Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
My name is Nick and I am the founder of Romans Tide. My business started out selling on eBay in early 2015, by November we moved to Amazon. Our method of selling was 100% arbitrage back then.
By 2017 we did over $1,000,000 in revenue on the Amazon platform. I had no idea what I had gotten into. I had no business experience and had no idea how to manage all this money flowing through the business.
Now we have our own Private Label Products, a couple of wholesale accounts (pursuing more), and a full-scale countrywide Retail Arbitrage operation that generates six figures a month in revenue with 20-25% profit margins.
A lot of people say “you can’t scale Retail Arbitrage”. We prove them wrong on a daily basis.
Nowadays, Romans Tide is becoming more of a distributor for my other product creations and brands. My journey in E-Commerce has had me sell everything from toys and clothes to trampolines and patio sets. We sell to all types of customers so that led me to develop my own brands.
Right now we have:
Java Advisor - Sells coffee, tea, and related products @JavaAdvisor
Mind Your Grind - Started out as my personal blog but is being turned into a sales channel for customers focused on health, fitness, and mindset. @Mind_Your_Grind
RTX (in development) - This is my Sports and Outdoor Brand focused on serving the customers involved in extreme sports. My love for riding waves is what fuels this project
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I had a pretty troubled childhood. Lots of ambition but no guidance. I was in and out of trouble from the age of 13-19 and was even homeless for about 9 months, luckily I had a vehicle to sleep in that had heat through the winter.
The life that society painted for me was depressing. I hated the idea of going to school, getting a job, and living a life that society told me to. I rebelled hard. I never saw entrepreneurship as an option.
Outsource everything. The classic entrepreneur’s mistake is to try and do everything yourself. When I look back on it I definitely had the funds to outsource more and bootstrap less.
If it wasn't for that struggle I would have never made it to where I am today. I was forced into entrepreneurship because I was not someone people could hire. I always got along with people at interviews and people liked me but I was not hireable due to the mistakes I made in the past surrounding my issues with drugs and alcohol as a teenager.
Embrace the struggle. Good times can make you soft. I appreciate my life now and keep an attitude of gratitude but I never forget where I came from. I never forget not knowing where my next meal would come from or not knowing where I was going to sleep at night. Believe it or not, I have had worse times and been worse places than being homeless but I won't go there here
I got my GED at 16 so I didn’t even finish high school, before starting my business I did take some college classes at a local community college. I wanted to become a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine and attend Bastyr University.
I loved learning things but always struggled with the long road of school which held no guarantee of success, just a guarantee of debt.
My journey into entrepreneurship started as an early teenager hustling here and there just to put food in my mouth and fuel in the gas tank. My first real business was a landscaping business I started with a friend that didn't work out. We thought it would be a good idea because he had the work and I had the business mindset of growing and scaling. The opportunity was there but we did not collaborate well. Even with my guidance he did not want to change his habits. This led to us butting heads, ending our business, tainting our friendship, and me $20,000 in debt. After that had failed me I came across a program that taught people how to dropship on eBay for $20 a month. I really liked the idea of this as it gave me the opportunity to work from anywhere and be my own boss which are two things I really wanted. After a few months of hard work, things went well and I paid $500 for the selling on Amazon training. I literally had no idea what I was doing when my Amazon business took off. In a sense, Amazon was my crash course in business. It taught me how to hire and manage employees, how to set up payroll, how to outsource, how to do accounting, how to leverage credit and financing, how to market, how to do advertising. It taught me everything I know about business in the harshest way possible lol
Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.
OUTSOURCE EVERYTHING LOL ...SERIOUSLY THOUGH.
The classic entrepreneur’s mistake is to try and do everything yourself. When I look back on it I definitely had the funds to outsource more and bootstrap less.
I did do the whole Alibaba sourcing, translating Chinese, back and forth samples, and all that stuff. I remember buying these aromatherapy necklaces from China, 300 at a time. These things would show up in in like 5 days on my doorstep. It was crazy how fast they came. We don't sell that stuff anymore. Now I have some Yoga related products that are made in china and some all natural outdoor products. I don't really zero in on a niche. We do pretty intense research and let the data tell us what to make next.
In the early days we drop shipped a lot of large items like outdoor patio furniture, trampolines, and other outdoor furniture. Even though I was doing it for a while the process and the profits always blew my mind. I remember being at Disney with my son and an order came in with a $300 profit and I was just like...wow...this is awesome. Having a great time with my family, still making money. That's how life should be. I truly believe we all deserve to have something like that in our life.
My experience selling everything is how Romans Tide came to be what it is today. I want to continue selling a wide variety of products but I realized that I need to create brands to target audiences that are passionate about the products we are selling. That is what gave me the idea to make Romans Tide the distributor for my own brands.
Now I pay a company to do my sourcing for me. It's a fee of $300 and then a percentage of the Purchase Order.
I always hear a lot of newbies in the business world say stuff like “everything you need to know is on Youtube for free”.
Ok cool….but I’ve got kids, a wife, multiple businesses, and a home to take care of. I don’t have time for youtube.
Of course, it is perspective and some people may have the time to do it that way but not for long, not once you hit it big...TIME IS MONEY...bootstrap and get the hell outta that habit asap. It will only end up costing you money in the long run.
I am a big believer in outsourcing, hiring coaches, and spending time with mentors.
Describe the process of launching the business.
I started out dropshipping on eBay and Amazon. The investment and risk were minimal. The eBay course cost $20 a month and was the best $20 I ever spent. The Amazon course was $500. I was leveraging the success of well-known brands and the eBay/Amazon platform. It is a great way to start a business but not a good long term game plan. After surpassing the million mark I knew I had to switch to FBA asap. It was scary as hell. I went from selling something before buying it to buying it before selling it.
That’s when I had to really level up as a business owner. I had to shake my mindset up and put in a lot of hard work, mostly on myself.
I financed the business using credit cards back in those days, now we also leverage LOCs and focus on business cards like AMEX, BREX, and Spark.
Brex is great but you gotta have at least $100k going into a business acct each month to get on with them
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
I am really just now starting to get the hang of the E-Commerce world off the Amazon platform.
In my opinion selling on Amazon is pretty much mandatory, you’re silly not to. They do so much for sellers to get products in front of customers it is insane. In order to be successful on Amazon you need to know how to leverage the platform. We still sell a lot of name brand products like Nike and Adidas so I dont need to run ads or drive traffic to the listings. The traffic is already thanks to Amazon. With our Private Label products we have to do a little more work but the return is higher. Ranking a new product on Amazon is not very easy. You have to spend money on ads and other methods to rank products on page 1.
Selling products on other channels has proven to be difficult. You have to build websites, drive traffic, captures emails, create pixels, advertise on facebook, google and instagram. Then you have to optimize those campaigns. There are so many pieces to the puzzle when it comes to building your own brand and you have to find the right people to get the job done. Selling on Amazon spolied me because I did not have to do all that stuff so the learning experience was pretty long but well worth it. I really like using Shopify for web development, driving traffic through social media and google, and using lead magnets to capture emails then retategting those customers on social media. Once you build out that process then you just need to keep optimizing everyhting. Its a steep learning curve but well worth it.
That being said, building a presence off Amazon is where my hearts at. Selling on Amazon is like living in a luxury cage. It's nice and cozy inside but you're still so restricted on what you can and can not do. I made that classic mistake again and tried to do all my off Amazon stuff myself.
I was gonna become the photoshop master,
I would become the King of Facebook Ads,
A video creating and editing ninja!!!
WordPress!? Pssshhh...no problem, I got this.
Clickfunnels!? Ya man I would become the funnel master too!
HA!!! What the hell I was thinking. Once again I realized I need to stay in my lane and OUTSOURCE EVERYTHING
I know for some of you reading this you may be thinking “I don’t have the money to do that”
All I am saying is don't jump to that conclusion. Take a hard look at your finances and make an educated decision.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Right now our Amazon business is our main source of revenue and we are in the gross profit range of 20-27%. Most of that business runs without me touching it. I am able to focus on my other brands, private label projects, and my new business, The Arbitrage Blueprint. My buddy David and I put together all of our SOPs to run our arbitrage business and will be selling them to people looking to scale arbitrage on Amazon. The SOPs are complete, we use them to run our business today but the website is in development.
Right now I am operating out of my home office. We have a storefront/warehouse in North Carolina and use prep centers to handle FBA operations as well arbitrage buyers all across the country to scale the operation.
The future of the business looks good. We are setting up to have Romans Tide become a distributor for my brands and other brands that want to get on board with us. We are setting up a dedicated sales channels that allow us to target the right audiences for all the products we sell. I know a lot of big players in e-commerce and have dedicated a lot of time networking with the right people. Success for us seems inevitable because I have made a lot of mistakes, learned a lot, and am dedicated to the operation.
Success to me means time with my family, being able to surf when the waves are good, travel often, have a business to pass on to my children, and enough money to do those things comfortably.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One of the most helpful things I have done for myself and my business is dedicating time to daily meditation. It helps me focus, handle stress better, sleep better, and the science behind it is solid. I use Headspace and do it for 10 minutes minimum. The ROI is insane lol
The best thing I started doing is doing less haha.
Instead of letting the world tell me I have ADHD or need to focus more on one thing, I decided to outsource more so I can get things moving on my projects.
Don't be afraid of making mistakes. The path to success is paved with mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and be open-minded.
One thing I have learned more recently is that focusing more on other aspects of my life actually helps my business. I used to think that I had to be all work, work, work, but when you have a family you can not be like that. I stopped working on weekends. I stopped working into the night. I pick up my son from school and do homework with him. I go surfing when the waves are good. I take time to hang out with my daughter.
My wife and I have dedicated time together and go out on dates. My wife is the most wonderful thing in my life and is the reason I am able to do the things I do. She deserves so much and one of my immediate goals is to make sure she is getting all the love and attention she deserves.
The same thing goes for my children. I did not have that when I grew up. I know my children are going to be ambitious and it is important that their ambition does not get misguided through a lack of guidance.
Dedicating time to those things has allowed me to be more focused on work when working and I get more done in less time.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
- Clickup for Project Management
- Graphic Rhythm Designs for brand assets
- Slack for communication
- Gusto for payroll
- Profit First for Accounting
- Toggl for time tracking
- Inventorylab for Amazon sourcing
- Flowster for SOPs
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
The book Awareness by Anthony De Mello - Truly allowed me to become comfortable with myself
The Paleo Solution Podcast - Really helped me with my health/fitness journey
Martial Arts - Practicing Escrima and Wing Chun really allowed me to become comfortable with movement and how to use my body effectively in a variety of scenarios.
The biggest resource I draw on is my past. I never wanna go back there but I make sure I never forget about it. I don’t fear much anymore because I know my life has already been at its worst. No matter what happens to me now or in the future it can never get that bad again.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
This is tough but I will do my best:
Never give up, trust yourself and ignore the noise.
Don't be afraid of making mistakes. The path to success is paved with mistakes. Embrace them, learn from them, and be open-minded.
Learn what YOU do best and focus on that, sometimes that could be telling other people what to do. It’s not being lazy, it’s delegating and that is an important skill that a lot of people lack.
Look into DISC profiling and Meyers Briggs testing. Figure out what you are good at and the type of people you need to hire.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m looking for someone who is good at writing a story. Someone who can ask me the right questions and take everything going on in my brain and make it look amazing on a website for our intended audiences. They would need to be able to write according to our intended audience and be willing to get to know me a little bit and put my vision for a brand onto a website.
Where can we go to learn more?
- Mindyourgrind.com (being migrated to WordPress)
- @shucetee (personal Instagram)
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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