15-Year Seller, Globe Trotter & Worldwide Logistics Expert – Eddie Levine

Eddie Levine is one of the most unique eCommerce sellers in the business logging 200,000 flight miles this year alone!  Not only does he have great common-sense business principles, but he also knows a lot about capital allocation.  Eddie is a logistics specialist and multi-millionaire seller.  Find out what makes him tick in this episode of the Amazon Seller Podcast!
Eddie Levine

———-FULL SHOW TRANSCRIPT———

Andy: (00:02) Hey everyone, how are you doing? I hope you’re having a great Monday. This is Andy Slamans from Amazing Freedom. I have a very special guest today. Someone who I’ve known for I guess four to five years now. He is a monster seller on Amazon. I’m not even going to give the number that he sells every year, but it’s like in the gazillions if that is a proper new miracle word. Eddie is a fantastic Amazon seller, helps out a tremendous amount of people. Again, the reason for these interviews is to bring you, real sellers, on Amazon. I am definitely tired of all the noise of folks making a sound like selling on Amazon as easy as baking a cake. It is not, you have to have great business practices. You have to use great common-sense business principles. And a lot of it is about capital allocation. It’s about managing that cashflow. And I’m bringing a new someone today who does that in an excellent way. I visited his warehouse. He’s located near Chicago. He has a fantastic operation, has great systems. He has a great partner that he works with. Again, all ingredients, right, of growing a successful business, whether you’re building an Amazon business or whether you’re building any other kind of business. Eddie would be successful in whatever he does. So I’m excited to bring him to you today. He’ll share with us. So Eddie is a world traveler. We’re just talking pre-show. He’s gone. He’s, he’s traveled over 200,000 miles just in the past year visiting trade shows, working with suppliers and doing many things focused around his business. Eddie, thanks so much for taking time out of your day to, to hang out with us today. Eddie: (02:01) Dude, anything for you. I appreciate you having me on in the invite. Andy: (02:04) Awesome. All right, so we just want to get right into the show. Eddie, we try to stay away from the fluff in this series. So just tell us a little bit about yourself how you started selling on Amazon, how you heard about it. Eddie: (02:18) My name is Eddie Levine. I am a picky eater. I like drinking honest kids, Apple juice. Okay. Kidding aside. So I started selling well I was any commerce since 2003. That was my other business and then I started this specific company in 2012. Our business with this company has evolved almost, It seems like it’s daily, but it’s evolved a few times over the last eight years, seven, eight years. Started retail arbitrage, didn’t do any online arbitrage. It’s a little bit unique I guess cause people used to do a little bit about we, we didn’t really do any online did that about two and a half years, then we had to close out liquidation type stuff. Then we’ve evolved again for the third time to more traditional wholesale buying. You know, not necessarily close-outs, but just whatever we can get our hands-on, that company would sell wholesale. Then we evolved the fourth time, mainly because the market conditions were changing. And as you know, you’re being an Amazon seller yourself in this, you know, if you’re, if you’re new to Amazon, this will be may or may not be news to you, but Amazon is constantly evolving, constantly changing, so you have to keep up with the, with the pace of the eCommerce market. So what we saw is that the wholesale model was getting, not that it was getting too difficult, it’s just that it was getting, there was a lot more competition coming on and giving false information to brands and not really being a team player in terms of representing them well or, or being fair to other people who are trying to sell their products. So what we decided to do is just really focused on brand management. So that’s what we do now for pretty much night and day. I’m working exclusively or some exclusively with brands to represent them on the platform and basically operate sort of like private label because we’re doing the same analytics and the same research required as a private label seller would, would do. And incidentally, I am getting into private label myself. My girlfriend and I are doing some stuff together for that. So but you know, that, that’s our, that’s our business now. And I mean, maybe if we have another interview in 2021 or 2222, I’ll be doing something else. Who knows? Andy: (04:23) Oh, that’s, that’s awesome. Because, you know, like you just said, a lot of times people get stuck you know, and they think that there are ways, the only way but I love how you’ve been able to, you know, kind of see like what’s ahead and you’ve been able to shift, which is really hard to do, but you make it sound like it’s easy. But I imagine that there were a lot of conversations, you know, with your partner and a lot of research, you know, each time you shifted, Eddie: (04:49) I’d have to pull, I’d have to dig them up. But there’s those literally text conversations or Slack conversations that I have with Greg and it’s, it’s nothing but us going back and forth on like, Hey, remember, remember when this, remember when this, remember that it was like one of those like I remember that $70 paycheck. Remember that we bought those like rusty old whatever. And then remember this, I was like, huh, good times. Andy: (05:14) Let’s go back then. And when did you first see the opportunity on Amazon? You know, like wow, like this, this could be a real thing. Eddie: (05:26) So for those of you who don’t know the story on how I started this business, it was kind of accidental actually wasn’t even looking for it. I was working at the time, way back when in IT. I was doing sales my 25K job that every college student would dread when they first got to college. Cause you know, they got a lot of loans to pay off and stuff, but whatever. I was doing that job and I was sitting at my desk and just, you know, the time I was, I was getting by, but it was, it was like, it was, you know, you get the credit card bill every month and it was like, God Dammit, I get this text message right, I totally forgot I had done it, but I had gone on this liquidation website. Now I put in what they call seal bid. So for those who don’t know what a seal bid is it’s basically been a lot or a mixed-up product or something. But you put it in your max number and you don’t know what the other bids are. So basically they pull all the bids together and whoever has got the highest bid at the end of the auction will win. So there’s no like bidding up against each other, but it’s just, you know, highest bidder wins and you got one shot. Okay, fine. So I found this liquidation auction, it was for bunch of electronics, like dish network, satellite dishes, like these huge things you put in your yard, a wireless keyboard, cell phone cases like those cheap ones that you know are like the worst thing that’s on Amazon cause you don’t, I didn’t know that wasn’t the time. I bought a bunch of that stuff. Probably like, I don’t know, like six, 700 pieces, just miscellaneous, whatever. So when I saw the auction I’m like, Oh, you know, meeting an idiot, not knowing what to do with this stuff. Like it’ll sell, it’ll sell, no big deal. I mean I’ll, I’ll throw $5,000 at it, it’s only 25% of my salary for the year part it because on my salary, so my grandma’s not going to win this, whatever. And then so like three days went by, I’m sitting at my desk, right. And I’ve got my desk right here. I’ve got my phone, like got my phone like right here toward my desk and I’m looking up above it and I see my phone gets a notification. Right. It’s from Capitol one. So as you’re now over your credit limit, you’ve just charged $5,000 from I about blocked my like about, I lost it. I was like, okay. So the first thing I’m thinking of, I’m a logistics guy. Cause the first thing I’m thinking of is not how am I going to pay that off? I mean, I was panicked but my first instinct was, what am I going to put it? Right? Forget about paying it, right, but just like, that should have been my primary concern, so ended up bringing it into the house and you know, nowhere else at the time, Brian in the house had had to get it to freight delivered up my driveway and went through it and started listing on Amazon. And that’s, that’s pretty much where it started. That was, that was pre-RA days, which is a good thing we got moved into a storage facility at the time or something, I don’t know, out of my driveway because there’s a lot of we’ll call them special people in my neighborhood. And one of them decided to call the police saying I was being suspicious when I sorted that out one night. That was a fun conversation of do you have a receipt for this? And play call. Really. Andy: (08:30) So those, so those started selling right away then are they sold? I imagine. Wow. Eddie: (08:36) Yeah. I mean we sold it. It was, it was lucky. It was definitely lucky. I mean we probably went through it all in about two or three months, which, you know, with that kind of stab and not knowing what in the heck you’re doing, it could be a lot worse. So I think after two or three months we maybe had, you know, 25 50 products over that were the cheaper stuff. Wasn’t that big of a deal. We didn’t make a killing on it. We definitely covered expenses, but it wasn’t like, you know, there to be extra anything. Andy: (09:03) So how long, how long did you stay working then full time at another job before you took the leap? Eddie: (09:10) About a year. About a year, year and a half. Yeah. It wasn’t, it wasn’t too long. There were a lot of changes going on in my last job. Just good company, just fundamental changes, management changes that it just was the right time, you know, it just, you get that feeling and that could things kind of line up everything I say. Everything happens for a reason. And that was, I was seeing these things, certain things related to the business and not related to the business, kind of all adding up and pointing me in the right direction. So, I’m a firm believer in that. Andy: (09:37) And the reason I ask that is, you know, I’ll get asked that question a lot from folks that are just starting on Amazon. They have a full-time job and the question always is, you know, how much do I need to be selling? Or when should I take the leap in the selling on full time? What’s your take on that? Eddie: (09:51) It depends on who you are and what your situation is. So I was a single guy with no kids. So, and at the time I was living, you know, living comfortably. So it’s just I got to pay $5,000 on a credit card and I can float debt, whatever cares. You know, it was a great time to learn. I’ll tell you that much. But you know, if I was where I was, where I am today, and I had to take that kind of leap, or if I had kids and I’ve, I had a family and I had a mortgage, that’s a different story, right? So you know, as you said in the beginning, this is, this is not an easy business. You know, I read someone today, there was a Facebook post that came up promoted and sponsors up to sponsor. And I might be this morning from someone who is just telling you, she’s like, I can, I can teach you how to, how to, how to, how to, she said, she’s like, I can teach a busy lifestyle, a busy person who’s, you know, caught up in the, with their job, how to make money on Amazon. And I’m like, this is a terrible way to promise someone to make money, right? Because this is not like a hobby, hobby thing. If you’re, if you actually want to need this seriously and you have people do it as a hobby, but if you want to actually make money, it’s going to take work. So just, I don’t know that that frustrates me. I hate that. I really hate that. And it’s gotten, it’s gotten worse, like really bad over the last few years. I remember like when I first talked to you back in 20 2014, 2015, I mean there was none of that. I mean it was, it was, it was so much easier to just navigate and talk to people. Andy: (11:13) Yeah. And you know, I think, and this is one of the reasons for this interview series is people don’t understand when you are operating a physical product, inventory-based business, there are a lot of things that go into it that aren’t necessarily part of other businesses that you may start. Like I see that as one of the biggest challenges that folks have. And again, it comes down to capital allocation and it comes down to cash flow. You know, cause you know, even though when you’re selling millions of dollars a year, that cashflow is a continual issue. Cause the means you gotta place more orders. Right. And so, you know, managing that piece of it is something that I think a lot of folks don’t necessarily understand. Eddie: (11:53) People have a dream. Not all of them are realistic though. They know that, Oh no, not that lifestyle or that, that success looks awesome and I can do that. But then you don’t think about what goes into it or they don’t think about the stamina it’s going to take or the, or the drain that’s going to happen to you sometimes. You know, it’s, it’s fine. It’s not meant for everybody, but people, people tend to promise themselves these things and then it doesn’t work out. And then, you know, they get themselves into trouble or that they have, you know, problems that are just, it spreads to other people or the relationships. It’s just not a good thing. So, you know, you gotta be really careful. Andy: (12:27) Yeah. Awesome. So tell us a little bit, you know, how basically what you’ve said is when you started, you’ve kind of pivoted four different ways. What, what are some of the things that, you know, as the, you know, CEO or the, you know, chief operating officer, right? You’re, you got the 10,000 square feet view. What are the things that you focus on or concentrate on? Is it sourcing? Is it you know, is it inventory management? Is it a relationship with suppliers? Like what do you see as the most significant piece that you do? Eddie: (13:00) I would say it’s a mix between, I was going to say two things, but I’ll add three things. So two first thing would be more supplier relationships. You know, building that, that connection, right? So even when I was in wholesale before we did brand management, I was contrary to what a lot of the courses and a lot of the “gurus” would tell you is, Oh, you could just, you know, send out this letter, or you could just contact people on the phone or an email. I was never about that. I was always about you need to get out person, whether you go, you know, see him at a trade show or you go meet with them face to face at their office, something to set yourself apart. Because I was, you know, I explained, I said, look, there are any given day 10 20, 30 people contacting these companies that get through and are asking the same question you are, so how are you going to differentiate yourself? Because if they’re getting contacted, you know, 150 times a week, but then only one of them took the opportunity to actually meet them or, or ask for a meeting, who are they gonna remember? Right. So I’ve kind of stuck with that principle from, from then and through now. So my suppliers that I talk to now, I always want to go that face to face connection. And like I’ve told people before, I said, you know, they say, well, you know, what do you mean you do? How would you, how would you define, or how would you rate doing that? How would you, how would you get in front of them? And I’m like, or they say, you know, they asked me, is it worth it? I’m like, well, let me ask you a question. I’m like, if, if I could charge you $300 $400 to get a great contact, great supplier for new product and be able to increase your revenue in your profits you know, for the rest of the year, for, for, for longterm, would you pay it? And every time the answer is undoubtedly, Oh yeah, of course I would, but then they look at me like I’m crazy when I say, great, can I have a plan and go, go meet him, because that’s how much it costs. Right, right. Don’t look, we’re younger basically because I just proved her wrong. I just proved you right. So, so is it, and I get that not everyone can do that because, you know, not everyone’s full time, whatever. I get that. I’m just trying to, you know, put numbers to make sense here. So, so that’s, that’s, that’s the kind of thing Mary, you know, so that’s, it’s that, it’s that part there with building supplier relationships. And then I think the other half is the other, one-hired is logistics process. So, you know, the inventory of the logistics. I, I come from a logistics background with previous roles and corporate jobs. So, so that’s, that is like the numbers game to me in the, in the forecasting and the planning is I can almost do in my head, I can’t do it in my head to the left for a lot of things. So like my business partner, Greg hates that stuff. He doesn’t wear anything with warehousing or forecasting or trying to build out a container cube dimension, stuff like that. None of that. But then on the flip side, the analytics, the research part, the driver’s sales drivers, the trends peaks, all that stuff. I hate that stuff. That’s just boring to me. It’s a part of the business that’s required, but I just don’t like it. It’s just not fun. Right. It doesn’t send it, it just, it’s just not my cup of tea, but it’s a good thing because we can spread that out. And I guess the third thing is that I traveled like I’m master at travel. Andy: (16:12) Oh yeah. That, that’s, so if you’re not friends with Eddie, I highly recommend you troll his Facebook wall and you’ll see the many places that he travels, the many types of foods that he, his girlfriend gets into try cause he’s not very adventurous right when it comes to trying new foods out. Eddie: (16:32) She made me start an Instagram and hlet mee tries food if you want to see me gag. Andy: (16:39) And so it’s full of great stuff. He has an amazing girlfriend. We know her as well. She’s a phenomenal Amazon seller. And so they are often traveling all over the world together and a very, very fun couple to watch and see what they do and build. So real quick, I just, two more questions here. Eddie. What are some challenges that you see, you know, in, in your business or that Amazon sellers themselves are facing? And, and then the last question is, you know, what type of advice would you give to a new Amazon seller who’s just starting out and getting in the business? Eddie: (17:17) Well, I think the challenges we face in our businesses, kind of like you said before, you know, continuing to, to successfully grow while maintaining the, you know, the, the cashflow and also maintaining just relationships with suppliers and making sure that you’re having, you have the competitive edge, right? Brands are getting smarter. They’re realizing they’ve already been realizing for a number of years and they can kinda continue to realize, that Amazon is the channel for them to sell on. And it’s got tremendous power not only just on Amazon as well, but it impacts their other sales channels, both offline and online. So they’re really going to be looking for not only it’ll be working with a brand they’re gonna be looking at with my partner, but if you’re not working with the brand, if you’re a private label seller exclusively, there’s going to be that, that competition that you face online, right, with the same type of products. And no matter what you’re making, if you’re making something in housewares or toys or lawn and garden or pad or baby, it doesn’t matter, right? If you’re going to have those bigger companies, those people who have those dollars behind them that are learning this stuff coming up against you I think it’s going to get a much more competitive in this space. I think that’s, that’s the challenge really. And then from a seller perspective, I think that sellers don’t, don’t a lot of sellers, newer salaries I should say. Don’t realize how fragile and how privilege it is to be able to operate a business on Amazon and you really are in their sandbox. I see it, I see it time and time again. People, you know, they complain, well, this is not fair. You know, they can’t do this to me, blah, blah, blah, blah. Make a plan on Amazon saying that it just, you know, that they have it out for them. And, and I scratch my head there because I’m thinking myself, well, you know, they did design the website. They do technically own the customers. You are piggybacking on their customer base and essentially, I mean you’re paying for it with fees and stuff, but you’re not paying for that customer list if you know kinda thing. Andy: (19:15) Real quick, so I just read, I didn’t know this just in 2019 Amazon invested $15 billion in the third party network. So warehousing logistics, 15 billion. It was their largest one year capital investment in three P that they’ve ever done. And in a year. Eddie: (19:37) I remember when we, I remember when we first started the closest warehouse we were shipping to, I’m in Chicago, the closest warehouse we’re shipping to is somewhere in Hubert and Kentucky. I think it was CDG something. Now I’ve got one that’s first off. I’ve got cross-dock facilities, you know, 70 miles away in like 300 directions. And then I’ve got those local terminals now that have like the people that, that deliver locally for you. I’ve got one like 10 miles down the street. So think about that, right? From an investment perspective, yes. They, they, they’ve invested a lot into the facilities, but think about how much they’ve sprint and to blend the blanket the entire country. Their goal in case you haven’t been following it, but their goal is literally to be in your backyard. Like they don’t, they don’t want you to move an inch and if they can deliver it within an hour to as many places as possible, that’s what they’re going to do. You know, people laugh when they, when they talked about the whole drone thing, whatever. I mean, look, it might be, it might be a few years down the road, but it’s going to happen. Trust is going to happen. Okay. I mean, I’ve now toured the Amazon facilities, different variations of not four to five different times. And it is if you haven’t done that, by the way, they now have it, they have it publicly available for free. I’m like all of these different places and you can just Google Amazon warehouse stores. That is a sight to see it’s free and it’s an hour-long at your jaw will be on the floor. Andy: (21:04) No, I, I love that. And I mean I agree 100% their goal I think is to be able to deliver within two hours, two to four hours for sure. Same day delivery and the, and they’re going to get there. They’re already there. I think with over 10 million prime customers where they can do that same-day delivery. Eddie: (21:21) It’s like a way we explain it, we explain to brands and they sort of didn’t understand, well why do we have to be prime eligible only because look at their customer base. Everyone is prime. I mean you want to be the one guy who hasn’t catered it to 90% of the customers. Why would you do that? Andy: (21:35) Yeah, absolutely. And you know, I still think too that if you look at the history really of the world and any, any industry, there has never been a shift like we’ve seen in the last 20 years. Literally trillions of dollars have shifted from retail purchases to now a click of a mouse within, you know, within 20 years we send a shift of trillions of dollars of spending and I w I would be willing to bet that if you looked in the history of humanity, there hasn’t been that shift that a transfer with that a great amount of wealth in any industry like we’ve seen Eddie: (22:12) Every, every time I go on Amazon I find myself saying myself, okay, there’s no way they’re going to get this to me in a day because this is like the most ridiculous, odd non-popular product. Like I’m trying to find something that I bought recently. Oh yeah, like these things. Okay. These things are shields that go on the top of security cameras, right? It’s just like dust covers and like [inaudible] like okay, it’s going on winter, but it does cover, isn’t it? Like she, the light from hitting the camera, I’m like, there can’t be a huge demand for that. You know, it’s like come on. Nope. They got locally, they got up at my time allocation. They’ll be here within an hour. Like, seriously, I mean, you imagine what kind of stuff. They’ve gotten the way out. So they’ve got stuff like this just on the ready. It’s not just your common stuff. This is like stuff that, I mean, a home Depot probably sells once a week if that. Andy: (23:03) Yeah. Well no, that’s awesome. And I think they continued to work with third party sellers who are offering seller fulfilled prime and so, and they’re very tight man on, on their delivery times. Like, you know, I’ve had my seller fulfilled prime suspended two different times. It’s been drops below like a 99%, you know, on-time delivery rate, then you’re gone. Eddie: (23:25) Yeah, dude, dude, we, so we don’t do seller fulfilled prime because it’s just not our model. Right. But I understand some people do, but in holiday season we do. We do. We have some brands that just, for whatever reason, mostly because it’s like, you know, larger stuff that goes to different facilities or it’s hazmat type stuff that we have to do. We had to do FBM because of crunch time when we just, we had to put it on FBM and offer it. But man, there was one day that we forgot to ship on time. So there was like six orders that were late. So I’m like, Oh, whatever. Like we upped the shipping and it got to the fire on time. No, no, no. That still wasn’t good enough for Amazon because you shipped late. You know, worst part was they, they, they rate you by like a trailing 10 that’s really 30 days. Andy: (24:05) Right? Eddie: (24:06) So then I all of a sudden found that like, you know, once we stopped shipping FBM well, Oh my God, orders would fall off and my, my late ones were not there. So my late shipment rate was like 28% and of course I got Amazon emailing me saying what’s going on? And I’m like, it was one day. But that’s how it is. Right. Andy: (24:22) And you know what, I have respect for that. I do colors, but it builds that customer trust, right? Eddie: (24:31) That’s why they, that’s why they’re so successful. But then you see the emails come through and they say, Oh, miss delivery problem. It’s like every other day. I’m like, what about that? But that’s, that’s what I’m saying. You know, when people say Amazon’s not fair, they do that, blah, blah. Yeah, exactly. It’s not fair. It’s a very do as I say, not as I do get over it. Right. That, that’s simple. I don’t like that mentality. This is not for you. Andy: (24:54) Absolutely. And that’s great advice for new sellers coming in. And you know I think Eddie, like even in 2014, 2015 I used to hear that a lot more as well that, you know, look, this is Amazon sandbox. So, you know, if you want to play the game, just understand Amazon is right all the time and you gotta play by their rules. They’ve built the biggest, most massive sales channel in the history of the world, online sales channel. And so they have a right to say, Hey, look, this is the standard you need to meet this standard. And if you don’t, you’re not going to be on our platform. Eddie: (25:28) Yup. Yup. Andy: (25:29) So cool. All right, well, Hey, I’m going to let you go. Those of you that are watching, again, this is Eddie Levine. We’ll post here in the comments where you can find him on Facebook. I highly recommend, and then you could probably see in all these interviews that we’ve been doing over the last two months, these are real people, real sellers who understand what it means to run a real physical product, inventory-based business. Now obviously, you know, we believe in what we’re doing. I believe in the upside, just like I said, I believe that it’s been the greatest transfer of wealth over the last 20 years that we’ve seen in the history of humanity. And I still think that there is a ton of room that this business is going to continue to grow. So we believe in it, but it is not without its challenges. So just make sure that you know, before you do dive in you understand, just like any business, it’s going to have a challenge. But, by following good folks like Eddie and these other folks that I’ve interviewed, you’re going to get some really great best practices on how to build a sensible business on Amazon. So Eddie, thanks again so much for your time. Thank. Thank you guys for watching this. I hope you’re enjoying these interviews. Eddie, I’m going to let you go and have a great trip. I think you’re going to Europe next, right? Eddie: (26:52) Yeah. in 3 days. Andy: (26:54) Awesome. All right. We’ll follow you.
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