In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Alex Sklar talks about financing eCommerce seller growth. Alex is the head of Business Development and Partnerships at Payability, the largest third-party financing platform for e-commerce businesses shares his personal journey into e-commerce.
Growing your business is a goal that all business owners have, whether they’re in e-commerce or not. However, one thing you need to scale up is capital, and that can be a tricky thing to get if you’re not serious about your business. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk discusses different ways you can use to get the investments you need to get your business to the next level.
In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Alex Sklar, the head of Business Development and Partnerships at Payability, the largest third-party financing platform for e-commerce businesses. Payability allows you to secure the funding you need to grow your business based on your current and project e-commerce sales without the need for a credit check. Since 2015 Payability has provided more than $3 billion USD to help thousands of marketplace sellers expand their businesses.
Alex Sklar shares his personal journey into the e-commerce world from his time as a pubic accountant to working with his family’s multi-generational business to working with one of the largest financing platforms for e-commerce businesses. So if you’re an Amazon seller who wants to grow your business but you don’t know where to start looking for capital, then this episode is for you!
Learn more about Payability!
Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the full transcript below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m excited to have a special guest. Today I’m having Alex Sklar. Alex is the head of business development and partnerships at Payability. Payability today is the largest third-party financing platform for e-commerce sellers. So we’re really glad that he took some time to join us today. So Alex, welcome to the show.
Alex Sklar 0:28
Yeah, no, it’s, so it’s great getting the chance to talk with you. And I appreciate you having me on.
Yoni Mazor 0:34
Our pleasure. So today is really going to be the episode of Alex Sklar and the Alex Sklar story. So you’re gonna share with us now Who are you? Where are you from? Where were you born? Where’d you go up? How’d you begin your professional career, all the way to where you are now with the world of e-commerce. So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Alex Sklar 0:55
Yeah, let’s jump in. So, as you were saying, Alex Sklar, head of business development and partnerships for Payability. So I was born in Maryland, my whole family’s from New York. But my mother went to college down at the University of Maryland. And they decided to stay down there for 10 years. So I was born in Silver Spring, Maryland, but came back to New York when I was about two years old..
Yoni Mazor 1:17
You said that was Silver Springs, Maryland? Got it. Okay. So, you you stayed there til you were about 10 years old?
Alex Sklar 1:24
Ah no. Till I was about two years old. And then we moved back up to New York, and I’ve been in New York ever since. Except for the four years I was in Virginia at college, I went to a small liberal arts college, outside of Richmond, Virginia called Randolph Macon, where I studied history. I was a British history major, focusing on British Imperialism.
Yoni Mazor 1:45
What pushed you into that?
Alex Sklar 1:47
You know, it was, um, I knew I was going to get into business eventually. And I wanted to kind of just broaden my horizons and learn about different things. And really, the history department at my school was just so great that I wound up taking a course, taking another course. And before I knew it, I was halfway towards a major. So I decided to declare the major and then what I just decided to focus on, you know, it could be called British imperialism, it could be called British Empire, but…
Yoni Mazor 2:11
Take us there for a moment, just to expand their horizon. What, if you did a whole degree with this, what captured you with the what’s the essence as far as you can tell about, you know, but the, the greatness of the British Empire?
Alex Sklar 2:21
So really, I mean, if we think about so much of what we know about the modern world, so much of it was, you know, whether rightly or wrongly, like kind of derives from the British Empire, you know, colonization, you know, again, right or wrong. Um, you know, it had so much impact around the world from things like spreading things like accrual accounting, which I actually went into public accounting, and we can get into that in a minute. But like accounting, essentially derived from ships coming from India, bringing tea, bringing spices, and essentially them wanting to be able to count what they already have on the ships as revenue and things like that. And, you know, what, that’s one small piece of like, you know, essentially how the British Empire impacted the whole world, from Australia to New Zealand to America, to you know…
Yoni Mazor 3:08
I just want to point out that we want to put Yeah, we want to put the politics side out of this. Meaning, if colonialism was good or bad to the world, that’s that. So you’re talking about, we’re more channeling this into the commerce of it, yes? The economical aspect of what the economy of the world is all laid down on this foundation. That’s why we’ve you find it and I also find it fascinating with you. So one component, like you mentioned was the accounting and other component that is that global commerce in its early infant stages, where, you know, services and solutions and goods are moved around freely around the world, because no is under one denomination of an empire. Right? And it’s spread across the world under one language of accounting and mathematics, but also one language, we speak with the tongue. That’s why we’re speaking English now. I mean, you so that’s what I can handle maybe, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re the master of the degree. So go ahead.
Alex Sklar 4:00
Well, you’re exactly right. And you know, the nice luxury we have when we talk about history is we can remove politics aside, and we can look at it abstractly, both macro and micro, but we don’t have to get, you know, thankfully, we didn’t have to live during the time. So they’re not directly impacting us. You can look at it more as an arc. And when you just think about the way if you think about Northern Africa, and the way that the country is, you know, different countries are still struggling now, because Britain essentially came in and just drew straight lines on maps. And that impact you know, we still feel that impact today. And you know, I wound up getting interested in it and getting more and more interested in it just kind of sucked me in and I made it my major my focus.
Yoni Mazor 4:40
Got it very cool. I appreciate that. History is a passion of mine. So it’s always glad to hear somebody with a fellow passion to history as well. But I guess before we jump into where your college and after college and professional world, you know, growing up in New York, I want to touch on that for a small bit. Which part did you live in in New York? In New York City, was it New York State?
Alex Sklar 5:02
So I had family in New York City in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn and Queens actually all the boroughs but Staten Island, but I grew up just over the line in southern Yonkers. So Southern ….
Yoni Mazor 5:14
That’s about 10 minutes away from me. I’m in Teaneck, New Jersey, 10 minutes away from George Washington Bridge. We go visit Yonkers at times. Sorry, mom to the casino. Because it was a casino there now that we have
Alex Sklar 5:26
I grew up maybe about a 10-15 minute walk from the racetrack.
Yoni Mazor 5:29
Yeah, the racetrack. So got it. So that was kind of your entire environment. And your parents, what kind of industries were they involved in?
Alex Sklar 5:36
So my mom is a teacher. She was a special ed teacher for 40 years. And my father was an entrepreneur and small business owner. He, at one point owned restaurants. He had about five restaurants in the DC area, as well as a nightclub. And then when he came back up to New York..
Yoni Mazor 5:51
Night club, wow. So the restaurants were a chain like McDonald’s, stuff like that, or something he created on his own?
Alex Sklar 5:56
Something he created on his own. He was down at U Maryland, and essentially New York kid from the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. He got hungry at two in the morning, asked his friends where they could get something to eat, they all kind of laughed at him and said, there’s nothing open this late. And he was like, Hey, we should open a place that’s opened up late. So my father did the pizza. His partner from Philadelphia did the cheese steaks and they opened a pizza and sub shop. And then the one took off. So they started a second, then a third and a fourth. And they went up with about five of them.
Yoni Mazor 6:25
That’s great. And so good. And then I wonder what happened after they ate their dinner, like what to do at night? Nightclub, we should probably open a nightclub. So one thing led to another right?
Alex Sklar 6:32
Well, it was also like the 70s. So like, discos were like, you know, the really big thing. And they, you know, they were enjoying their 20s and having fun doing it. Um, it became, you know, around when, when my sister and I were born, it just became too busy and hectic the life with multiple restaurants in the nightclub to be able to raise children. So that’s when they moved back to New York. And my father started working for our family’s company, which is carpet cleaning, restoration, and then eventually became a master technician and then took over the business. And it’s a four generational carpet cleaning company.
Yoni Mazor 7:05
Right, so you’re saying, as a family talked about, you know, the family business. Now you’re saying four generations. And so what was the origins of that in a nutshell?
Alex Sklar 7:12
Yeah, so my great-grandfather started it in 19…
Yoni Mazor 7:14
From your father or mother’s side?
Alex Sklar 7:16
My mother’s side. So they started it…
Yoni Mazor 7:16
So your father kind of married into this business, right? You can get say?
Alex Sklar 7:21
Yeah, married into the business and then essentially bought it, instead of inheriting it from my grandfather. But my great-grandfather started it in 1944, essentially, as a way to help my grandfather out, who had just come out of World War Two, be able to start to build a family and build a business. So they started the business there, and it’s been running ever since.
Yoni Mazor 7:41
In the Yonkers area?
Alex SklarS 7:43
So technically, it’s now in..based out of Long Island City, but it started in Yonkers then moved to Mamaroneck and because so much of our client base is based out of New York, based out in New York City it’s in Long Island City now.
Yoni Mazor 7:53
Got it. Small tip to you, I don’t know if you’ve maybe seen the show or not but there’s a small miniseries made by HBO about Yonkers, based on real story about the mayor there who got elected to mayor and tried to turn the place around but it didn’t go well and it’s really good really good acting. I think Isaac, Isaac Mizrahi…not him….uhhhh…a very famous actor. I’ll let you know later. But there’s an HBO, any miniseries about Yonkers, that’s the one I’m talking about. I seen it was really well made up for just the names are not coming to me, but I learned more by Yonkers, which is only a few minutes away. Alright, so we’re up in the Yonkers area, went to school, you know, did all your degree and British colonialism British Empire? And what year did you graduate?
Alex Sklar 8:40
So I graduated in 2003, from undergrad, and then started working. So right out of school, I actually started my own business in stone restoration. Kind of like piggybacking off of what my family’s business did, we’d always gotten requests that we do more than just carpet and furniture. So when I came out of school, I basically went back to the family business, and then created my own company, doing stone restoration, marble restoration and masonry work.
Yoni Mazor 9:08
So what was a typical client for you who calls in? Is it a contractor, is it a consumer?
Alex Sklar 9:14
So we were a little bit of a b2b place. So we worked a lot with designers, decorators architects, and on the carpet side with the mills that actually manufacture the carpet. And then they would recommend us to work on their customers’ stuff, and then essentially, the customer would call back and follow up and want us to be continuing work, um, probably had somewhere about 10-15,000 clients over the years, but we were a very, we weren’t really like a union shop. We were more like an artisans Guild. We worked on very fine fabrics, and very high end stuff. So the market was small, but the market was lucrative. And it’s, you know, it’s still around to this day.
Yoni Mazor 9:48
So that business that you founded that is still around?
Alex Sklar 9:52
Well, the stone business I sold after about I did it for about two and a half years, built up a big Rolodex. And then sold..I had a handful of employees..and then I sold the business.
Yoni Mazor 10:01
You sold for a major exit? Was it life changing, or was it something modest?
Alex Sklar 10:05
It was nice in my pocket, it was the life changing part was, you know, not working 110 hours a week anymore. But it wasn’t, you know, it was, um, you’re kind of selling the Rolodex or you’re selling the expertise. It’s not like, like a software, it’s something that you can sell, and that they turn on. But um, it was nice as 24 years old. Not life changing.
Yoni Mazor 10:25
So you sold it when you were 24 years old you said? Or that’s when you started?
Alex Sklar 10:29
I started when I was 22. And I sold it just about 24-25.
Yoni Mazor 10:33
That’s good business experience, you know, right out of college. So 2003 until 2005, maybe 2006. That’s when you sold it. Right?
Alex Sklar 10:41
Yep. And that’s when…From there I wanted to try some different sales jobs. I worked for my family business every summer my whole life. And so I wanted to try some different things, kind of get out there. And I did a handful of different stuff. I was a marketing manager for a an aloe drink, that I still drink that aloe to this day.
Yoni Mazor 10:59
Aloe for Aloe Vera?
Alex Sklar 11:00
Yeah, exactly. And did a couple different sales jobs. I was a recyclable commodities trader for a summer, which is essentially a scrap trader, you’re buying scrap in like Georgia and you’re buying it for 10 cents in Georgia, you selling in China for 44 cents, about eight to 10 cents is your shipping cost. And that’s the rest of the spread is your profit. Gave me really interesting insight in how the recycling markets actually work versus how we all think they work. But we could probably have a whole conversation on that.
Yoni Mazor 11:32
So you’re saying there’s a whole global trade with garbage and recyclables. And much like the British Empire, you know, it’s far reaching?
Alex Sklar 11:38
It’s really far reaching. And it’s really interesting that um, you know, when you’re talking about the municipal dumps and things like that they weigh whether or not they should recycle it or just put it into landfills, when they can put into a landfill, they can recapture the methane. So we were getting them to divert it from the landfill to be able to go into the recycling chain, but a lot of nuance in the whole recycling world didn’t do it didn’t do it for very long, but it was interesting, and it was a lot of hustle. It was a lot of…
Yoni Mazor 12:07
A way to expand your horizons. Yeah, exactly. Wow. So 2006 until which year was that you were kind of bouncing between this position. So you had did a little marketing for aloe vera company, and then the recycling business?
Alex Sklar 12:20
Yeah. And so then right around like 2007 ish. I decided I wanted to go back to school to go into a little bit more of a professional career. So I basically studied for the GMATs, and I went back to the family business. And as my father was getting older, I wanted to create a retirement for him. So I spent the next three years working at the family business, again, turning it into a franchise. And at the same time, taking the GMAT and then going to business school at Baruch, where I did a dual major MBA in Accounting and Finance,
Yoni Mazor 12:52
Baruch College, double major MBA with accrual accounting and finance. Wow. So you’re in college getting all that plus, scaling your family business into a franchise? Wow. And so what was the next station after that? You started this track in 2007. And what was the next station?
Alex Sklar 13:11
Yeah, so in 2011, cuz I was going, you know, full time, but part time, cuz I was working full time as well. came out of school, finished coursework, I think 2011. And then I went into public accounting for two years, where I spent two year, two years in public accounting, as an auditor.
Yoni Mazor 13:31
An auditor of what? A small shop, a big firm?
Alex Sklar 13:34
Big firms. So my average client was anywhere from like 50 million to 500 million in revenue. So like, mid size or very large, small, however you want to think about it, but um, mostly like my sector is commercial. Like commercial business. I did a little bit of not for profit over the summers, but I’m mainly focused on commercial manufacturing, commercial businesses, um, some financial like some small hedge funds, a couple of FinTech companies, which they needed…
Yoni Mazor 14:03
But you did it as an independent with your own office or as a…?
Alex Sklar 14:06
No. I was at a firm that was called Holtz Rubenstein Reminick. Right in Manhattan. I was about 300 people at the firm, and then it got acquired by the 10th largest firm in the world called Baker Tilly.
Yoni Mazor 14:18
Baker Tilly. Got it. So a small question for you. So if you got your degree and you’re creating this franchise for your family business, what was the logic? You had this intention in mind of getting a degree in accounting and go into that industry? Or was there other dynamics? Because you know, if you’re growing a business and creating franchises, maybe if…what was crossing in your mind? Wasn’t there a temptation to say this franchise we’re going to blow it up and create a massive business? Touch a little bit on that.
Alex Sklar 14:49
So I think when it comes to the family…within the family business as I was kind of franchising out I think it’s something that I will try to work on again down the road. I think there’s a couple different avenues of being able to take almost 100 years of knowledge and turn it more into a course. Because the truth is people have been moving away from carpet. And that’s why our business got so concentrated in New York is due to the different types of Co Op and condo rules, you have to keep about 80% of your floor covered with carpet. Because of the new types of construction, it’s about noise, right? No one wants to hear the person upstairs walking and clicking on the floor. But now with some of the new construction materials, they’re a little bit more soundproof, the rule still exists, but people don’t really adhere to the rules unless you’re in like a high end Co Op or condo. And we just saw like, generally the market started to contract where our business through the architects and decorators was still really great. But people are now buying cheaper rugs and they’re buying them online and are you going to spend $1,000 to clean and repair a rug that you only spent $500 to buy? It started to become an uneven balance where our market was still good, but it kept kind of shrinking.
Yoni Mazor 15:56
So as the actual party became a commodity it was so cheap just to get a carpet. Servicing it became kind of a non issue, non you know, it diminishes your ability. Almost like the TVs. TVs back in the day they used to repair it, it was I don’t know, a thousand plus dollars, your repair it, costs maybe a couple of 10s of dollars or whatever. But now, TVs are 100 bucks, 200 bucks, and you get flashy, whatever happens wrong you just buy a new one. So it kind of diminishes the service aspect of the industry because of commoditization and making the price point so low, so it’s almost like everything is disposable.
Alex Sklar 16:29
Exactly right. And I think um, people have also kind of moved away from floor coverings in general, people want area rugs on top of wood floors, and we did area rugs as well, too. But it’s the quality of materials people buying now, like you see people don’t, you know, people don’t buy that one sofa that they have for 20 years, and they keep it in great shape. You buy a sofa, you use it for three to five years, you get rid of it, you buy another one and you buy another one.
Yoni Mazor 16:55
And consumerism is at its finest. Yeah.
Alex Sklar 16:57
I mean, it is. So you have to be able to pivot and be able to make moves with it. And so for me, did I want to invest the rest of my life into something that I saw was diminishing? Or did I want to basically be able to take that knowledge, and maybe do something more scalable with it. And for me, the reason I chose accounting is accounting is the language of business. And I’d always been in business, but with that history degree, people couldn’t see it directly on paper, that I know how, you know, I know how businesses work, I know how finance works. And so I thought, you know, what better way to do it, then, you know, kind of start fresh, get the finance degree, get the accounting degree, go work a couple of years in public accounting to get the real knowledge, knowing that that was not going to be my goal for forever either. But getting that baseline in there.
Yoni Mazor 17:39
Got it. Smart, interesting dynamics. And so once again, just to clarify this, you saw that, you know, even though you’re creating a franchise and trying to grow this, as an industry as a whole, we see some you know, it’s contracting, therefore it’d be more prudent to view to set the ground for yourself to enter an industry that is other more secure, even is maybe a cycles where it is going to grow. And it’s always going to be needed. So you position yourself into the accounting industry, you started about 2011, you said for about two years, right working for accounting firms. And then you know, mid to large clients, you know, they do 40 50 million a year and up on a commercial side. And what was the next station for you afterward?.
Alex Sklar 18:17
So the next step after that was I actually started up another company, I co-founded a company called S&B Scorecard. And there we were doing credit reports for small, smaller mid sized businesses. Our thesis was that Dun and Bradstreet has a lot of wrong information. And Experian has a lot of wrong information. And when we wanted to do is create a report with better information, but then also one that the actual business owner could flag any information that was wrong, and give us the correct information that we could get that over to the banks. And we had a couple banks actually using us for underwriting. Um, and so that was…we started that in 2013, my co-founder and I, and I did that till right about 2016, um, didn’t really get that hockey stick growth we were looking for. We raised some money, a lot of really smart people told us for this type of project, you need a lot of money. And then I thought…
Yoni Mazor 19:12
Why is that? Why would you need so much money if, you know, technically speaking, if you guys, you know, created a good platform for that and the ability to to create more dynamics, when you were trying to, you know, underwrite loans or debt? Why so much money? Give us an insight on that.
Alex Sklar 19:29
So, you know, and it doesn’t…it’s not that long ago, but there wasn’t as much available data. I mean, like API’s, you couldn’t just go plug into 30 API’s and bring in this data, we were building all sorts of scrapers, we’re pulling information from public information, as well as the architecture of this data. Right. So I need an admin side to it. But then I also…we were doing it through MongoDB so we can have like these moldable credit reports. But as you’re bringing in more information, if you’re going to say I have the right information, you need to make sure it’s right. So the amount of like just the amount of code that went into it, the amount of like double check and cross checking third party data that’s coming in, because you don’t want to go out there and give someone the wrong information. And we were doing it like a true credit report, as opposed to like, you know, there’s a lot of companies out there now that say, they’ll give you a cr