Mike Bryan started his Amazon seller journey in 2017 doing retail arbitrage. He quickly moved to wholesale before realizing that neither the wholesale or arbitrage model allowed him to create the type of value he wanted to bring to customers.
“In retail arbitrage you’re always hunting and you never really have the opportunity to create value. In wholesale, you’re at the mercy of others in terms of how everything is set up, and I really wanted to be able to control what I provided as a product and start building a brand.”
In the spring of 2018, Mike started his own private label by launching a couple of products that grew slowly in the Home & Kitchen category. He found that there was a gap in the market: many sellers were listing high quantity and low quality products, but customers wanted the inverse. Mike began selling the same products at a higher quality and in more accurate quantities to meet their needs. By early 2020, the brand was gaining traction and shortly after the pandemic struck it took off rapidly.
During the pandemic, Mike’s business accelerated quickly and he was met with loads of orders and high praise from customers. Despite this success, he noted these achievements during the pandemic created a “false sense of security.” Like many sellers who grew quickly in 2020 and 2021, Mike was faced with the challenge of unsustainable growth and supply chain issues the following year.
In 2022, Mike struggled with massive supply shortages that caused a surge in prices, for the seller even more so than the customer. On top of shortages, he faced a delayed product container shipment that left money tied up in inventory that he was unable to access. Together, these obstacles created a serious hiccup in his cash flow and stalled business pretty significantly.
Mike’s cost of goods sold (COGS) continued to be his biggest expense. In order to make sales and keep his cash flowing at a rate he was comfortable with, he was caught in Amazon’s “pay to play” marketing strategies. As costs of advertisements on the marketplace went up, so did his COGS.
“Unless you’re really good at driving traffic from off of Amazon to your products, you’re committing to paying Amazon for advertising.” For Mike, this was a big issue, “I’ve really structured a lot of my products to be in a 25-30% profit margin range. If I spend 10% on ads that’s down to 15-20%,” which just wasn’t enough.”
After coming across a spreadsheet highlighting his tight margins in the winter, Mike was forced to genuinely reflect on his current financial situation. “You know how they say, ‘when you’re in a hole stop digging?’ I had dug myself and the company into a pretty good hole and it was time for me to stop digging.”
He realized that he needed access to funding quickly with a flexible payment schedule and partnership that could help support him while he got back on his feet.
Initially, Mike attempted to take out loans through traditional channels and other ecommerce financing options. Similar to other sellers, Mike struggled with traditional channels due to their lack of ecommerce knowledge and integration with ecommerce payment tools.
Eventually Mike’s mentor, Tomer Rabinovich, suggested during a brand optimization program that he try Viably. “Viably was an incredibly new company. I had tried a few others and they worked fine but this just seemed more… viable.”
Not only was Viably able to help fund Mike’s business, it was able to give him the support and partnership he needed to regain his footing on Amazon. “The rates are great for funding, but more importantly it’s the willingness to work together that I appreciate. That’s the one thing I found with the whole team, they’ve been really great to work with.”
Viably works closely with businesses to offer flexible funding opportunities and scheduling- something Mike found to be a major benefit. “Those little accommodations can make a big difference for sellers. They made a big difference for me. Changing a date here or there, moving payments around, it’s so helpful when you’re selling,” he shared.
Mike was able to stabilize his business and better regulate his cash flow in 2023 with the help of Viably. “I’m fortunate to work directly with the factory now and that’s cut my costs by 40%, which is huge. To do that though, I need to keep three months of inventory at a time which is not cheap. Viably has helped so much, they’re fast and understand what I need when I need it.”
Mike was an early adopter of Viably, participating in the pilot funding program. Following his initial round of funding, Mike has continued to work closely with the Viably team.
Beyond additional funding opportunities, Mike has been instrumental in providing feedback to help improve Viably’s Growth tools. “I look forward to seeing Viably expand and improve the Growth tool, especially. Spreadsheets can be so tedious, any automation is appreciated by sellers.” Partnering with Viably has renewed Mike’s sense of confidence in his business while also helping Viably further their mission of helping ecommerce sellers!
“I think the business model is different for Viably than their competitors. What I appreciate the most about Viably is that you can have a short, quick schedule for funding or you can have an extended timeline. It’s flexible for the customer.” Mike also emphasized Viably’s affordable nature, “The cost is incredibly manageable, especially with the way interest rates are today.”
Despite the challenges he’s faced in the last few years regarding his business, Mike is optimistic about the next year. “Who knows what the economy will look like, but I intend to keep maintaining high quality products and improving my offerings.” He plans to launch two more products this year with the help of Viably.
To other sellers, Mike emphasizes the importance of minimizing risk and having a plan for your cash flow. “Know your numbers to know what’s possible, and be realistic about it. You have to have cash to play, whether that comes from bootstrapping or help from a trusted partner like Viably. That’s what it really comes down to.”
In addition to his work on Amazon, Mike has been busy building a consulting business, Prime Seller Solutions, where he helps Amazon sellers streamline their operations on the 7M operations platform. With self-serve guidance and custom consultations, Mike is bringing his expertise to empower online sellers to maximize their growth opportunities on Amazon or make the preparations to exit the business.
As an active Amazon seller, Mike is currently focused on rescaling his business to a position he’s happy with. This time he hopes to grow in a way that’s more sustainable, while continuing to bring value to his customers and contributing to the community of sellers he’s part of.
“I know that down the road, Viably will continue to be the place I go to for a ‘shot in the arm’ before product launches or large marketing efforts. It helps so much when you want to grow your business.”