Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Danny Carlson, an Amazon FBA entrepreneur specializing in PPC Management & Listing Optimization. I founded the Amazon Seller Agency Kenji ROI in 2016 and have grown it to more than 10 team members including 5 full-time.
Kenji ROI has served 638+ Amazon sellers with product photography, video, copywriting, Amazon SEO, & Amazon PPC Management services, and has produced 1355+ Amazon product listings.
I’m also the host of the Actualize Freedom Podcast (Amazon FBA) & the Danny Carlson Podcast (building agencies, mindset, & lifestyle) completing more than 75 interviews with names like Daniel DiPiazza, Steve Sims, Manny Coats, & Kevin King.
Residing in Bali, my off time is spent training hand to hand acrobatics, ripping sport motorcycles, & speaking at business events.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I’ve always been a thrill-seeker/adrenaline junky, so online business to me was the perfect outlet for that energy.
When I was younger I struggled with paying attention in school, I thought it was pointless. I was really smart, but only when I was interested in something. I barely managed to graduate high school due to skipping class and partying too much.
The thought of going to University sounded terrible to me, and I got depressed after resigning to a future of working a job I hated. I just didn’t see a compelling future.
This led me to work as a carpenter for 6 years in the pouring Vancouver rain, and I hated it. It wasn’t until 2015 I stumbled upon The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris and my mind expanded to the possibilities of the online business world (and how it would be my escape from construction)!
Location independence and passive income had me obsessed and I consumed hundreds of hours of podcasts, courses, and videos. I knew I wanted to start an online business, but what?... I had no idea.
It wasn’t until a near-death experience longboard racing on Siquijor island in the Philippines I was forced to reevaluate my life direction.
In a very powerful way, any excuses I had for not starting a business NOW evaporated, and I started working on it before I even landed back in Canada.
I just chose Amazon FBA from the options I was aware of and dove into it. Six months later I had a $30k per month revenue account and was aggressively launching new products… then my account got suspended!
Right then I had a choice, go back to work carpentry in the pouring Vancouver rain, defeated… or take the skills I had gained growing on Amazon & build an agency serving brands selling on Amazon. Kenji ROI was born.
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
Kenji ROI offered listing copywriting as our only service in the beginning. I had done it for my own products and a few friends so I had the skills & knowledge.
I’d been obsessed with sales copywriting books and courses so I mixed those skills with my Amazon keyword knowledge to offer the service for other brands.
At first, I charged $200 per listing. At the time that was all, I needed to sustain myself and my one part-time virtual assistant. We now charge $397 for the same package (our cheapest offering), and most of our revenue comes from product photography which we didn’t offer back then.
Over the next few years, there was a slow and steady growth of revenues and team members until we had expanded our offers to include video, EBC descriptions (A+ Content), and Amazon PPC Management.
There were plenty of ups and downs, but by this time we were one of the only agencies with the main focus on Amazon listing optimization that provided services to create everything on product pages.
I spent years trying to make quick wins and it’s always the long term things like SEO, building a podcast and actually doing great work that gets the results.
Describe the process of launching the business.
My launch strategy? Guerilla market the F out of Amazon seller Facebook groups and go heavy in the DMs! I was $20k in debt after my account suspension and hiring a lawyer to attempt to appeal it, so I had no money for ads.
I would spend about half my workday writing valuable posts in Facebook groups, making relationships with the admins, and slowly building my credibility and authority.
Basically all revenue for the first 6 months was generated through groups and creating sales conversations from commenters and DMs with anyone who showed interest in my services. The posts were strictly not promotional unless I managed to come to an agreement with the group admin.
We did promos like contests to win free copywriting packages or set up the group admin as an affiliate or lifetime student discount depending on what was more valuable for them.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The Actualize Freedom Podcast has been our best asset for attracting and nurturing leads. It’s hard to say exactly how well it works, but often our prospects will mention on sales calls they have been long time fans. It’s not uncommon to have someone be a listener for more than a year before becoming a client of ours.
While the podcast itself is great, the biggest benefit of the podcast is creating business relationships with the guests. Since we interview mostly other Amazon FBA experts with the same target audience as us after the interview is done we chat about quick wins we can do to help each other grow.
Sometimes it’s as simple as getting our backlink on one of their existing blog posts and as complicated as setting up a white label arrangement where they sell our services to their clients under their brand.
This has by far been the best driver of business, stacking these relationships and collaborations with podcast guests.
Other than that, SEO has been a big consistent driver of new leads for us. I write big articles that are the best on that particular topic (often taking 16+ hours to write) and eventually they turn into long term traffic assets.
We’ve tried just about every marketing tactic in the books, and paid traffic has never worked out super well for us. It’s hit or miss whether it’s profitable or not so I’m a much bigger fan of organic traffic and content strategies.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
A lot of my energy now is going into my program Freedom Agency Blueprint that teaches the business fundamentals to build a successful online service-based agency. I talk about that stuff and lifestyle/ mindset optimization on my 2nd podcast Danny Carlson Podcast.
As far as Kenji ROI goes, we’re very focused on stacking as many Amazon PPC Management clients as possible as that will help us get a higher percentage of revenue as MRR instead of project-based.
We have a really solid operations manager that allows me to focus more on business development and marketing which are my main skill sets, so I plan to really ramp things up with the Actualize Freedom Podcast and hopefully make that a profitable line of business in itself.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
The number one thing I’ve learned through nearly 4 years of building this business is the power of business fundamentals & focusing on them.
I never went to university so I learned everything I know about business from podcasts, YouTube, and online courses. Turns out business fundamentals almost never get talked about because shiny new marketing tactics and “quick wins” are so much more popular to talk about amongst the make money online gurus.
This led me to believe that business was all about identifying the newest marketing strategies as fast as possible then implementing them… and boy I was wrong.
It wasn’t until I spent $12k working with a mentor for 8 months to really dive into the business fundamentals I was missing that I realized my mistake.
Financial systems, effective reports, key metrics for EVERY team members that hold them accountable, creating a weekly scorecard I can quickly scan EVERY key metric in the business.
These things took a long time to set up, but the effect is I never again will show up to work one day and be completely blindsided by something in the company I thought was going really well but was actually a mess for months without me knowing.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Order management & communication with active clients - Service Provider Pro
- Task Management - Trello
- Team Communication - Slackand Zoom
- Marketing Automation & Sales Pipeline Management - Active Campaign
- VOIP Phone - Nectardesk(integrates with Active Campaign)
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The Surrender Experiment by Michael Singer has influenced me more than any other book, I’ve read it twice. It’s a true story of his life surrendering to the flow of events in his life and eventually selling a software company for over $1b through basically a series of accidents. It really made me question how I make decisions and live my life.
The Aubrey Marcus Podcast is my favorite by far just because of how vulnerably he shares all of his insecurities and how aggressively he tries crazy things to overcome them. He’s grown a very successful supplement brand Onnit and has checked off just about every list of achievements you can think of but is still very human and shares valuable philosophy and spiritual guidance on his podcast. Great if you’re always working on yourself.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Stop waiting for the perfect time. I was lucky enough to have a near-death experience shake me into starting, but most of you will not be so lucky and will just have to shake yourself into it.
Also, realize that you are entering a long term game that is best played with a long term mindset. When making decisions it’s almost always better to choose the thing that will take longer and get more predictable results over the thing that will be a quick win and may or may not work. Trust me, I spent years trying to make quick wins and it’s always the long term things like SEO, building a podcast, actually doing great work, etc that get the results.
If you don’t know business fundamentals like finance and key reports… learn! Yes, it’s boring, but without this knowledge, you are driving a cashflow bomb in the dark waiting for it to explode.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Kenji ROI has provided an update on their business!
About 1 year ago, we followed up with Kenji ROI to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
16 days ago, we followed up with Kenji ROI to see how they've been doing since we published this article.
Want to start your own business?
Hey! 👋I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
We interview successful business owners and share the stories behind their business. By sharing these stories, we want to help you get started.
Interested in starting your own business? Join Starter Story Premium to get the greatest companion to starting and growing your business:
- Connect + get advice from successful entrepreneurs
- Step by step guides on how to start and grow
- Exclusive and early access to the best case studies on the web
- And much more!
Did you know that brands using Klaviyo average a 95x ROI?
Email, SMS, and more — Klaviyo brings your marketing all together, fueling growth without burning through time and resources.
Deliver more relevant email and text messages — powered by your data. Klaviyo helps you turn one-time buyers into repeat customers with all the power of an enterprise solution and none of the complexity.