By David Hammond
But you’d never guess it seeing him today—living a comfortable life with time to socialize and enjoy his passions: food and photography.
To turn things back in his favor, Russell implemented a two-prong plan.
1. He retired abroad to satisfy a high quality of life for less money.
2. He became a seller on Amazon, a business he can manage from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Russell lives in a roomy apartment near Medellín, Colombia where the average daytime high temperature is around 80F and the average nighttime low is near 60F—all year long.
It’s a modern city with impressive shopping malls and a growing restaurant scene. And in Medellín, Russell’s cost of living is about a third that of a comparable lifestyle in the U.S.
In his free time, Russell loves to cook in his fully-equipped Italian-style kitchen and barbecue with friends on his spacious terrace.
Russell is also an accomplished photographer. And while he shoots a variety of subjects, his food photography is especially impressive.
Selling goods on Amazon
The process in a nutshell
Open an accountTo become a seller on Amazon, Russell opened an account with Fulfillment by Amazon (often referred to as FBA or Amazon FBA).
Acquire products to sellMany Amazon sellers buy private-label products from manufacturers overseas. Russell started out that way, too.
However, now, most of his products are custom manufactured in the US to his specifications.
Russell's manufacturer sends the completed products to a packaging company.
Package the products
Once packaged and labeled, the packaging company sends the products to one of Amazon’s customer fulfillment centers, where they’re stored.
Fulfillment by Amazon takes care of the rest
When someone orders one of Russell’s products on the Amazon website, FBA takes care of the packing, shipping, billing, sales taxes, and returns.
Amazon also provides online tools that Russell uses for tracking, managing, and forecasting product inventory.
Training is critical to success
Russell’s first enterprise as a seller on Amazon involved accessories for GoPro action cameras he purchased in Hong Kong.
He gave it his best effort, but he couldn’t reach the sales figures he needed to make it worthwhile.
“I was ready to give up. Then, a friend, Joe in Paraguay, told me he’d taken a course on how to sell on Amazon. So, I decided to give it a try,” says Russell.
“After studying the course for a while, it all started coming together.
"I learned what it takes to get on the first page of Amazon.”
Note: A couple of the most popular courses to learn about selling on Amazon include Amazing Selling Machine and Proven Amazon Course. You’ll also find several books on the subject if you do an Amazon book search for “Amazon FBA.”
Russell tested what he’d learned with a simple product: garden-hose washers. And the training paid off. Because now, Russell sells 100s of packs of washers every month.
After achieving success selling hose washers, Russell applied his newfound understanding to sell barbecue accessories.
A few of Russell’s strategies and tips
Russell positions his products to appeal to his target customer: The Amazon shopper who wants the best and is willing to pay a little more to get it.
So, whether he’s selling garden hose washers or barbecue accessories, Russell’s aim is to offer premium products.
Russell’s garden hose washers are made from the same rubber used in aerospace and aircraft applications to withstand extreme conditions.
When Russell considers a new product to offer on Amazon, he first learns about his target customer’s wants and preferences by studying the Amazon reviews of similar products.
Studying the market
As an example, Russell developed a premium stainless-steel campfire skewer—the type used for roasting marsh mellows or hot dogs over a campfire.
Among reviews of other skewers on the market, Russell noticed some users reported their hands got too hot from the fire because the skewer was too short. Other Amazon reviewers noted metal skewers they purchased soon developed rust.
So, Russell manufactured a skewer that is longer and made from a higher quality of polished stainless steel than other campfire skewers on the market.
Marketing graphicsRussell makes sure his product’s marketing graphics and label portray the product's high quality.
He takes his own marketing photos, which he then sends to a graphic artist.
“I use graphic artists and designers in India,” says Russell. "They provide quality work at low prices."
And because of the time difference, Russell can submit a job to his graphic designer one day, and have the job finished for his review first thing in the morning.
The brand name for Russell’s products is Backyard Dudes. He’s published a PDF book, Summer BBQ Time, Backyard Dudes Classic BBQ Cookbook, which is available for free on the Backyard Dudes website.
In the book, Russell provides BBQ tips accompanied with some of his incredible food photography.
Keeping the business connected to real passionsIn addition to adding value to his customers, the book creates a close tie between his personal passions of cooking and photography and his Amazon sales business.
Russell is an early riser. He works on his Amazon business from 4 am to 10 am.
Then, it’s time for other things, like shopping for fresh ingredients for a new recipe or getting the barbecue ready for an afternoon with friends.