How To Sell Your Own Brand for 7-Figures with Kellianne Fedio
100 Real Sellers, Episode No.15
—-FULL SHOW TRANSCRIPT—-
Kellianne Fedio, is an attorney turned e-commerce entrepreneur, an Amazon channel expert. She founded and scale a multimillion-dollar brand and then had a successful seven-figure exit. Kellianne has spent the last six-plus years honing her craft and mastering the art and science it takes to maximize sales and visibility for brands on the Amazon channel.
Kelli stays immersed in the latest Amazon strategies because she’s obsessed with helping brands leverage and dominates the powerful yet ever-changing platform. Kelly has been featured as a speaker at world-class e-commerce events like the prosper show, IRCE, and she enjoys connecting with people and helping them achieve success. She’s passionate about helping brand owners identify and maximize profit opportunities in their Amazon business.
She helps optimize their business operations and develops a solid exit strategy so that she can maximize the sale of their business. She helped six and seven-figure Amazon sellers get off the hamster wheel. That is super important for those of us that are building brands. We don’t want to remain on that hamster wheel forever. We want to have that exit strategy so that they have the time to pursue and achieve true financial freedom by focusing on tax savings and wealth-building strategies. Kelli works directly with Amazon sellers, offers consulting, coaching, exit planning, optimize Amazon product listings, premium creative content creation, and full service, Amazon PPC advertising management.
Kellianne, thank you so much for joining us today. And if you could just share with us a little bit about your background and how you got started selling on Amazon.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. So it’s been a long time coming. I know we’ve had to reschedule this several times, so really happy to be here. I got started back in the heyday of when selling on Amazon, you know, really started to get out there in a big way and it was back in 2014 and prior to that, I had been doing you know, looking into internet marketing. I knew I wanted to build some kind of business that I could do from anywhere in the world.
So I tried a lot of different things, failed at a lot of different things. The first thing when I started to have success with as far as making money online was drop shipping and doing online arbitrage. So that’s where I wanted to book and started doing either online arbitrage or retail arbitrage. I really hate shopping, so going out to stores and finding good deals. I know you’re like a master at that Andy, that wasn’t for me, but finding really good deals online and then selling that I did on both eBay and Amazon.
You know, that’s how Jeff Bezos first started.
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. You know, that model you know, was really, it’s, it’s kind of making a comeback right now actually, but it really was kind of in its infancy back then. And I got on that bandwagon loved it, made some really good money and saw some quick success and, and finally, you know, really knew that I wanted to focus on eCommerce.
And you know, it just kinda dawned on me that this is really a job that I’ve created for myself during this drop shipping thing. It’s great money, but it’s a job. And I knew that, okay, what’s the next step? I want to build a brand and how am I going to get a brand out there in the big, in a big way. And I was just lucky enough to be on, I was on so many internet marketers email lists, but one of the lists I was on was a Ryan Moran. Many people know who Ryan is. He’s a very, very well known in our space and in entrepreneurship space. And he was promoting a program called Amazing Selling Machine and a lot of people heard of that ASM. So I was ASM three. I joined that and never looked back.
It was a great, you know, foundational course for how to launch and scale a brand on Amazon. And I just went all in and you know, at the time when I first started, I knew I wanted to create a women’s lifestyle brand. You know, I picked my first product that I knew could be like the flagship product of that brand. But really, you know, when I started building it, it was really with the mindset of cashflow and just grinding and over time that really evolved and we can talk more about that as they go on. But that’s how I got started.
Oh, that’s awesome. So, you know, a lot of times as private label sellers, you know, when we’re just kind of getting our feet wet, we pick products that don’t necessarily pan out. Right. What was that experience for you? Like did you have a winner right away? Did you go through a few, you know, products first? How was that when it came to product selection when you just started out?
Yeah. So my, my first product was it took some time to gain traction, but once it did gain traction it took off and still remains the bestseller of that brand. However, along the way I picked many failing products picked a lot of winners too. So, you know, I don’t think there’s any Amazon seller out there that doesn’t have their, you know, failures. You know, and when you look back in retrospect, it’s, it’s easy to tear apart. But, you know, coming back to the art and science thing, a lot of the things that I launched were, I mean, I’m very data-driven, very analytical, but I still go with my intuition on a lot of things and sometimes that’s right. Sometimes it’s wrong.
That’s awesome. So it’s interesting you say that because one of my first products it’s still one of my best sellers. And you know, one of the reasons why I think is I was one of the first to market, you know, with this product on Amazon, so I was able to kind of get ahead of everybody else. What do you attribute your success at? Like that first product being one of your best ones?
Well, I, I really, that one came down to intuition because there was barely any sales data going on for that product back then. And I saw it as a way that I could plant my stake in the sand to build a brand around. And so when I launched the product, I really did have the brand envisioned you know, the name of it and all that changed over time. But I, I knew I could build a movement around that one product, even though it didn’t have a lot of keyword searches at the time. And so when I first launched it it was August of 2014 and it was a very lukewarm launch. It took me about three solid months of pure grinding, and then it took off that Q4 and then it just, you know, was a consistent climb ever after that.
You know, for me, it’s encouraging when you say that, like that product that was intuition based because, so I have a partner, he’s great. His name is Nathan. He’s much more like on the data side of things where I’m much more on the intuition side and sometimes you know, and I know there has to be a combination of both. Right? Like you just said has to be art and science. Yes. But you know, sometimes I feel lesser then because I feel like, you know, like you said sometimes on products there’s not data out there. And, and do you see that you know, as you’ve consulted and worked with other Amazon sellers, you know, do you see that really has to be a blend or do you see some folks out there that, you know, even though there may be more intuition based, they, they, they do okay on that.
Yeah. I’m seeing more and more, especially over the last couple of years, more of the intuition based products, if you want to call them that I’m gaining traction and taking off because the key, I think these days, I mean, we all have access to the same software tools out there, this right software tools out there. We can look at all the data. We’re all looking at the same darn thing, right? And so there has to be some special sauce somewhere in there. And that comes with experience. And taking chances on your intuition and knowing that out of every, let’s say 10 products you launch are going to have three or four losers. Right? And that’s just the name of the game. It is a numbers game. So going with that intuition and really trying to identify trends before they really take off, I think is key these days.
No, that, that’s, that’s an, and you know, as a Amazon person who’s kind of out there, right in the public eye, that’s the number one question I get from people is how do I pick a product? You know, or a what product, you know, can I sell? And you know, there’s a number of ways, you know, sometimes I tell people, well, what are you went to? Like, what kind of hobbies are you into? You know, which they usually have a little deeper knowledge base. But on the danger side of that, a lot of times you know, people that are into hobbies, they think everybody else should love what they do. Right?
Yeah. And, and that’s really where it comes down to really strong keyword research. I mean, I like to research based off keywords, not off products because people buy keywords, not products on Amazon.
Talk about that a little bit.
Well, you know, keyword research is something that I, I spent a lot of time getting really good at at the very beginning and I, I believe that’s what allowed me to, once my product took off, it attracted competitors and, and it got completely saturated. And so I had to be able to maintain competitiveness. And the way I did that was diversifying my keyword traffic. And that still holds true today. It, it held true as I launched other products. I never went after the main keyword. I look for products that can be searched in a multitude of ways. So they have a lot of keywords that can lead to finding that product. So a lot of long tail keywords, a lot of lower to mid tail keywords and lower to mid volume keywords, not just one main keyword.
No, that’s awesome. And I just want to stay on, on this theme for a little bit cause it’s so important. A lot of times, like you said, people don’t understand that on Amazon, the algorithm, right? It’s all based on those keywords. And so, you know, as a retailer you’re oftentimes you’re thinking about product and, and foot traffic, you know, it’s a little different than online traffic. With those clicks you really have to understand, right, what that keyword demand is and, and so, you know, those of you that are always wondering like, what product I can sell, she just gave like a gold nugget right there. You really don’t need to think about that so much as you need to think about what kind of volume of keyword search is, you know, for whatever keywords you know are in your niche. Is that, am I looking at that the right way, Kellianne?
Yeah, absolutely. And thinking in like broader categories and you know, lifestyles and niches versus thinking in terms of like kitchen, knife, you know, that being really narrow. Think about the broader, you know, gifts for cooks or you know, gifts for chefs or things like that. Looking at those broader categories and then looking at products that would match that and fit that keyword.
Awesome. Very cool. So, so you got your first product in there, it’s doing well, right? And, and you’re kind of learning the Amazon space. You’re launching other products. What, when did you like figure out like, okay, look, I want to get off this hamster wheel, you know, what, what do what, what are some things you started doing?
Well, you know, the business, I was very fortunate in the first two and a half years, I had a pretty explosive growth was launching a lot of new products and definitely got shiny object syndrome like crazy and was trying to learn all these other things too. And still was able to maintain the business and all that. But that definitely led me down some, some rabbit trails. But having said that, you know, building, as I built the business, I started to realize that, you know, I’m building something here that like, what, what are my true lifetime goals at this? Do I want to keep doing this forever? Do I want to pass this on to my kids? Do I just want to take the cash flow and live off of it? And that’s really when I started to like research this is really before it became pretty prominent that, you know, Amazon businesses have value when you can sell them. So I read a great book called “Built to Sell” by John Warrillow, and I highly recommend that book. It’s, it’s about an advertising agency and it takes it through a fictional story of how they scale that and sold it. But it really applies to anybody looking to sell a business. And he’s also got a great podcast by the way, called Built to Sell. But anyway,
If you see me looking down, It’s because I’m taking notes.
Oh yeah. John Warrillow, I think it’s W. A. R. I. L. L. O. W.
So I read that book and a light bulb went off, went off. And at that time in my Amazon business, I had, you know, a lot of good products, a lot of bad products. And I also knew that I needed to re-brand to really get, get the losers out of the portfolio and really focus on the winners. So I went through, it took me about a year to re-brand. I mean I had to change everything on Amazon with brand registry and all that. So that was a process. But I did that with the end in mind of knowing that after I get, get it re-branded, you know, maintain and get sales back on an upward trajectory, that that’s when I was going to start planning my exit. So the key being is you don’t just wake up one day and say, I’m going to sell my business, let me go out and do it. You wake up one day and you say, I’m going to decide to put a plan in place to sell my business. And then you start planning, ideally, hopefully at least a year in advance.
So w what are some things that you see private label sellers like myself? Honestly, like I feel like on my first brand I made that mistake and now it’s still sells. You know, it’s selling really good. It’s a good cash flow. But for me to kind of go back in there and untangle, you know, and separate, I just have no desire to do that. So I’m just going to ride the cash cow. Right and until it dies. But what are some things that you would, you know, recommend Amazon sellers do early on, you know, so that they don’t have to go back in and untangle maybe you know, what they first started?
Well, you know, from a, from a business standpoint, you want to have clean books. So if you have a bunch of brands mixed under one LLC, one seller, central account you know that that presents its problems and challenges. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell it. You’re, you’re going to just really need to make sure that you have awesome bookkeeping and awesome bookkeeper and awesome accountant using awesome software. You know, I used A to X and QuickBooks and making sure you have clean financial records and a good CPA and bookkeeper can go in and kind of untangle that and create a profit and loss statement for that one product or that one brand. And there is a market for one product businesses, there is a market for buying one ASIN. So I wouldn’t let that deter you. I think that anything’s workable. There’s a, there’s a value to anything that’s spitting out cash flow, let’s just put it that way. But if he really wants to maximize the potential exit that you get for your brand, then you want to have it all separate, separate LLC, you know, separate seller central account. Cause that just makes it way easier. And if there’s a bunch of other brands that are for sale at the time that have it all cleaned and yours is messy while you know, most people are going to just kind of pass that one over.
Yeah. So what are some mistakes that you see? Like, I’ll throw out one like you know, a typical one, you know, probably is maybe you have like personal stuff, you know on your business credit card, right? That’s gonna throw off, you know, if you were trying to go to get a valuation for your business,
Well that would be considered. So there’s what a new, when a buyer’s gonna look at a seller discretionary earnings, so they’re gonna look at your net profit plus any necessary add backs. And so add backs would be like if your people understand running a business, you’re going to run some kind of personal expenses through the business, like maybe your internet and your phone and your car payment or something like that. So that can often be all added back to your net profit to your bottom line. So you know, I would say though in the year leading up to selling your business, because it’s going to be based off your last 12 months of trailing discretionary earnings, you want to try to minimize those types of expenses coming out of your business as much as possible and keep your books clean and showing a really healthy profit margin.
Gotcha. Now is that something that your consulting agency offers? Like if I’m in that kind of situation like I, but I want to untangle the mess. Could I come to you and say, Hey Kellianne, this, I mean, my goal is I want to sell this into 12 months. Can you help me get there?
That that’s really Andy, what I’m looking to help sellers with? When when I sold my business, I mean I had a good accounting team in place. I had a great mergers and acquisitions advisor. They were all phenomenal experts that I had in my side, but still I had never sold a business before. There were so many things that I had to learn and get prepared for that I wish I had somebody that could help me through that process besides, you know, my legal and accounting team and my advisor. So that’s what I’m looking to do is to help as many sellers as I possibly can, like do all this prep work so that they can ultimately maximize the value of what they’re going to sell their business for.
Oh wow. That’s awesome. I didn’t realize that before the interview. That’s kind of the direction you’re heading.
Yeah, I hope so. I feel like there’s a lot of good I could do without it and a lot of knowledge I bring to the table and you know, value add that I can help. And also connecting them with the, what, the right intermediary. It really depends on the enterprise value of your business, whether you’re going to go through a broker or an M and A advisor or, you know, sell it on your own perhaps, which I don’t recommend doing. Right.
Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s awesome. So, so you, so you were, you’ve been able then to, you build your brand, right? You’ve been able to sell it. And and, and so now kind of what, what do you see kind of shifting in the Amazon space for sellers like us?
Oh gosh, what, what is it shifting in the Amazon face? I mean, it, it shifts every moment of every day especially with COVID, right. But you know, it to talk in really high level general terms. And I, I think most sellers would agree with this. Over the past couple of years we’ve seen it. I think Amazon really has evolved to be a brand centric platform. They want brands on their platform. They don’t want necessarily just one off products. And even though, you know, we see that the platform is rampant with Chinese sellers selling their wares. I, I think that eventually the, the Chinese are gonna pair up with the best in class marketing agencies and they’re going to be able to fix that. So we have a very, we as Amazon sellers still have a very good opportunity and window. But I, I think that there is, you know, a time limit on that. I can’t predict how long it will last, but I would say that now is the time to be deciding whether you know, you want to eventually exit your business or if you want to plan on running it for the long-term and if you’re planning on selling it, even if you’re planning on keeping it, you want to make sure that it’s providing consistent cash flow so that it’s profitable. I’m spitting out cash flow because you never know what might happen in life where you need to sell it. So preparing to exit at least gives you a valuation on what that asset is worth. I think that’s really important for Amazon sellers to do. Some of the other shifts that I see in the marketplace and being brand centric you, you can’t get away with having crappy product listing content. You know, you, you need high quality premium images and video and A-plus content and storefront, all that, all that goes into building a brand right on Amazon. You need to be able to pivot quickly. There’s so much going on now with launching and ranking. You know, the old ranking strategies are not working. I don’t care what anybody says. I do not believe that search, find and buy many chat is as effective anymore. And that’s been the latest thing for the last year. I’m probably going to piss a lot of people off saying that I don’t know what the seed Recode is, but I do believe that in order to rank you have to be having a diversity of traffic signals coming from many different sources. And I’m actually, you know, really, really spend a significant amount of my time looking to crack that code as a, as a big of a challenge that might seem cause I don’t think anybody in the space really has it figured out.
Right. Yeah. No, I agree. And like you said too, I do think it’s evolving. You know, like every couple of months it changes. And like you said too, I mean Amazon, especially since since COVID basically the last two months, their platform has changed so dramatically. I did a live a couple of weeks ago about the top 100 search terms and March, 2020 and this is from brand analytics compared to the top 100 search terms in 2019 and it was totally different now 2019 those top 100, you know, prior to March, 2020, the top 100 search term did not change that much, you know, for the previous five years. Those are, you know, pretty much there. And then, you know, when the pandemic hits, those top 100 completely shifted. And and so, you know, to me, I guess it’s just interesting to see and, and I guess as this thing begins to subside those, you know, top 100 that were in 2019, they’ll kind of come back. Right. but in the meantime, the search, the delayed shipping times, I mean, these are all things right, as sellers that you’re kind of grappling with and trying to figure out.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. And I didn’t mention any of the COVID stuff because I do see that as being I’m quite frankly just sick of it all. Sick of talking. It’s, it’s going to be a blip on the radar. I don’t need to hear about it, but we’re, we’re, you know, being an eCommerce seller, being an Amazon seller, you could not be in a better position. I don’t care what category you’re in. It might be down now, he might be up, a lot of people are up, but you might put down and you know, it’s going to bounce back. So be ready for when it bounces back. You’ve got a huge window of opportunity here to do that. I mean, being stuck at home gives you so much time to, you know, focus on your supply chain and focus on focusing on optimizing your business operations, focusing on profitability and finding new product opportunities and all that kind of stuff. You know, Amazon is now and will continue to be a much more sophisticated platform or black hat stuff is just not going to work anymore. I truly believe that it’s not going to happen tomorrow, but it will. So you better pick really good products that are really high quality and learn how to launch and rank them. That’s the 80/20 of Amazon.
Awesome. Well here’s the last question I have for you today. Again, I thank you so much for hanging out with us. If you could give some wisdom to new sellers who are just, I remember you, you started 2014 and I agree 100% with what you just said. Like I think we’re going to see the most explosive eCommerce sales growth over the next 12 months. Then the previous, you know, seven or eight years just because Amazon has become basically the infrastructure now for, for all of us that are at home and people are going to get used to ordering things. But what, what’s some wisdom that you can give to, to someone who, who’s watching this interview that we’re thinking about selling on Amazon and the thing about private label and building the brand you know, what, what would you say to them?
You know, I would say too, it sounds cliche, but you really have to be in it for the long game and long game doesn’t mean 10 years, but building something of value, something that is putting value out into the world. And in this instance, it’s building a true brand. Amazon wants that and rewards you by having a brand with all the things they offer through brand registry. So building with the end in mind and also looking at it as a true asset. So everything you do, every expense you have, starting with that, with the end goal in mind, that this could be something that you sell and could be life changing for you one day.
Awesome. Well hope you guys have enjoyed this interview. Every time I talked to Kelli and I’m always taking notes, I took notes today. Just a few things to recap. Look folks, when you’re, when you’re looking for products, you’re really looking for keywords. So make sure when you’re doing your, your research, and that’s the number one question I get is what product I should sell Kellianne shared early on. Look for good keyword research. Second golden nugget, I think is the book that she shared, which was a “Built to Sell”. So check that book out. Go to go and see what that author writes. That was an influential piece that helped her be able to sell the brand that she just recently sold. Kelliann, thank you so much again for hanging out and joining us today. Hopefully the conferences start to pick up again. We can see each other and and, and face to face instead of over over a zoom network.
Yes, I am looking forward to that, Andy, thank you for having me, anytime.
All right. Thank you. Thanks to everyone for hanging out with us today, Oh, well I’m sorry, and so I’m going to leave here where you can find Kellianne at www.digitalshelfstrategy.com and her LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/kelliannefedio/.
All right. Thanks a lot. Everyone have a great Thursday!
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