by admin | January 8, 2018 11:49 am
Every small business owner knows there is no prescribed formula to achieving success but it usually involves a balance of patient planning, calculated risk taking and a dash of good luck — three elements which Amazon Entrepreneur Kim Jensen has unique experience with. I had the privilege of speaking to Kim, the owner of KMD Enterprises, who generously shared her insights on what it takes to scale a business with Amazon’s services and all the perks that come along with that as well as what fueled her decision to leave her full time job to grow her Amazon business — oh and did we mention that her Merch by Amazon shop had one of the hottest selling Eclipse t-shirts of 2017?
Jay: I am definitely a lover of Amazon and I’d love to hear how you’ve been able to tap into that platform and build your business. How did it all start?
Kim: It began 12 years ago when I started selling baby formula coupons on ebay. I wasn’t using them and I’d heard you could sell them. Eventually I transitioned from ebay to Amazon and my business just continued to evolve from there. For years it was just a little side thing I did in addition to my full time job as a social worker at a nursing home. I thought selling on Amazon was fun and a good way to make some extra vacation money and then I heard about the Fulfillment by Amazon program and I started doing that about six years ago because my Amazon inventory was taking over my house so it was nice to hear that Amazon has a warehouse where they store and ship everything for you.
In May of 2012 I decided to leave my job for various reasons, but I also knew that my Amazon selling thing would give me something to do because my kids were all still in school at the time. It allowed me to work from home in the hours that I wanted, it worked around my family’s schedule, and overall it just seemed like the perfect thing.
Jay: I’ve spoken to so many entrepreneurs that have a similar story in that they’ve had an idea, did it on the side for a while, and struggled with the decision of when to quit their day job. It sounds like you worked for years balancing the two. What did you see that gave you that confidence to finally pursue your Amazon business full time?
Kim: I could have done it earlier but I loved my job and for the longest time I didn’t want to leave it. I was a social worker at a nursing home, and I loved my coworkers and I loved the people that I worked with and that was kind of my passion but I had a long commute, a large workload, and teens at home who needed to see more of me. I saw with my Amazon shop what I was making just working it part time and I realized if I could really focus my time and energy on it and give it a go, it would be worth a shot.
Jay: So, Amazon can help you build a business, find something exciting and new, and help you build that work life balance? All in one platform.
Kim: Right, Jay, exactly. My kids were getting to be teenagers and I felt like I was missing out on so much because I wasn’t there, so I had to make a decision to leave and it was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make in my whole life. But, looking back on it now, it was the best decision I could have made.
Jay: How did you get to Merch by Amazon?
Kim: Merch by Amazon came out in 2015, and it was kind of being talked about amongst other Amazon sellers. Initially I felt like I didn’t have the time to learn the new platform but by February of 2016 my busy season was over and I decided that since the Merch platform doesn’t cost anything I better sign up for it. Once I got approved for the platform I actually tasked my daughter, who had just graduated high school and was about to head off to college, with helping me with graphic designs. I just let her run with it. Initially the Merch business was really a side thing that we didn’t take seriously, or even see the potential that was there at the time. In the first months we made $40-$80 each month, so I figured it was worth continuing on with since it’s a free platform to use.
Jay: So, tell us Kim, what was the inspiration for your wildly successful eclipse shirts?
Kim: Well, my daughter and I were brainstorming for new t-shirt designs one evening and I realized that an eclipse was coming up over the summer so I wondered if that might make a good t-shirt design. I did some market research and my daughter went ahead and worked up five different designs which we loaded into the shop. By April the eclipse shirts started selling and I think I did $600 for the month. I thought going from $90 to $600 in a single month was pretty fun and it just kept snowballing and there were two weeks in August when I made more money than I did in an entire year when I had my fulltime job.
Jay: Wow, and that’s on a free investment.
Kim: Exactly, it really blew up and was more than I ever could have imagined would happen with the Merch platform.
Jay: This is an incredible story and, like so many other entrepreneurs, you’ve been able to tap into the Amazon platform from the FBA program, with not having all the inventory in your house or worrying about the customer service, to the merch program — it’s got to be a tremendous weight off your shoulders to have a platform that is so reliable and leaves you free to focus on growing your business.
Kim: You know, Jay, early on it was really hard for me to switch to the FBA program and to give up my inventory but of course the change was incredible because it’s Amazon and they’re pretty reliable with their inventory. They probably know a little bit better than I do.
Jay: I’m glad to hear it wasn’t given up but it was just upgraded.
Kim: Right, it was just changing the model a bit and that really allowed me to scale the business without getting a warehouse or office. My only two employees are two of my kids. I like working from home, I like being home when my kids get home, I like not commuting and Amazon allows me to do that and to make a substantial income working from home without a lot of other expenses.
Jay: It’s a dream come true.
Kim: Yeah, it really is.
Jay: So, Kim, now that you’re a seasoned veteran with the Merch by Amazon platform, what’s on the horizon for KMD Enterprises?
Kim: I’ve been putting a lot more effort into Merch. I’m taking it a lot more seriously just because I’ve seen the possibilities and what’s available and, to that end, I’ve contracted three designers to help me with shirt designs. I also really like the FBA side. I like finding products and selling those products but to not have to deal with any products at all but to just upload designs, that’s pretty cool, I like that too
Jay: I can imagine that’s a very rewarding platform to be involved with. I have one final question: if you could look back and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
Kim: Don’t be afraid to try something new. Step out of your comfort zone a little bit, and try something different.
Jay: I love that, that’s great. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and I’ll be looking forward to buying my next eclipse shirt from you in 2024.
(P.S. And, if you don’t want to wait that long check out some of Kim’s T-shirts HERE!)
Kim Jensen has been an ecommerce seller since 2005. She started out selling on ebay and since becoming a seller on Amazon several years ago, she has now joined both the Fulfilled by Amazon program and Merch By Amazon. Kim spent several years juggling the multiple demands of working a full time job, running a business, and being a mom and wife. In May of 2012, she decided to leave her full time job and focus on spending time with family and growing her business. Over the past 5 years, Kim has grown her Amazon business by 500% and also added the Merch by Amazon platform to her business in 2016. She hired her daughter to work for her and help create T-shirt designs for Merch by Amazon. Together, they came up with some of the best selling eclipse designs for the August 2017 total solar eclipse. Kim lives just outside St. Paul, MN. She enjoys working from home and loves the freedom to set her own schedule and attend as many kids’ activities as she chooses.
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