The Step By Step Guide On How I Built A Million Dollar Business In 12 Months (With Screen Shots and Examples Included)
That’s how much revenue my businesses made selling things on Amazon in one month this year.
And I did it without touching, storing, or shipping anything myself. I don’t have a big team, special connections, or an industry background.
In fact, just three short years ago I had never sold a single physical product online.
Yet my students and I alone sell more than $100 million in products every year, just on Amazon. I know what you’re thinking, but what I’ve done to become successful is probably the exact opposite of what you think it is…
In this (long and detailed) post, I’m going to show you how I do it, and how you can copy the process… even if you don’t have any good ideas or know where to start. And if you do have good ideas or an existing business, then I will show you my plan to take just about any business to $1m in twelve months or less. This post is very detailed – almost exhaustive – but it outlines exactly how I’ve made millions.
I’m also going to outline some of the strategies that have taken me from one million to ten million. Truth be told, I get the most excited about helping million dollar businesses become industry giants. That’s what people pay me to do, so writing all of this out helps bring more successful people into our incubator (The Tribe) or our private mastermind.
Before I show you everything, here are my selfish reasons for this post:
1) I get asked questions about this literally every day, and I am tired of answering them over and over again. So I have compiled everything that I have said into this post so that you can view it easily. And if you like the stuff that we give out for free, then you’ll probably want to come to my workshops and go through our training courses. Win-win. Plus, if you become successful using these strategies, then you will likely want to join our more expensive programs, too.
2) Sometimes, I invest my own money into my student’s businesses. In fact, I am part of an investment company that buys these types of businesses. So the more people that do this stuff, the more opportunities that come across my desk.
3) I believe that the entrepreneurs and capitalists are the driving force behind all of the world’s greatest change. We need more entrepreneurs, and we need more people to be rich. We don’t change this world by re-distributing opportunity, we change this world by creating more opportunity. If I can inspire one person to be an entrepreneur, then I have changed their family tree and all the people that they touch. I believe that to my core, and that is my mission in life.
So with that, here’s how I went from zero to making millions of dollars every year selling things on Amazon:
In mid-2013, I was a struggling entrepreneur that knew that he was meant for more, but I didn’t feel like I knew how to have predictable business success. Tired and frustrated, I needed to make a change fast. (Maybe you know what that’s like?)
I had been an entrepreneur all of my life, but I was burnt out, and my life was quickly spiraling into a whirlwind of too much stress for too little money. I felt trapped doing what I was doing… until one day, while driving home, I thought to myself, “I can’t do this one more day, and I don’t have to.”
From that day forward, I vowed that I would only put my time into something if it met the following criteria:
1) It must have multi-million dollar potential.
2) I must have complete time freedom – I never want to be a slave to a business or a boss.
3) It must sell good products to customers that love it. In other words, it must make a positive difference in the world.
To put it simply: I stopped chasing random opportunities and started building real businesses that had real value.
A friend of mine was successfully selling on Amazon, so I decided to tweak his business model and make it follow my criteria.
I’ve now built multiple million-dollar-per-year businesses, and I even built and sold one of my businesses to a multi-million dollar company.
In one year flat, I was selling more than $200,000 per month on Amazon, and after that, it grew to even more. Today, my businesses do as much as $1,000,000 per month (yes, you read that right). I outline all of it below.
Within a year following this model, I was out-performing every business that I had ever been a part of, all while working less. I had built a million dollar business in twelve months. Today, it does approximately $10 million in sales per year.
I started teaching this model to other people, and they started having success, too. In fact, my “Zero To $1 Million On Amazon In 12 Months” presentations have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and many many millionaires credit it with their success. I’m proud of that.
But full disclaimer: I have had a lot of business experience in the past, and that gave me kind of a “fast start” into what I’m about to teach you. This is not a quick fix or an overnight success, and it takes a good six to twelve months to really be lucrative. Not to fear – I’ll share with you some of the shortcuts that I’ve used to make it happen faster.
Anyway… first things first:
I don’t mean to “baby” you, but for those of you who are just getting started or have never heard of me before, Amazon has this service called “Fulfilled By Amazon.” That’s a writer-downer. Amazon does all the shipping, payment processing, sales, and even some customer management. They do everything EXCEPT the marketing, which I’ll show you how to do below.
What utilizing this service does is essentially automate most of the complicated steps that used to be involved in business. In fact, I heard Robert Kiyosaki describe Fulfilled By Amazon as a way to cut a ten year process down into six months. Why? Because all you have to do now is to define your business and market it. All of the logistics are now handled by Amazon. (What a cool world we live in eh?)
As a personal side note, this is why it frustrates me to no end when people whine and complain about the economy, about “greedy capitalists,” or about how minimum wage needs to be higher. It’s not because I don’t want people to be successful… it’s just that starting a business and creating your own success is easier than it has ever been!
Anyway, based on the fact that Amazon handles all the logistics, I have boiled down how to get to $1m in sales into three essential steps. I’ve outlined them below. And once again, I am sharing this with you 100% selfishly, because I want to invest in and buy more businesses.
Step One: Building A Business: Choose Your Brand and Products
First of all, I’m NOT going around to garage sales and discount stores and then listing those products on Amazon.com. I’d rather shoot myself in the leg. I know people who do this and do pretty well for themselves, but that model just ain’t for me.
Instead, the business model that I’m following is to pick a really big market and release products under my own brand. Then, I get manufacturers to make the product and ship it straight to Amazon, and I test the market by putting a few hundred units on Amazon (this costs as little as $1000 to get started).
For example, one of my first brands was a yoga products business called Zen Active Sports, and we sold yoga mats. Yoga is a huge market, which is why we decided to start that business (truth be told, I have only ever done yoga a handful of times in my life). We found several suppliers on Alibaba.com, and we paid to receive a few samples, and we attempted to differentiate it by making it thicker and double sided.
What do I know about yoga products? Nothing. I just listened to what the market wanted, and I had that made by an outside supplier.
Then, once we had a product that we liked, our suppliers shipped it straight to Amazon, and we created an Amazon listing. Here’s a screen shot of the listing in its early stages:
So, in other words, we got a product made as quickly as possible, had it shipped over to Amazon, and then started selling it within days.
The “traditional” way of doing business – or at least the one that most of the entrepreneurs that I have met attempt to follow – is to spend years inventing a new product, “hustling” it in any way that they can, and maybe getting a retail store or an investor to give you a shot. When you hear that 95% of businesses fail, it’s because they are following a business model that was made for 1998.
My model is a little bit different. My model is to create good products in big markets that already have a lot of demand. Sometimes it’s a new product that has never existed before, but usually it’s a twist on something that’s already working (like my yoga business that sold mats and towels, until that company was bought by a multi-million dollar company).
The first part of the equation is good products in huge markets that people want.
The second part of the equation is putting your products where people are already buying them.
In a lot of cases (not all), Amazon.com is the low-hanging fruit, simply because there are millions of buyers that are already shopping there.
Really important point: a lot of people think that their business is Amazon. It’s not. Your business is simply the products you put into the marketplace, and the customers that you serve. Amazon is just one of the easiest place to sell a lot of products and be in front of a lot of customers.
My rule of thumb is that Amazon is good enough to get a lot of products to about $100,000 per month in sales. That’s enough to be a million dollar business, which can either fuel your life (so you can retire, travel the world, or whatever tickles your fancy) or give you the funding to go even bigger (my life goal is to own the Cleveland Indians, so I aim to go WAY bigger). This is why so many of my students are so successful – they keep it simple by creating good products and going to where all of the customers are already waiting to buy.
At this point, a lot of questions come up. What should you sell? How do you get the products? What type of investment do you need? Answering every question that comes up would be an extremely long blog post, so I decided to address this in a podcast that allows me to explain it a bit better.
I made this podcast episode to explain some of the nitty gritty questions that may come up for you, so I discuss how to choose products, where to find suppliers that will make them for you cheaply, and how to get your products over to Amazon for sale.
Listen to the How To Make Money On Amazon 101 podcast below:
If you’re short on time, you can subscribe to the podcast for free and listen to this episode later, or attend one of our online trainings to see more examples.
What Products Should I Sell?
There are basically two schools of thought when starting any business: you can go into a really big market that has a lot of proven buyers, or you can try to create something new in the marketplace.
For example, the yoga industry is proven. Some people would call it “saturated” or say that there is “too much competition.” I think the opposite. I prefer industries that have already proven that they can sustain million dollar businesses.
The downside to this is that “me too” brands typically have a cap of about $5m – $10m. It’s very rare that a business that sells the same thing as everyone else ever becomes a really big business. However, they do have a higher success rate (if you consider $1 million in sales per year to be successful). For this reason, I call this approach a “cash flow business.”
If you’re a Tim Ferriss fan and want to live the proverbial “Four Hour Work Week,” then you should start a cash flow business.
The other option is to bring something new to the marketplace. This is a higher risk, higher reward strategy. If you want to ensure that you succeed, your product should truly disrupt the marketplace. By this I mean that your product must be so good that it forces your competitors to react or scramble. Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Apple disrupted the cell phone industry. The hover board is disrupting the personal transportation industry. That’s what a disrupter does.
Disrupter companies have a much higher fail rate, but when they succeed, they can be worth many many millions of dollars (or billions of dollars). They also have higher sales potential… Instagram disrupted social media, which is why it was acquired for $1b by Facebook.
In my experience, most entrepreneurs start cash flow businesses, and once they have enough capital to pay for their lives and never worry about money again, they then start to work on disrupters.
If you’re not sure which approach to go with, I have recorded a podcast episode that speaks to this and will help you to determine the best path for you:
Step Two: Getting To Six Figures
Once you have chosen what product to sell, getting to the six-figure mark (selling at least $10,000 per month) is very straightforward.
Literally anyone can open an Amazon account, send products there, and put up a listing. Anymore, it is very, very easy to start a business. And that’s cool, because business is awesome.
However, most people get stuck at that point. Once your product is made, what the heck do you do next? How do you sell your product and get to be successful?
When I first started coaching people to become entrepreneurs, this was a huge struggle for them. However, I consider Step Two to be the most simple part of the process, so I’ve outlined how to get any product to six figures.
In order to get your products selling, you need to do the following:
1) Get Amazon.com reviews.
2) Advertise your product.
3) Hold a “product launch.”
This process can be a pain (meaning, it can take some “grunt work” before you see results), but I will attempt to make it as straightforward as possible.
Nobody buys your product unless you have at least 50-100 reviews. So your first step to get selling is to get as many reviews as possible.
How do you do that? You can start by shipping everyone you know a unit of your product and have them review it. Then, give your product away to bloggers. Go on Reddit.com or any specialized internet forum and give your product away in exchange for reviews. Make posts on Facebook and let your friends review it. Do whatever it takes to get the initial 50-100 reviews that you need. That’s your first step.
Once you have a set of reviews, start advertising your product. DO NOT ADVERTISE UNTIL YOU HAVE AT LEAST 50 – 100 REVIEWS. That would be a waste of money, because no one will buy your product until you have a good foundation of reviews. There are a hundred ways to advertise your product; you can make a demonstration video and put it on Facebook or YouTube. You can write articles on other people’s blogs and start sending people to your Amazon page. You can run Google Adwords.
I recommend two forms of advertising for people just starting out:
a) Use Amazon pay-per-click. Amazon has a program that allows you to pay to show up for keywords. As long as you have good images of your product and strong reviews, people will buy your product when they see it show up for keywords. One of my students, Kelly Fedio (a stay-at-home mom of two) built her multi-million dollar business entirely by leveraging Amazon pay-per-click. Most people that I know used this service to generate their first real sales.
b) Build an audience in your market. The people who will buy your products are already hanging out in groups. Go to where they are and get in front of them. You can do this by starting a podcast, blogging about your industry, putting videos on YouTube, building up a social media following, or starting a Facebook page. As you build up a following, some of those followers will buy your products, and that will drive up your exposure on Amazon.
One of the examples that I like to use is ONNIT, a fitness company based in my hometown of Austin, TX. ONNIT was started by Aubrey Marcus, who created a product that he hoped would “disrupt” the marketplace. He didn’t have any connections… except for a friend named Joe Rogan. Together, they shared the vision of the company with Joe’s podcast audience, and the product exploded. Today, the company does tens of millions of dollars in sales each year.
Why? Because Aubrey had access to an audience. When you have the audience, it doesn’t matter where you product is for sale; however, combining an audience with Amazon is immensely powerful.
If you’ve never built an audience, or you need extra help, check out the How To Build A Profitable Audience podcast episode.
Being in front of an audience also allows you to do a product launch, which is a fancy way for saying “sell a lot of products in a short amount of time.” Doing so gets you a lot of attention and also gives you more weight inside of Amazon so that you rank for keywords.
Amazon rewards products that sell a lot by placing them higher for keywords, so you need to manufacture sales however possible… even if that means taking a small loss for awhile.
In 2014, I gave a presentation about building an audience and conducting a launch to that audience. Some of the elements are out of date (Facebook advertising has changed a bit), but the process is still 100% the same. Watch the presentation of this video below:
A great example of this is Shredz supplements. Shredz has built their entire following on Instagram. They pay models to talk about them on social media, and they engage heavily with their following. When it comes time to promote their products, they have millions of people ready to buy their products.
You can do the same thing, whether it is developing a Facebook page, a Periscope following, an email list, or a list of blog readers, combining the power and respect of Amazon with an audience that loves you is a great way to start a business.
If you had a few thousand people following your company, and then you gave them the opportunity to buy a product that already had 100 reviews or so, your product can take off very quickly. That’s the strategy that I recommend.
I confess that I’ve never been a detail guy – I think in high-level strategy. Details stress me out, so I asked my business partner, Sean, to sit down with me one day to go over the technical details of getting to six figures. We recorded this step-by-step podcast, and it has become one of the most downloaded episodes that I have ever done.
In this episode, Sean and I talk about more of the “step by step” stuff to getting a product off the ground and getting it to six figures.
Listen to the step by step podcast here:
Once again, if you don’t have time to listen to these podcasts, you can subscribe to the podcast for free and listen to this episode later, or attend one of our online trainings to see more examples.
Sean and I have also mentored several groups to implement this part of the strategy inside of the Tribe Incubator. Since it was relevant to the content in this blog post, I have posted one of our calls that outlines the implementation of this piece of the process. If you have product that just is not selling, then you will find this video particularly valuable:
Step Three: Getting To $1m And Beyond
If you’re still with me at this point, that means one of two things:
a) You’re seeing the simplicity in this business model, and you can see why anyone can have a successful business. If that’s you, then I would highly suggest that you sign up for one of our upcoming training classes; you’ll see more details and examples, so that you get more of the “how to” of this model. The rest of the stuff in this post is for more advanced people and probably won’t be very relevant for you.
b) You’re already doing well on Amazon, and you skipped all the way to the bottom to see more of the advanced stuff. I’ll address you in this section.
Getting to a million dollars per year (or a million dollars per month in my case and the case of some of my students), is just as simple as the other steps… it just takes longer and requires bigger thinking.
Once you have proven the model and know that you can get things to sell, your primary goal is to release as many products as you can comfortably handle. It’s at this point that many of my students start to hire people, because they want to be able to carry more products.
Releasing new products is the fastest way to grow a business exponentially, assuming that the business has already generated demand by selling product. One of the mistakes that some people make is releasing multiple products at once; this makes no sense. Prove the concept first, and then release as many products as you can.
You can get to $100,000 in profit with just one product. It’s been done many times. But getting to a million requires multiple products (at least within the context of Amazon). We crossed the million dollar mark with about five products, and then crossed the $500,000 per month mark with ten products.
That’s what it takes to get to a million.
I know that seems fairly simple, and it is. I once did a presentation about getting to $1m with more step-by-step action items, and it has been viewed on YouTube over 300,000 times. This video alone has created many, many millionaires, so I have included it below (warning: this is by far the ugliest outfit that I have ever worn on stage – I do not know what I was thinking):
Once you are at a million or more in sales, the process “pivots” a bit to one that is more about long-term growth and sustainability. Like I said, *most* Amazon businesses plateau at about $10 million in sales per year, and many people get there JUST by releasing new products and duplicating what I have covered in this blog post.
Getting beyond the $10m point requires you to a) control your own audience and b) getting into other sales channels.
One of the most overlooked sources for profit on Amazon is building a long-term relationship with your customers. How many times have you heard it said that it is easier to sell to an existing customer than a new customer? Yet most people entrepreneurs who utilize Amazon fail to connect with their existing customers at all.
If you get your existing customers to follow you on social media or join your email list, then growing and protecting your business will be much easier in the long run. It will give you a greater launch platform for future product sales, and it will also give you a way to get your customers to buy products that may not be popular on Amazon.
For example, my companies now focus on launching more “disrupters” in our industry. There is no internal demand on Amazon for the products that we release, but we have hundreds of thousands of customers who love our stuff. We no longer have to depend on what is popular on Amazon, we simply give our customers what they want! That’s when you have a truly sustainable business.
If you rally your customers behind a big cause, then getting them to follow you will be much easier. I recommend building your company branding around a problem or a cause, rather than a product. One of my favorite examples is Quest Nutrition; their cause is to end metabolic disease. Everything that they make is within the context of solving that problem. As a result, their customers assume that all of their products are healthy (I know this because I am one of their customers). If you focus on solving problems rather than selling products, your customers will follow you wherever you go. That’s when you are a real brand.
When you a) have an audience that follows you and b) have a big cause, then it becomes easy to take advantage of non-Amazon channels as well. Retail stores are more likely to pay attention to you. You have more social media attention. It’s easier to get your audience to share your videos and blog posts. And getting PR becomes much faster and easier.
More importantly, you have the funding and the exposure that you will need in order to market yourself properly. That will give you the visibility and the sustainability to grow bigger than Amazon and have a $10m – $100m company.
If you think of Amazon as the place where you prove your concept and develop your initial customer base, then getting independent of Amazon and growing a real “Breakthrough Business” becomes much more straightforward. It simply requires you to use the foundation that you have built to do more organic promotion of your brand and diversifying your sales channels.
Thoroughly Confused? Ridiculously Excited? Here’s What To Do Next…
This is the model that I have used to build several multiple million dollar businesses. My students have used this to be successful, as well. Most people who teach this stuff do it wrong, because they build an Amazon-dependent brand, rather than a real business. If you want to have a $10m or $100m company, then it requires you to be more strategic.
I run an online incubator for online businesses owners (Amazon and non-Amazon alike) called The Tribe. We train new entrepreneurs to give them profitable ideas and build million dollar brands, and we also work with already-successful-businesses to get them to the next level. We create strategic partnerships, open up retail opportunities, have regular workshops and meetups, open funding opportunities, and bring in coaches and experts to mentor our members. We also partner businesses with potential acquisition arms if you want to sell your business.
As a result of being in The Tribe, you will have the full “how to” model on building a business with multi-million dollar potential. You will be operating ahead of the curve instead of from behind, and you will have more sustainability and predictability in your business, because we focus heavily on creating a business that is bigger than just Amazon.
The Tribe is expensive, intensive, and worth every penny. But regardless of where you are now, you will benefit immensely by signing up for one of our free training classes.
On this free training class, you will see real examples of what is working right now. You will see case studies of businesses who have followed this model, and of people who started from zero and became millionaires by using the information from this blog post. And most importantly, you will see the exact steps that you need to take right now in order to start putting this to use. Sign up for the Zero To $1m In 12 Months training class here.