From Selling On eBay To Starting A $1.6M/Year eCommerce Agency

Published: June 1st, 2022
Quin Amorim
Founder, Prolific Zone
$138K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
15
Employees
Prolific Zone
from St. Albert, AB, Canada
started August 2018
$138,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
15
Employees
Discover what tools Quin recommends to grow your business!
Discover what books Quin recommends to grow your business!
Want more updates on Prolific Zone? Check out these stories:

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hi guys! My name is Quin Amorim and I’m the founder of Prolific Zone, an eCommerce agency in the heart of Alberta, Canada.

I started the company back in 2016 to help brands sell products online, in marketplaces like Amazon or Walmart.

I sold my products online for over 25 years, and by doing so, I found my passion for creating, launching, and growing products and brands online. Since creating the agency I’ve experienced almost all possible niches in the market by launching over 950 different products.

At first, we had a modest team of just three people but as our services grew, so did our team. Now we have a team of 18 people and we work with clients from all over the world.

From health supplements to skincare, yoga equipment, electronics, newborn swaddles, energy drinks, and even human milk products! It is an exciting job and every day there is something new that keeps me wanting more.

We started doing it for the excitement of creating and launching brands online and soon turned into a real business generating an average of $140K per month. The most exciting thing is that we have a customer retention rate of over 80% and have not spent a single dollar advertising our services!

prolific-zone

What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

The first time I sold online was on eBay in '97.

I lived in Portugal, a small European country with great weather. While I had a job and the salary was decent, it was still challenging to make ends meet and I always watched for new opportunities.

One day I saw some wooden statues for sale on a window display of a store. They were hand carvings that I wanted to buy, but I couldn’t.

This store was difficult to find. I imagined all the people with more money than me that never even realized it existed. On my drive home, I was hearing on the radio about a “new American website that had auctions” eBay!

The next day, I took my camera and uploaded some of the best photos to eBay. I then put them on sale for 100% markup. When someone bid and bought one of the items, I’d collect the money, then go right back to the store to buy the statue, and send it to the client.

Yikes, it sounds like I’m from a different era. In 1997, dropshipping was still considered weird and I had never heard anyone talk about it before. Years later I switched to creating private label products and brands and selling them on Amazon.
Now I have my brands and manage multiple million-dollar seller accounts with the help of my team.

It all started with a friend’s request to help him get rid of inventory that he had bought and couldn’t sell. Amazon was eating away at his profits, with long-term storage fees, and nobody was buying his health supplement.

At first, I found it strange, because the product had great benefits, tasted great, and even looked good. But soon I realized his problem wasn’t the lack of conversions, but nobody could find his product. Listings were very weak and without having good keywords, he only had 2 images and both were terrible, on top of that, the product had zero reviews.

After we optimized his Amazon listing, we created beautiful 3D renders to use as images, and created a $20 per day PPC campaign (At the time Amazon didn’t have 3 million sellers, so those $20 went a long way).

The product ended up selling so fast that he not only didn’t liquidate it but ordered more and the brand still exists today making 7 figures per year.

So I founded the company to help brands sell their products internationally through Amazon and Walmart, just like I was doing with my brands, and had done for my friend.

Put in as much time as possible into the business while keeping your 9 to 5 to support yourself. Quitting your job too soon to become an entrepreneur could starve your business growth.

Over the years Prolific Zone became an advertising partner of Amazon, as well as an official company partner, with a team operating from within the Amazon headquarters.

Ecommerce agencies are a new breed of marketing agencies that focus on digital marketing and e-commerce platforms. They help brands to build their online presence and provide them with the tools they need to succeed. The competition is fierce, but we have a competitive edge, like experience and know-how.

We've been featured in a lot of different online publications, like Forbes, CNBC, ABC, Market Pulse, and more.

Prolific Zone Logo
Prolific Zone Logo

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and Creating Your Service.

The process of creating private label products is not as complicated as it may seem. It may seem backward if you are used to traditional retail.

It DOESN’T starts with a product idea and then finding a manufacturer. Instead, It starts with finding the demand for a niche first and looking for a hole in the supply for a particular niche or product. This is measured on Amazon using 3rd party software tools, Amazon and Google trends, and also platforms like Kickstarter.

After we find the demand, we look for products that can fulfill that demand. So we go product hunting or product sourcing, which is the process of finding suppliers for your product. Once we found a supplier, we need to find out if they can produce the product that we want and at what price. Also need to find out if they can ship it to our country and how long it will take them to do so. (And of course at what cost)

Once we have found a supplier, we need to design the product we want them to produce. This includes designing the packaging and labeling for the product as well as deciding on modifications like size, strength, shape, or even in the case of supplements what ingredients will be in it and how much.

In the majority of private label product creation, you will not require to have your molds, patents, or even intellectual property, except for getting a trademark (Word mark for the brand name).
So in a very direct explanation, we take a product that already exists, make it unique, make it our own and start selling.

Having a good relationship with a client, good communication, and a clear vision of where we want to take the brand, is crucial in maintaining the client long term. That’s why Prolific Zone has a client retention rate of over 80%.

One of the things that I get asked the most when it comes to creating private label products is “How Much Money Do I Need?”

My answer is something that I don’t like saying, but it’s “It Depends”.

The truth is, the main cost of private label never is the product itself!
Every niche is different, every product has more or less competition, the cost of PPC keywords are very different, etc.

You will have the costs of pre-arrival: (All costs associated with the product before it leaves the supplier)

  • Cost of buying the product
  • Cost of the label and package designer
  • The packaging
  • Product inspections
  • Cost of shipping the product to your US warehouse or direct to Amazon. ( Amazon has storage limitations on some accounts)
  • Creating a landing page or a website (Not mandatory but recommended in some cases)
  • Trademark (Not mandatory but always recommended)

Then you have the after arrival costs: (After arrival costs are expenses that a company may incur after their goods have been imported into the US.)

  • Shipping the product from your US warehouse to Amazon (If it didn’t go direct)
  • Marketing (Could be your biggest expense)
  • Marketplace referral fees (in the case of Amazon, an average of 15% of the gross sale, and a pick and pack fee if they are shipping to the final consumer)

Long gone are the days when you could buy $500 worth of gadgets from China, ship them to the US for $200 more and sell them on Amazon without a marketing budget. For every product that you launch, I’m sure you can find a couple hundred already selling something similar, and if it has good demand, there are probably another hundred working on sourcing it, to start selling it soon.

In my experience, it will be hard (not impossible) to launch anything successfully with less than $20K.

Quin in 2004
Quin's early days on the computer

Describe the process of launching the business.

Starting an eCommerce agency was not as easy as it may seem. There are many things to consider before you start. You need to have a clear idea of what you want your agency to be, how you want it to look like, and what kind of clients you want to work with.

For example, at one point my agency was taking clients for Facebook and Google ads, but as we got busier we decided to niche down and focus on only Amazon, Walmart, and Shopify platforms. This important step would help us narrow down the clients that would come through our door and help with marketing efforts later on.

Our second step was figuring out how much money we needed for starting up the business and how much time it would take for the business to become profitable. This included all costs such as office space with computers, software tools, salaries, freelancers, etc.

prolific-zone
Prolific Zone Website In 2019

One of the biggest lessons we learned was that not every client is a perfect fit. Some clients wanted us to use black hat techniques, which we refuse. Having a good relationship with a client, good communication, and a clear vision of where we want to take the brand, is crucial in maintaining the client long term. That’s why Prolific Zone has a client retention rate of over 80%.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

There are no tricks when it comes to retaining customers. They want results and they will remain loyal to whoever is getting those results.

On top of that, my customers appreciate our direct communication lines and an honest approach to everything we do.

Clients are treated like family and tier brands are treated like we owned them.

We do not require contracts with fixed terms! We let them know that if we do not perform, they are free to leave without any consequences.

This leaves the clients at ease, and we need to deliver results if we want them to keep coming back.

I’m proud to announce we’ve had over 80% retention rate in the past 3 years.

prolific-zone
Screenshot of 12-month performance of a client on Amazon

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m very happy with our 2021 results, as we have increased our average profit by almost 10%.

We have also seen a significant increase in the Return on ad spend, for our clients, which is now at an all-time high average of 4.6 RoAS for the full year of 2021.

Our business was 67% on Amazon, 19% on Shopify, 11% on Walmart, and 3% on platforms like BigCommerce, Woocomerce, Wish, and Best Buy.

I have a plan in place to expand the business in 2022, by opening a branch in Portugal and one in the USA. For that purpose, so far we’ve developed 80 SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) to help automate tasks and train new staff.

This should bring the agency up to around $400K per month, not including any product sales.

Then for the first time advertising will kick in, and bring worldwide awareness to the Prolific Zone agency.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Starting an eCommerce agency was not an easy task. Luckily for me, I already had a small team, that I hired and trained to manage my eCommerce and private label brands and together we were capable of handling the workload.

But I quickly learned that great results bring in a compounding effect with clients since none were leaving, and they were recommending others. That made it so that a team of 3 was not capable to do all the work, and in order to hire people fast, I could risk lowering the quality of work.

So, my next step was to hire a manager that would take care of staff, while I would build a library of Loom videos to train every task.

Another big issue was communication! Communicating with clients in real-time, communicating with remote staff in real-time, and everyone wanted to use different platforms.

We had to settle with a maximum of 3 platforms for clients (Skype, Slack, and Whatsapp) and only Skype and Slack for the team. Until today we maintain those means of communication and course email.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

There are many eCommerce platforms in the market. The best eCommerce platform depends on what you need.

We work mainly with 3 e-commerce platforms: Walmart, Amazon, and Shopify, but we also create blogs and blog content for SEO purposes, using WordPress.

As for tools, there are so many that I can’t live without now:

  • Lastpass password storage creates my passwords, stores them, and even shares them with my team, without revealing the passwords themselves.
  • Loom, the video recording tool that I use to share my screen and train staff
  • Grammarly, like the name, suggests it’s a chrome extension that corrects my spelling and grammar
  • Helium 10, tools for Amazon sellers, from keyword research, and keyword tracking, to product sourcing, etc
  • Zappier, an automation tool that allows me to automate marketing tasks
  • Yoast SEO in every single WordPress site
  • Ryte, Ai content writer tool
  • FBA (Fulfilment By Amazon) is probably the best way to get our products shipped around at the fastest speeds
  • Service FBA, and directory for all the Amazon software, tools, and service providers
  • Canva.com to create and edit images
  • freepik.com where we can get millions of images for our marketing

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

As a podcast host myself, I get to meet many influential people, and by interviewing them I receive not only the knowledge but also the recognition from the audience. For those reasons, I would have to mention the Fail Fast Podcast and the QA Selling Online as the most influential for me.

The book that influenced me the most was “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell. Realizing that the 10,000 hours of doing something would make you an expert was mindblowing to me.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

The most important thing, in my opinion, is to always know your numbers. I always see people starting without knowing 100% of the costs.

Then, of course, you must put in, as much time as possible into the business while keeping your 9 to 5 to support yourself. Quitting your job too soon to become an entrepreneur could starve your business growth.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Always looking for great talent!

Some of the most required positions are PPC managers, but in the near future will also be needing a content writer and a designer.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

Related Business Ideas