E529: What Is Mike Looking For In His Next Business?

After dropping a few hints here and there, Dave finally asks Mike the big question: what are you looking for in your next business?

After getting into the mindset of selling all of my brands and getting back to the part of Amazon FBA that I really enjoy, I realized that it's not as fun as it used to be with my current business. I am trying to build it for the eventual sale, and after start a new business that's still within e-commerce. 

As most of you have probably noticed, I've dropped a few hints here and there about starting a new brand, and what better way to do so than discuss it with Dave on today's podcast! 

In this episode, we'll discuss a few criteria on what I would want my next venture to be, and whether Dave thinks they're unrealistic, or downright wishful thinking. 

Here's some timestamps to get you started:  

  • Introduction – 0:00 
  • How was BFCM for you, Mike? – 0:25
  • The next project for Mike – 3:48
  • Struggles that Mike's trying to avoid in the future – 5:22
  • Mike's checklist for his next business – 13:05
  • Priorities with higher margins – 13:46
  • Increasing repeat business – 19:48
  • Products that work multi-platform – 27:05
  • A defensible moat around the business – 33:32
  • Making complexity an opportunity – 37:47
  • When is the new business getting started? – 39:55 

Audio Timestamps: 

  • Introduction – 0:00 
  • How was BFCM for you, Mike? – 0:53
  • The next project for Mike – 3:56
  • Struggles that Mike's trying to avoid in the future – 5:24
  • Mike's checklist for his next business – 12:17
  • Priorities with higher margins – 12:56
  • Increasing repeat business – 18:27
  • Products that work multi-platform – 24:47
  • A defensible moat around the business – 30:31
  • Making complexity an opportunity – 34:30
  • When is the new business getting started? – 36:39 

I hope this is super helpful for those out there who are thinking of expanding their brand portfolio or starting a new business. If you are, leave a comment below on what you think your next business would ideally look like! 

As always, if you have any questions or anything that you need help with, reach out to us at support@ecomcrew.com if you're interested. 

Don’t forget to leave us a review on iTunes if you enjoy our content. If you have any questions, send us an email at support@ecomcrew.com. We'd love to help you in any way we can. 

Full Audio Transcript

Mike Jackness:
This is Mike and welcome to this edition of the Ecom Crew podcast. How's it going, Dave? Doing good. We're doing some recordings here after American Thanksgiving. So I feel I feel full and thankful, I guess. And yeah, we're doing some podcasts today.

DJ:
This is Dave.

DJ: 
I'm doing well, how about you?

DJ:
How was your Amazon balance though? Is that full and thankful after Black Friday?

Mike Jackness (00:28.134)
Not really. It was not a real great Black Friday, Summer Monday for us, but it never really is with the brand that I kept. I didn't really expect to have a huge Black Friday, Summer Monday. In fact, I didn't even open up my app over the weekend because I was like, I don't want to see it. Just because we didn't run any Black Friday deals. I mean, we talked a little bit about this on the podcast over this year.

And so, I mean, hot and cold therapy packs are not giftable items. They're not the type of thing that people buy and gift them. There were lots of people in my space running Black Friday, Supper Monday deals. I imagine they just got crushed in terms of paying a lot of fees and giving up margin. I don't even remotely see how it's feasible. I mean, I see all these deals running. I mean, they're paying $300, $500 or more per deal, giving up a bunch of margin.

DJ (01:10.195)
Yep.

DJ (01:15.27)
No, I don't either.

Mike Jackness (01:23.182)
I can barely make it without even doing that. I just assume that they're losing money just to have an ego boost and that isn't interesting to me. We just go in a little bit of hibernation for this part of the year for this business. From late November to early January is just a dead zone for us. Early January things have to really pick back up. Going into the spring becomes our best months. Just roll in with what we have.

When we had other businesses, we focused a lot on Black Friday and Summer Monday. We sold our baby brand this year. I'm sure they had a really great Black Friday, Summer Monday. We've sold color. That was always my favorite time of the year, although it was stressful. Black Friday, Summer Monday, huge for that. But for a hot and cold therapy brand, it's like, oh, you got me a ice pack for my back. Thank you so much.

Maybe there is someone out there looking for that, but I don't think it's exactly the giftable thing.

DJ (02:21.985)
Yeah.

DJ (02:26.573)
Well, it is kind of a scenario of rising tide raises all boats and sure people aren't on there to buy hot and cold therapy pack, but they're on there to buy a toy for their daughter and hey, oh, by the way, I need to that ache on my back. I need to get something for that too. So you do get that. So I know for like our off-roading brand, it was up, I guess, about 30 or 40% over a typical Friday. So nothing crazy, but it was up. And I think that's just a case again of that rising tide. The craft brand that we have, that looked like it was up about

Mike Jackness (02:40.098)
Right.

DJ (02:56.209)
two and a half X, which I guess was kind of within my realm of expectations. And this is my first time really running a brand that is heavily dependent on Christmas. And that was one of my motivations for actually wanting to start this in the first place was to get a little taste of that Black Friday and Christmas madness. And yeah, it seemed like Friday was up about two and a half X. It seems like Monday's going to end about that too. So it was nice. I don't know how that compares to a typical Black Friday and Cyber Monday though.

I really have almost no reference point because like you, Mike, most of my brands have always been, uh, not very dependent on Christmas on the holidays.

Mike Jackness (03:34.474)
Yeah, I mean, I think that sounds about right. You know, two and a half X seems to be what we've seen in the past. I think that that's a pretty good, pretty good result.

DJ (03:44.017)
Yeah. So on to today's topic, I guess, uh, as we're talking about our brands, uh, I think today's topic is what you're looking for in your next project and your next business. And I, I'm not sure if we're going into this totally as a blank slate. I'm not sure if that is actually e-commerce related, or you're looking at starting a coffee shop. Uh, so I'll let you take it away. And what exactly that next business, Hey, you're doing some competitor research.

Mike Jackness (04:05.576)
I've got my coffee right here. Yeah, I don't think it'll be a coffee shop. And I do think it'll be an e-commerce. I really do enjoy e-commerce. There's a lot of really good benefits to it. I also think that no matter, I've learned my lesson in terms of like the grass is greener type of thing, right? And so it's easy to start daydreaming about some other thing that's out there that can potentially make you more money.

But the reality is you often forget about all the work and effort you put into what you're already doing And oftentimes that even though you know, there is a potential It's just potential and something else and the chances of success aren't as high And so I don't know. I think that I've got my ten thousand hours and then some into Indie ecommerce, so it's something that I would definitely like to stick with but yeah, I mean I

I think everything's an evolution and I think it'll look wildly different than that what I'm doing right now. It'll just still be sewing things online.

DJ (05:10.625)
Okay. So that's, uh, that's Clara's mud e-commerce business. It's going to look different. All right, guys, that's a wrap. So what are the qualities in all seriousness? What are the qualities that you're looking for in that e-comm business?

Mike Jackness (05:14.978)
Hahaha

Mike Jackness (05:19.435)
Well, let's.

Mike Jackness (05:24.918)
Maybe we should look at from the other perspective of where we're at now and what the struggle is right now and what I'm trying to mitigate against, which is that we're in this situation right now selling the same thing that everybody else sells. There's really just absolutely no differentiation to our product versus the next guy.

And the gap continues to close between where we've been able to have success and where we're heading to, which is that we've had success because we've had really high quality listings with good copy, good images, good customer service, lots of reviews, et cetera. But what I see is that the competition is accelerating quicker than the platform. Maybe at one point, the platform, you know, being Amazon.

DJ (06:16.765)
Mm-hmm.

Mike Jackness (06:18.442)
was growing quicker than there was competition. So even when there was competition coming into the market, your sales would still grow because there were so many new people coming onto the Amazon marketplace. But I just, by the raw numbers, I actually don't know how many prime members there are in the United States. I probably should know that number off the top of my head, but 100 million, 150 million, whatever it might be, it's let's say 30% to 50% of people in the United States.

you're never going to get 100% saturation. And at some point, you're kind of hitting peak saturation of just potential shoppers on Amazon. And you know.

DJ (06:54.361)
Yeah. And I think the way to look at it actually, objectively, you're right. Like there's only, you can't have 400 million prime shoppers in America. There's not enough people. But all you have to do is look at Amazon's P&L and you can see that their retail sales last year were basically flat. They had revenue gains from advertising and other services, but their retail sales were essentially flat.

Mike Jackness (07:04.839)
Right, there's not enough people.

Mike Jackness (07:11.635)
Yeah, exactly.

Mike Jackness (07:18.31)
Exactly. And so when you look at the dynamics of that, where Amazon's, let's just say their revenue is flat in the United States, I do think that expanding out of the United States is an opportunity. We're also still pigeonholed a little bit again, because the types of products are selling. We're FDA registered in the US, trying to get other nationalities to approve these products and go through that process. I just don't think it makes sense for us right now.

where we have done that in the past for other brands. And so, you know, if Amazon is hitting peak saturation in the United States, and competition continues to grow, and margins continue to erode, because when you have more competition, there's always somebody there that's willing to sell it for less. They're doing it for whatever reason, right? They're breaking into the market, and so they're stowing at a low price to try to get traction. They are…

living in a lower rent, lower cost of living jurisdiction around the world, and they don't need to make as much money as I do to pay for my lavish Vegas lifestyle. There's always someone willing to do it for less. When there's more people that are in that category, it makes it more difficult for me to price my products and make the margins that I need to.

to justify the risk that I'm taking by running these businesses because there is a risk, right? I mean, at any point your account could get shut down or you could get sued or Amazon could tumble and fall. There could be a recession. There's always things that happen in business. Over 19 years, I've experienced a lot of them. And so I think that you need to make enough money to justify the risk. You're holding hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory at any one time. It feels like a hot potato. And so…

Just trying to think through all these different things makes me want to shift into a very different environment where we're making products that are maybe a one of a kind or certainly much more difficult for somebody to just grab off of Alibaba or at the Canton Fair or through a sourcing agent from someplace in the world.

DJ (09:35.525)
Yeah. So I guess your first two points, if you want to boil it down, number one is you're looking for a product that has opportunity for international expansion. And with the products you're selling right now, they're basically a health product. And that makes expanding internationally a bit of a barrier and a bit of a difficulty. So looking for a product that is a little bit more easily expanded internationally. So running shoes don't have any international regulation around them into expanding into Australia or the UK or Canada or wherever.

Mike Jackness (09:57.888)
Yup.

Mike Jackness (10:04.354)
Yep, exactly. So, yeah, so I think, you know, shift and, okay, go ahead.

DJ (10:07.425)
So on that note, just before you go there, so our products are, most of our brands and most of our products don't face any international regulation in terms of import restrictions. The barrier that we've always had is, you know, you wanna expand to Luxembourg, but how do you justify getting that inventory in to serve the 12 people that live in Luxembourg? And that's always been the big barrier for us is that you need to hit a certain scale before you can warrant that international expansion.

Mike Jackness (10:28.938)
Right, right.

DJ (10:36.253)
And for us, Canada is about 25% of our sales. It works out well because, you know, I'm Canadian and geographically Canada and the United States are close, but expanding to a lot of these other countries, it is a big logistical issue. So, do you think that will be an issue? Do you think that you can overcome that, especially as you're starting up with a brand that's, you know, doing low thousands of dollars a month in sales in the very beginning?

Mike Jackness (10:36.31)
Yeah.

Mike Jackness (10:40.994)
Yep.

Mike Jackness (11:01.898)
Yeah, I mean, I think it all depends on how you're getting your sales and the size and weight of the product. Are you shipping individual orders from here to overseas via some of these lower cross programs or are you having to land inventory in an NOAA jurisdiction first? So I think that there's still quite a bit that remains to be kind of figured out because I think there are certain criteria which we're going to go over here next that I am looking for.

Being able to expand internationally, I look at as a long-term thing. I don't look at that as month six, I need to go expand internationally. I look at that as in year six maybe, after I've hit saturation in the US and now I have enough of a war chest or my logistics and manufacturing has spun up to a point where it makes sense to where I can efficiently break into another country.

logical choice, as you said, is geographically close. It's same language. There's a whole bunch of huge benefits. You can even get started by just shipping stuff across the border, onesie twosies at a time to customers versus having to get inventory landed to test things. It's much easier. And so, yeah, I think of that as a longer term thing. It's just one of those things where I think it's a natural thing for a business to hit a point where…

your business or your SKUs have hit saturation in the US and you'd be looking to expand internationally.

DJ (12:34.333)
Yeah, interesting. I am totally with you where I think that is where the profit centers are in smaller markets and smaller marketplaces, even though the bulk of the sales may come from the United States and that justifies the orders. Ultimately, it's the smaller marketplaces and smaller markets, which really move the profit needle. So, okay, you talked about customization too, and I know you're talking about a few other things. I don't know if you want to riff on that for a minute

Mike Jackness (12:55.806)
Yeah.

Mike Jackness (13:03.85)
Well, let's go through criteria because I have a list. I'm prepared with a list of things. So my number one thing at the top of the list is margin. Right? It just the idea of buying something for $10 and selling it for 30. We've discussed this many times on the podcast. I think that those days are just completely like way long gone in the rearview mirror.

DJ (13:06.081)
Sure. Okay.

Mike Jackness (13:29.262)
And so I'm thinking in terms of buying for 10 and selling for 50 as like the absolute bottom line floor. And so, you know, what qualities and criteria of a product do you have to have to be in that ballpark are the things that I'm looking at. Yeah, go ahead.

DJ (13:44.821)
So before you move on to that, why are you looking for margin? Because I know it sounds like a silly question, but I am totally with you. And I think perhaps my revelation for why I'm looking for margin is my reason is probably one of your reasons too, but I bet you it's probably not your number one reason. So what's the number one reason why you're looking for margin?

Mike Jackness (14:04.694)
Well, I mean, for me, it's really just the ability to be able to advertise. You know, it's, uh, this, this is not a new thing just because I, I'm going to tell you the story from last week, but, uh, cause I've been talking about this for quite a while, but I was with a buddy of mine in Los Angeles, uh, last week. And I went to a wedding in Los Angeles. It was a great time. And I had to pick one person that I, uh, that I can go see cause I only had like a very limited time. I flew in and flew right back out. Uh, and so I just kind of.

went down my list of who I hadn't seen the longest and went to go see him. And after we had lunch, he asked me to look at his Facebook ads account and just kind of give him some recommendations. I'm like, holy crap, dude, like you're spending so much on these ads. Like you can't, he was getting like a two X row as I'm like, you're getting just slaughtered. He's like, no, I'm not like I'm actually still making money with this. And I was like, holy crap, like what do you, you know, we still we got into like, what are you buying this for and blah, blah.

God, what a refreshing change of mindset, right? Where you're just like, I can afford to spend this money on these ads in a world where that's gonna be more and more prominent. Like you think about where things came from when you and I first got started a decade ago to where they are now, to where they're gonna be going another decade from now. It isn't like less and less people are gonna be involved in e-commerce and there's gonna be…

less and less social platforms or whatever other platforms are out there that we can't even imagine 10 years from now, ads are going to continue to be more and more competitive. It's all going to be moving electronic. Just can't imagine a world where that goes any different. We're not going to go back to print. We're not going back to newspapers or national television programs to be advertising. It's all going to be these micro-advertising experiences.

having the ability to have a product that you can spend that much money on that appeals to a certain segment of the population because again, now you have to be having a high-end product, something that people emotionally fall in love with and are making a purchase based off of that versus just they've typed in something into a search bar in Amazon and just want to buy and solve a problem. And so…

Mike Jackness (16:27.694)
I think that margin really comes down to all that. It also, there's a bunch of ancillary things that I think are important. I mean, besides just letting you spend money on advertising, it allows you to have a longer, more longevity in your business, right? Like as costs continue to go up, which is always going to be the case. Like there's never been a year I'm like, ah, prices went down this year from my cost of goods or from my ad cost or from my platform cost or for shipping cost or…

for my anything, right? Like insurance and electric, whatever. Like every year, everything goes up. There's inflation plus, you know, just platforms get better at extracting fees and Amazon's really good at that. You know, and so I think that you start with kind of the end in mind. It isn't like, oh, because I, obviously I'd love to have a product that I can buy for a dollar and sell for five years ago or whatever. But like.

where things are going, I think that we're going to be talking about like, I'm going to buy something for a dollar and sell it for seven longer term. This is going to become a more and more difficult thing to overcome. I want to set the bar high now to allow me to have a business that three to five years from now, when I'm thinking about potentially selling it, there's still a healthy margin as things do erode.

DJ (17:33.36)
Yeah.

DJ (17:54.097)
Yeah, 100% agree with both of those. And I'll tell you why the other reason that has been my kind of epiphany over the last couple of years, when it comes to margin. Uh, so we have historically sold a lot of really expensive products. Let's say a thousand dollar rooftop tent. Uh, we'll buy it for 500. We sell it for a thousand. Let's say we make 10% on it and we make a hundred bucks on it. However, all our money is in that cogs and paying that six months before we actually sell it. We have to place the order and then.

six months later, we sell the product and we get the money. However, if you're putting all your money into advertising, that's where your costs are, is that you're dependent on advertising. You pay that net 30, you don't pay it six months in advance. So the problem is when all of your costs are in cogs, instead of advertising and marketing, you're paying that six months in advance and it's a huge cashflow issue. And that's why almost all these companies that scale really quick, e-commerce brands that scale really quick, they have high margins, not because at the end of the

mine where I have all my money tied up in cogs, it's because they're able to utilize their cash a lot more efficiently than I am because they're paying for their advertising marketing costs 30 days after they incur them, not six months before. And having all your money tied up in cogs and having this really tiny gross margin, even though your net margin might be the same as Mike's watch brand, it is just a total hindrance to being able to scale that company. It's one of the things I've realized.

over the last couple of years is why all these companies that have these massive gross margins where they're buying for a dollar and selling for a hundred, while they're able to scale, even though at the end of the day, their marketing and advertising costs mean that their net margins are still the same as me. So that's been my big revelation on why I'm now looking like you might mention five X, but you know, even six and seven X.

Mike Jackness (19:40.522)
Yeah, and there's lots of things out there, shockingly, that do fall in that category. But you have to do more work. Right? I mean, there's nothing in that bucket that's easy, right? In terms of just sourcing it off of Alibaba and then turning it around. Not that I'm aware of, at least. It's things that require a little more work, which we'll talk about here in a minute, because that isn't the…

The second biggest thing for me in terms of when I'm going down my list of things that like are must haves, if margin is number one, number two is the ability to sell more to the same customer. Like I find this to be incredibly high up the list and really, really important factor into whatever business I'm into next. Because again, as we just talked about, as ad costs continue to go up.

and competition is going up, the ability to recover your sunk cost from getting that first sale needs to be able to be divided eventually across two, three, four, 10 plus sales. And so this is a very important factor for me. We do have repeat business for ice wraps. It isn't like it's zero, but I don't spend a lot of time email marketing or doing

Again, Black Friday, Summer Monday sales or the types of things that a brand that has the ability to sell inherently more to the same customer does. Because if we do our job right, someone's buying our product once and never buying it again. And it's pretty rare for you to buy a health related product again for a friend or family. It's just not normal to like, you know, for Christmas or.

for a birthday or whatever to give somebody an ankle ice wrap because you heard that their ankle was hurting because if their ankle is hurting, they're going to buy the thing right then and there. And so it does happen. And so the reason we have repeat business is that we're selling to other businesses. And we see this on our Amazon dashboard. We see this from our Shopify sales. It's the chiropractor office. It's the dentist office. It's the physical therapy office. We also sell customized packs. We're like literally it's those customers that are getting their name printed on these

Mike Jackness (22:04.494)
products that they then hand out almost as like a business card to have their repeat business of people coming back to the chiropractor or the dentist or the physical therapist. And so we do have repeat business there, but there's only so many of those companies out there and we're never going to get into hiring a salesperson and calling on these types of offices and trying to convince them to buy our products. It just isn't where my expertise is. And I don't think that…

It makes tons of sense to try to do that. But what I'm thinking of is more in terms of what we have with Color It, where someone's using up a page or a gel pen or a pencil and they're actually consuming our products similar to a can of shaving cream or a razor blade every single time they use the product. And so, or if it is something that's giftable. So like they buy one. They…

maybe it isn't consumable, but they might buy another one from themselves or another two or three from themselves, or they'll find themselves really liking the product. When it comes time for the holidays or for a gift, they're like, man, I enjoy this product so much I want to give it to somebody else. Whatever element that is, I don't really care exactly what the product is necessarily as long as it hits that criteria of I can get somebody to buy my products more than once.

DJ (23:31.985)
So high repeat rate. I hear two things that either means A on Amazon, subscribe and save or B off Amazon.

Mike Jackness (23:40.37)
Right. And it even can't be on Amazon. Like, I mean, Color products weren't subscribe and save, and people were buying them off Amazon more than once. Right? It's like they're looking, they're seeking out our brand or our other products, because they weren't buying the same exact product. But subscribe and save certainly would be great, you know, if you think about a food product or other products or whatever that makes sense in terms of subscribe and save. That certainly is, it certainly is an angle.

All the other things that come with your building a brand, sinking money into building an email list, sinking money into YouTube or SEO, building out your Amazon store, brand story, talking to Amazon influencers, just having your stuff out there to where once you have a customer, they're going to love your products and type in your stuff and seek it out. Color it was and is a search term on Amazon.

You'd be shocked at how many people were actually searching our brand name. Uh, and that's something that I think is, is really important because again, they, they might buy color at Mondalas version one and then go out and look for volume two or go look like, man, I really love this, this product. I'm going to go type in color at coloring book and go look for other titles that are, that are out there. And so while it might not fit in the subscribe and save thing, it's still fit in the, uh, the repeat business category. And so certainly, however,

However that is, whether it's subscribe and save or they're seeking us out, I think is an important component.

DJ (25:12.837)
Yeah, I would have agreed with you two or three years ago. I think if you're not subscribed and saved now, the chances of any repeat customer on Amazon occurring is very, very small. So first off, even outside of on Amazon, somebody finding your product on Amazon and then going and buying through your website, like they might have a few years ago, I don't think that really happens anymore. Amazon has complete monopoly over people's purchase behavior where they're not going to buy from another website. It's just.

You know, even when we ran anchoring.com and anchoring.com or 80% of our sales, that just can't exist today just because there's so much loyalty to Amazon. So the idea of that, somebody finding the product on Amazon, going to your website and buying probably unlikely. I also think.

Mike Jackness (25:56.662)
Well, I'm not suggesting they come that they I'm not trying to drive them off Amazon to our website I'm just trying to get them to buy more from Amazon

DJ (26:02.529)
Yeah. And I think even that trying to get people to buy more on Amazon, that is relying on branded search, even if you get it to occur, there's so much advertising noise on Amazon, that somebody filtering through all that and making their way to your Mike Jackness, uh, sweater page, really, really hard to do a lot harder to do nowadays than it was before. However, my mindset, again, maybe I'm completely wrong, but my mindset is that those two don't work, but the one area that does work incredibly well is subscribe and save because.

You get that repeat purchase behavior happening over and over again. It's automatically added to the cart every three to four weeks or whatever interval they set and it's there basically forever. So that's my way of looking at it. If you can do subscribe and save for an item, man, you are golden. But other than that, it's tough on Amazon. I could be wrong. I'd love again, on the comments, if anybody has a business on Amazon that has a high repeat purchase rate, not in subscribing, say I'd love to hear about it.

But that's my opinion, really hard, a lot harder now on Amazon than it used to be.

Mike Jackness (27:04.106)
Yeah, I think that one of the qualities that would exist here, it wasn't actually on my list, but it's certainly up there. It's actually funny that you brought this up, but something that would work well multi-platform, which is a unicorn in itself as well, because it's typically a product that's really well suited for Amazon or it's really well suited for DDC off Amazon via Shopify and Instagram or Facebook ads or whatever. There's a small subset of products that…

DJ (27:17.249)
Mm-hmm.

Mike Jackness (27:33.27)
that the Venn diagram overlaps. That would be another quality that I'm looking for as well. I mean, it wasn't specifically on my list, but it is an important quality, because then you have an ability to go after particular keywords in search on Amazon and have that business, and then also have an ability to do SEO.

and have it go directly to your Shopify store, having the ability to do DTC ads, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, et cetera, all the things that I find to be really fun. Maybe that has a lot to do with it. It's like, I want to have fun and enjoy what I'm doing, which is certainly an important component for me to be able to do that is really important. And so I think, it's an interesting way to articulate it different than what I was thinking, but certainly that would be another component that would be important to me where I sit down and go, man, like this product,

will never do well on Amazon, I think that doesn't make a lot of sense. Or you get, you look at a product, this is only something that's going to do well on Amazon, it'd be very difficult to, like right now, that's kind of where we're at. We have a product that's difficult to sell off Amazon. They do sell, we sell them on our website, but SEO, et cetera, is not really a great long-term strategy. I mean, the brand that we just sold back this summer worked well on both platforms. We had expanded to Shopify.

being almost a quarter of our business from starting at almost zero when we bought it. So I think that that's an important thing. So you're not platform handcuffed. I only picked three things to talk about today because I know we have a limited amount of time. And so that was not on my list, but very interesting nonetheless.

DJ (29:17.221)
Yeah. And I know it's not on your list, but actually you brought up a really good point there. More fun, more enjoyable to run. Not necessarily more profitable. So this is kind of for me too, is like I'm trying to imagine, okay, what's a business that I'm going to be really excited to run and tinker on a day-to-day basis. And the truth of it is, you know, a Shopify site, we can debate the pros and the cons of it from a profitability standpoint compared to Amazon all day long.

Mike Jackness (29:38.688)
Yep.

DJ (29:46.173)
The truth of it is, at least for me and probably for you too, Mike, it's a lot more fun to run. It's a lot more fun to tinker with your funnels and your landing pages. I'm like, how can I increase my conversion rate? Uh, 0.001% by, you know, affecting this email campaign. Um, it just allows you to scratch that marketer itching you a little bit more because Amazon is really product based and, uh, you know, uh, me and you are probably more marketing based and product based and

Having a Shopify site is just a lot more fun for scratching that marketing itch that we get than Amazon profitability aside.

Mike Jackness (30:22.686)
Yeah, I mean, absolutely no doubt. I mean, I don't know. Like, I think a lot of it comes down to being able to interact with your customers, right? With Amazon, it really feels so isolated. They've made it more and more isolated. And I love when they put these polls up in their back end that we have to look at every day, because it just shows you how disconnected management and Amazon is every single day. We should make that the way that we open the podcast every week is just to make fun of the poll.

in the back end of Amazon. Today's poll is when I appeal a listing suspension, Amazon responds in a timely manner. If they actually think that that's what happens, if they're expecting everybody to be like, I agree, strongly agree, they're fooling themselves. One of the questions that came up recently was like, I have the ability to interact with my customer. I was like, what do you mean my customer? You guys explicitly say that it's not my customer, it's your customer. Do not contact them under any uncertain circumstances.

I don't know, I think that that's pretty funny and I do feel isolated from it.

DJ (31:23.073)
Well, I'm sure they do it because they know the answer is either going to be 1% or 5%. Like that actually grew that answer and they're looking at, yeah, we got 5% this week. So I'm sure that they're completely aware that those questions are going to result in overwhelmingly negative responses. So there must be some strategy behind why they do it, but it does feel a little toned every time you log into Amazon, you see these questions, which are just infuriating. And I know that data is probably valuable to them and they understand what kind of

Mike Jackness (31:44.116)
Yeah.

DJ (31:53.141)
Like it really is infuriating and that's totally an aside, but I'm with you Mike. Every time I log in there and I see these questions, it's like, dude, like just be a little bit more sensitive.

Mike Jackness (31:55.083)
Yeah.

Mike Jackness (32:02.707)
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I don't know. It's funny, but yeah, that definitely is a very, I don't know, I really got a lot of joy out of being able to interact and do that and feel connected to my customers, my tribe, my people, seeing how that was affecting them in a positive way. And that really is infectious and makes you want to go design and do more things. And so yeah, it's certainly something I would be looking for as well.

DJ (32:28.449)
Well, it's a good thing that customers never complain and never find your cell phone number on a six o'clock on a Saturday night by calling your three PL and then calling UPS to see if they can give you the phone number to the owner of EcomCrew LLC. But yeah, I think back to that. I totally agree with you, dealing with customers on a day-to-day basis. It's really nice when you get…

Mike Jackness (32:40.648)
Yeah.

Yeah, well that's you, so.

DJ (32:56.969)
than 95% of them who have a positive experience, but there's always going to be somebody that gets their product that arrives late and it was like a Christmas gift and it shows up on December 26th, uh, completely out of your control. But still they find that number, your phone, personal phone number somehow if they're with the repel or some other mechanism. Um, and so definitely that part, I don't know if I'm with you on that one. Uh, looking forward to dealing with all customers cause I know the bag go with the good.

Mike Jackness (32:59.682)
Yeah.

Mike Jackness (33:24.138)
Yep. All right, so let me get my third thing out of the way here because we're already, we go over time every single time, but it's a fun conversation. And my list is quite a bit long on this, but these are just the top three things I had on my list. The last one here is some sort of a moat, right? And so, you know, whether I'm building a, depends on the size of the castle, the size of the moat or whatever, but you're just thinking through things of how difficult is it.

to duplicate my business. And I want it to be as hard as possible for somebody to recreate what I do. And now that doesn't mean impossible because that's just ignorant. Everything can be copied. But I want it to be more difficult than the average person is willing to do. And more difficult than nine out of 10 people in fact are willing to do, right? And so…

I know there will be other people that will be willing to do it, but I want it to be something that requires a sizable capital investment to get started, and so people stay away because of that. Maybe it's something that requires signing a lease or getting a warehouse for and having employees here and doing something, and that's the thing. Maybe it's something that has intellectual property or a patent, and that becomes the defense. Maybe it's something that has all three of those things, which would be…

even more exciting. But certainly again, what I'm trying to prevent is the 7 billion people around the world that have access to these platforms from being able to do the exact same thing I'm doing with relative ease, which is the exact spot that I'm in right this second. Again, we have a brand that I bought in 2015 that luckily has had tremendous success and

I bought this brand for $50,000. It will be a huge success story the day that we sell it. It's been our cash cow. But again, it doesn't mean that I want to continue to do this indefinitely, because the last year has been a struggle. It hasn't been a cash cow this last year. It's certainly getting more and more difficult. And so looking at what we have here, which is, again, zero defensibility. Anywhere in the world can go get these products and sell them against us. And

Mike Jackness (35:49.238)
They will struggle to start with because just making a nice listing and selling it for less doesn't really get you a whole lot of traction or get you anywhere. But over time, there will be people and things that stick. And we certainly have a lot of competitors out there now selling the exact same product. And realistically, it's just as good. You put it in the freezer, it gets cold. You throw it in the microwave, it gets hot. I don't have the same excitement about it as color.

stand in traffic defending those products all day long because they were truly better. They were really great products that people really love and they were defensible. And so I had everything was a little extra property, it took a big investment. And so you mentioned customization earlier. That's certainly one of the things I've been looking at because if you're doing customization and being able to ship and get it there quickly, inherently you probably need to do that in the United States. There are some things that can be.

DJ (36:46.094)
Mm-hmm.

Mike Jackness (36:47.746)
customized abroad and then ship because there are some huge leaks in our system. It's crazy. You can ship stuff from China to the United States cheaper than just shipping from Nevada to Nevada. I was just at my buddy's house today. He does e-commerce stuff and he printed me out a label because it's cheaper than going to the post office. But a medium flat rate box is up to $14.75 now. It's crazy. I mean, and you can literally ship something from China to here.

DJ (37:10.439)
Yep.

Mike Jackness (37:14.782)
In something like five to seven days, we've had people on the podcast talking about this for less than that. There are customized things that you can ship from around the world, but I'm not talking about like trade show pens here or something that's just your run of the mill commodity customized stuff. I'm talking about something that has a little bit more uniqueness to it than that. There's a lot of things I've been looking at in that regard. Again, something that has some sort of emote where

the complexity becomes the opportunity. And I am, you know, I've always been willing to work hard. I've been a hard worker my whole life. I feel like, you know, I've had a pretty easy the last few months. And so certainly it'd be easy to go back into, and we're settled here now, which is the other cool thing. I mean, we're just not going anywhere. And so having a warehouse and having people here to do that stuff would be, it'd be a good timing for us. And if that's what it took. And so,

It'll make it more difficult for other people out there that are just getting started, the people that are listening to this that don't want to make those steps. But for me, again, I'm willing to do it. I think that it seems crazy to not do e-commerce. All the skills, again, are very applicable. I still want to be able to sell whatever these products are on Amazon. I still want to be able to launch that Shopify store and sell.

sell on Shopify, I still want to be able to run Facebook ads, TikTok ads, Instagram ads, Google ads, do some SEO, do email marketing, and work with influencers and have all this ecosystem and things that I've worked really hard on to learn all these skill sets. It seems like nothing to me because you're learning a little bit at a time and it makes it feel like you haven't learned a whole lot. I never went to college for psychology, but there's like a term for this of where…

You know, something seems easy because you're learning it one day at a time. But if you try to tell somebody that is just getting started, how to sell their products online, and you had to like verbally tell them this, you know, almost like you had a podcast telling people about this. I mean, you'd be there for weeks and months and years, like verbally trying to exhaust what you have in your head to somebody.

DJ (39:17.17)
Almost like you had a podcast.

DJ (39:28.469)
you would be on episode 525.

Mike Jackness (39:31.466)
which I think this might be exactly episode 525, or it's very close to it. And so, you know, I think there's a lot to be said for that. I mean, we have 10,000 hours in podcasting. So, yeah, I mean, it's something that I've definitely put a lot of thought into, and I want to be able to kind of have my magnum opus e-commerce brand, which will… Now, here's the hard part is that I'm kind of committed to this one thing strategy right now. And so…

I cannot start doing that until this current thing is complete. And it has been tough. It's been tougher to get out of bed than it has been in a long time and work on the stuff I have to work on because it's not exciting. I mean, it really is not the fun stuff, but it has to get done.

DJ (40:22.697)
Amen. All right. So that's your idea for a business. Not going to happen for until you can finish this one thing. And then you're going to find this unicorn of a high margin, high repeat customer, big moat business. And then you're going to partner with me on it.

Mike Jackness (40:37.01)
I don't think it's a unicorn. Yeah, well, I mean, I need someone to help me sell in Canada. I don't think it's a unicorn. You know, I really don't. There's a lot of things that I've been looking at. I don't necessarily know that I want to mention them all here on the podcast right this second, but there's a lot of things. I mean, there really is a lot of… There are hundreds of different types of products and ideas.

DJ (40:44.481)
Sorry.

Mike Jackness (41:06.518)
that can be done. Now, I guess it is a unicorn when you figure that there's probably a billion freaking products online. Like literally, I think that's probably not an exaggerated number. And so we're talking about hundreds or thousands into a billion, okay, maybe it is a unicorn from that perspective. But it's not like the true unicorn of like, there's only one. Like I think that there's a lot of things that fit this criteria. What doesn't fit this criteria is just the, I'm going to again,

DJ (41:12.904)
Yep.

Mike Jackness (41:37.034)
just be a faceless, mindless reseller of products on the internet, which is getting close to max saturation.

DJ (41:45.949)
Yeah. And I poke fun at you because it sounds like you've described a unicorn, but the truth of it is basically what you're saying is that you want a business with, uh, more margins to support higher advertising costs, uh, and more margin probably to support a little bit of customization, a manual input locally. Uh, and that kind of leads back to your higher margin part, not because necessarily your net margins at the end of the day are going to be any higher than the business that you have now. It's just going to be a little bit more of a, uh, of a different rejiggering of where those costs occur, which

Ultimately, we'll give you more defense build.

Mike Jackness (42:20.002)
Cool, well we have hit the 42 minute mark of this podcast so we're already way over our target as I mentioned but hopefully this gives people some things to think about as we're ending 2023 heading into 2024 which is crazy. It's another year it's gone by.

quickly so it's getting close time for our top episodes, episodes and what we're thinking about doing in 2024. It's crazy this is all happening and time to take the year end break and vacation. So we will probably not have an episode here that last week of the year just to because most people are out in some outer space spot. But yeah, getting close to wrapping up another year. It's crazy.

DJ (43:01.089)
Cool, well, we will chat in the next one whenever that is.

Mike Jackness (43:04.342)
Whenever that is. All right, until that one everybody, happy selling. We'll talk to you soon.

Michael Jackness

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.

One Comment

  1. Mike, I listened to what type of things you are looking for in a business on this podcast and realized how truly blessed we are that we have and are already living with a business we built that has all those qualities and yet has so much further potential that the scale of this business is only limited by what you want to do with it. It could scale to billions with a team and a little investment or as mom/pop operation we can keep growing from our 6 figure sales level to higher 6 figs or 7. Its a little more work the waay we do it but could have many aspects outsourced except for the fun stuff.
    We are approaching 70 and thinking of retiring this next year but we have thousands of customers that would want their favorite stuff to carry on. I would really love the oppurtunity to discuss further.
    Mike Hulbert – http://www.creationpharm.biz

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