In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Brent Zahradnik discusses the opportunities of Amazon advertising through his advertising management agency, AMZ Pathfinder, who shares his personal journey into eCommerce.
Part of having an e-commerce business is knowing when to take the next step to develop or scale it. That can be a frightening prospect for many budding entrepreneurs out there because it requires you to really step out of your comfort zone. Yoni Mazor from PrimeTalk chats about how you can start to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you if you want to grow your business.
In today’s interview, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Brent Zahradnik, the founder and CEO of AMZ Pathfinder, an advertising management agency with a unique philosophy: work with us, and everyone wins. They treat every client with a personalized approach and don’t believe in the “cookie-cutter” approach to business.
Brent Zahradnik talks about his journey from the “Family Room Specialist” at the Apple Store to use the opportunities that struck along his path to create his own business: AMZ Pathfinder. So for those e-commerce newbies or even those who have been on the scene since the beginning, who are interested in learning about how to expand and grow a business, this episode is for you!
Visit AMZ Pathfinder for more information.
Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi everybody. Welcome to another episode of Primetalk. Today I’m really excited to have a special guest. Today I’m having Brent Zahradnik. Brent is the founder and CEO of AMZ Pathfinder, which is a leading amazon advertising management agency. So, Brent, welcome to the show!
Brent Zahradnik 0:22
Hello Yoni. Thank you so much, this is exciting!
Yoni Mazor 0:25
Our pleasure to have you. So really today’s episode is gonna be all about, you know, the story of Brent. So you’re gonna share with us, you know, who are you, where are you from, where were you born, where did you begin your professional career. So i guess without further ado let’s jump right into it.
Brent Zahradnik 0:41
Yoni Mazor 0:44
All right let’s start with, you know, where were you born? Where did you begin your way?
Brent Zahradnik 0:47
Sure, I’m originally from eastern Pennsylvania. Some of the audience might know the Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton area and it’s not too far from New York so i spent a lot of time there as well through the years because it’s only about an hour bus ride. But that’s originally where I’m born and raised.
Yoni Mazor 1:05
Nice, so you grew up there? You did a school middle school, high school?
Brent Zahradnik 1:09
Yeah all through high school and middle school and then went to university at a campus in northern Pennsylvania. In Hazleton. One of the Penn State branch campuses
Yoni Mazor 1:20
So the university is Penn State University, right?
Brent Zahradnik 1:22
Yeah, that’s right.
Yoni Mazor 1:23
Got it. Yeah, so growing up, you’re doing your business, and your work, and hustling?
Brent Zahradnik 1:26
Yeah pretty much. I was a stereotypical, like, IT computer nerd so I spent afternoons, like, configuring people’s routers and stuff like that and like getting paid for it. I did a lot of repairs for people’s macs and pcs through all of high school. And eventually, that’s what I ended up going to university for and I have, you know, basically a degree in information sciences like networking cybersecurity stuff.
Yoni Mazor 1:56
Does anyone in your family have background, like your parents were in the industry or something like that?
Brent Zahradnik 1:59
My dad was like the resident nerd at his company in the publishing industry because he was like one of the few people who knew about networking and computers and the internet back in the early mid-90s. Like we grew up with a Windows 95 computer and before that some even more basic machines at home. We had internet, you know dial-up, like really early so even from that age I was playing around with that stuff which I think is such a cool artifact of like someone who’s my age or your age because like we remember when the internet was just this like little baby you know and now it’s like people have you know 4g in their home and like yeah like wifi is like super fast. Like, kids these days they don’t know!
Yoni Mazor 2:35
Yeah, remember when we had that little modem box and makes the squeaky sounds when you try to log in and when you upload a page and it might take a few seconds or a few minutes. Early days but it was really the mid-90s it was exciting times because you knew it’s something big you know it’s like in his baby steps you know fast forward 20 plus years later it just’s a beast. It’s in everybody’s palms, in everybody’s hands at this point. New industries and disruptive industries. So you felt like you’re a part of it already back in the 90s? You said your father has also had the inclination to dabble into that space. Your mother also? Or was she on a different route?
Brent Zahradnik 3:14
No, she’s not really super techie but she is a big iPad user so she’s an ios expert. I mean I think of it this way sometimes, a man like how great is your life if the only computer you use is your iPad? That’s so simple. Like, you don’t worry about software updates, no one’s hacking you, just touch touch touch and you’re done!
Yoni Mazor 3:32
It’s a beautiful life. It’s a very sanitary life. It’s good for the virus days, you know, the corona days. Okay so you finished high school, you go to university, what year did you graduate?
Brent Zahradnik 3:43
Yoni Mazor 3:47
Yeah, so what was your first station after college? Where do you go?
Brent Zahradnik 3:50
Oh man I looked for a job for a while. I was living with my parents and eventually, I worked at Apple, at the Apple Store. I worked at Apple Retail and I did a lot of PC-related stuff at Apple which is a bit strange because they have this program they’ll do where they migrate people from pc to apple. And I would like help with the actual hardware and data migrations for that but I also did repairs on iPhones and iPods and stuff. I was what they call a “family room specialist”.
Yoni Mazor 4:17
Nice, so this was the Apple Store where around where you lived in Allentown?
Brent Zahradnik 4:24
No, it was in Philadelphia. It was on Walnut Street in Philadelphia. R162..
Yoni Mazor 4:28
Oh right. So you moved to the big city after college? Philadelphia area?
Brent Zahradnik 4:32
That’s right yeah. That was a very transformational period of my life because I was you know suburbs boy and then I moved to the big city so to speak and yeah that kind of blew my mind wide open because it’s just like way more kinds of people way more situations and just like I mean the store i worked at and itself was filled with super interesting people that’s one thing I got to get Apple credit for they hire like some of the best people in retail. I had so many awesome coworkers, a couple of whom I’m still in pretty close touch with to this day, and this was like 10 years ago, actually, 11 years ago now.
Yoni Mazor 5:02
Yeah, you started in 2009 and we switched to 2021. But um, so 2009 Apple Store it was, you know, still even today, but then it was explosively hot because the iPhones were just, you know, breaking in, it was like maybe the second or third of the iPhones, it’s probably that year of the iPhone 3, which was really the megastar that brought it to the world. So there’s a lot of frenzy going on in the stores and a lot of excitement, it was a good time to be in brick-and-mortar retail.
Brent Zahradnik 5:28
It was absolute madness. I remember the iPhone 4 launch because when I started the 3g, like you said, coming out the previous fall, 3GS came out. And then the 4 was like the big one because that was a big design change. And that was the same year I think “antenna gate” happened if you remember the whole like you’re holding it wrong with that thing, Steve Jobs on stage. And man, those were intense days, a man like eight, nine hours on the floor helping people fix their phones, and people come in super mad about their antenna doesn’t work or whatever. And I need to swap this out. And you get all kinds of people coming in, like a high-powered executive who has a meeting in 20 minutes, versus like a mom of four kids who’s like I can’t call my husband like, it’s this amazing variety of people who just step in off the streets into an Apple Store that’s in the city. It’s way bigger variety because people just walk there, you know, everyone just walks there.
Yoni Mazor 6:19
And you guys felt like you’re on a mission like, you know, this, like a battle for you guys to turn this around Apple as a team? You know, you’re gonna mitigate the damages. And somehow we’re gonna even flip the energy back up to you know, we got this for you, we take full responsibility, we own this, you know, here’s your repair. Hopefully, it’s good, you know, march forward, because even though we, it happened, I don’t think it was a big blemish to the continued success of the iPhone is still, you know, started today, 10 plus years after, so that’s admirable. And it’s a great lesson for any entrepreneur to learn about, how do you deal with challenges, even though you’ve Apple, one of the biggest, most important or valuable companies in the world, you have a fluke? How do you deal with it? And how does a big corporation like that also deal with it with the ranks? Because you know, you guys are on the battlefield and the storefronts now. But you as far as you’re saying if you guys felt like it was a mission, and you all up for the task, and it seems like you were successful because we’re talking, you know, more than a decade later, and, you know, the reputation of the company is still like a Titan. And it looks great. Well, that’s pretty cool. And how many years did you spend in that environment, the store?
Brent Zahradnik 7:22
I was there for like two and a half years, that same-store, my position changed a little bit. But like that, those two and a half years, that whole time I credit with, like, some of the best people skills, because Apple trains you really well, first of all, to handle tough situations and talk to people from any little background and who has a varying degree of needs. And I kind of credit that with being my education for gaining a lot of people skills, because like I had mentioned before, I was like the IT kid, like, you know, not really famous for their people skills. I mean, my parents are very personable, but like some of that didn’t pass on to me until later in life, when I got more confidence and basically was aided by this position. I credited it with a lot of my own, like personal development, actually,
Yoni Mazor 8:06
That’s great, makes a lot of sense. So you know, you spent your nerdy years actually gain the ability to deal with the mechanics of everything. But the store gave you basically an uninterrupted experience to, you know, manage the corporate office, you know, business people, entrepreneurs coming in, as you mentioned, they’re hot and heavy on their issues, or the mommies, or the dads or you know, whatever it is. So it’s great to have that experience, that people person, in the variety. You can’t really teach at school as well, you know, you go to the best college in the world, Ivy League, none of them will prepare you for, you know, the variety of human experience. So I find that to be an amazing asset for you to grab. So two and a half years, so 2009 around to 2011 or 2012. What was the time like?
Brent Zahradnik 8:48
It was early 2010 when I actually started that job. I think it was the spring because I didn’t find it until then. And then there’s training and then I started I moved to the city, and it was May of 2012 when I left that position. So yeah it was about two and a half years. And I actually left to do a bike trip. So I had a friend Brian, who, he and I had talked about doing a bike tour, a bicycle tour. And so we actually planned it and both like quit our jobs. He was finishing up University. No, we rode across the United States, actually. So we left for most. Yeah, we left from eastern Pennsylvania, where I’m from, and I finished in Anacortes, Washington State. Four and a half months later, you know, I’m not kidding.
Yoni Mazor 9:39
Wow. So you said…hold on…so you said, let me start my life trajectory. Let me stop my job, my experience, you know, my college training, everything, and hit up my buddy, Brian.
Brent Zahradnik 9:50
Yoni Mazor 9:51
And what was he doing?
Brent Zahradnik 9:53
He was finishing his degree at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Yoni Mazor 9:57
So you guys grew up together. How’d you guys …?
Brent Zahradnik 10:00
Yeah, we went to high school. Yeah, I kept in touch and I have a bunch of friends that were living in Philadelphia at that time. You know, most of whom I still keep in really close touch with, but cycling is kind of like in my family. My dad worked for Bicycling magazine for many years. One of my mom’s cousins founded an organization called Adventure Cycling, which is dedicated to bike touring. I have various people in my family who have done long-distance bike trips, and it’s something I’d always wanted to do. From basically the time I was like old, like 17- 18, until like my early 20s. And when I was 23…
Yoni Mazor 10:30
So, you knew that you were gonna do this. You said the moment we get a real opportunity, a shot at it, you’re gonna go for it. Right?
Brent Zahradnik 10:34
Yeah, it’s basically a question of having enough money and being in the right life position to do it. And yeah, we got things organized. We got stuff together, and we left on May 15 of 2012. From my parent’s house, and we started riding West across Pennsylvania.
Yoni Mazor 10:48
Right. And you got there around what, October November area?
Brent Zahradnik 10:53
Oh, yeah, I think it was early September because we took a very circuitous route. You know, we didn’t go directly across the US. We went west, and then we went south. We were down in Nashville, in Missouri. Then we got across like Kansas, I went north, he stopped in Colorado, because he had like plans there. I kept going through Wyoming up through Idaho.
Yoni Mazor 11:13
Oh, so you guys split at some point? You did some solo.
Brent Zahradnik 11:15
He had planned to go to Colorado, and he got there and he stopped. Yeah. So
Yoni Mazor 11:19
So he completely got out of the, you know, quote, unquote, race and you just continue all the way to the target.
Brent Zahradnik 11:25
Yeah, I continue by myself. Yes. I went through Wyoming and Idaho. Washington State, Oregon. Not in that order. But you know, but to get to the coast. And yeah, that was,
Yoni Mazor 11:35
What was your daily routine? Like, how many hours you cycle a day? Take us a little bit through that?
Brent Zahradnik 11:41
Yeah, sure. So typically, you’ll wake up super early, because I’m someone who gets up early anyway. But when you’re
Yoni Mazor 11:45
What’s early, what time is early?
Brent Zahradnik 11:47
Like, 6:30-7. And depending on the kind of like, light environment and weather because sometimes it was really hot like I was in Missouri in the summer, it’s like extremely hot, you know, it’d be like 100, 100 plus degrees Fahrenheit like in the overnight sometimes. Yeah, yeah, it’s crazy. So, you know, you wake up, whatever time is early, you pack your tent, eat some light breakfast, you start writing, it’s pretty much what you do every day, you just ride all day, every day.
Yoni Mazor 12:14
And all you got is, that little bit. It’s all you own, a little bag that you have, that you carry in your bag, which has a tent, your outfits. And?
Brent Zahradnik 12:21
Yeah, yeah, it’s a specific kind of bicycle. So you have a couple of bags on the front and the rear. And sometimes you wear a backpack, but I would recommend against it. But the bike carries a lot of weight. It’s just the bike is quite heavy and you know, can be hard to maneuver a
Yoni Mazor 12:36
We’re talking about a bicycle with no engine. Right?
Brent Zahradnik 12:38
Yeah, no engine. The only engine’s my legs. Yeah. So I did that for…Yeah, I think it was like four or four and a half months. We went intentionally on a route that was secure. So it was a total of 4600 miles or so, just about. Which is I don’t know like 8,500k or something like that.
Yoni Mazor 12:58
Yeah. So I used to stop cycling what, toward three or 4 pm? Or seven 8 pm? Depends on when it gets dark. What was their kind of routine at the end of the day?
Brent Zahradnik 13:08
It depends on the day, and some days were super hot, we would actually take a break in the middle of the day. I remember one time we were in Kansas and we stopped at a swimming pool. And we just locked our bikes up and we went for a swim for like four or five hours in the afternoon. And then we jump back on the bikes, we ride it till it gets dark, you know because we had some lights, but we weren’t gonna ride overnight. That’s just crazy. And then we set up in camp somewhere. We did a lot of wild camping, which is where you’d like you to know, you don’t camp in any specific place. You just pick a spot and you kind of like hide in the trees, hide in the bush. Because we didn’t have like, you know, money to spare though.
Yoni Mazor 13:40
You freestyle it. So wherever you see a little bit of woods, there’s a little bit of soil, you know, you that’s your new residence for the night. But um, during the day you listen to music? Or you just enjoy the scenery? What’s the mindset on when you’re actually cycling? And you know, with your feet and legs as an engine?
Brent Zahradnik 13:56
Yeah, it’s a good question. We both definitely listen to music, I listen to more podcasts. But a lot of times I wouldn’t listen to anything just because I want to hear the road, it’s a bit safer to be kind of plugged into the sound landscape. But really, there are parts of the American West and the central part of the country to you, for that matter that is incredibly beautiful. And just soaking in that scenery and also meeting up with other bike touring people. There’s, you know, during that summer, we met a lot of people, we actually wrote a script for three guys from New York for like weeks. We went through most of Missouri with them, and Kansas and until they went off and split their own direction, but yeah, you make some cool friends on the road, too. It’s really quite the experience.
Yoni Mazor 14:37
Wow and when you finally reach your final destination, you know, was it climactic, what was the feeling in that moment?
Brent Zahradnik 14:42
Yeah, I actually have a good story about that. So I got to Anacortes, Washington, which is on the west coast and you know, goes right up against the Pacific. And I, you know, dip my wheel in the ocean and like I met this girl who is cycling by and she like told me this path to go on. And then I got set up. And I actually slept at her parent’s house that night in this bus they had in their backyard. And then the next day I set off for Redmond, Washington where Microsoft is headquartered, and my actual like last stop, I guess like the final leg of my trip was to go through, I think it was called Whidbey Island, on the west coast. And then I went to like, it’s called Whidbey Island. It’s like this island that’s off the coast of Seattle. And there’s like an Air Force Base there, but you can like go on these bridges and stuff. And I went down there and I came across into Seattle, and I went into Redmond and I stayed with my friend, Jason, who actually worked for Microsoft at the time. And I was so hungry that night, he took me to a Mongolian barbecue buffet. And I ate as I do, I swear, I ate like the place to bankruptcy. I ate like everything they had. Because I had ridden like 117-118 miles that day. It was like a massive day. And yeah, I just like destroyed that buffet.
Yoni Mazor 16:02
That’s the climax. That’s the climactic moment right there. It’s like, I earned the calories. I probably am not gonna do 100 plus miles on my life on a bicycle and you did it in one day, that’s phenomenal.
Brent Zahradnik 16:12
And it’s surprisingly easy once you’re in shape.
Yoni Mazor 16:15
Yeah, the body is a wonderful machine. And I’m sure you probably know more than others, you know, four and a half months of strain on your body daily like that. That’s fabulous. I love that. Okay, so you reached out to Seattle? Was that a little bit of a hint of your future in e-commerce? Or was this like a divine thing that you try to really pedal your way all the way to the e-commerce land in Seattle, Washington or I guess? In other words, what was the next station for you?
Brent Zahradnik 16:42
I always want to see the Pacific Northwest. So I managed to do that. You know, I rode over the Cascades, I was in Oregon. You know, I went through some really incredibly beautiful territory over there. And I spent actually three weeks living at my friend’s house in Redmond, I went to the Microsoft campus a bunch of times I spent a ton of time in Seattle. I went to Portland, Oregon for a couple of days on a bus. Like I checked out the whole area. I was thinking of moving there. It was just a question of, oh, what can I do for work or whatever. And, you know, if I had what I know now about Amazon and everything, maybe I would have tried to start the agency even then. Or maybe I would have become an Amazon seller, who knows. But I didn’t have that foresight or insight into e-commerce. I was way more focused on the stuff I knew about like from, you know, computer technology and like IT stuff and I just didn’t have the same awareness, unfortunately,
Yoni Mazor 17:28
Got it, but it seems like it was more of the scenery, the culture that brought you physically into that area, location. Okay, so 2000, already you’re kind of reaching 2013, right there at the beginning. So what was the next station for you professionally? or How did you get back into the world, the, you know, the regular world?
Brent Zahradnik 17:43
Yeah. Eventually, I flew back to the east coast because I just didn’t find something that was working for me there. And I sometimes wonder if that could have been an inflection point in my life. But I flew back to the East Coast because one of my good friends is getting married. I want to be at his wedding. So I went to that. And then I basically didn’t do much for like, a couple of months, I was trying to figure out what was next. Eventually, I got an internship with a b2b marketing company. And that’s where I learned AdWords actually. So someone there taught me AdWords, and yeah, we’re working for b2b clients.
Yoni Mazor 18:12
So this is like 2013? That’s when you hit your next workstation with SEO b2b marketing.
Brent Zahradnik 18:18
Yeah, that was like late 2013. Yeah, like it was fall 2013 I can’t remember the exact date but it was that like, mid to late? And yeah, that’s where I started to get into digital marketing. And like, obviously, I had the tech skills with like, IT stuff. And actually, I became like, the de facto IT guy at the office because it was a small team. People were like, this printer’s not working. I was like, Oh, no, not again, you know, classic, classic, accidental IT guy. But yeah, that’s where I started doing AdWords. That was my first taste of pay-per-click marketing. And that whole scene in keywording, and SEO and we had a, you know, in-house web dev guy taught me some stuff. And it was just a really rewarding experience. Or how many I couldn’t even tell you,
Yoni Mazor 19:01
Any clients, anybody that’s worth mentioning? Any fortune 500, or some unique company that was more memorable for you? Or was…?
Brent Zahradnik 19:08
Yeah, the company is actually still around this. This agency I’m talking about. I won’t say their name, just for privacy reasons. But yeah, Olympus was a client at one point.
Yoni Mazor 19:17
The cameras? Olympus cameras?
Yoni Mazor 19:19
Yeah. Um, and what else? They had some other, companies that were doing digitization of giant amounts of paper, like large corporations. It was another client, I c