Back on the Block – From the Military to Amazon FBA
“I own a department store open 24/7 that sells things to people all around the world.” (Rayan, a 10-year Navy veteran describing his business and what he does for a living)
If you’ve ever been a member of the military or part of a military family, you know how difficult it can be to adjust to civilian life. Many of InventoryLab’s customers and employees are former members of the armed services or the spouse/partner of a service member. We wanted to give them a voice to address some of the struggles they may have encountered transitioning back to civilian life.
Earlier this year, our Customer Learning & Development Coordinator Kim McCaffery and Customer Champion Jeff Campbell hosted a webinar highlighting how military veterans, active service members, and military spouses could launch their own Amazon FBA business. They spoke with two former Navy veterans, Jimmy and Rayan, who both eventually turned to full-time Amazon FBA sales.
Finding Their Way
Both Jimmy and Rayan discussed at length the difficulties they had finding civilian jobs after they left the Navy. One of the biggest problems they faced was that there weren’t enough readily available resources to assist former military members.
Jimmy, a 15-year veteran, described how he attended TAP (Transition Assistance Program) classes after his discharge to learn basic skills such as how to write a resume and conduct a mock interview. However, he wasn’t given any direction on where to find a job or what kind of career might be open to him. He explained that junior sailors typically don’t have an abundance of marketable skills. Eventually, both he and Rayan took positions as government contractors and were both laid off when the business dried up.
When Jimmy lost his job, his wife suggested Amazon FBA. Initially, he was skeptical. He had some experience selling sports memorabilia on eBay but wasn’t familiar with selling through Amazon. He had always wanted to own his own card shop but felt there wasn’t enough financial or community support for a brick and mortar store. Once he found himself unemployed, however, he and his wife lost 75% of their income. He had no choice but to take a leap of faith. He cashed out his retirement savings and invested all of the money into a full-time FBA business.
“Doing your first shipment is really scary,” said Jimmy when describing the early days of his business. “I quickly learned not to buy cell phone accessories. It was a very expensive lesson.”
After about 6 months, he finally started to gain traction. “Once you can figure (the sales rank of an item) out, you can kind of get a good idea of how something sells.”
The Sky’s the Limit
Jimmy eventually approached Rayan with the idea that Rayan could also embark on a new career as an FBA seller. Rayan was even more skeptical about the idea, but he knew he could trust Jimmy as a friend and fellow vet, even admitting that if a non-vet approached him with the same idea he probably would have dismissed it as too good to be true.
Both men spoke about the hard work and effort required to be successful as an FBA seller. “Jimmy is correct,” said Rayan. “What you put in is what you’re going to get out. It is not easy…….the military taught us that you don’t give up and you just keep pushing . Anything worth it is not going to come easy.”
The group touched upon the availability of resources for veterans trying to establish post-military careers. Kim cited some surprising statistics. Veterans own 7.5% of the nation’s $5.4 million businesses with employees. That means that 1 in 4 vets will launch a business or seriously consider doing so. Vets are also 45% more likely to become entrepreneurs than non-vets.
In discussing the opportunities that selling on Amazon provides, Rayan said, “It is pure entrepreneurship, the sky’s the limit.”
Jimmy and Rayan pointed out that there are many benefits to veterans starting their own Amazon FBA business. These include relatively low startup costs, using skills acquired in the military that may not be marketable in civilian life, and the flexibility to learn from mistakes and grow along the way as well as spend more quality time with their families.
Kim asked both men to reveal what they wish someone had told them within the first six months of Amazon FBA selling.
Rayan said, “When you learn how to read the data, rely on it. Use it to your advantage” while Jimmy’s response was, “Keep good records (i.e. mileage log, receipts, etc.).”
When asked to talk a little about how InventoryLab has helped them grow their business, Rayan said, “As far as usability, it’s easy to use. I can go in it every week and see ok, this is how my business is doing this week, this month, this year…..this is my most profitable item, this is where I’m losing money. It’s all right there in front of me.”
Jimmy agreed. “IL, great product. I can’t see my business functioning without it.”
Both Jimmy and Rayan agreed that the benefits of owning their own business far outweigh the roadblocks they’ve encountered. Although they stressed that gaining traction as an FBA seller isn’t easy and that running this type of business may not garner a lot of recognition from friends and family, the flexibility and endless earning potential that FBA selling allows them is well worth the risk. Their hope is that by sharing their stories it will help shed some light on the opportunities and resources that are available to former and current members of the US Military and their families.
Check out the video below to catch the entire conversation and learn even more about Jimmy and Rayan and their journeys from the military to FBA selling!