I am enjoying interviewing professionals about their line of work or their side hustles. Today I am sharing an interview with Keri, who runs an Amazon Store called Born Cute and is working on a blog, Keri Keeps Up.
Tell us a little about yourself and your business. Why did you select it and how did you get started?
My name is Keri, and I am a self-declared Mom Boss. When I was seventeen, I had my first baby. Obviously, this is something that can really define the direction of a person’s life. I had always planned to go on and graduate college, climb the corporate ladder, and conquer the world. 😉 After I looked into my baby boy’s eyes, I found that what my heart really longed to do was be the best mom I could be. Nothing would ever take that from me, and suddenly I decided that the shark life I had envisioned wasn’t in the near future. I knew that taking either path halfway would never give me the happiness and life that I had craved.
I stayed home with my baby, while his father worked hard and gave me the option to give my all to this little person, then his brother, and eventually his baby sister. About five years after becoming a mother, my vision of being “the perfect mom” had become lost in my day-to-day overwhelm and I knew in my heart the time had come to create the life that I had always wanted.
At this time I was about halfway through my pregnancy with my baby girl, and my mind kept telling me I was crazy. Sometimes you should ignore that logic and follow your heart. I did, and it has become quite an adventure. I am now building several streams of online income.
Describe what you do and what you sell for those of us not familiar with your line of work or product.
I have always been a penny pincher – something you know if you have checked out my DIY and Home blog, Keri Keeps Up. When I heard about becoming a seller through Amazon FBA, I was sold. The idea is simple: buy merchandise at a discounted price, send it to the Amazon warehouse, and let them worry about everything else. They take care of the marketing and the customer service.
This model was a dream! I love clearance shopping, and after all of those years of being a stay-at-home mom, I can spot a deal on a dime. While I was pregnant it was working out great. I would go and shop about once a week, send my goods to the warehouse, and wait for things to sell. It was perfect for where I was in my life at that point, and is an extremely viable option!
After I had my baby, my time to source product became extremely limited. There are people that source from shops online, but after trying a few times it just wasn’t for me. I needed to find another way to keep product in stock. I applied for a t-shirt printing program and started researching what is called Private Labeling.
When my baby girl was about a month old, I launched Born Cute’s first product, a 5-in-1 Stretchy Infant Cover. I was brainstorming for product ideas and it basically hit me in the face. I had wanted to get a cover, but I hadn’t yet because I wasn’t sold on any of the designs. They were all too trendy, or girly, or STRIPED. My oh my, I can only handle so many stripes.
I also needed something less feminine. Something that I could talk my husband into carrying for me. That wasn’t going to happen with those floral prints. I wanted a print that fit into my multi-gendered home without screaming “I’m for a girl!” but was classy and modern all at the same time. I did some scouring and managed to find the perfect print. My Tangerine Dots Cover was coming to Amazon!
After the whirlwind of launching my first ever product, I received even more great news. Amazon approved me for the t-shirt program about two weeks ago. I have a few designs up that I am basically in love with. They all align with my overall brand and what I stand for.
What are some of your favorite things about what you do?
The best thing about what I am doing is that I still get to be home. I am showing my kids that hard work comes in many forms, and to always play toward your strengths. I have the flexibility to take them to the park, or soccer practice, or dance camp! Yet I still have something that is all my own. I love that my success will fall squarely on my shoulders because I am the person that is in charge of my life. It is a great feeling to work hard and accomplish something, and finally, realize that the sky truly is the limit.
What are some challenges of this business?
It has been about two and a half months since I launched my Stretchy Infant Cover, so I am still in the beginning of my online adventures. I will be honest – there is a lot more marketing involved with Private Labeling than I had anticipated. Since the product wasn’t already in Amazon’s system, I am now working on building its reputation and I have to “prove” to Amazon that what I have is great so that they will show it to people browsing.
The same thing is true for the Amazon t-shirt program. It is so easy to get started, but you have to really grind to get results because nobody will see your listing if you don’t. However, with persistence and strategy, I believe there will be no barriers.
With three kids at home, I tend to spend a lot of time awake at night, getting whatever I can, done. I am not saying it is impossible, but you have to be willing to make some sacrifices. For me, those sacrifices include sleeping and eating delicious homemade meals every night. Freezer meals have been kind these last few months.
For someone interested in what you do, can you share what to expect as far as earning potential and effort?
It is difficult for me to tell you how much time I am spending on each element of my online presence, but I will do my best to break it down into a good idea of what is involved. I am managing to do everything while taking care of a four-month-old, two-year-old, and five-year-old, so there is obviously a ton of flexibility as far as a schedule goes.
My blog definitely takes the cake for the most time, but it is also the driving force behind keeping me motivated and will ultimately become my empire. I just launched in mid-June, but I built the website myself which was quite time-consuming. Now that I am only creating content and promoting, I spend about ten hours a week on the computer, give or take. In addition to that, I spend time completing the project I am blogging about and photographing it. There are several different ways to monetize a blog. At this point, I am using affiliate programs, but in the future, I plan to open my own shop and may gravitate away from Amazon. There are people that have had huge success through blogging and growing from there, some making seven figures in a month. I hope to replace my husband’s income so that he can start following his dreams within a year.
Merch by Amazon is the t-shirt biz that I am just getting started. I have only been active on it for about two weeks, but it seems to be a great way to have some side income if you can come up with great content, and market effectively. The time involved with Merch depends on your strategies. I have created my own content, which takes whatever time is needed to complete the concept and carry it out successfully. Then I research keywords, photograph the product for marketing, and make sure I have created stellar listings for my shirts. I just started promoting through social media and expect to gain some traction within the next few months. The earnings at first are limited to ten t-shirt designs, but you receive a royalty for each one sold. If all of your listings are successful, Amazon will give you more opportunity to create t-shirts. Earning potential on this is very high!
Private labeling is the least demanding of my time because all of the work was done upfront. I spent a good 100 hours or so researching and networking before I purchased my covers. The catch is that it can be frustrating to gain traction, and if you haven’t chosen your product well, it could be a complete flop. Honestly, I chose a bit of a saturated product niche, and my sales would have been better if I had decided to sell something like toothbrushes. Tip: If your gut says “but maybe not…” while researching, listen to it! However, I am thankful for the push that this gave me because that nervous energy is part of what made me decide to start my blog. The waiting game with Amazon selling can be stressful. The entire process takes a while. Fair warning!
What does it take for someone to get started with their own side hustle in your line of work?
To become an Amazon Seller, all you have to do is sign up and pay the monthly fees. If you are wanting to have a true business, go with a pro-seller account for $39.99 a month. This includes retail arbitrage(aka sourcing clearance and discounted goods) as well as Private Labeling. If you would like to sell more casually, you can downgrade to a personal account and pay per item. Honestly, I prefer using eBay in those cases. Of course, you have to buy the product in order to resell it, so the cost of start-up can vary. I would recommend having about $500, to begin with.
For Merch by Amazon, the cost involved is zilch! All you have to do is apply to the program, then wait for Amazon to send you an invitation. Once you receive that golden email, it is up to you to create t-shirt designs and get them in front of people.
Starting your own blog is also a simple thing to do, and much cheaper than many other business start-ups. What you need is a self-hosted website, a great concept, and a plan. If you are interested in starting a blog, I highly recommend using Siteground for your hosting. They have impeccable customer service and great uptime. I would also recommend investing in an awesome, user-friendly theme. I went with the Divi Theme because it was so popular, and I don’t regret it a bit. The drag and drop system is so simple to use, and I don’t have to worry about trying to code in anything I do. I just click and type. I can’t tell you how many hours of work this saved me.
Anything else you would like to tell us about your business?
Although I am still in the early stages of building my ultimate business, I am thankful that I risked the $39.99 a month for my Amazon Seller account. It has pushed me to really go for the things that I want, and being successful at retail arbitrage gave me the confidence to take bigger risks with my money.
The biggest point I want to make is that life can be anything you want it to be. I am a twenty-three-year-old, uneducated mother of three. I am breaking down my walls, and working hard to achieve my goals. I am passionate about every item I have created, and I proudly wear my products every chance I get. Don’t let anything keep you from achieving what you know in your heart that you can. There is a dream fit for everyone out there, you just have to find it and decide that it’s yours.
To support my ventures, please visit my products page.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming an Amazon seller, contact Keri at her website.