The top question people ask us about how to become a digital nomads and travel the world in affordable luxury is: how do you make a living while traveling full time?
This is the story of how I started a remote Fulfilled by Amazon Private Label business – ‘FBA PL’ or just ‘FBA’ for short.
Our Amazon FBA Business Started as a Vague Notion
In January of 2016 I started a business.
Today everyone calls it ‘Saucey Socks’ because my first product was “If you can read this/Please bring me wine” socks.
But in fact the name of the business is ‘Around the World, LLC’.
You see, I had one – and only one – reason for starting the business: I had decided to find a way to make a ‘passive’ income that would allow us to quit our day jobs and travel the world.
Full time travel was the goal from the beginning.
Starting a Remote Business: The Vision
I think Matt would be the first to admit that he didn’t see my vision and didn’t have any idea how I could ever make such a thing work.
No one I knew actually thought I’d make it happen – even if they smiled and listened to my vague ideas of how I was going to start a remote business.
Not that I fault anyone: I had no idea how I was going to do it either!
But I had a vision: create a business that I could run from anywhere and everywhere in the world…one that would make enough money to sustain our affordable luxury digital nomad lifestyle.
Easy, right? Hmmm..
Starting a Remote Business: The Agony of Defeat
There have been a lot of highs and lows on the journey to achieve this vision.
Initially I spent months reading non-stop and learning about product creation, Amazon FBA, outsourcing, SEO, overseas manufacturing, importing, and selling online.
I really thought that in order to sell a product it had to be something new – something that no one else was selling.
I started to look for ways to fix everyday problems and jotted down new product ideas.
Eventually I landed on a purse holder for my car to keep my purse from spilling when I hit the brakes. I worked with a designer and had prototypes 3D printed. Then I poured money into having a mold created. A lot of money.
To my credit, the product worked!
The hook kept my purse from rolling off the passenger seat of my car every time I hit my brakes. And the strap allowed it to be easily adjusted for different bags or to allow people to sit in the seat.
However, I learned that my lifestyle is different than most people’s.
I used my car to commute alone every day. Most people have other humans in their car with them from far more frequently. I realized very quickly that while my invention made sense for me and people like me, that represented a tiny market.
More significantly, what I learned is that bringing an absolutely new product to market requires a massive investment in marketing to explain the product. I don’t enjoy that aspect of business – I am less creative and more task oriented.
Let’s call that a learning experience.
After investing thousands of dollars into my invention I had what I still think is an awesome product – just not a viable product to sell.
But every success in this world is built on failure.
And I am a firmly believe in the rule of sunk cost: I don’t throw good money after bad. So I scrapped it. And to Matt’s credit, he was supportive through my creative ‘invention’ phase early on which – did I mention – was a money pit.
The Thrill of Victory: Starting an Amazon FBA Business
But then…I had an amazing ‘a-ha’ moment in August 2016 – a moment when preparation met inspiration.
A viral Facebook post appeared on my wall showing ‘Bring me wine’ socks. I clicked on it but they were sold by a small company in Canada – the socks were $20, and shipping was an additional $15.
A quick search showed me that these weren’t available anywhere else (yet). I showed my phone to Matt – we were in the stands at a football game – and told him that this would be my first product. And that I would have them made in China!
All of the research I’d been doing formed itself into a plan in my mind. Five minutes later I was on the Go Daddy website and had registered the domain name ‘Saucey Socks’. And so it began.
As I hit obstacle after obstacle in the beginning of designing, sourcing, importing and selling, Matt would always say ‘if it was easy, everyone would do it’.
It wasn’t easy.
It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and to this day I’m continually surprised by the new challenges that present themselves with each new product.
Now my online Amazon FBA business turns a very nice profit. But every single day I have to feed and care for it.
Matt spent some time on the wholesale side of the business working with brick and mortar retailers and now our socks are also available at the Sock Market on CityWalk Hollywood, Market Pier 39 in San Francisco and The Shoppes @ Mandalay Bay Las Vegas as well as at Urban General Store in Chicago.
And I’m particularly proud that one of my favorite gift websites, Uncommon Goods, also carries my socks.
Starting an Amazon FBA Business is All About the Team!
There are no secrets to success in starting an Amazon FBA Business. Just a lot of hard work and having a great team behind you.
I do have a network now, which makes things easier. I have:
- A go-to designer for products and sketches that I found on Fiverr;
- Manufacturers in China that I’m happy with (I did have to change manufacturers in the first year due to quality issues, which meant starting over in many ways);
- A scarf manufacturer in India;
- An Importer and Customs Broker that I have been working with for two years and trust completely, which is massively important in running and Amazon FBA business;
- An attorney who registered two trademarks for me;
- A warehouse and fulfillment partner that stores my inventory and ships it to Amazon as I request;
- Amazon as a selling platform and fulfillment partner (with whom I have a love/hate relationship, because 75% of my issues now come from Amazon and their ever-changing rules).
And I have Matt. He was supportive through the early failures and later, when I invested $14k of our money into socks, he just smiled and said, “I trust you totally. You are going to rock this.”
He is the most amazing partner and kept my spirits up when I felt broken by the ongoing challenges. He even canceled his birthday trip to Iceland in 2016 when I was trying to launch the first product. And before I found my warehouse partner and we were using our condo as a warehouse he lifted over 2,000 pounds of boxes full of socks.
As I look back at the startup phase of our Amazon FBA business I am honestly amazed.
It was a lot of hard work. But with high risk comes high reward!
Interested in Starting an Amazon FBA Business Yourself?
I went into starting an Amazon FBA business blindly believing I could do anything. Thank God for my self-confidence and complete ignorance about what it takes to run an FBA business that I had back then. If I had actually understood what I was attempting to do I may never have started.
But today there are some amazing tools that can help you make data-driven decisions around product selection and management and avoid some of my early mistakes.
Jungle Scout and IO Scout are the most helpful and powerful Amazon product data analysis tools available. They do the hard work of figuring out what products are selling well on Amazon and which ones will make you a tidy profit.
Has my story inspired you to start an Amazon FBA PL Business?
Jungle Scout’s YouTube channel is also a great place to start. They do a terrific job of showing how even a beginner can get into the FBA business.
Taking Our Amazon FBA Business to the Next Level While Living the Dream of Full Time Travel
I started a remote Amazon FBA business while also running my own consulting company and working full time running government contracts.
I didn’t have time to follow up on a lot of business concepts that I wanted to.
Now, as the full time CEO of Around the World LLC, I have so many product ideas both in the works and in my brain.
As a digital nomad I finally have the opportunity to make this company my first priority.
And in recognition of his contributions and efforts, I have named Matt Chief Strategy Officer of Around the World LLC (a job he is actually IRL highly qualified for!). Unfortunately for him it’s a volunteer rather than a paid position! 🙂
Then again, our Amazon FBA business affords us the ability to live a life of full time affordable luxury travel!
So there is that. Which is pretty nice!