In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA – Amy Wees, Founder & CEO of Amazing at Home – shares how to Build an Amazon eCommerce Business and discusses her consulting agency, Amazing At Home. Amy shares her life story and her inspiring tale of entering eCommerce.
From her early childhood growing up in Wisconsin, on to working as an executive at Target, serving in the Air Force for 18 years, all the way to realizing the power of eCommerce which led her to open and successfully run 4 businesses from home!
Learn how from a modest upbringing knowing that she wants more, Amy was able to keep growing her myriad of skills, capitalize on her accomplishments, and establish herself as a successful independent businesswoman.
Find out more about Amy & Amazing at Home: https://amazingathome.com/
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazur 0:04
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of prime talk today. I’m really thrilled. And I’m curious to have Amy wheeze with us on this episode. I see her everywhere. She’s very, very prolific at this point. She’s very active in e-commerce and I like what I see and what I hear. And I hear a lot of good things. So you know, I thought it would be interesting for everybody to get to know her and her story. She is the founder and CEO of amazing at home, which is an e-commerce consulting agency. Amy, how are you? Welcome on board.
Amy Wes 0:35
Amy Wes 0:36
Thank you for having me.
Yoni Mazur 0:38
A pleasure, really? So you are right now in
Amy Wes 0:41
Amy Wes 0:42
Yoni Mazur 0:43
All right. You founded the Spurs? Ah,
Amy Wes 0:47
well, you know,
Yoni Mazur 0:48
don’t tell me the rockets.
Amy Wes 0:51
I’m actually not a huge sports fan. My husband is like the most epic sports fan. He’s a fan of all sports. And he follows a lot of that, but
Yoni Mazur 1:02
you’re very active. Like, you know, you’re very athletic. I see that you do a lot of exercises out there. Yeah,
Amy Wes 1:07
I love to wait. I’m big into CrossFit and weightlifting and that kind of stuff. I’m you know, I’m just I love to go and watch a sport. I love to go to spurs games. It’s a ton of fun. I just don’t do a lot of watching sports on TV. But I guess many entrepreneurs don’t do a lot of TV watching.
Yoni Mazur 1:25
I agree. I agree. It’s that bug that you have the productivity bugs. So if you’re going to invest time into something is better be beneficial if it’s business or like I said, physically, you go to CrossFit, you feel great afterwards, you know, just releases all the right, you know, chemicals in the body to keep giving you that thrust and motivation. Alright, amazing. So you know, so you’re out there in San Antonio, this is pretty much your episode. This is your show. So we would like to dive into your your story and your background. So please share with us where you’re from. Where’d you grow up? How’d you end up? You know, in e commerce? Go ahead.
Amy Wes 1:59
Well, I was born in Wisconsin actually
Amy Wes 2:05
I was born in Seymour and I grew up in the fox cities in Wisconsin. So born in Seymour Green Bay, in a hospital in Green Bay. So you know, the Packers were big Packer fan center blood in Wisconsin. So I grew up around a lot of snow and cold. But I came from really poor beginnings, I was raised by a single mom. And we didn’t, we didn’t have much, you know, we worked very hard from a very young age. My first real job was babysitting at the age of nine. So I kind of always worried and I always had dreams to kind of, I had bigger dreams, you know, I’ve got something to prove. I’m going to be the best that I can be in school, I’m going to do whatever I need to do. I wanted very much to get out of Wisconsin, you know, there’s nothing wrong with Wisconsin, it was a great place to grow up. But I just had big dreams. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to see things I wanted to do things I wanted to go to college, you know, not a lot of people in my family had gone to college or, or done that. So I just really wanted that big career. I wanted to, to see the world and do many, many things. And so that’s what I did. You know, I was a straight A student and, and I worked really, really hard. And I moved to California at 17 years of age.
Yoni Mazur 3:31
So for, the whole family?
Amy Wes 3:32
No, just by myself, I actually got married very young, to my high school sweetheart, and to move together.
Yoni Mazur 3:39
Yes. Anybody who wasn’t into acting or anything Hollywood?
Amy Wes 3:44
No, no, actually, he was in the Air Force. So I moved there to be where he was stationed at the time. And you know, we’re not still married. I’m married to a different guy. No, but anyway, you know, as a young marriage, but moved away, you know, moved to California and started going to college myself and started working. I worked in retail, I was an executive at Target, I ran their garden center.
Yoni Mazur 4:12
Wow, that’s really awesome. That’s a good position to have anyways, outside of e-commerce, you know, target is still in brick and mortar is a leading position and so interesting. So, so you saying you’re executive at Target? How’d you get to let’s let’s talk for a minute. How’d you get there? I was in college after college.
Amy Wes 4:30
No, before college, I started as a cashier. And I was quickly bored because I’m one of those people. I’m an overachiever you know…I love a challenge. So I just kept saying, Well, hey, you know what else? And by the way, I have also been a manager at McDonald’s for years. That was my first real, you know, job.
Yoni Mazur 4:48
I started actually getting a paycheck from some sort of a legal organization.
Amy Wes 4:52
Yeah, exactly. I was 14 years old when I started at McDonald’s and I worked my way up to crew chief. I was running the, you know, restaurant I had a daily food budget, all that kind of stuff and the keys to the restaurant there.
Yoni Mazur 5:06
So for you taking responsibility young, it’s pretty good.
Amy Wes 5:10
By the time I got into working in retail, I had already worked at Sears for a little while and during the summer, I’d always have like a couple of jobs, right? I would earn as much money as I could during the summer. So I’ve worked at a couple of different retail establishments, I had managed a restaurant with a pretty large, you know, at a very young age. And so, you know, I started at Target and I was bored as a cashier. I’m like, this isn’t enough for me. I’m, you know, being just a McDonald’s manager alone is a very busy job. So anyway, you know, I kept asking for more challenges, I kept learning more and more, and I started working in the garden center, and I really loved it. And I worked my way up to management there. I loved driving the forklift every day. I had clients that had rose gardens, the size of football fields, you know, so it was cool, helping people kind of manage their gardens and stuff. And then we moved, we move to South Carolina and the military moved us and we moved to South Carolina. And there I got a job as an accountant at a home health care agency.
Yoni Mazur 6:15
Amy Wes 6:16
Yes, I had a temp, I got in touch with a temp service. And they put me in with this. And I started working in accounting and, and I’ve managed so many of their accounts, and I really but before I did that, though, I learned how to do accounting because I was an inventory manager for a horticulture company…
Yoni Mazur 6:55
Which company, a horticulture company?
Amy Wes 6:59
So it was called Heinz horticulture and they took care of the plants for Kmart Lowe’s, Home Depot, until we had 1000s and 1000s of potted plants. And my job there was to count all the pots every day and manage the live inventory. There was like a device or was it like a technological This is like old school, rocking, and then writing it down in my notebook. And then I had to manage their inventory.
Yoni Mazur 7:05
This company selling businesses horticultural play?
Amy Wes 7:08
Probably they’re pretty major horticulture company, but I manage their inventory on 27 Excel spreadsheets. So that’s how I was able to get into the accounting job because I knew you how to kind of manage numbers and reconcile numbers and stuff like that. I already did this massive Dude,
Yoni Mazur 7:27
I would assume this is a inventory in the millions or hundreds of millions and sometimes even billions of retailers.
Amy Wes 7:36
No it was 10s of 1000s of potted plants. And each plot looks like..
Yoni Mazur 7:41
Retail value of if you take them all together?
Amy Wes 7:44
Oh, yeah, definitely. Like we had trucks coming and going every day. So anyway, you know, this job at the garden center, and target led me to this other job. And after that, you know, my husband and I did not work out, we were young, we didn’t work out and, and I was trying to go to college, and it was so hard to go to college, having this this job and accounting because they didn’t if you had to close your books at the end of month, they don’t care if you’re gonna be late for class, they’re like, no, this is your job, you’re gonna stay here and reconcile..
Yoni Mazur 8:16
But your rigid framework for you.
Amy Wes 8:20
Yeah, it’s hard to mold yourself into that framework. So I was like, I’m done with this, I’m not going to the people that were getting promoted in this company were like people that didn’t have a large workload, what they would do is take the people that seemingly didn’t have, you know, we’re not really good at being the worker bees, right? And they would promote them to management. So I was like, I’m never gonna get promoted,
Yoni Mazur 8:40
You guys just put down upside down.
Amy Wes 8:42
Maybe, they just keep giving me more accounts. And I’m like, I’m drowning here. And I’m not doing well in school. Because, you know, I’m just there too much responsibility at this job. So I joined the military.
Yoni Mazur 8:53
You joined me? Wow, what a plot twist.
Amy Wes 8:57
So that’s what I did for 18 years after that.
Yoni Mazur 9:00
18 years in the military. What do you do?
Amy Wes 9:03
Yeah so I did surveillance of aircraft during war time. So I helped with, you know, there’s air traffic controllers that help the planes take off and land when they’re at the airport.
Yoni Mazur 9:20
And then there’s their station in South Carolina or your station
Amy Wes 9:22
No stationed all over the world.
Yoni Mazur 9:25
Got deployed? You got deployed? That’s horrible
Amy Wes 9:28
Take this whole hour. And I might be able to tell you Oh, in a nutshell, in a nutshell.
Yoni Mazur 9:33
Yeah. We’ll keep it simple. But I didn’t expect that 18 years in the Army. Well, I did three years. Just you know, full disclosure, I did three years. But I did it in Israel, the idea of Israeli Defense Forces, very cool years, and it was a whole world of experience. And you did 18 years. It’s like, for me, it’s mind boggling.
Amy Wes 9:49
Yes, I did. I was also, you know, during that time, so in the beginning, I started in surveillance and then I got into actually being a military planner. So my job was to plan major campaigns. So I’ve planned a lot of the major campaigns that the military campaigns that you know about.
Yoni Mazur 10:08
So you know, Iraq, Afghanistan…
Amy Wes 10:11
Hawaii, yep. All of that kind of fun stuff. So, you know, but that actually really made me a great business owner, because I know how to take Impossible..
Amy Wes 10:22
Impossible situations on a large scale and break it down into executable goals. So anyway, I stayed in the military, you know, and then I transferred from being active duty military after like 10 years and moved in, became a civilian civil servant. And I moved into it. And I started doing cyber, I have a master’s degree in cyber security. I was going to school the whole time I was in the military. So I have a couple of undergrads looking at the wall right now. But I’ve got a couple of undergraduate degrees in business, I have a business admin, business admin, business management, as well as aerospace technology. And then I have a master’s degree in cybersecurity, as well as an MBA. So I went to school forever. I was a lifelong learner, and I just loved it. And luckily, I didn’t don’t have any debt, because the military paid for all that. So that was great.
Yoni Mazur 11:18
Unbelievable, it seems to me, even at this point, you choose so much from your early childhood dreams. And you’re able to do that with no debt. That’s like, you know, well, you know, army style.
Amy Wes 11:33
Yeah, so, you know, I met my husband when I was stationed in Korea. And, and we, you know, got married, we have two children. I have two daughters, ages 10 and 12. Or 13. She just turned 13. Oh, my goodness. So, you know, I started flipping products. I’ve always been kind of a serial entrepreneur, you know, and when I was in the Air Force, I started flipping products on Amazon and eBay.
Yoni Mazur 12:02
What was that? Like? What year did you start?
Amy Wes 12:03
Yoni Mazur 12:05
Amy Wes 12:08
Yeah, so I just started flipping textbooks and like, the stuff I had laying around my house.
Yoni Mazur 12:13
Some aircraft carriers, some radars from the Air Force. So like that, you know, some leftover fell off the airplane and oh, yeah, exactly…
Amy Wes 12:23
No, no, I don’t like prison. So I avoid taking things from the givernmend.
Yoni Mazur 12:29
Not not from my military compound.
Amy Wes 12:32
Exactly. But yes, I have a bunch of textbooks and stuff like that. And just like CDs, stuff laying around the house. And when I realized that I could kind of do this and just, you know, make a little extra money on the side. I was kind of hooked. And so I would start going to like thrift stores. And I would remember I found this camera. And it was like a little Polaroid camera. And they were a whole bin of them at the goodwill. And they were $8 each and I looked it up back then you still have the Amazon seller app on your phone. Right? That’s how you did it back then, now they use an inventory lab and all that stuff. There was no inventory lab back then it was bare bones.
Yoni Mazor 13:15
It was bare bones.
Amy Wes 13:17
So I looked it up on my phone. And I’m like, Okay, wow, this camera was selling used on Amazon for like 50 bucks. And I could buy it for eight bucks at Goodwill. And they had a whole bin of them. And so
Amy Wes 13:32
yeah, so from there. I went from like textbooks to Wow, there’s some cool potential here. So I started that. We got stationed in Hawaii after that. I stopped doing Amazon because back then everything was merchant fulfilled. FBA wasn’t really going yet it was just kind of getting started, I think in 2000. And like eight is when FBA really started to like, gain some ground. So since I was mostly doing merchant when I moved to Hawaii, I was like, Man, I’m not going to continue this. It’s just too expensive to try to navigate the Postal Service stuff. So I really focused on my career when I was in Hawaii and then we moved back to San Antonio, Texas, so we decided to retire here. My husband’s from Baltimore, Maryland. I’m from Wisconsin. We decided I took a job here working in it with the Air Force, and we decided to move to San Antonio, Texas. You love it here. It’s a great military community and, and just a great community in general. It’s a melting pot of people and cultures. And this is really a fun place to live. Um, so yeah, so anyway, I’m working at my awesome job and having a great time and, and I had a problem.
Yoni Mazur 14:53
There’s a bug in your system.
Amy Wes 14:55
There’s a bug Yeah. So my cats I have cats. We have three cats. We were cleaning the litter boxes every day. And they, I get migraines from smells like any kind of smells, I have a keen eye nose. And, and, you know, no matter what we were doing with these litter boxes, they were just really just stinking, and I’m like, you know, I tried every kind of litter box on the market, and they were all terrible. And, and so I was like, you know, there has to be a better way, there has to be a better solution. I’m not going to get rid of my cats. So my whole thing was, I don’t want to get rid of my pets, I don’t want to hurt my daughter’s feelings, I have to get rid of my pets, I have to solve this problem, because I’m not gonna sit here with migraines for the rest of my life.
Yoni Mazur 15:43
You take this dischord that creates a situation where it all still sticks together, but it remains with harmony, you know?
Amy Wes 15:52
So Exactly. So that was a challenge. And yeah, every time I would I travelled 10 months out of the year for my job. And so every time I would travel, I would have a little notebook with ideas where I would try to draw, you know, concepts of, oh, maybe I could work, maybe there’s a better way to do a litter box. So I worked on that for like six months. And every time I would finish a drawing, it would be like this really isn’t better it’s I’ve done something similar or I’ve already tried this. And it’s not, it’s not gonna work, right. So one morning, I woke up at like 2am. And I just like realize at that moment, I’m like, Oh, my gosh, the litter boxes are the problem. Like all this time, I’ve been focused on trying to create a better litter box, when really I just needed to create a better way to clean it. So I started ripping apart laundry mesh, and putting it on top of a bin and I was dumping the litter from the litter box like it was getting all over the floor. It was a total mess. But I knew it was an experiment.
Yoni Mazur 16:53
Amy Wes 16:55
So as soon as Home Depot opens, I go to Home Depot, and I’m all secretive about it, right? Because I don’t know anything about inventing something, you know. So I’m like, I have this idea. And I don’t want to give it to the guy at Home Depot.
Yoni Mazur 17:09
Thomas Edison at Home Depot running around getting, you know.
Amy Wes 17:11
Yeah. So I find this like hardware mesh and wood and some handles and I get like a waste in a trash bin. And I’m like, Okay, I’m going to go home and I’m going to build and I built my first prototype.
Yoni Mazur 17:26
With your bare hands not in China, you didn’t wait for it to come and FedEx air, or to Home Depot, old school, build it your hands, wow.
Amy Wes 17:34
Which is actually the same thing now that I help other entrepreneurs, develop products and bring their products to market. That’s what I recommend that they do. Even if they’re just taking a piece of cardboard and taping it together, why go and try to find a supplier for something you don’t even know works, right? It’s just in your mind, you want to make sure that it works. And it’s the size that you want, it’s the shape that you want. And that you know, the concept works.
Yoni Mazur 17:58
Your methodology is basically to have your, on your trial and error, right as you test it out as much as you have your hands on it, it will probably, you know, bring better outcome. You know, at some point, let’s go back to the tail, and then it will finally get to where you’re at now, hopefully we get to the position right now. But yeah, I’m a little bit of suspense. So what happened?
Amy Wes 18:19
So I built my first prototype, and I dumped the nasty litter box into it, which was great because I didn’t have to bend over and scoop or make a mess. And it all you know, it worked great. It was super fast. It was awesome. And I was like okay, well what the heck, like, this isn’t a product, though. Like it works. And it’s amazing. But how do I get this manufacturer? Just because I have an MBA doesn’t mean I know how to source a product. Do you know what I mean? Like, I had no idea what to do. So I was like, Okay, I gotta get this to the point where I can get it manufactured. Because this is…
Yoni Mazur 19:02
Let me put a stop right there. So initially, you need it for your own needs, right? You created this whole solution for your needs. But did you immediately have the idea of you know, putting it to the mass market, or that happened only after you realize you have something that works? What was that trigger? What was that turning point?
Amy Wes 19:18
I knew the thing was, at first I just thought that I invented a faster way to clean the litter box. But all of a sudden, like a week later, and we were using this prototype every day. We didn’t smell the litter boxes anymore at all. Like at all. We invited our friends over that have dogs you know because we thought maybe we’re just nose blind. We don’t know you know, so we invited our friends over that don’t even have cats and we’re like they’ll surely smell the litter boxes right? And we brought them into our tiny laundry room. There were three litter boxes inside of it with no windows, no air, and we said we can’t smell anything. We cleaned these yesterday with This prototype, can you smell anything? And they’re like, it’s amazing. We don’t smell anything like your house does not smell like cats. And I’ve never been in a house that doesn’t smell like cats.
Yoni Mazur 20:10
So basically, once you get the validation from another party, then you realize, okay, this is not an illusion guy got it? All right.
Amy Wes 20:18
Yep, I solved a problem here and then I went on the journey to patent it. I hired an attorney on upcounsel. And interviewed several attorneys. I did a ton of research on, you know, what goes into patenting something and what’s a utility patent and, you know, nine patents and what is all this stuff, right? Like, I knew I could launch this product on Amazon. But I didn’t know how to get from where I was with this prototype to that point, right. And so I started calling some of these design firms. There’s all these product designs, like you Google, like product design, stuff like that. There’s all these design firms. Well, those design firms want a minimum $30,000 just to take your, like inventhelp and stuff like that. They want $30,000 minimum just to take your drawing and turn it into a 3cat.
Yoni Mazur 21:16
So I’ve got a tip for you, obviously, at that point, it was out of reach, right?
Amy Wes 21:20
Yeah, well, I mean, I made decent money, and you know, I could afford it. But I was thinking there has to be a better way. Companies bring new products to market all the time, I must be missing something, there has to be a better way than just Shark Tank, which, by the way, we’ll get to that part of the story I tried out for Shark Tank, but there has to be a better way than just Shark Tank, or going to invent help, right? And so I started cold calling manufacturers. And I was like, you know, somebody’s gonna talk to me. I’m smart, I can figure this out. This is not the hardest thing I have done in my