In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Isaac Smith shares how he became a Successful eCommerce Entrepreneur. Isaac is the founder of Summit E-Commerce, a bookkeeping office for eCommerce sellers, shares his life story and path into e-commerce.
As an e-commerce business owner, it can often be challenging to understand the accounting side of your enterprise. Are you actually successful or is that gut feeling of failure real? You might also be in a situation where you’re paying a lot of your hard-earned income over to accountants but you still feel like you have very little understanding of what’s happening in the back end of your business. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk discusses another option for e-commerce sellers who need help with their numbers game.
In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Isaac Smith, the founder of Summit E-Commerce, which offers bookkeeping and financial services as well as team-building services to e-commerce sellers. Summit E-Commerce helps business owners understand their bottom lines, and then set realistic goals using that data so that they can double their amount of revenue. Everything Summit E-Commerce does is designed to benefit the business owners first and foremost.
Isaac Smith takes us on his journey from an English teacher in Korea to an architect to an e-commerce seller to finally starting up Summit E-Commerce. So if you’re in the Amazon world and you need help understanding your numbers and your bottom line, then this episode is for you!
Learn more about Summit E-Commerce!
Learn about GETIDA’s Amazon FBA reimbursement solutions.
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:05
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m really excited to have Isaac Smith. He’s our special guest for today. He’s the co-founder of Summit E-commerce, which is a booking office for e-commerce sellers. He’s gonna talk more about it later on throughout the episode. So, Isaac, welcome to the show.
Isaac Smith 0:25
Hey, Yoni. Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.
Yoni Mazor 0:28
Our pleasure. Our pleasure. So where are you at right now? You’re in the northwest, right?
Isaac Smith 0:33
That’s right. I’m in Portland, Oregon. It’s raining outside at the moment, which is very typical.
Yoni Mazor 0:40
Got it. Um, yeah, I heard you guys get a lot of rain. I’m in New Jersey, actually, I have a sunny day. So I’m feeling lucky. Okay, so today, this episode is going to be basically on you. You know what’s your story? Who are you? What’s your background? Where’d you grow up? How’d you get into the business? So I guess without further ado, let’s dive right into it. Right?
Isaac Smith 1:00
Absolutely, man. Well, yeah, again, thanks for being here. It’s great to join you and the audience. And hopefully, people can get some value out of hearing someone else’s story. And maybe they’ll recognize some of themselves in it. That’s what I always love.
Yoni Mazor 1:14
For sure. There’s always a connection point.
Isaac Smith 1:17
Yeah. So yeah, like it was mentioned, I’m here in Portland, Oregon. I grew up here. And then I left for a lot of years. And now I’m back. And so yeah, I went to college to study architecture. And that was really a passion of mine early on, and I did that and I excelled. I worked in that field for eight years. And then I think like a lot of us, there’s a point where something starts to feel like it’s just not right. And I couldn’t put a pinpoint on that. But it was just, generally, it just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.
Yoni Mazor 2:03
Hold on, hold on, let’s stop for a second. You kind of went fast for me. You went to school to become an architect, right? And how many years did you spend your education to become an architect? Just to give some perspective of…
Isaac Smith 2:15
Oh, yeah, I was in school for six years before I graduated. And then I went to Korea for a year to teach English as kind of like a fun thing to do before life starts, you know?
Yoni Mazor 2:27
Oh that’s kind of a plot twist, a serious plot twist. I want to touch that in a moment, actually, it’s good for me, it’s an interesting thread to pull on. But um, I, you started school, six years, you spend your time becoming, training for being an architect. And then I guess two points, I want to touch: the dive into Korea, and then how you started, you know, being in that profession and how long in that process before you started feeling that something is up and I guess some bug went into, I call it the entrepreneur bug, that, I guess pushed you to your next station. So let’s dive into the Korea moment. What led you to after six years of, you know, finally gonna be an architect you can release your, uh, your potential, and then you just, let’s go to Korea?
Isaac Smith 3:12
Yeah. There were a couple of things. When I was growing up, I had family members and friends and just people who I knew who went abroad, and like my mom went, she was a student missionary in Indonesia for a year when she was in college, and like my aunts went to Spain for a year. So it’s like, this always seemed exciting. And something that I wanted to do.
Yoni Mazor 3:39
So you saw it happening around you, right? With your immediate family, I guess. But you were how old? 24-25?
Isaac Smith 3:47
When I graduated? Yeah, I think I was 24, yeah, when I graduated.
Yoni Mazor 3:51
24 and you just said, you know, I’ll just do this doesn’t matter what it is. I’m just out for a year?
Isaac Smith 3:56
Well, yeah, there’s a little more behind that. Actually. We had…I actually have a Korean brother, believe it or not. He’s not a biological brother. What people often talk about exchange students, he was a little more than an exchange student. But he lived with my family for eight years while I was in high school and through college. And so I really do consider him a brother. Yeah. And I always wanted to go see his country.
Yoni Mazor 4:29
And what was his ages when he lived eight years, how old was he when he came and what was the age cycle?
Isaac Smith 4:34
We were both about 14 or 15, freshmen in high school. And this kid just showed up at high school one day and couldn’t speak any English. And it wasn’t the beginning of the school year. It was kind of like a few months in and we all kind of wondered like, what’s with this kid? So, I was curious, and I made friends with him and…
Yoni Mazor 5:00
It’s great to make that connection such an early age 14 years old. And today you know, he’s a state that is your brother, that shows a great indicator of your ability to connect on a human level to things that are foreign to you. And things that are foreign to you I would assume he also considers you as a brother. So it’s a nice touch.
Isaac Smith 5:18
Yeah, yeah. It was exciting. So going to see his country it was like, yeah, of course, I want to do this.
Yoni Mazor 5:24
Did he host you there when you were there? Or it was just…was he like your center of like your headquarters there? Or did you have a whole different angle there?
Isaac Smith 5:32
Well, the funny thing is he went, we graduated, like a year, a year or so apart. And he, I was hoping he would just stay in the US forever. But life happens, you go back to your home. And in Korea, how they do it is all men have to be…have to join the army for two years. And so yeah, we knew that was going to happen. But anyway, when I went there that happened to be during that time. So I actually only got to see him twice, for like a day each. For the whole year I was there. But his family, so we knew his family, because they had come, his sisters came to live with us for a shorter period of time each. We got to know his parents. And so they….while they didn’t, we didn’t stay with them. They took really good care of us. It was really, really great.
Yoni Mazor 6:29
Amazing. What was the initial point of connection between both families, I guess, their church? Or what was the trigger to even bring them all the way to the states and make that initial connection?
Isaac Smith 6:38
You know, that’s something that I still to this day don’t quite understand. Although now that I have a much deeper connection to sort of Korean culture, that’s just what they do. Families who have money, they, they want their kids…well, all families want their kids to learn English and be connected with Western culture because economically, it’s really important. And so those who can afford it, they just send their families over here. They send like, like, if it’s a usually the man will, the father will stay home and make the money and send the wife and kids to the US. Sometimes they send them alone, just the kids. And some immigration or some, some organization usually pairs the kids up with a local couple that is from that country. And so he was staying with the Korean family, but I got to know him and they weren’t treating him very well. And when his mom found out, she wasn’t happy about it. And so that was the connection was like, hey, well, you can come stay in my bedroom. Basically come live with my family. That’s what happened.
Yoni Mazor 7:56
Wow. It’s so very nice of you guys. Okay, so let’s jump back into age 24-25. You were jumping into a career for a year. You were teaching English you said?
Isaac Smith 8:05
Yoni Mazor 8:06
Yeah. Okay. And that was what kind of experience was that for you? It was your first time teaching?
Isaac Smith 8:11
It was so great. Yeah. First time teaching. That’s the thing, by the way…so a lot of Asian countries, they’re eager to learn English. And so I know Thailand is the same, Japan, China, they want. They want people to come over there and teach English so it’s not hard. And you just connect, get connected with a school and they’ll set you up. They’ll help you find an apartment and all this stuff. And you teach classes there and it’s…for me, it was just such a great experience.
Yoni Mazor 8:42
And which part of Korea?
Isaac Smith 8:45
I was in Seoul, which is the capital and biggest city, and it had a…
Yoni Mazor 8:50
It’s the big gun. The big one of Korea. Alright, cool. Thank you for that. Alright, so let’s see, what was the next station after Korea? You started your professional career as you know, being an architect and take us there?
Isaac Smith 9:01
Yeah, I couldn’t wait to dive back in to do what I’ve been trained to do and to do what I felt like I was really passionate about, I was good at it. And so, it was 2006 I think, and the economy was booming at the time and so I had a couple of job offers in the DC area, and so I took one of them and moved out there as kind of a new adventure, new part of the country…
Yoni Mazor 9:31
So from the northwest to the, you know, the Capitol, I guess the East Coast.
Isaac Smith 9:34
Yeah. Yeah. And by…and I went to college in Michigan, so I like…
Yoni Mazor 9:40
Isaac Smith 9:42
I like to travel. It’s a school that nobody’s ever heard of. It’s called Andrews University. It’s in the southwest corner. It’s in Berrien Springs, Michigan, which is like, if you’re at all familiar with Michigan, it’s…
Yoni Mazor 9:55
I used to live in Detroit. So just a little bit. I have a little bit of a connection there. My mother’s…
Isaac Smith 10:00
You know, the Lake Michigan St. Joe area?
Yoni Mazor 10:03
I’ll be honest, I do not.
Isaac Smith 10:04
It was a small touristy town.
Yoni Mazor 10:06
I know it’s like a glove. So Detroit is this area, you know, on the south of the glove, so I guess you’re west or east?
Isaac Smith 10:13
West. So a couple of hours from Chicago.
Yoni Mazor 10:17
Got it. Alright, so you’re in DC and what happened next?
Isaac Smith 10:21
Well, yeah, I had a great job that was with, you know…I had this job with someone who I really admired. It was a small firm, and we were doing great work. It was really a lot of town planning, and urban design, which is what I was most interested in. And we did a lot of work all around the US. We went to Australia, did some work there and did some work in Guatemala. Really exciting stuff. But after a couple of years, it was…we’re now approaching 2008, and I was getting a little tired of…it was a small…it was this guy who was a well known guy, and he ran his office out of his house, which was cool, but not so cool to actually be in his house.
Yoni Mazor 11:10
You guys were actually…Oh, you’re in his house as an employee in his house.
Isaac Smith 11:17
Yeah in his house. Yeah, this is like one of these, you know, you want to be mentored by this guy who you’ve seen his drawings, you know, that sort of a thing. That’s what it was. And, he ran his thing out of his house intentionally. And that, you know, there’s some things that you eventually start to feel like…
Yoni Mazor 11:36
Isaac Smith 11:37
Yeah, I’m not so comfortable here after a couple of years. And then he started saying, you know, the financial crisis hit and, if you remember, it hit the construction industry first, because it was a housing issue.
Yoni Mazor 11:51
Yeah. bubble up, you know, burst on the new houses, basically, you know, there was no new construction. And anything that was on the market was pretty much being offered on sale, because it was a whole crunch. Yeah, so it was a big bust for real estate overall. 2008. 7-8. Right? That’s when it started?
Isaac Smith 12:11
Yeah, somewhere around there, he started to tell me, you know, I’m not sure how much longer I can keep you on. And so you might want to start looking around. And so, yeah, at that point, I did. And I went back to the other firm that had offered me the job before and they said, Yeah, we’re hiring. Come on. Which at that point was unusual to hear because most people were not hiring.
Yoni Mazor 12:39
It’s a lucky strike.
Isaac Smith 12:40
Yeah. And so and it was also an exciting place but then that was a very…
Yoni Mazor 12:50
Was it also in the DC area or you had to relocate?
Isaac Smith 12:52
Yeah, it was in DC. Yeah. But it was very…it was…the environment was toxic. That was my…
Yoni Mazor 13:02
In what way? Was it competitive? Is it just skill, volume, deadlines?
Isaac Smith 13:07
Oh, my gosh, yeah. Deadlines. You said deadlines like you know what…
Yoni Mazor 13:12
Just a lucky strike for me.
Isaac Smith 13:14
Yeah, deadline…architecture is an industry based on deadlines. And they make very unreasonable deadlines. And then they change the scope of it like a week before or so that it’s like it’s really impossible without really burning yourself out, like 90 hour weeks.
Yoni Mazor 13:35
Wow. No idea it was so intense, of the intensity of this industry. I guess we take it for granted. But I appreciate the behind the scenes a little bit.
Isaac Smith 13:44
I once spent 36 hours in the office without going outside, without a thank you. I’m not kidding. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 13:55
Wow. And I thought e-commerce was rough. Ok.
Isaac Smith 13:58
So I mean, yeah, eventually I realized this isn’t just the…you think the first time you have a job that you kind of don’t like, you think another job will be the answer. And so I did that twice. I did actually go out and get another job, which was better. It was amazing. The best possible architecture job you could imagine, but eventually i had…
Yoni Mazor 14:21
This was what? 2008, 9 or 10?
Isaac Smith 14:24
Now we’re like 2010, 2011. Yeah, and still these feelings after a while they subside because it wasn’t toxic. It was wonderful people doing great work and not stressful, but still there’s something wrong you know? And eventually that will…
Yoni Mazor 14:46
So you calibrated the environment. It took a few tries, you calibrated the environment. So on the surface you’re fine. But then after, post that moment, you realize this is still discord that’s so you go even deeper into yourself to realize something’s up.
Isaac Smith 15:00
Yeah, and I would walk home, I would take the metro and then walk home from the station. And I would just feel like, you know, this is the perfect job. But still like this, I felt like I was, it was almost as if I was in a burning building. And I’m just outside walking home and I have this feeling and I feel like, why isn’t anybody pulling the alarm? Like this is just, that’s just how it felt to me, like, I have to pull this alarm, we have to do something.
Yoni Mazor 15:34
So what happened? Now I’m curious, I really am, yeah…
Isaac Smith 15:37
Well, I knew that something was up for a few years. And I started listening to podcasts and just intriguing ideas about business. And I ended up stumbling on…one thing led to another and there’s, of course, Pat Flynn played a role in there, which most people know him and his podcast and, and then eventually I heard about e-commerce. And like, okay, well now this actually makes sense. Because you’re sending an actual thing to somebody they can touch. So if I sell something, that makes sense. So that was sort of the aha, like, okay, this is for me, and now it’s actually just like, how do I do this? So I did that
Yoni Mazor 16:25
So your aha moment was what 2011-2012? After diving into yourself and you know, podcasts and exploring the things that are available out there?
Isaac Smith 16:35
I would love to say that when I started feeling that terrible feeling inside that I took action immediately, but it took quite a while.
Yoni Mazor 16:46
Right. That’s all I’m trying to calibrate on like I was assuming wasn’t a next thing, a next day thing. It was a process that you put yourself into. Looking back you realized, you know?
Isaac Smith 16:56
Yeah I think it was a couple of years of listening to these podcasts and thinking like, what should I do? But on…it was New Year’s Day of 2014, I decided this is what I’m going to do. I bought a course it was called Dropship Lifestyle that teaches how to do drop shipping, high ticket drop shipping, which is different from what a lot of people think of when they hear drop shipping.
Yoni Mazor 17:21
High ticket is what? $100 or more? What do you consider high ticket?
Isaac Smith 17:25
2 to 300 plus, so like the business that I ended up selling last year we sold salon furniture. So most orders would be over 1000, 2000, up to 10, 20 30,000.
Yoni Mazor 17:37
And this is B2B? B2C?
Isaac Smith 17:41
B2B, so selling salon furniture to locals, you know, you go get your haircut, you need to sit in a chair, that sort of stuff.
Yoni Mazor 17:48
Oh you kind of spilled the beans, but we’ll get there soon. So 2014 you take action. So it was end of 2014 or beginning?
Isaac Smith 17:55
New Year’s Day. 2014. I was like alright I’m jumping in. So yeah, I mean, I worked, worked, worked. Of course, when you start you’ve got a lot of energy and…
Yoni Mazor 18:09
But you quit your job or? What was the strategy there? You keep your job on the side?
Isaac Smith 18:11
I was hustling man. Hustle, hustle. I was still working. You know, it was a good 40 hour a week job. That job was not the crazy 90 hour thing. It was really wonderful in that respect.
Yoni Mazor 18:25
So you had that good, healthy core to build on with time.
Isaac Smith 18:29
Yeah, so I would go home, spend some….by that time, I had a daughter who was two years old at that point, wife and daughter, and spend some time with the family, put the kid to bed and then go into hustle mode until like one or 2am every night for six or eight months.
Yoni Mazor 18:52
Way to go. I feel..it’s in my bones what you’re describing. I feel like you’re almost talking about myself. But yeah. I have a daughter also.
Isaac Smith 19:00
Oh, nice. Nice. How old is she?
Yoni Mazor 19:03
I got two now. So I got a seven, seven and a four year old. Yeah.
Isaac Smith 19:07
Nice. Yeah, mine is 10 now.
Yoni Mazor 19:10
Isaac Smith 19:11
Thanks. So yeah, you know, and the sad thing is like I hustled that hard and that business eventually failed. After a year plus.
Yoni Mazor 19:23
And this was drop shipping? Hardcore drop shipping? 300 plus items?
Isaac Smith 19:27
Yeah, right. Yeah, selling RC cars, remote control cars, trucks, planes, drones, that sort of thing.
Yoni Mazor 19:36
And the art of this is pretty much connecting the dots, you create some sort of you plug yourself into a platform where you can sell it on, it can be other big commerce or Shopify or Magento, whatever dot com website you create, you find a network of suppliers and you present it out there and you feed traffic into the website. That was pretty much the model?
Isaac Smith 19:55
Exactly. That’s it.
Yoni Mazor 19:57
Yeah, right. After a year it busted. And what did you do after?
Isaac Smith 20:01
Yeah, I mean, it sucks. It’s a painful feeling to realize all this work for nothing, but it’s not really nothing. You learn a lot.
Yoni Mazor 20:09
This is part of the process. This is vital. Yeah.
Isaac Smith 20:11
Yeah. So. So actually, before I decided to shut that down, I had convinced now finally to take action, I, all of this hustle wasn’t getting me very far. In terms of real money coming in, into my pocket, into my family bank account, and I thought I could do this forever. And it would, it might take me four years, or maybe I could just quit everything, and hustle hard, and maybe it’ll only take one year or something.
Yoni Mazor 20:45
When you say quit everything, you me