6 Amazon FBA Sellers Share How Their Business Got Its Start

amazon fba winsWith so much excitement around the Amazon FBA business, both on the retail arbitrage and private label side of things, I thought it would be fun to ask a few friends and colleagues about their first great product find.

This post is a collection of their answers.

Men and women from all over the country are taking advantage of this non-technical side hustle. If you have a smartphone you can get started with it today.

In fact, reading these kind of makes me want to give it a shot too!

Maggie, Chicago

My best one (and I rode it til it was out of stock) were these shower sandals that help clean the feet of people with mobility issues.

I was able to pay less than $4 each and they sold for almost $40. It was a random find on BargainCatalogOutlet.com and I was able to buy many at a time. That was the product that successfully launched my business!

Travis, Richmond VA

I just bought a house in the ‘burbs, and I am using my FBA side income to fund some home improvement projects.

I am really trying to get it to be more consistent this year and build up to the Q4 craziness. I would like to private label, but haven’t found a good product to start with yet.

My first winner was a retail arbitrage deal found at Staples. I was doing my monthly ink recycling for the free $40 Staples credit. When I am in there, I usually check out the clearance section just in case.

This time I happened to find 2 high-end routers: a Linksys AC1750 and a Belkin AC750 for $50 and $35 that I purchased with 20% off gift cards and one of my $40 Staples credits. I was able to sell them for $131.50 and $85.

At the the time, they were both in the top 1,000 in Amazon Electronics. They sold almost as soon as they got to the warehouse. It took 5 extra minutes to check out the clearance section and buy the routers.  I think in total I made $100 for 5 minutes, which is a pretty good hourly rate.

Similar thing happened two or three weeks ago. I found a Bluetooth mp3 player called Big Blue Live in the Staples clearance section for $15.50 when I was there anyway for ink recycling. I saw it was ranked fairly high on Amazon with limited competition and a high price. I shipped it in and it sold within a week for $73 and I made $42, for what Inventory Lab tells me is a 255% ROI.

Molly, Seattle

My first FBA win was a shortly after I discovered Profit Bandit.

I immediately went down to the Walgreens by my house to try it out. I found a fertility monitor in the clearance area for $30 which I almost immediately sold for a $100+ profit.

One week later I went back and purchased a blood pressure monitor for $30 and sold it for a $200 profit, HOWEVER the blood pressure monitor was returned and I had to give back the money. Nevertheless I was hooked.

It’s been a year now selling on FBA by sourcing from local retailers and at this point I have sold about $30,000 of merchandise on the amazon marketplace and made around $10,000.

Big wins like my first one do happen regularly, but I have also worked really hard building my FBA business. My biggest FBA lesson is that it is more profitable for me to be consistent every day with sourcing and building shipments, then it is to push it harder.

FBA isn’t a passion of mine, but I do see it as low hanging fruit. When I push it too hard, it takes away energy from the work I am more passionate about.

Travis, Cleveland

I remember my first find very well because it is what started a very viable side business for me.

Last year, I downloaded the Profit Bandit App just to test the waters.  I had spent a few hours scanning items and really had no idea what I was doing.

After a few weeks of unsuccessful scans and being too scared to pull the trigger on anything, I unexpectedly walked into a toy store that was going out of business. I found a game called MindFlex Duel.

The rank was around 12,000 in the toys, but I really didn’t know if that was good or not. The price of the game was like $12 and they were selling for over $50 on Amazon.

The store had dozens of games and I was ready to pull the trigger on my first purchase. I only bought 5 games…I was too scared to buy more because all sales were final!

I went home and figured out how to prep the items, package them, and send them off to Amazon. After Amazon received the package, the games sold out immediately.

Then I called the toy store and asked how many they had left… and they had 26 still in stock. At that time I decided to go big or go home… and I purchased all 26. I made almost $700 on the rest of the games.

At that moment I was hooked!  The initial $50 I spent on those games, catapulted me into doing over $65,000 in sales last year and over $20k in profits in about 7.5 months of work.

Note: If you want to learn more about getting started with Amazon FBA, check out my interview with Travis on how he’s grown this business to $4k a month part-time.

Andy, Hershey PA

I got hooked on Amazon during an after Christmas sale in Feb of 2013.

I was sourcing product in Walmart and they were having a clearance sale on all their toys. There was stack of 20 Barbie dollhouses. The Walmart clearance price was $30.00 and they were selling on Amazon for $260.00.

I bought all 20 of them and had to make 5 trips to get them all to my house. I made a lot of money and I was hooked on Amazon FBA.

Note: If you want to learn more about importing your own products to sell on Amazon, check out the podcast I did with Andy in December. 

Ryan, Minneapolis

I have been selling things on and off on Amazon and eBay since late 2007.

The first really big win that I remember that comes to mind was a bunch of clearance cameras that were purchased at Walmart while I was on Christmas break from college in 2010.

My brother was out shopping with a friend, but when he came home he mentioned that he saw a bunch of digital cameras for a really low price at this particular Walmart. It was about half an hour away, but we decided to go right back up there and see if we could buy some of those to resell.

We didn’t have scanning apps on our phones, or even smartphones, so we brought a notebook and a laptop. We went into the Walmart, wrote down the prices, model numbers, and UPCs if we could find them, and then went to a Burger King that had free WiFi to look the items up online. We went through the list pretty quickly, and figured out which ones were worth buying, and then split them up so we could each get in on the action.

In total we each bought about 10 cameras, and my total bill at checkout was around $1200. This was the biggest single purchase I had made to this point for resale, and I was both excited and a little bit nervous.

We brought them back home, listed them for sale, and then began to wait. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long as we both had some sell that same night.

One was a Panasonic Lumix that I paid $85 for and sold for $331.99. The other was a Nikon SLR camera kit that I bought for $315 and sold for $525.

Most of the other cameras continued to sell over the next month, and after that I was really hooked.

Note: If you want to learn more about how Ryan quit his job to sell online full-time, check out our conversation here.

Your Turn

Have you tried the retail arbitrage business yet?

If you have a memorable “first win” or great product find, please share it in the comments below!

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20 thoughts on “6 Amazon FBA Sellers Share How Their Business Got Its Start

  1. Nick,

    It’s breathtaking to read how these people started small, kept experimenting and expanding their side hustle ! Amazon FBA seems to be working great for lot of folks these days !

    Thanks for sharing this inspiring stories !

  2. My “first win” came recently in a very odd way! I got a Cuisinart rotisserie for Christmas a few years ago and never took it out of the box. I wanted to but you know, time and all that good stuff got in the way. I have lots of friends making money on Amazon and I thought what the heck, I’ll send it to FBA to see what happens. Opened my FBA account, shipped the rotisserie to them and sold it for $275.00 12 hours after Amazon checked it in haha! Now I’m searching my house to see what else I can send in. Not quite ready to do private label or other options yet but it sure seems like a fun side business!!

  3. Although I really like this post I feel like it oversimplifies and glamorizes the business. As an FBA seller my self, one of the biggest challenges and barriers to entry is that you have to register for tax permits in all 15 states Amazon has warehouses and the fee totals to around $200 not to mention all the time it takes to apply. Then after your first free 30 day trial your looking at an overhead cost of $50; $40 to be an Amazon seller and $10 if you decide to use tax jar to manage your taxes which I would personally recommend.

    • SOOOOOO your saying that its a headache to be a business owner? Im in my late 20s and own 2 fulltime businesses that employes north of 25 people…if your complaining about 250.00 in start up fees then you should probably stick to your 9-5

  4. These stories always inspire me. I remember downloading the Amazon Seller App and scanning items in my garage that I’d gotten free or very cheap using coupons. I sold those items to build initial capital to purchase more profitable items. Making those first few sales really proved that this could work.

  5. Last year I started doing retail arbitrage with the clearance toys at Target. I would scan toys in the Amazon map and buy them if they were selling for at least double. I ran into the problem of shipping costs costing a lot for bigger items and Amazon’s shipping calculator not even getting close to covering it. Does anyone have a suggestion for the shipping? Does using FBA eliminate this problem?

  6. I had a question about their sales and profits…how do you sell 65k but only bring home 20k in profits? Where’s the other 45k?

        • I mean it is pretty good compared to other businesses, but many FBA sellers run between 75% and 100% ROI. Before you think I’m crazy, remember that there isn’t unlimited items to buy, so they can only spend so much. If for instance, you worked your ass off, but only found enough deals to spend about $4000/mo, then the MOST you could make would be $4000/mo. Whereas other businesses investments obviously can stretch into the billions for the larger corps.

  7. Hi my name is Stephen Pastore. I am a 22 year old aspiring entrepreneur. Im gunna try and be as brief as possible. So basically I just want to know what kind of money I can expect to make from an import/export business? I know this a very vague and general question that doesnt really have an answer but lets assume im an extremely hard worker thats gunna work 24/7 and things work out really well and lets assume that ill spend atleast 5-7 years on this business but more likely 8-10. Could i ever expect to make 5-10 million in a lump sum for myself after tax (not company revenue)? The other question is if the answer to that question is no, would you say that since i have very little contacts/ideas/experience and just dont know where to start, is it a good idea to consider an amazon import business as a good way to gain that valuable experience/contacts and ideas im looking for that will EVENTUALLY LEAD me to a big opportunity where I would be able to build a very big business like for example something that produces around 50 million in sales or gets acquired for 50 million etc? like basically would an amazon import business be a great teaching tool/gateway or a springboard to move on and graduate onto a much bigger opportunity? I understand i sound just like and ignorant naive money hungry kid that doesnt know his ass from his elbow but if you could help me out with these concerns id appreciate it greatly and I understand completely this is hard question to answer but anything helps. Thank you.

  8. thats motivating and inspiring to see how this works & pays off.
    question I had was about packing & returns. how do these guys manage the returns?

    Once again, great article in on place and thanks a bunch Nick. I am hooked into it now.

  9. Is there any way you could talk about dealing with taxes as an amazon seller (sales tax) as well as which entity to create (S-corp, LLC) for starting an Amazon FBA business? If you’ve already covered these topics, a link to the appropriate pages would be highly appreciated. Thanks!

  10. Brilliant post. I’m new to the Amazon associate, and just started a new website this past month but already got my first bounty from it.

    What has been your experience with all of the other nations from Amazon associates? What countries are your best performers, not in terms of profit, but in terms of amount of traffic from that country to amount of purchases?

    The reason I ask is because I can get highly targeted cheap traffic from places like Brazil, India, Japan, Germany, and France, but if those countries don’t perform well at all in terms of the Amazon affiliate program then it is not worth it.

    What has been your experience with mobile? I am confused about how it works with mobile since people may clink a link and it goes to the website but then they go to the app and I don’t think the cookie transfers over. How have you gotten past this?

  11. I love the real life stories. I’ve been trying things and nothing has really worked but I love shopping clearance so I’m going to try my hand at this. Do I pack and shop? I already have a store set up.

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