Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Evan Kesner talks about Amazon seller growth and the trails that led him into eCommerce and his business as the founder, and CEO of Straight Up Growth 


Being able to scale your business is the goal to which most e-commerce entrepreneurs aspire to. But this can be tricky to navigate if you do not have a good handle on your business and its potential. Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses the two key things you need in your business in order to be able to achieve the growth you envision.


In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Evan Kesner, the founder, and CEO of Straight Up Growth, a high-growth agency for Amazon sellers. Straight Up Growth offers boutique services for your business and treats every client with care. They provide a complete analysis of your Amazon account, help you establish goals for Amazon seller growth, and then create a customized strategy for ad spend and increasing sales.


Evan Kesner shares his personal journey from the bus tour guide in Rome to working in the Big Apple in various roles and finally to his move to San Diego and becoming a successful entrepreneur. So if you are an Amazon seller with questions about how to grow your business then this episode is for you!


Learn more at Straightupgrowth.


Learn more about GETIDA’s Amazon reimbursement solution software.


Find the Full Transcript Below


Yoni Mazor 0:06

Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I have a special guest. I’m having Evan Kesner. Evan is the co-founder and CEO of Straight Up Growth, which is a high-growth Amazon agency. He’s gonna share more with us about it later. But Evan, how you been? How are you doing?


Evan Kesner 0:22

Life is good, Yoni. I appreciate you having me. Looking sharp over there in that suit, man.


Yoni Mazor 0:27

Thank you. Thank you. So whoever is listening in audio and can’t hear us just check out our YouTube channel and you’ll be able to see my suit, which is unusual for an Israeli to wear. So thank you for the compliment, Evan. Alright, so where are you located? Where are we catching you right now?


Evan Kesner 0:43

Yeah, you know, I’m in beautiful San Diego. Really like it over here.


Yoni Mazor 0:48

Awesome. I hear San Diego has amazing weather and just good vibes all around. So I would like to come to visit as soon as possible once the COVID, you know, situation calms down.


Evan Kesner 0:59

Come on out. Come on out. Love to have you Yoni.


Yoni Mazor 1:01

Looking forward. So okay, today’s episode is gonna be, you know, the story of you, the story of Evan Kesner. So without further ado, let’s dive right into it.


Evan Kesner 1:10

Hi. I’m Evan. I grew up in Jericho, New York. You know, I went to Jericho High School where I’ve been interestingly reconnecting with some colleagues that are turning into business colleagues, I studied at the University of Florida. And my first kind of inkling into entrepreneurship was when I was running bus trips for a European bus tour company when I was studying abroad in Rome. And, you know, got into a little bit of win/win early on, you know, getting students on trips and going to fun places like Switzerland and Germany for free. And you know, students would just come with me, we would have a good time. Yeah, I went to the University of Florida, in 2006, which, thankfully for me was when the same year as Tim Tebow went to the University of Florida, so I went for the sports. They won the basketball as soon as I got into school, and then the football, the basketball again, and then the football again a couple of years later, and Tim Tebow is a really nice guy and he is who he is off the screen as well just FYI.


Yoni Mazor 2:20

So cool, well, what’d you take at school in university? What was your major?


Evan Kesner 2:23

I was a business management major and a minor in education. Still thinking about what I’m going to do with that one day after we make lots of money Yoni.


Yoni Mazor 2:33

So that’s good. Education is good for the heart, it’s good for the soul and doesn’t pay much but it’s always good for the heart and soul. And that’s, that’s good enough for me. But um, tell me so your stint with tourism and traveling, when was that? That was during school after school?


Evan Kesner 2:49

It was studied abroad, I was in Rome. You know, I was just trying to figure out a way to craftily, you know, get around Europe on a budget. And, you know, I found a cool few places to go to the bar scene, you know, in Rome. And so I knew I had a group of students that would want to go on trips with me. And so, you know, kind of just ended up using that, to get my friends some discounts and, you know, get myself into some fun countries.


Yoni Mazor 3:19

So in other words, you said, I want to travel the world, you know, especially Italy/Rome. You said, you know, what, how do I create a situation where I travel, have a good time, and actually get paid? Is that correct? 


Evan Kesner 3:27

Exactly, exactly. The payment was mainly, you know, cover room and board and you know, and, you know, expenses when you’re out and meals and whatnot. It was fun. It was really, you know, it gave me too good of an outlook on what sales are. Not exactly what sales were like in New York City. But it was good to create win-win. Have some fun, you know, as a student,


Yoni Mazor 3:53

That’s pretty cool. But how quickly did you turn into this?


Evan Kesner 3:55

I was a junior, it was my third year, everything kind of fell into place. I actually met my wife on the trip. 


Yoni Mazor 4:01

Wow, what a win. It’s a triple win. Win, win-win. You get experience in sales and entrepreneurship, you get paid to cover your expenses to travel and have a good time and you met your future wife. That’s pretty amazing. It’s a good start. Alright, so what year did you graduate? 2009-10 ish?


Evan Kesner 4:15

Yeah. 2010 I graduated. You know, I met my wife and I knew I wanted to be with her and I got a job in commercial real estate in Orlando. Thinking about it, then you realize that as far as a financial decision did not go fantastically. I had a mentor whose team now does 100 million and real estate transactions a year. Learned quite a lot from Ray. I thought I knew everything and I learned this….


Yoni Mazor 4:40

Give him a shout-out. What’s his name, your mentor?


Evan Kesner 4:42

Ray Turchi is absolutely one of the best guys and brokers out there and really taught me quite a bit.


Yoni Mazor 4:51

So he has his own agency or what’s his platform?


Evan Kesner 4:55

He’s got Marcus Millichap, you know, does the most specifically commercial Real Estate Investment sales and Ray’s…


Yoni Mazor 5:02

Does he do it at a national level or mostly in Florida?


Evan Kesner 5:05

National, national level. He’s done some crazy transactions, you know, with as many different parties as could possibly be involved. And now he gets the job done. And he’s got a pretty good-sized team supporting him now and he’s a great guy.


Yoni Mazor 5:20

But what was your role? What was your experience there?


Evan Kesner 5:22

My experience was generating new sales opportunities. You know, I’d underwrite properties and we’d pitch you know, I was focusing on office space, which was mainly underwater. I exited when we had an opportunity. We were pitching a property to get the listing, it was about $8 million. I was in Orlando, I found out that tenant A was leaving the rent roll. Tenant A at the time was Dwight Howard, and he was leaving the Magic. So when he left the rent roll, our building was not worth anywhere near $8 million. And I was just like, I was done. I had swung the bat a million times. And there was not much I could do.


Yoni Mazor 6:07

And what year was this? How quickly did this happen? 


Evan Kesner 6:11

This was a year. I gave it a, you know, a good year. It was a great experience, you know, I ended up moving into commercial real estate, tech at CoStar, you know, at the time the stock was at 40. Now it’s at like 700. So at Marcus Millichap, I was using them for commercial real estate information on sales transactions on what’s available in the market.


Yoni Mazor 6:33

What’s your definition of CoStar there, are they just a data firm or for real estate?


Evan Kesner 6:39

They’re the data firm for commercial real estate. They are just swallowing up companies, you know, left and right and…


Yoni Mazor 6:48

Are they connected with Zillow or Zillow is like a nemesis?


Evan Kesner 6:52

They’re separate from Zillow.


Yoni Mazor 6:53

Okay, so what was your role there? What were you doing for them?


Evan Kesner 6:56

I was teeing up a new business, you know, for them. I did a pretty good job of, you know, learning what sales were, you know, I remember my first sale, I walked into this guy’s office after calling him and he told me, no, don’t come by, I’m never gonna buy from you. I have no interest, you know, every objection. And I went into his office and I showed him some information that could help him and he was acquiring multifamily properties and I just, you know, set up a deal that was you know, focused on that for him and, and he purchased. So you know, I learned a lot about polite persistence and commercial real estate and just the market so that was interesting.


Yoni Mazor 7:38

Very good. And so how long did you stay there?


Evan Kesner 7:41

One more year and I pivoted into tech in New York City. You know, I had an opportunity to get paid double and I didn’t realize that my expenses in New York would be pretty much double so…


Yoni Mazor 7:54

But you grew up in Jericho. Jericho is in Long Island?


Evan Kesner 7:56

Yeah, exactly. And I had some family, you know, nearby and I actually went home for, you know, five or six months and saved some money before moving into the city.


Yoni Mazor 8:05

Okay, so you’re doing tech. What were you doing in tech?


Evan Kesner 8:08

So I was in the webinar space. I was doing webinars and virtual events with, big businesses. After a little while, I actually generated the most revenue in the business development position there.


Yoni Mazor 8:21

What was the name of the company? Are they still active?


Evan Kesner 8:23

Yeah, it’s ON24. O N 2 4. You don’t know who they are because they white label everything. You know, if your event looks customized, I actually still have some great relationships from there. You know, I’m using webinar.net now for our webinars, which we’d love to have you on Yoni. Yeah, so…


Yoni Mazor 8:43

So the webinar platform you’re using is basically it’s also them, it’s the same guys?


Evan Kesner 8:47

It’s very similar. It’s the same guys now the guy who was running the New York office and head of sales are the co-founders of this business. And we have a pretty good relationship where, you know, we’d refer them some guys and they’ve been helpful for us too. 


Yoni Mazor 9:01

Yeah, got it. So what was your role in the company? Sales also, or?


Evan Kesner 9:04

Business, the business development, you know, I absolutely kind of crushed that role. And then I, you know, realized what I liked the most out of that was training someone else to crush that role and so, you know, I did the most revenue and then he did the second most revenue in the role in the history of the company, which was about 5-15 years at the time.


Yoni Mazor 9:26

Nice and how long did you stay there?


Evan Kesner 9:29

18-19 months and then I did a for me, which is a long stint in, you know, as an employee at Expert HR. You know, it was selling HR you know, best practice information and legal compliance information all geared towards helping HR professionals to help people. While I was getting a Master’s full time at NYU, Stern, and Tandon, absolutely killing myself running back and forth to Brooklyn, you know, nights, weekends and just working full time. And I remember, you know, get in the office at 8, I’d eat my dinner, work through to like 5:30-6, eat dinner, and then I’d call the West Coast, you know, at seven, you know, EST for, you know…


Yoni Mazor 10:16

Hold on, let’s organize the frame here a little bit. So 2012, you hit into, you said, the tech world where you will basically help them to develop, you know, an online webinar brand, okay, kind of a leader that does a lot of white labeling, you said it for almost two years. And during those two years, you were doing all the other hustle, or that was the next position?


Evan Kesner 10:35

No, the next position, part-time student plus full-time employee hustle on a high turnover sales team where I was the one person who was stable, you know, teaching everyone how to do their jobs, regardless of what position they were in, was at a company called Expert HR, which is now you know, thriving organization.


Yoni Mazor 10:56

So this was 2014 until how long?


Evan Kesner 11:00

Like 18, 2017? 17. 


Yoni Mazor 11:04

So about three to four years were with Experts HR, full-time job, helping them grow, and also building a team, you’re getting your Masters and running around all you know, the New York City metropolitan area, and you know, building your skills, your talent, your expansion, your future, spirit, impressive, pretty hardcore and aggressive. But what happened next?


Evan Kesner 11:28

You know, I remember running around wearing a full suit and my Nikes, because I had to go fast, you know? So I was at those times, but, you know, at the end of it, I was finishing up my master’s, I think I had just finished and you know, I had been there for a long time and seen a lot of management changes. And I was basically promised a promotion. And then there was a management change. And then they told me it was on hold, and got offered a position as head of sales at a, you know, VC-funded tech startup. And, you know, that was eye-opening. They’re good, good people, a lot of challenges breaking into the market from Finland. But yeah, I was there you know, on…


Yoni Mazor 12:12

So this was 2007, or 2017, or 18? So 2017 you pivoted into another company, and what’s the name of that company?


Evan Kesner 12:19

It’s called Naava. N A A V A. They do like green walls that purify indoor air quality, you know, a totally novel concept in the US. In Finland, you know, they have, they’re more concerned about the quality of the air indoors, we spend a lot of time indoors, especially, you know, in New York, Chicago, it’s really kind of cold, and, you know, for a lot of months, so they purify the indoor air quality to make it healthier to make it so you know, a bit more energetic, and it’s supposed to help with productivity and your health.


Yoni Mazor 12:55

Good. So by then you already have your Master? You know, when you joined?


Evan Kesner 12:58

Finished the Masters’s. I was doing, I was, you know, basically running sales, hiring, training. And, you know, pitching big businesses, as I remember, we were doing a pretty strong six-figure pitch into LinkedIn, you know, running into the Empire State Building, planning to, you know, bring these green walls to multiple floors in the Empire State Building.


Yoni Mazor 13:23

And that’s where LinkedIn was based? 


Evan Kesner 13:26

Yeah, they’re still there. 


Yoni Mazor 13:28

That’s good to know. So it’s a landmark building, kind of a landmark company if you are into the business world, LinkedIn, which is now owned by Microsoft, was a good exit for the founders. I think it was a $29 billion that Microsoft purchased them? Something like that?


Evan Kesner 13:43

Yeah in that range.


Yoni Mazor 13:44

Yeah, that’s cool. That’s good to know. Okay, so what happened after, you know, the air-purifying?


Evan Kesner 13:52

The air purifying peeps? Sure. So, you know, I actually just want to be totally transparent. You know, that deal with LinkedIn totally fell through. They were behind in production, they couldn’t really show the decision-maker one of these magical green walls and I got fired, you know? I was head of sales, I had a quota, my 400k deals not coming through, and I am nowhere near my number instead of being way over my number, and, you know, I got let go, it’s actually right after my wedding. And, you know, I came back


Yoni Mazor 14:25

What year was this? 2018 or?


Evan Kesner 14:26

It was still 2017. Yeah, they had high expectations and hopes and, you know, I couldn’t deliver without showing them, you know, the products. So, you know, and it was really a tough time. I really, you know, didn’t know what to do. I ended up, you know, part-time consulting for a couple of Orthodox Jewish guys at a company called Bond Collective in the co-working space. And like, I almost bought a Budget Blinds franchise business, you know, selling blinds out of a truck. And I was just in a bad place, but I am the least handy guy you know, and so that, you know, it’s just kind of in a bad place, but ended up consulting and then starting my first business, you know, which kind of took into account all the other skills that I had. It was basically teaching business development best practices, with a little bit of tech, now to fortune 500s and Inc5000s. And that scaled pretty hard and pretty fast went from like, zero to one and a half million in 14 months or so, got some pretty impressive results in the pipeline with a lot of big-name companies.


Yoni Mazor 15:39

But how are you charging? What was your fee, for example?


Evan Kesner 15:42

It was like three months of service, which would be 30,000 calls, emails and LinkedIn touches, which would take the average human being three years, we would do it in three months. And we charge you know, between 30 and 40 grand, I recall, depending on, you know, some of the slight changes in your package and things along those lines.


Yoni Mazor 16:05

And how did you develop this concept? Well, what led you into this space?


Evan Kesner 16:08

I had previously used some of the technologies that we were leveraging to do that, with some success when I was at Expert HR for, you know, a few years, and it was just what I was good at, and I knew how to do and they knew I knew how to do it better than everyone around me at multiple businesses. So that was really kind of skill. And I just didn’t want to build a pipeline, and then leave New York, okay, New…you know, I’m in San Diego now, my wife and I, you know, we knew we couldn’t be there forever.


Yoni Mazor 16:37

We’re getting, we’re getting a lot of fresh blood from New York City, there’s a, whoever’s listening, this is August 2020, there’s kind of an exodus going out from New York City. I guess many companies and people realize that why pay a premium to be congested into space, where you can, you know, for half for the cost, you can get 10 times more terms of space and comfort and work remotely. So there’s kind of a revolution going on, and social revolution because all this talent and all those communities just leaving New York City, there are upsides and downsides for this, I don’t know what was going to be the end of it. But this is what we’re experiencing right now, definitely interesting times.


Evan Kesner 17:16

Come out here, you get, you know, three times as much space for two-thirds the price and your 15 minutes from the beach. Schools might not be as good, schools might not be as good though. 


Yoni Mazor 17:27

Schools are going virtual also. Hopefully, hopefully, the whole world the next 10-20-30 years, you know, world will be much, much more educated because of the power of virtual learning. And we can really democratize it and spread it around the world, high quality for everybody around so we’ll get the best of skills and talents around the world. And really, you can live anywhere. So schools physically won’t have that much of a difference. Maybe you need the school as a facility to run some games or socialize. But the actual level of quality learning, hopefully now it’s being developed like they’re trying to develop the vaccine, I’m sure a lot of educational institutions are trying to push that in and develop the best curriculums and stuff like that. And I’m sure the ones that do the best will prevail and lead the way for many, many others. So I am very, very optimistic about that. But that’s all besides the point. So let’s go back to you’re basically going back to entrepreneurship, you kind of have had a lag between you know, your days in school or around 2008, or maybe 2009, where you had that stint with going overseas and setting up a whole trip into a decade later, where you kind of hit a low point, you know, you work for these companies, you hustle-bustle you created growth for them, maybe less for others, but you experienced ups and downs, successes and failures. And definitely gained a lot of experience where you said you know what, I’m at a low point, I’m going to garner and harvest some of that experience and create something on my own, which was in the space of, you know, Legion and getting companies to spread themselves, especially a social media and generate growth, It’s an interesting package, you’re saying basically, the way you model this is, is you go into companies who do have the budget for that they can, you know, spare a couple of 10s of 1000s of dollars saying, you know, spend that in a matter of 90 days, you’ll get a value of what takes maybe a few years. So it’s almost like a zip file, right? And you’re able to generate within 14 months more than a million dollars in revenue. That is impressive, by all means. So I congratulate you on that. But take us from thereon. What was the next step for you? 


Evan Kesner 19:27

Yeah. So you know, I excited. My partner wanted to go in a different direction than I did. You know, when I moved to San Diego.


Yoni Mazor 19:36

Why did you move? What was the trigger for you? The exit or before that you already planned it? 


Evan Kesner 19:39

Well I was always gonna move. You know, I personally was, you know, as I was done with New York City, I was living in a 400 square foot apartment, you know, working crazy hours and it just wasn’t for me. I knew we eventually, you know, want to have kids and be in a position where we are comfortable doing that. And so now, my 400 square foot apartment wasn’t going to cut it. So we moved out, I ended up running a business division for a voice-over IP company called Nextiva.


Yoni Mazor 20:13

Hold on. So let’s touch your exit before that. So you did exit already in New York already in San Diego?


Evan Kesner 20:19

On a technical level, it was started in New York and completed when I was here.


Yoni Mazor 20:25

Got it. Okay. And the next step for you is instead of turning into your own business, again, you work for another company?


Evan Kesner 20:31

Yeah, it took some time. I mean, it was a lot, you know, I didn’t really know kind of where I wanted to go. Actually, through LinkedIn, you know, my buddy, Gaetano de Nardi, introduced me to Uneive, the CMO, another Orthodox, you know, run company. Thinking about that now, it’s been kind of…Nextiva. They’re the largest technology company in Arizona, one of the top employers to work for in Arizona. So it’s a voice-over IP company, it’s, you know, phone over the internet is their primary service, and…


Yoni Mazor 21:10

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