths of my pain and hopelessness. As my brain worked overtime, I had to wait until I could actually start putting any money into the development of the service component of my business, but once the divorce was final, things began to pick up again. I came off food stamps (yay!), now had a new line of credit, had built up my credit score at an almost scarily fast pace, and even had cash in my wallet! At that point, I pretty much sat back and allowed the Holy Spirit to take the lead. 

(PS, check out my new logo, yo.)

I loves it :) But I digress.

Continuing to Grow

I was amazed, and incredibly touched when Dan and Eric approached me to assist with coaching other Amazon Sellers in the wholesale model. I, who less than a year prior to starting with wholesale, had claimed bankruptcy and lost a home. I was now helping others to get their businesses moving in a positive direction. Seriously mind-blowing stuff. All but for the grace of God.

It struck me at multiple times during this past year and a half that I had completed a very intense, "never known to fail" Central American in origin Novena for Financial Prosperity, that a friend had passed along to me, just before Robbie was born. At the time, I had to laugh, as with most major prayers in my life, God shows me the darkness first, before He pulls me up into the light of His graces. And this, this was no different. Things started to go even deeper into despair almost immediately following the Novena. Robbie was truly the only bright and shining blessing remaining, which of course was enough to fuel the remainder of my fight to survive. But I lost everything - everything else. Before beginning to rebuild. 

This is an ongoing story of hope. But not one that started out that way. Like my jaunt through infertility, I never would have scripted things quite this way had I written the tale. And, I certainly didn't always see the light at the end of the tunnel. It was felt, all the same. And I *hope* no matter what you may be going through in your own life, no matter the struggle, no matter the pain, no matter the sense of loss of worth or meaning or spirit - I hope you can allow yourself to feel it, too. 

It is there. Just waiting to show you what it can do.


Kat said...

There is a meme that goes something like "God only gives us what He thinks we can handle. Apparently God thinks I am a bad a**." I think this totally describes the strength of character that He has built up in you through all of these difficulties. Keep going! God wants to do so much through you! I LOVE the logo!

Aida Howell said...

Amy, you are a prayer warrior! A conqueror in Christ! and I am so humbled by your faith and character!! God has done a tremendous work in you because you believed and were open to receive His blessings! Your hard work, faith, and convictions have brought your victories... Loving your son has been the fuel to keep you going. Seeing you go through all these stages has built me and strengthen my faith that we can do All Things in Christ who strengthen us!!!! Your powerful Logo is your testimony!!! I am so proud of you! You are an inspiration to any woman or men who needs to start from zero!!! Keep on soaring... Heaven is awaiting!!!! I can hardly wait to read the rest of your story!!!

Catholic Mutt said...

Fantastic to see how things can come together when the answers are not obvious! I'm glad that things are going well with more opportunities coming.

Donna said...

Your resilience, perseverance and strength continue to amaze me! You have been a good example to many of to keep going even when we don't feel like it.

The Amazon business intrigues me. I'd love to chat about it with you someday.

DM + AM said...

While we talk with you, it seems like we still don't even know the half of all you do! You are awesome, a fighter and someone we are so proud of! We are so glad to call you family!