E253: Getting a Business Back on Track after Running Out of StockMay in Ecom-Crew-Podcast
Many successful ecommerce businesses are born out of necessity. And some of the most successful ecommerce entrepreneurs are selling products that they’re truly passionate about.
A Business Born of Necessity
Eight years ago, Jason Hsieh’s son Keanu was diagnosed with autism. Living in Japan at the time, Jason struggled to find support services and products for him. So the family moved to Seattle. In 2017, Jason himself would start developing products that would help children diagnosed with autism and ADHD. Today, his company LakiKid sells three physical product lines – each addressing different areas where kids with autism and ADHD can benefit from the most.
The Struggle to Get Back on Track
Sales have been going fairly well for LakiKid until the end of 2018. A supply chain issue caused two of its best-selling SKUs to run out of stock right before Christmas. From averaging close to $50,000 in monthly sales, the business has been struggling to get back on track.
At present, LakiKid is over 90 percent Amazon but Jason has been exploring marketing avenues off of the platform to gain back the momentum that was lost. These efforts include a Shopify store, a blog, and hosting a weekly live talk show on Facebook.
Listen as I navigate this niche business with this passionate dad and entrepreneur and offer insights on how LakiKid can get the groove back, get more exposure and have those sales figures pick up.
Under the Hood is a segment where we do an hour-long coaching call with one of our listeners. We take a look at their businesses, provide honest feedback, offer our best business advice, and answer whatever questions they have. In exchange for the free coaching, we will turn the call into a podcast episode so that our community can benefit as well. It’s a win-win!
If you’re interested in getting onsite advice from Mike and have your business featured on the podcast, sign up for the EcomCrew Roadshow today!
Finally, if you enjoyed listening and think this episode has been useful to you, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. Happy selling!
Full Audio Transcript
Intro: This is Mike and welcome to Episode Number 253 of the EcomCrew Podcast. So glad to have you guys along with us today. And today is an episode that has been a long time coming, something that Dave and I have been working on for the better part of the year, and we finally get to announce it on today’s podcast. We have a whole other topic for the podcast today but this announcement is something that we’ve been waiting for, for a very long time. Dave and I have written a book like a real book, a paperback book, one of those ones that you would actually get in a bookstore back in the day.
And we’re going to ship it to you for free, just pay the shipping and handling. So it’s an EcomCrew free plus shipping offer, the same principles that we’ve used to build multiple seven figure e-commerce businesses. This also works in the informational space. And just like in the e-commerce space where we give away content and hope that people use that content and enjoy it and eventually become a customer, it’s the same thing here. It’s the same reason that we do the podcast, that we do all the stuff on the blog, that we have lead magnets and now this free plus shipping offer.
The hope is that over time, you develop a relationship with us, you enjoy the content we’re putting out, you develop trust with us and have a rapport with us, even though we’ve never really met, or at least most of you out that we haven’t met, and eventually sign up for EcomCrew Premium. And we have that one subscription that’s always there that we open every few months. And that’s kind of the whole idea behind this. And even if you don’t, that’s fine too. I mean, the book is packed with tons of information, step by step how we validate products so we have a much higher chance of success when we launch products.
We’ve been running I would say about an 85 to 90% success rate launching products on Amazon, and we validate those in a very specific way. And then when we launch, we have a list to promote that stuff to add all that’s in this book step by step how we launch new number one best-selling products the white hat way. And you can find it at EcomCrew.com/book, again, EcomCrew.com/book, go check that out. Again I hope you guys enjoy it. I think it’s probably worth hundreds of dollars. It’s the same material that’s in one of our courses and it’s all laid out in this book step by step. And you can find it again one last time, EcomCrew.com/book.
All right, let’s get into the meat and potatoes of today’s episode, which is an amazing episode with Jason from LakiKid. And I always say I think the best businesses are born out of a problem or a challenge that someone is facing and there isn’t something on the market to help solve that or you think you can do better than what’s already out there. And that’s what Jason has done, because of the relationship that he has with his kid that has autism. And anyone that has a kid that has autism or has a family member or a friend with these challenges, you’re probably going to relate with this episode better than the average person.
And I love what Jason is doing. Not only is he providing solutions for him and his family, but tons of other people out there that are facing the same issues and helping educate them. So we get into that in today’s episode and also give as much advice as I can on how to help this business. I think you guys are going to enjoy this. If you want to get to the shownotes, leave a comment for Jason, he’ll be looking at the comments of this, EcomCrew.com/253 which is today’s episode number. I love to hear from you guys as well. I think that this is an important topic that doesn’t get talked about enough. So please go and leave a comment. All right, let’s get into the episode with Jason.
Mike: Hey Jason, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast.
Jason: Hi, thank you so much for having me on this podcast. I’ve been looking forward for our conversation for the past few weeks.
Mike: Definitely man, I’m definitely looking forward to it myself. I have really grown to love doing these. These Under the Hood segments have become my favorite to do. So I’m glad to have you on today. We’ve had a lot of interest in these. For people who are new to the podcast, this is a segment where podcast listeners submit their business to be interviewed at EcomCrew.com/underthehood. And the whole idea is to basically get a free hour of my time to talk about your business, and then get some advice on your business. And the idea is also to make great content for the community.
So we try to get businesses on here that will make good content that are willing to do full disclosure like we do with our brands and Jason has agreed to do that, so we’re excited to do that today. And Jason, you know that the first question I’m going to ask which I always ask on these segments is how did you get into e-commerce?
Jason: Yes, this is actually a very interesting story. So it all started with my personal journey. So in 2013, we learned our son, he’s eight right now. His name is Keanu was diagnosed with autism, ADHD while we were living in Japan. So based on the situation in Japan, we couldn’t get a lot of the help and support that we really wanted. So we decided to move to Seattle to find additional help and therapy. And as we struggled to find affordable and quality product to help our son with various issues like anxieties, he had these sleep issues and sensory issues, we decided to create our own brand instead in 2017.
So this is still a fairly new e-commerce brand and we’re focusing on creating product, providing support and providing advice for the special needs communities for the families affected by autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorders.
Mike: Interesting. I mean, that’s a cool story. I mean, I’m sorry to hear that your son has these struggles. But I find that the most successful e-commerce businesses are born out of a need. And you certainly have that here. And it’s something in these types of situations where it’s hard to fake it. Until you are a parent of a child that has one of these types of issues, it’s hard to be as passionate about it as someone else that just hasn’t been there before. So I’m really interested to hear about how things have progressed since 2017. So I guess the first thing I’m just curious about is what are the physical products because I’m having a hard time getting my head around what physical products would help with this stuff?
Jason: Yes. Definitely! This is one of the most commonly asked question after I introduce my business to the people I was talking to. So we have three main product line right now. We have one of the main product line is called flexible seatings. So the whole idea of flexible seating is to encourage kids to have additional movements throughout their day. So it’s kind of like an alternative seatings which is different kind of furniture that kids can sit down either using a balanced ball or using a wiggle seat or we also have item called fidget band that can use on the chair that really help kids with hyper activities or ADHD to alleviate a lot of the symptoms of steaming or fidgeting feet and for them to still concentrate in class.
And we also have another separate product line is all different kinds of weighted product. So the idea about the weighted products is to provide a deep touch pressure to help kids with sensory issues to feel grounded and also feel calm and relaxed at the meantime. And our last product line is we only have one product right now for the third product line, its a fine motor product that kids can use the product to help with their fine motor skills. That’s also another skill that’s really needed in the special needs especially with kids on the spectrum.
Mike: Very cool. Yeah, I mean, I can tell you that I could have used the flexible seating stuff when I was younger. I also have ADHD. I’m born at a time where that just wasn’t even discussed. I’m like early 40s and back in the 80s, it just wasn’t even a thing. It was just like stop moving around, stop getting in trouble and just sit there and be quiet and sit still. And even as an adult, I have a very hard time just sitting still and so I could see like having a fidget spinner — I make my own fidget spinners, I’ll be playing with a piece of paper or a pen or something that usually sometimes irritates the people that I’m around. I don’t even realize I’m doing it and I think that’s something I can personally relate to. I think that that would be really cool.
And I know enough about — I’ve had some friends that have had some highly autistic kids and the whole weighted thing makes sense for me as well because having something that comforts somebody and things of that nature makes a lot of sense. I think that’s also cool. But tell me about the fine motor product a little bit more. How does how does that work specifically?
Jason: So for the fine motor product right now with our brand, our brand names called LakiKid, is spelled L-A-K-I-K-I-D. We only have a single product right now. We’re still looking for additional products. Right now we have only one product, it’s called fidget marble maze. So it’s pretty much a piece of fabric that kids can use and that’s a marble embedded inside that. Kids can push it through and just kind of, have a different way to work on the finger skills and fine motor skills.
Mike: Got you. Okay, so you only have one product in the fine motor skills. I mean you have more than one product overall, right?
Jason: Yes. We have seven products over all. So for the flexible seating, we have three products, for the weighted product line, we also have three products. So we have total of seven products and we are also pushing out a whole line of like print on demand product line. We are creating more design as autism awareness, either t-shirts or coffee mugs or hoodies; those are the new product we’re trying to push out in the upcoming months as well.
You mentioned about your personal experience. It’s a funny personal story I just want to share with you first.
Jason: Ever since I started the company, I have been looking into so many different symptoms regarding about ADHD and autism. And the more I look into it, and the more research I’ve done, I pretty much check nine out of the 10 boxes for ADD. I’m not really hyperactive but I do have attention deficit symptoms and the more research I do, the more I realize I actually have ADD myself but like you were saying, when I was growing up, I was born and raised in Taiwan, this was a taboo to talk about. My parents never talked about ADD or this kind of mental disorders. People want to kind of hide it in the Asian culture, which is very common and obviously also true in Japan. So I totally understand the struggle that you also went through when you mentioned that.
Mike: Yeah, that is definitely interesting. And I think that even when I was younger, even the US culture, it still was a little taboo just to admit. And even I think still today, to admit that you have a problem in anything, people will look down at you if you admit you have a problem. And I look at the podcasting community, most of this stuff is always say like sunshine and roses, because in general people look down about things that are problems and always want to talk about the good stuff. And the reality is that life isn’t always good and things aren’t perfect. And so I mean, this certainly falls in that category.
Since we’re trading stories, I have another funny story myself actually. Back when I was dating, which seems like a long time ago now since I’ve been married for such a long time, but I dated this girl that was an occupational therapist and her full time job was treating kids like these. She worked at a school and we were like on our third date, and she asked me what kind of medication I was on for ADD or if I ever taken anything. It was just to her it was like so obvious that I had this issue, but to my parents, I just had a lot of energy.
But the thing is, I think, I talked to her about it and so I’ve never taken anything. I’ve always been just in general I don’t like taking drugs or any type of thing like that. I’ve always been adverse to that. And the other thing that was like walking through with her is it’s one of the things that I struggle with still to this day as an adult. It’s been really frustrating, but it’s also probably something that has led to my success. And it’s hard to curb that because the fact that I can’t sit still and I’m always thinking about things and I’m dreaming about things, I’m the dreamer, the visionary kind of guy. A lot of those are also these types of symptoms. And without that, I probably never would have gotten to where I am. So I’m thankful in a lot of ways.
Jason: Yeah, I have to agree with you because I was reading a lot of study about how people with ADHD tend to start their own business because they just couldn’t sit still in the cubicles.
Jason: [Overlapping 00:13:25]
Mike: That’s definitely it. So I mean, there are definitely days though where especially when I’m around my coworkers where they’re able to sit down and go through a spreadsheet or do some data entry, things that might not be a lot of fun and they can just get through it 1, 2, 3 no problem. And I’m like over there just — I get through like the second or third row and my mind is already wandering and it’s like, really difficult to sit down and focus on those things. So it definitely has its bad sides to it as well.
Jason: Yeah, definitely.
Mike: Cool. Well, I mean, I love the idea. I love the brand. I think this is amazing. Let’s talk about you since you started in 2017, what have your sales been for 2017, 2018 and now that we’re in the 2019?
Jason: So as far as sales goes, we did about a little bit over 200,000 in 2018. And at the end of 2018, we run into a supply chain issue. We actually run out of stock right before Christmas.
Mike: Oh, no.
Jason: So that was a huge blow to the business. And we actually have a problem recovering ever since. At our best time before we run out of stock, we were doing close to 50,000 a month. But since we lost — we run out of stock on two of our best-selling SKUs and we kind of lost a lot of tractions. So right now we are still kind of in the recovering phase and with everything that Amazon has been changing with the way of getting reviews getting harder, we are having a little bit of trouble as far as gaining back the momentum that we’re doing. But we are also doing a lot of things outside of Amazon that’s really helping us and we doing it mostly through I would say three different pillars.
So first of all we do a weekly live talk shows is also — it’s called As An Autism Mom. So on the live talk show, we interview different therapists, including occupational therapists that you just mentioned. We also interview parents, we also interview teachers, and we also interview other successful businesses that’s making an impact in the special need communities. And every single week we cover a different topic. And it’s kind of our main content strategy as far as creating video content because it’s live on Facebook.
And then we also repurpose it — the live show, into multiple different formats, onto all the different social media and we also download the audios and upload to all the different podcast channels including iTunes, Stitcher and Google Play. And we also write a dedicated blog posts that go alongside with the talk show every single week, as part of our SEO efforts and try to drive all the social media traffic back to our Shopify store where our home base is, so to speak.
Mike: Very cool. Yeah, man, I love the content strategy. I think that that’s awesome. So what is the split then between Amazon and not on Amazon in terms of percentages?
Jason: Right now is still 90, over 90% Amazon because we kind of started the show — we have been doing the show for almost a year, but it wasn’t — we haven’t been doing this blog post until fairly recently in the past few months. And I kind of regret that we should have started a blog post a lot sooner because we are definitely seeing more traction on our Shopify end ever since I was starting to do more interviews and starting to do more blog posts. And because initially it was like a solo show. So I have one of the team members, her name is Jen, and she runs the show pretty much, in the beginning for the first 10 months, which is like her solo show.
She was just sharing about her social, I mean personal experience, with her kid who’s also on the spectrum, but we didn’t get a lot of traction with that. Now in 2019, we decided to switch the format and focusing on an interview, talk show format. And slowly, we’re getting a little bit more traction, but it’s really a long term play as far as content marketing goes. So I think it’s going to take a couple more months before we see a true increase in our Shopify revenues and more revenue generated from that end. But other than that, we also are doing another thing that’s really helping as far as our engagement is. We also run a free online parents support group.
Currently we have about 1,200 members that are mostly parents, actually 90% of the member, in there, is moms because moms are usually more active in their kid’s life compared to dads unfortunately. And that’s another community that we have been trying really hard to actively engage with on a daily basis. And Jen, the person who’s running our talk show, she’s also in there personally on a daily basis, answering people’s questions, providing support, and also in and out of the group, trying to reply to people’s questions or post resources. And we also publish our talk show into the group as a way to share additional resources and advice as well.
Mike: Got you, yeah very cool. Okay, awesome. I mean a great overview. I think that it gives me the basic stuff I need to kind of understand your business and where you’re coming from to try and switch gears and get into the helping you phase. I might have some additional questions as we go through that.
Jason: Yeah, and there’s one more thing I want to mention: I think this going to go into the other thing I want to ask you about. I’m also running a Kickstarter this year; we are about 90% complete. We are still finalizing the details right now. We should be able to launch in the beginning of May, which is in the next two weeks. The Kickstarter product is a new product that we kind of redesigned. The product is writeable weighted lap pad. So weighted lap pad is like a weighted blanket but is portable is small, but we had the entire idea to make it writeable.
So the kids can write on the lap pad itself that’s weighted, but you can write it using a water pen. So once the color dried out, it returns the original colors so it’s reusable. So you have a therapeutic benefit because it’s weighted, but it’s also entertaining at the same time because kids can write on it and play around with it. And as part of that entire project, we actually partner with a bigger nonprofit organization in the United States called Kulture City. So Kulture City is a nonprofit organization. They provide various of different program to help the families on the spectrums.
And one of the biggest program that we’re actively in collaboration with them is called sensory inclusive program. And currently they have 220 different locations that have this program. And that’s including NBA stadiums, baseball stadiums and football stadiums and aquariums and zoo across the United State and they also recently got into an airport I believe. So the main idea of the program is first they’ll go into the location and teach the staff about all the different sensory issues the kids on the spectrums will have. Then they will provide the location with a dedicated sensory tool they call sensory bags. And inside the sensory bag they will provide tools like noise cancelling headphones, different type of steaming tools, and also weighted lap pads.
So our weighted lap pad is going to be included in their sensory inclusive program in their 200 location once everything is rolled out and ready to go. And then they also will go into the location and build a location essentially room. So if the kids still feel overwhelmed and sensory overloaded after using all these products and different items, the kids can still go to a quiet room to self-regulate and calm themselves down if everything else doesn’t work. So they have this, this is just one of the many program they are doing for the special need communities. And I’m just honored that we have the chance to partner up with them, and really take their program to the next level as well.
Mike: Yeah, very cool. Excellent. Yeah, it sounds like you have a lot of really great things going on here and excited to see what we can do to help move the needle forward for you.
Jason: Yes, definitely.
Mike: I mean, if you had to boil things down to a couple of things that you’re struggling with, let’s talk about those things and what we can help with.
Jason: So one of our biggest struggles right now is I was reviewing our 2018 financial report, historically we have been targeting mostly the parents. But if we look at our sales, majority of our sales are not from the parents, it’s actually from the school, and we haven’t had a very solid strategy on targeting the school. And what I mean by school is really the teacher. So we have been doing survey to the teachers on who exactly is providing the budget to buy those equipment for flexible seating, which is our best-selling product lines.
And most of the time, I think one of the survey we get back is over 70% of the time teacher was buying those equipment out of their own pocket because the process of getting budget and getting approved by the school district is so long. Sometimes the teacher just doesn’t want to wait for the school to give them the budget; they will just go ahead and pay money out of their own pocket to buy a lot of the equipment. So right now we’re trying to figure out strategies on how do we go after the teachers?
I know there’s many different Facebook group and different customer audience that we can potentially target on Facebook as far as doing Facebook ad campaign, but we just need to figure out to make sure we are presenting a right message to the teacher that will really resonate because most of the people within my team, we all come from a parent background, we don’t really have a teacher on our team right now. So thinking now that piece and trying to make sure the message that we’re putting across really resonate with the teacher is one of our focus for 2019 because that’s where at the end of the day that’s driving most of majority of our revenue.
Mike: Got you. Okay. And it looks like — let’s go through all the things. I can write them all down so I have an idea of the things we’re going to cover on the episode.
Mike: So what would the second thing be?
Jason: The second thing is trying to figure out how to establish more revenue streams because as an e-commerce business of course 100% now of the current revenue is only based on physical products. But I have been really thinking about creating paid membership services for the parents in our audience who are in our ecosystem, either to offer them some kind of monthly trainings or some kind of digital course like you are doing with EcomCrew Premium and trying to figure out exactly how to make it work. And I noticed the men out there and I know there is a few similar program that’s doing like a monthly subscription box for the families on the spectrums, or they do some kind of coaching services.
But I just couldn’t quite figure out exactly what I can package that can make sense for our community to pay us like $20 a month for this kind of membership services. And I think that’s really important because even so our business is not 100% seasonal but we do see a significant decrease during summer because most of the school is not in session and a majority of our revenue is coming from school. So once you hit the summer vacations, we see a huge drop in our revenue. So I’m trying to figure out a secondary revenue stream that can make our business more stable without worrying about the ups and downs throughout the seasons.
Mike: Perfect. Okay, and then if you had to pick a third thing here, let’s add a third thing on the list that we can chat about.
Jason: The third thing is actually the biggest struggle is having a better control over our cash flow management. And as you mentioned a couple of times on your podcast is having an e-commerce business is very cash intensive. And my entire business and self-founded, so I was borrowing against a lot of different business though I was borrowing money against my house in order to fund the business when I started. So getting all that under control is actually one of the biggest struggle that I’m facing right now is running out of cash to buy more inventory to sustain the growth. And that doesn’t — that’s also one of the big struggles.
Mike: Okay, perfect. So we got three awesome things to talk about here. Let’s get back up to number one, which was you’re reviewing your 2018 financials and you realize that school teachers were a big portion of your sales and then basically how to leverage that in 2019 and beyond to find more teachers. Does that sound like a fair way to pose the question?
Jason: That’s correct.
Mike: Yeah. Okay, so I mean, as you were telling me about your business through the kind of this introductory phase, I mean, the first thing that came to my mind is great product, great brand, great idea, going to be very difficult to expose to people that need these products. And the reason is that I think and maybe I’m just wrong about this, but at least the way that I perceive the marketplace in this situation is people are looking for help through doctors or through physical therapists or through autism experts, whoever that would be in the pediatrician world. And they’re probably not even thinking in the realm of what kind of a product can I get to help my child because this is something relatively new.
I mean, obviously, there’s stuff out there that has helped in the past. But it’s one of these things where you have this education gap of people don’t know what they don’t know. And it’s like, unless they know to go search for it, it makes it more difficult. So that’s the first part of the challenge. And then the other part is, then the people that do know that it exists, which are going to be the teachers and the physical therapists and the occupational therapists of the world, you need to be in front of them when they’re making that decision, how do you connect the dots? So there were some things that I was thinking of as you were talking and as you were going through this that I was thinking could be helpful.
First of all, on Facebook, there isn’t the opportunity to target people by occupation. And I don’t know if — I would imagine teachers are certainly one of those things in there that you could search for is their job title. But I would also imagine without being in front of them, I would say 90% plus chance that there’s a way to target people who are like an occupational therapist or a special Ed teacher, things of this nature and typically those teachers they’re more like public about the things that they’re doing. So there’s a bigger chance that they would be talking about that stuff, because I have teacher friends, but the ones that I also have that are more special needs based, they’re kind of glowing about like how much they’re helping people that are really struggling in life and it comes up quite often probably more than just an ordinary teacher.
So I mean, if you’re able to get in front of them with these products that can have an ‘aha’ moment. So you need to have a video or a picture, a still image ad that is able to — just a picture is worth 1,000 words, a video might be worth a million words, whatever, but like can really explain to somebody in three to five seconds why your product helps solve that problem. And in that realm, I can see you being able to bridge that gap. But you got the additional challenge that you already mentioned is the teacher is not the one driving the budget decision. So this is another level of challenge.
I think that this is the kind of business that’s going to take a little bit longer to ramp up because of these challenges. But once you start cracking the code on some of this stuff, you’re going to build an incredibly defensible business that– the type of businesses I would love to own and that’s the type of thing that you — yeah, the products are easily reproduced. But the relationships that you’ll build are going to be really tough to reproduce, right. So being able to get in front of teachers that can also get in front of their principal or whoever makes the budget decision at the individual school and then eventually work your way to like a district or county level that’s buying these products and has a relationship with you and the catalogs that they use to order from to be like kind of standard issue material and that’s what is going to take a little bit of time.
Mike: I mean, those are some ideas though of how to kind of go about it.
Jason: So two things we are already doing on those front is first of all, I was able to make a connection with a local elementary school principal actually become a good friend of mine that we are able to use her classroom to do a few video sessions of her classrooms and using our products. So definitely using video as a way to explain the benefit of the product are things we do powerful. With Facebook, it does require a lot of testing to see what kind of video work with what kind of audience. So we’re kind of still in the video testing phase to see what kind of video will really work.
Mike: The good news about that though, just real quick is that Facebook is incredibly cheap to do that testing. So you can run test for $10 or $20 and get your answer unlike the old days where you could spend thousands of dollars and not even have an answer with Facebook. $20 bucks is usually enough to see if you’re on the right path or not.
Jason: Yes, definitely I agree. But we’re testing that, we’re still trying to figure out. And the second thing is I’m also actively trying to reach out to different school districts at least in my area. I live around Seattle, Washington. I’m reaching out to different school districts trying to make a donation to them like a small quantity of our basic product for them to try. And hopefully we can get some feedback, some response from the school district as well by making a small, minimal amount of donations, but that’s another strategy I’m thinking about and trying and actively doing right now.
Mike: Yeah. I love that strategy by the way. I mean, you’re getting the product physically in their hands, let them have a visceral experience where they have that ‘aha’ moment. Obviously, if it’s a school district or a decision maker at that level, they control the budget for dozens or hundreds of schools. And that’s a great way to proliferate your products into the classroom.
Jason: Yes, yeah. Yeah, it’s definitely a longer term play. It’s just a lot of back and forth and try to figure out how to make it work is a little bit different than the Facebook is. You can see the data almost right away.
Mike: Yeah. So I mean, the other thing that I would be thinking about in terms of this is I think that I would be looking in terms of Google being your friend. So I mean, this is another long road. Unfortunately, I can tell you there’s no magic bullet thing here that I for this particular business. I think this one is one of these; it’s going to take some legwork to really get over that hump. But once you do, again you’ll have a just an amazing business. And one of these things is the content piece. I mean, the great thing about this particular niche is it’s right for writing amazing long form, ultra-valuable blog content that can probably rank number one for all the search terms that you’re looking for.
I don’t know the space but I would imagine there’s not a whole lot of people writing about this and you also have the product that can be integrated into the solutions. Also the opportunity to walk into classrooms and put video content on that. So I would be looking in terms of maybe getting Ahrefs subscription and start looking at all the different keywords and stuff that you can be targeting in content around this and make sure that you’re just doing the same type of thing that EcomCrew has done where it’s just constant pressure. Every week a new blog post goes out, every week two new podcasts are going up.
In a micro sense it does nothing. When we were first writing that stuff or doing the podcast, we were talking or writing to ourselves, nobody was paying attention. But slowly but surely, you become the guy which I always talk about this. You want to be the guy when it comes to these autism type issues and products and services and courses and education around that. And eventually your brand becomes known as like the brand with that and it takes time. I mean, there was a post that was on Ecommerce Fuel this week about what are the best e-commerce podcasts I should be listening to? And like three quarters of the people on that thread which was incredibly humbling were saying EcomCrew.
And I was actually a little emotional about it, because I was kind of realizing that after a long time of doing this that we’re now a part of that conversation. And it’s a similar approach here where if you were to do that over the next couple of years in your space that you can do the same thing, and eventually, when people are talking about solutions for your child that might have autism or whatever they’re talking about LakiKid, and that’s what you want, right? And that’s something that you can’t — there’s no shortcuts. There’s no I guess both shortcuts in terms of time on a calendar that takes to do that, and also the effort it takes to put into it. But eventually, you’ll be part of that conversation and you just can’t take that away, right.
I mean, the fact that people again, it’s very humbling and touching that people are mentioning us as a part of the conversation. I can’t pay them to say that. I can’t talk to people enough to say like, I mean, this is all stuff that happens organically and naturally. And when you are talking to your friend in line at the grocery store or something that that’s what’s coming up in the conversation. So when someone’s like, yeah man, my kid has ADHD. It’s been such a struggle maybe picking them up at the daycare, and someone else is like, oh, my kid has that too and you gotta check out this LakiKid website. They have these products and services and education around these products. And I just think it’s a grassroots thing for you, there’s not a whole lot you can do to shortcut that.
Jason: Definitely, I 100% agree with that. And we actually spend the last few months on solidifying our weekly content strategies. Right now we have a pretty solid plan in place as far as what each team member needs to do on a weekly basis to make sure all the content get published on a timely manner to all the different social media and also make sure the blog posts get published on the weekly manner. I think it is going back to like you just said, it’s about consistency and getting the quality content just out there week after week and after week. And sometimes not a lot of people is willing to do that. But the people who’s willing to do that the long term is people who can win at the end of the day, I think.
Mike: Yeah, I mean and consistency is definitely important but the quality is probably even more important. It’s probably better to be a little bit irregular, what you do put out is absolutely incredible. We just had Brian Dean from Backlinko on the show. It’s definitely episode I recommend everybody to go listen to, go check out his blog. We also had purchased his course to give to our staff to go through and it’s just a great architecture to how to write content, the types of content you need to be writing to get attention, to get links and I would definitely recommend consuming some of that content and making sure that you kind of follow that architecture in terms of how you’re writing content.
Use EcomCrew again as a I’m proud of what Dave Bryant has done with that, because he’s the one that writes all the content. Use some of the recent stuff we’ve been putting out and some of the things that we’ve gone back and redone as a barometer of what level you need for content. Some of the ones that I would say he’s done an incredible job with recently is the Canton Fair post. He just redid how to get reviews on Amazon, a couple of these types of things. I mean, the content is into the 5,000 word plus range now, lots of graphics and infographics and videos with it, and things that keep people on the page.
Our time on site continues to increase. We’re trying to get that even north of 30 minutes, because people are spending so much time consuming the content. And Google knows that that’s good content. And that’s something again that you can’t trick people. You can’t trick someone to stay on your site for 30 minutes if it’s just a bunch of crap, they’ll leave. So I mean, if you can write that level of content, and it might be a situation where it’s better for you to write one piece of amazing content a month than four mediocre things that you’re doing per week now or one per week, four per month. And just be thinking about it in terms of that, because it is that important to be that epic piece of content.
So when other people that are, as Brian calls them the link creators, people like us that are writing articles that are already well known on the internet, you want those people in your space linking to you. And that’s the content that they trust. And over time, it becomes easier, because you have a reputation already of that. So definitely something I would check out for your site.
Jason: Yeah, definitely. I need to rethink on how we are doing content because most of our blog posts is about 2,000 words, not quite 5,000 yet. So definitely, maybe creating more of a longer epic content instead of trying to do it on a weekly basis might be a different way to think about the content strategy as well.
Mike: Yeah. And it’s not just the number of words. I think people get caught up on that, it’s the formatting as well. You don’t want it to read or look like a book, right? I mean, you look at a book and it’s just paragraph after paragraph after paragraph. And eventually, 20 or 30, sometimes 50 pages later, there’s a chapter break. But a book is a totally different medium. People on a blog, that wheel on your mouse is easy to scroll down the page really easy. And so you need to have things in bite sized chunks, two to four sentences at a time like really the max, headlines like every, every three to four of those, you want some sort of headline, something in bold to break things up, lots of images or some type of infographic that’s intermingled pretty regularly through it, lots of image examples of whatever it is that you’re talking about.
Also the thing that we do is embed video within our content now. So a lot of times like you’ve already said, you’re doing this where you already have a video that turns into a blog post. But embed the video in the blog post so people can also consume the video version of it. And so I mean, again, the formatting of what you’re doing is as important or maybe sometimes more important than the actual content that’s in there.
Jason: Yeah. So the way we’re doing it right now is we have a blog post and we have a show note that’s separate from a blog post, but it doesn’t link to each other. But on the show note, we have the video and the audios and the transcriptions on the show note. The reason why we keep it separate is I feel like it’s going to be too long if we combine everything together. So I kind of keep it separated and use it for different purposes.
Mike: Got you okay. All right, cool. So let’s move on to the second thing here, which is to establish more revenue streams. You have the physical products, what about the monthly training? I mean, you’re on the right path. So you already know what you want to do. So I’m just kind of reiterating what you kind of talked about here. But to me again, thinking about where the puck is going in terms of e-commerce and the things that we’re looking to do moving forward now that we just sold one of our businesses, one of the types of things I want to do moving forward because I want to do more e-commerce and to me, it needs to be a hybrid type business. The thing that I’m looking to get into is going to be a physical business that also can produce epic written content.
So you have that that thing checked off but can also have mini courses as lead magnets which you could easily do free mini courses, and then also some sort of paid subscription to go along with it. I think that that’s really key. And one of the one of the businesses I’ve been looking at doing still very early stages of even thinking or planning but tea is something that I have a personal interest in and maybe it’s a tea business as a for instance. So how that would work would be there’s obviously like really easy to have physical tea products, like it’s loose leaf tea or tea bags or different powders or whatever and all the products.
Jason: It needs a mission. I just watch one of the episode on 5 Minute Pitch talk…
Mike: Talking about tea yeah. I think that we did a lot of tea just because I think it’s such a tough space but I have so few things that I’m like, really passionate about and tea happens to be one of them. And for me I would be doing it like, as a case study for EcomCrew of how to do something that’s like, basically impossible. I’m looking for something that’s like a huge challenge. So it’s kind of like coming from like a crazy standpoint. But that aside, I mean, just thinking through the business model, which is similar to what you’re doing here where you have the physical products and also you can write so much content about tea.
There’s the health benefits of tea, but the health benefits of green tea, the health benefits of oolong tea, the health benefits of chrysanthemum tea, or whatever just the health benefits ones and you have — there’s — I mean the amount of content like I was looking at Ahrefs that you can write about tea is seriously prolific. I mean just more than you could ever — you couldn’t tackle all the subjects. But the content that you could write would be really educational and good and also tie in with your product. So that’s kind of what I was talking about in terms of the first part already.
The next thing is having some sort of mini course that could really get people to sign up for your stuff for free or a free plus shipping offer. And tea again is another really great opportunity for that because you can do education on how to prepare your tea for instance, like a free mini course of the best ways to brew tea, the best ways to brew tea on the road or whatever the best ways to brew tea to get the most health benefits out of it, how to do some other tea recipes like lattes or things of this nature, and that could be like a free education. I think that having paid for tea is probably a stretch because there’s not a lot of recipes and other things. So that’s the one thing that I’m struggling with.
But just was using that as an example of like you have all these boxes checked off because you could easily have the free mini course that is a lead magnet, it gets their email address, you give them some free lessons on how to help with different aspects of autism.
Jason: In the process of doing that I want to kind of run through these ideas to you as well and maybe you can give me some advice on how to proceed. So I actually have been a good friend of a local occupational therapist. He actually owns a separate company called Sensory Fitness that he kind of combines occupational therapy concept with fitness. So his company is really cool. He provides small group lessons to usually kids with special needs, usually kids on the spectrum, that he teach the kids how to use their body correctly to improve a lot of their physical ability and also reduce a lot of their symptoms as well.
So my idea is trying to partner up with him and create an online course called a sensory fitness masterclass, which we go in and teach the parents about the importance of the sensory fundamentals and also the importance of using movement by doing different exercises at homes, and different sensory strategies and activities that you can do at your living rooms, at your study room or even at your backyard. Then lastly, is how to use different sensory product like that LakiKid provide to help with various sensory needs that the kid is facing.
So I have been going back and forth with him on trying to finalize this beta course. We’re thinking about launching it in June right now. But the one thing I couldn’t quite figure out is how exactly could I figure out the right pricing structure for this kind of stuff, because this kind of course was never done before. This is kind of the idea that me and him come up together. So I guess price testing and trying to figure out how big of a market that could potentially buy this kind of course is one thing I’m still trying to figure out.
The one thing I’m thinking right now is we can just do a free webinar approach. Try to get as many people to the free webinar that where we do a presentation about the basic sensory needs that the kid is facing and how that having a fitness program could potentially help them with all the symptoms. Then at the end of the webinar, we can offer them a discounted price for the beta course we’re thinking about launching in June. So what is your suggestion on that? And how do I figure out what’s the right price point that’ll make sense for the audience.
Mike: Yeah, so I mean, we’ve done the same thing with EcomCrew. I think that webinar and do a sales funnel or a free mini course into a sales funnel work pretty equally as well. I mean, I think that it’s important to do both because certain things appeal to different people. So I mean we have at EcomCrew.com, here is a plug EcomCrew.com/free, you can go over there and take our free mini courses and we’re obviously very transparent in the fact that we put out a bunch of free content over there that we hope that you really enjoy and it helps your business.
And our hope is that eventually you’ll join EcomCrew Premium. That’s the whole idea obviously of having that there. I mean, we’re generous guys, but at the end of the day, we’re also marketers and business owners and want to do it in a way that isn’t scammy or slimy and I think that that checks that up because at the end of the mini course it isn’t like — what we don’t do is say, do 90% of the teaching and then if you really want the actual stuff you got to pay for it. So like the mini courses we do complete an entire thought process. So it’s we aren’t — the carrot we dangle is the next thing at another whole level, it isn’t like it doesn’t leave you in that I just wasted my time feeling, right?
So I mean, for instance, our mini course on Amazon listings, we talk about the five or seven, I forgot what it is now most important things about building an Amazon listing. It’s a relatively basic mini course for newer people. But it completes the whole thought process. And the same thing with how to develop a seven figure brand. We talk about all the different products and stuff and the ideas that we have, and we bring that to a conclusion. And then it’s a by the way, we also have the EcomCrew Premium, which is all this other stuff on top of it. So that’s the approach that we’ve taken and it’s worked really well.
And we also do webinars. We do a monthly public webinar every month that’s a different topic. And at the end of the webinar, we talk about EcomCrew Premium. And again, at the end — the webinar itself it isn’t just a pitch to sign up for Premium. We want to give actual — like if you were to watch the webinar, you’re like, okay, I just learned a bunch. I can go implement that. Or you can say I just learned a bunch, I’m going to implement that and that was awesome. And I want to be able to do that on a regular basis and also be able to interact with Mike and Dave so I’m going to go join Premium. The thought process is more that. And I think that doing either one or both will work well for you.
And then the other part of that is how do you price it? So for us, we kind of just picked the price that we felt comfortable with, with our first launch, which for us was for $499. And we wanted to — we knew that was low, and we wanted to test things out and see what the feedback was and give a really good price for people who signed up in the very beginning. But with every single launch, we have raised our price and it’s a combination of we’re trying to find out what the actual market value is for EcomCrew Premium. Obviously, again as business owners, we want to be able to charge as much as we can for it. Our time is valuable and we’d be silly to give it away. And people think obviously that I was lying if I said we want to give a treat.
Jason: I actually have a question on that because I know you switch your business model from a paid course to membership model.
Mike: We did.
Jason: So what is the count of using both business model and why do you make that switch?
Mike: So we made the switch because I did feel like it was too slimy selling a new course every time and we knew that we were going to continue to release new courses and content. And I didn’t think it was fair to the people that were like our most loyal customers basically, the people that are — there’s going to always be people that will buy every single thing you put out. If they’re followers of yours, and they like what you’re doing, there’s people that are listening right now they’re shaking their head. Yep, I have everything Mike and Dave have ever done and it’s really good. I hope that’s how they feel at least and anything else they do I’m going to get it because it’s really helped my business. I didn’t want to be charging like 499, 749, 999 whatever it was every single time somebody bought one of those courses.
And again, we knew we were going to be releasing more courses and so I wanted to go with a model where we weren’t constantly struggling with ourselves how much we’re going to charge for this course and which course are we going to launch and when and all this different stuff that gets complicated. We also wanted something that was just easy to explain to people. So we went to a subscription model where it’s 1,500 bucks a year and you get everything, everything that we have now everything that we’ll do in the future, anything that we can do for you, we’re here for you. There is no question about all these different things, so all the prerecorded courses are in there.
We have unlimited email support for every course and anything that’s e-commerce. So there’s no question about what you can and can’t ask questions about because we’ve eliminated that problem by having — because the other problem was well, you bought a course on Amazon PPC but you’re asking me a question about freight forwarding. And that’s not really what you paid for, right? And I didn’t want to be like that. So we eliminated that problem and then we also were able to add some webinars to it. And that way, we’re just like a little bit of everything to everybody. And so we help at different stages of your business and that’s why we made that switch.
Jason: Yeah, I think that totally makes sense. I think our current thought process is we are not — because this is kind of our first time doing a digital product like this, we wasn’t really sure how much of a commitment that our entire team is required as far as maintaining it. So our process is we just want to launch a beta course to see how far it will get. Then if we get some kind of traction, then we can think about how to make it into a subscription model. I don’t want to be committed to a subscription model when I don’t know why exactly how much is the involve on a monthly basis as far as continuing producing content while there’s only 10 people sign up, we still need to produce enough content in people versus on the people. So that’s kind of the way that…
Mike: Exactly yeah, I mean, we definitely went through that as well. It’s like when we launched our first course it was like, is anyone even going to show up? Are we’re going to launch to crickets? Are we going to launch to overwhelming success? And it was somewhere in the middle. I mean, we were definitely getting pretty humbled by how many people did sign up. It was pretty amazing that hundreds of people signed up to our very first course and we’re really appreciative of that. And that motivated us to do more. But if it was two people that signed up, we probably would have given them a refund and just not done it.
So it’s good to do some sort of minimal viable product, which is kind of what we launched. I mean, it was a little bit more than a minimal viable product from a standpoint of we knew that we had an audience and it would have been — we have put so much effort into that upfront that it would have been pretty surprising if it was a complete failure, but you never know. And every entrepreneur worries about this, so we did too.
Jason: Okay, okay. Thank you.
Mike: Yeah, of course. Yeah, like I mean, we try to be open about everything, not just our own e-commerce businesses, but also EcomCrew, so happy to share for sure. Okay, so we’re getting close to run out of time here. So I don’t want to not get to your third question which was cash flow management. And man, I tell you this is something that you’re just going to have to get comfortable with, it will never go away. The only time it will go away is when you’re not growing. We went through that three year phase of growing at 100% per year. I talk about this on the podcast all the time, there was never any money.
It was really, really stressful and it was even more stressful for me because I had like kind of gotten past that phase of my life when I was younger. I was bad at managing finances. I ran a bunch of credit card debt, did a bunch of stupid things. Then I started the online poker affiliate business and we were very successful. And the very first thing I did was I paid off all of our debt and I just tried to live within my means. I kind of learned that lesson from when I was younger and always focused on that. And even while we were living within our means, even in a lot of cases for the last three years, we were shrinking our expenses, personal expenses through all this even though on paper, we were making more and more money, but there was just never any cash. I mean, like ever any cash.
The most stressful time of the year was — and we’re recording this today after tax day. The most stressful time of the year for me was April 15th every year, because I didn’t have the money to pay the taxes. It was just like we had spent all the money on inventory, we sold a bunch through Christmas, we had to place in order right after Chinese New Year and that stuff will be showing up right about now and the 70% deposit for our April-ish inventory was due about the same time that our taxes are due, and it was just the hardest time of the year. And then we would get a reprieve for four to five, six months until the holiday season started creeping up on us and we had to start dealing with that again.
So for the last four years — three years before this, that was always the hardest day. And this year, it was an incredible feeling because I wrote the check and didn’t have to worry about the money being there because we took our foot off the pedal and we didn’t grow as much this last year. And so we had tons of cash laying around because — yeah, it was awesome. But you’ve got to be ready for this ride and it’s tough. I mean, I thought I was ready for it. And it definitely stressed me out more than I thought it would because again, I don’t really like having that hanging over my head.
I think depending on your financial situation and just your life situation and how old you are, I think those things play a factor in it. And if you’re a single twenty something year old kid basically that doesn’t have any responsibility and if you go bankrupt, that’s not much of a departure from where you already are anyway, because you’re probably don’t have a lot of money to start with, not a big deal versus someone who like me is in their 40s and already worked really hard to have a nest day. And now I’m playing with that instead of — if I claim bankruptcy at this point in my life, it’s a pretty horrible result.
And then obviously you take it to another level, because you have a family, we don’t have a family yet. So these are all things you gotta have in mind, and it just isn’t ever going to get easier. You’re always going to be in a situation of I need to borrow money. And so the best advice I have for you is number one, make sure that you keep your Amazon account in the best health that you can and grow that as much as you can. They are one of the best ways to borrow money in e-commerce. They just offer money based on your previous sales on e-commerce on Amazon.
And they might offer an insignificant amount of money to start with; maybe it’s only $5,000 or $10,000. It doesn’t seem like a lot when you’re trying to order $100,000 worth of product or whatever. But take the money, pay it back, have a good history with them, it’s super important and let that continue to grow. There’s another thing that I’ve actually been investing in lately called Kickfurther.
Jason: Oh, I actually heard about that a few days ago. Do you actually like using it? It is very confusing as far as the finance charges. I couldn’t understand how they’re charging me. So I’m still struggling with that a little bit because they haven’t…
Mike: Definitely reach out to them and see how their screening process works and how you can become a business on their — I should probably sign up as an affiliate at some point and have a code or something to get more but I’ve been using it. If anybody is interested in that, I do have like an affiliate code that gets you like an extra opportunity to invest more. If you’re interested just let me know, we can trade affiliate codes. But as a business, you can apply to have — I just invested in three this week. They’re just big companies that are looking to buy inventory.
And I guess the way that the interest charges are definitely a little bit confusing, because the way that they work is you’re actually selling product to people. You’re selling product and blocks.
Mike: As you sell each one, you pay an interest fee on that. I think the money if I had to take a guess as terms of annual percentage rates, I would say, it’s probably close to the 15% range. Because most of these are — like I’m looking at the last three that I invested in, it was 7.8 months to pay back at 11%. 7.3% to pay back it’s 8.6% and eight months to pay back at 10%. So these are fractions of a year. If you extrapolate that out, it’s probably in that 15% range, but this is something that I think you…
Jason: Because we have been using Kabbage. So it sounds like it’s cheaper than Kabbage. So we might…
Mike: It’s cheaper than Kabbage and Kabbage is another awesome one to look at. We signed up for them in the beginning as well. We actually never used Kabbage. I just had it — that was always in my mind. That was my worst case scenario 100k that I would go to if things really hit the fan. So that’s what I kept Kabbage for. So I always knew that I had like 100k buffer if things really got horrible. And so that’s just how I chose to use it. But if that’s your only option, I think that it’s certainly an option. The challenge is that it’s not a great revolving line of credit. So you can get in trouble if you’re constantly refinancing it, so that’s what I think, their interest rates are…
Jason: And the other one we need to do is Payability. What’s your opinion of that one?
Mike: Yep, they are a sponsor of the show as well of the 5 Minute Pitch show, I should say. Yeah, I mean, they’re definitely another option. I just think that the reality is at least in my world, I had to get over that hump of I’m not going to pay interest. This is like really bad to do. I think that if you do it against inventory and you keep your P’s and Q’s about you, you don’t get overly – as long as you are good with money and you understand the repercussions, you should be fine. And I think that it’s a completely necessary aspect of business. And then what I will also say, last thing on this is that it’s important to keep a really good set of books and records, make sure you have your accounting in line, that you’re paying your taxes on time.
And once you have two full years of tax returns, you can usually switch to a traditional brick and mortar lending banking. We had opportunities to do that here more recently. I just chose not to because we were on the tail end of meeting capital. So we just didn’t take those lines of credit, but we were offered mid six figure lines of credit from a traditional bank at reasonable interest rates. So you have to kind of pay your dues to start with.
Jason: Have you also looked into getting an SBA loan? That is also another thing…
Mike: I never did, I did not, no, but certainly another good option. I’ve looked at potentially getting an SBA loan to buy a business but never to get inventory for my own business.
Jason: I see, okay.
Mike: Awesome. I think we covered quite a bit and unfortunately we are definitely at the tail end out of time. In fact, we’re running over a little bit. I got someone else in Skype here bugging me for their meeting that I’m a few minutes late for. So hopefully I was able to cover quite a bit with you today and help you out here. I think you have one of these rare really phenomenal businesses that if we were to talk five years from now, I’m not sure that you would even give me the time of day anymore because you’re going to be so big.
I think you have a really good thing going here and I would just stick with it, follow some of the things we talked about today. And when you’re struggling in these early days of trying to get sales because your content is not being read enough yet and you’re not getting the exposure you want, just stick with it man. I think that if you can apply constant pressure and do this over the next year to year and a half, there’s basically no way that you should fail because this is a great niche. You have a lot of great opportunity here.
Jason: Yeah. Thank you very much for your advice today, and we’ll definitely keep on working.
Mike: Awesome. Thanks so much, Jason.
Jason: Thank you. Thank you very much.
Mike: All right guys, that’s going to wrap it up for the 253rd installment of the EcomCrew Podcast, so glad to have had you guys along with us today. If you want to leave a comment on today’s episode that’s going to be at EcomCrew.com/253. And if you want to get that EcomCrew book EcomCrew.com/book. Amazon Domination folks, we’re really excited to have that out. Again, we worked on this for almost an entire year. Thanks also to Abby and Muffins back in the office who also put a ton of effort into this book. It’s been a group effort, and we’re so excited to be able to bring it to you for free. Just pay the shipping and handling.
Again, it’s the same method that we’ve used to create multiple seven figure businesses and everything in here step by step as well on how we did that in terms of building listings and things like that. The whole thing is there. It’s a playbook, step by step playbook for you to go do it yourself. So we’re looking forward to hearing more feedback. We gave a few test copies out, got a lot of really good feedback, and we’re looking forward to hearing your feedback after you get the book. All right guys, that’s going to wrap it up for this episode. So until next time, happy selling and we’ll talk to you soon.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the EcomCrew Podcast. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/EcomCrew for weekly live recordings of the EcomCrew Podcast every Monday. And please, do us a favor, and leave an honest review on iTunes, it would really help us out. Again, thanks for listening, and until next week, happy selling.
Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.