In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Ken Wilson (the veteran who found economic freedom in e-commerce), co-founder of the podcast for Amazon sellers called Firing The Man, and an Amazon seller himself shares his personal journey into eCommerce.
Knowing when to immerse yourself full-time into your e-commerce business can be a scary proposition to consider. Leaving the comfort and security of a full-time, possibly well-paying job to go out on your own and take a big risk is definitely not something to be taken lightly. Yoni Mazor talks about how to take that leap of faith into e-commerce and have confidence in yourself.
In today’s interview, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Ken Wilson, an Amazon seller and co-founder of the podcast “Firing the Man”, which details his journey from a small rural town to the military to being a 7 figure seller on Amazon. “Firing the Man” focuses on the experiences of its two creators in building and successfully running Amazon businesses.
Ken Wilson discusses his first taste of entrepreneurship from a young age to his decision to join the military. He details how his military experience led him to have the confidence he needed to eventually “fire the man” and become an Amazon seller full time. If you’re considering taking this leap and you’re not sure where to start, then this episode is for you!
To listen to Ken’s podcast “Firing the Man” click here: https://firingtheman.com/
To learn more about GETIDA, check this link: https://getida.com/
Find the full transcript below
Yoni Mazor 0:05
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I have a really special guest. Today I’m having Ken Wilson. Ken is the co-founder of “Firing the Man” which is a podcast for Amazon sellers. But he is also an Amazon seller himself. So Ken, welcome to the show.
Ken Wilson 0:21
Thanks, Yoni. Thanks for having me. It’s, it’s gonna be a great show.
Yoni Mazor 0:25
Our pleasure. So today’s episode is gonna be all about, you know Ken Wilson, and the Ken Wilson story. So you’re gonna share with us, you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where’d you grow up? How’d you begin your professional career? So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Ken Wilson 20:39
Yeah, absolutely. So I, you know, I grew up in a small town in the Midwest, north of St. Louis. And there was about 350 people, and it was
Yoni Mazor 0:50
What’s the name?
Ken Wilson 0:52
Yoni Mazor 0:55
How d’you spell that?
Ken Wilson 0:56
W I N F I E L D.
Yoni Mazor 0:58
Ah Winfield, so a field of winners?
Ken Wilson 1:00
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Right. So it’s a, it was a rural town with corn, surrounded by cornfields. So exactly, right. Yeah. So there wasn’t a lot of business. Right? So I grew up, you know, just playing sports and exploring. You know, I didn’t, I have eight siblings. So I had a large family. And there was always something to do.
Yoni Mazor 1:23
Was it because of religious faith? Or uh? The large family.
Ken Wilson 1:27
No, I, my parents just wanted, you know, early on, my mom told me, your father asked me Do you want children or horses? And I said, children. So I think that’s how I came about.
Yoni Mazor 1:39
Ha that’s good. Alright so is that where you went to school and graduated as well? Winfield?
Ken Wilson 1:43
Yeah, so I went to all the way through grade school all the way through my junior year in high school, you know, to that small school, and, in 1993 there was a really big flood that came through the Midwest. And so we got flooded out of our other house. And so we moved to another small city while we regrouped.
Yoni Mazor 2:04
What was the name of that city?
Ken Wilson 2:06
Uh Wright City.
Yoni Mazor 2:07
How do you spell that?
Ken Wilson 2:08
Uh W R I G H T city, C I T Y, and same deal. It was like three, 400 people, really small. Not a lot of opportunity. And
Yoni Mazor 2:20
What kind of industries were they working in?
Ken Wilson 2:23
Ah, so my dad was in manufacturing, labor. He made fuses for like, you know, fuses for cars and industrial. So he worked in a manufacturing facility. And my mom, you know, she raised kids, she had, she had her hands full with nine, nine kids.
Yoni Mazor 2:41
Ken Wilson 2:42
Full-time job, right. So, you know, we moved to Wright City and then we, you know, we moved to another town about a year later, so kind of displaced for a couple of years. I graduated high school, from Zumo North in O’Fallon, Missouri, where I live now.
Yoni Mazor 2:59
How do you spell that?
Ken Wilson 3:01
O F A L L O N
Yoni Mazor 3:04
O’Fallon? Yeah. Sounds a bit Irish.
Ken Wilson 3:07
Yeah, right. Move there. And, you know, graduated high school and, you know, I had, I ah didn’t have a lot of mentors and a lot of, you know, people. Right, exactly. So I was just kind of flailing around for a few years working odd jobs. Got a couple of jobs and, you know, driving a forklift, and, you know..
Yoni Mazor 3:32
So let’s put it into perspective. What was it like, kind of the first year you got a job?
Ken Wilson 3:36
So. Well, I started working when I, whenever I was 12. So my first job kind of, you know, my first taste of the entrepreneurial spirit was, you know, I got a job working for this, this old man, he was like about 85. And he sold peaches on the side of the road. And my mom knew his family and he said, Hey, I need some help. So she’s like, I’ll send my son up there, you know, so I packed peaches and, you know, the, my, my boss, he sat in the chair all day and chatted while I packed the peaches. And I sold them. So I exchanged the money. And that was my first experience of like, Oh, wow. And then we would drive over to Illinois, buy the peaches in bulk, drive over and sell them. So I was like, Oh, this is how this works.
Yoni Mazor 4:18
So buy cheap, sell for a bit more. You know, and on and on.
Ken Wilson 4:22
Yeah, exactly. So that was kind of my first taste of, you know, entrepreneur business. And so after high school, you know, as I said, I didn’t have, I didn’t go directly to college, I got a job and I went part-time to a community college and took..
Yoni Mazor 4:38
What was the year you started in a community college? What was the year?
Ken Wilson 4:42
It was probably 96, 97?
Yoni Mazor 4:46
So 1996, you know, you finally feel free still after a little while of dabbling. You know, you know, tip into higher education.
Ken Wilson 4:55
Exactly. Yeah. So after having, you know, getting a couple of jobs, I worked some labor jobs and concrete and asphalt and carpentry, I did a lot of different things. And I’m like, you know, getting home at the end of the day, I’m like, I’m worn out, like, I can’t do this for you know, so I need to go to college. So I went, went part-time, worked, got my associate’s degree, and was promoted. And the company I was working for as a, you know, managing this cleanroom. And I spent about five years there,
Yoni Mazor 5:22
What kinda room? Claim?
Ken Wilson 5:24
Uh, clean room. So we made…Yeah, like silicon wafers for memory chips and processors.
Yoni Mazor 5:31
Which company? Qualcomm or Intel?
Ken Wilson 5:34
I was, well, yeah, that, those were our customers. So we made the wafers and then sold them to Intel, Micron. And they would, they would put memory chips and processes on them. So…
Yoni Mazor 5:43
So you’re in charge of the cleanroom. And you’re just, for, give us a little bit of a context here. When you manufacturing you know silicon products for semiconductors, you know, the groom, you can’t even have an ounce of hair, because it needs such purity in the facility. Is that really what the approach was?
Ken Wilson 5:59
Yeah, that’s exactly right. The cleanroom was, I believe, it was a level one cleanroom. So you had to go through what we called air showers, you had to put the whole gown on, go in the air shower, turn a circle, go in because you’re right like you’d like any, you know, any tiny microns, you know, it will make the wafer you know, you can’t sell it. So it’s gonna be tight cleanroom protocols. So I worked there for about five years and then the dot com crash of 2001…
Yoni Mazor 6:24
So you started there, which year in 1995? or six?
Ken Wilson 6:27
I yeah, right around probably 96.
Yoni Mazor 6:30
Right. And the dot com bubble burst at around 2000?
Ken Wilson 6:33
2000-2001. Yep. And so I got laid off from that job. And I did some roofing.
Yoni Mazor 6:41
Did the business collapse completely, that manufacturing business? Or just did it, you know, shrink like 80/90%?
Ken Wilson 6:47
Yeah, so they laid off probably half the workforce. So they’re still in business now. They’re, they’re doing some other stuff with solar and some things but yeah, the business collapsed. You know, nobody was buying memory chips and processors. So they didn’t need the parts to make them. So yeah, so it was, you know, they laid off, like I said, probably 50% of the workforce. And, you know, I kind of was at a crossroads. You know, at the time, I think I was 24? 23-24 and, you know, getting laid off, and I was like, Okay, what am I going to do here, and my father was in the army. Both of my grandfathers were in the military, and I thought, you know, let me go into the military, travel the world, finish my degree, get some experience, so, you know, yeah, I said.
Yoni Mazor 7:32
So what year was that when you enter, when you enlisted?
Ken Wilson 7:34
Yoni Mazor 7:35
2001 this before 9/11? Or right after?
Ken Wilson 7:38
It was about three months before 9/11.
Oh my goodness, I see what’s coming. Yeah, go ahead.
Ken Wilson 7:43
Yeah. So I, I did, I joined what’s called the delayed entry program. And they give you a, you know, I think it was six months at the time to kind of clean up your affairs because I had a house, cars, I, you know, I wasn’t out of high school. So I, you know, I was redoing, I was actually getting carpet put into my condo before I sold it. We saw, we had all the TVs unplugged, we had everything unplugged out of the condo. And one of the carpet installers comes in and says, hey, there’s a plane that hit this tower. And I was like, okay, so I was like, That’s weird. So we went on, we went on about our business. And then like, 10 minutes later, or 20 minutes later, a different guy comes in says, hey. on the radio heard a second plane. So we get a TV-out, we’re starting to look and I’m like, I get this feeling in my stomach like, oh, wow.
Yoni Mazor 8:25
I’m about to see the world. I’m about to see the world.
Ken Wilson 8:27
Yeah, I’m gonna go get my, you know, college education and see the world. Right. So, three months later, I shipped off. I spent a year in Georgia.
Yoni Mazor 8:38
In Georgia the country or the state?
Ken Wilson 8:40
Yeah no, in the States.
Yoni Mazor 8:41
The state of Georgia in the United States. Alright, good.
Ken Wilson 8:44
Yeah, so I had, you know, eight or 10 weeks of boot camp. And then I had to separate, I was in tactical communications. So I had uhh, one course was five months long. It was basically telecommunications. And the second course I had was satellite communications. And it was about another six or eight weeks. And I buttoned that up and then I got shipped off to Germany.
Yoni Mazor 9:06
So all that training, how long did it take? How many months?
Ken Wilson 9:09
It was a full year.
Yoni Mazor 9:11
Full year. Got it. Wow.
Ken Wilson 9:14
Yeah. So shipped off to Germany. And as soon as I got into my first unit, you know, they were like, they really weren’t, they really weren’t playing around at that point. They knew like, Hey, this is, we’re a forward, you know, we’re a forward brigade. We’re gonna go, we’re gonna go be first in
Yoni Mazor 9:32
Wow, so you’re in Germany, in what 2002? When the offensive on Afghanistan already began?
Ken Wilson 9:38
No, so it was. It’s, I think I was in Germany. Yeah, Afghanistan was already in place, right. So I believe I was in the unit about maybe six months and we got orders to deploy. So we shipped out, we were in Kuwait for I believe, two months, and then follow the invasion.
Yoni Mazor 10:00
The invasion to Iraq or?
Ken Wilson 10:01
Yoni Mazor 10:02
So basically your role was more focused on you know, Operation Desert Freedom. What was the name they called?
Ken Wilson 10:09
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Yoni Mazor 10:10
Iraqi Freedom. Got it. Desert Storm was 1990 or 1991. Desert Storm and then Iraqi Freedom came about a decade later. Yeah. Okay, so that was your involvement. So you and you launched the offensive from Kuwait?
Ken Wilson 10:24
Yeah, we were in Kuwait. And yeah, we followed in, you know, the warfighting machine, we followed them. And we were, you know, we were basically tactical, tactical communication. So phones, internet, you know, they call in air support, whatever. And, yeah, so we would, I did that for a year.
Yoni Mazor 10:43
So you stayed in Kuwait or you actually went into Iraq?
Ken Wilson 10:47
No, so we were in Kuwait just for the staging period. And we went in two days after, you know, the tanks and everybody crossed the berm. We went in two days later,
Yoni Mazor 10:55
So, which places you stayed in Iraq? Basra or Baghdad? What was the location you visited?
Ken Wilson 11:02
Sure. So we, I was in Baghdad for about three or four months at the Presidential Palace
Yoni Mazor 11:09
At the Presidential Palace of Saddam Hussein?
Ken Wilson 11:11
Right. I wasn’t in…I didn’t stay in there. But yeah, on that compound so, so that Presidential compound, you know, it has a, it has his son’s palaces, Uday and…
Yoni Mazor 11:21
What was that like? Was it surreal for you? I mean, touch on that. You know, I know it’s not e-commerce related, but this is unbelievable. I can’t even imagine. So take us there for a short moment.
Ken Wilson 11:31
Sure. Yeah. So it was a pretty, pretty surreal to kind of go in there and see these empty palaces, you know? On the way there, you know, that the country was, you know, that the population is really poor. You know, I like I’ve been to Mexico, I’ve been to some other countries and, and you and you drive through the towns and villages, and they’re really poor. Exactly. And then you go into this presidential compound, and then you look around, and you see toilets of gold, and these and all of these palaces, and I’m like, okay, that like this is like, this is what a dictator does, right? They take all the money and, and they pull it in, so it was kind of eye-opening for me. And surreal. And, you know, the people would climb the walls and, and loot the palaces and stuff, you know, and it’s like, you know, like, it’s kind of they’re just getting their money back, right.
Yoni Mazor 12:24
Ha ha. The tax money.
Ken Wilson 12:24
It was pretty surreal. Yeah, to go in there. And I believe we stayed there for probably two months. Kind of secured the compound, that was kind of headquarters for one of our colonels, and the general so and we got orders to go north to another compound. So we after we left.
Yoni Mazor 12:46
What was that? What was the name of that north city?
Ken Wilson 12:49
So Balad. Balad Airbase is where I spent about, I spent about the next six months at Balad Airbase, they call it also LSA Anaconda. It was right on the like, the Euphrates River was a large compound, and we provided, you know, all the communications for, you know, air support, Military Police, anybody that was a foreign operator we provided phones and internet, you know, connected them up. And yeah, that was an interesting time, we had, uh, our antennas, were about 30 meters, some of them we had 10-meter antennas and 30-meter antennas. And the locals didn’t want us there, you know, at that point there and some of the locals dead, but, you know, then you have, you know, some of the Iraqi forces that broke off and they were attacking us. So, our antennas were basically like, targets for them. So like, on that, on our communications compound, we got mortared weekly
Yoni Mazor 13:46
Right? Communication warfare, they realized, you know, communication is vital for you guys to operate. So they, you know, put the offensive insurgency into those domains.
Ken Wilson 13:54
Exactly, yep. So, so they would, they would, they would attack our antennas. And so yeah, there was, it was an interesting time and we finally, we moved into an old, so the Iraqi Air Force had MiGs, MiG fighters, so they had these, these concrete hubs, and they were, you couldn’t see it from the air. I mean, they were trying to hide them, but they were like, made out of the sand. They look just like sand. So, so we actually moved our, our quarters inside of one of those, and then said, Okay, well now, you know, you’re not going to get us now. Yeah. So we did that. I went, I was actually a driver for one of our commanders. And so we would go on mail runs to our, we had a lot of extension sites. And, you know, so I would drive the commander out to take mail to our other you know, to our other people, and those were some really interesting times on convoys and seeing how fast we could get the Humvees going and avoid, you know, roadside…
Yoni Mazor 14:51
Yeah, every time you go out it’s, you know, you can’t take it for granted that you’ll get there in one piece because insurgency was there just through the roof. So how long did you stay inside Iraq?
Ken Wilson 15:01
I was there. So it was full, I think, 364 days. So a couple of months in Kuwait and then the rest of it was in Iran.
Yoni Mazor 15:11
A whole year? Wow. Okay, so thank you for service, I want to put, you know, put an emphasis on that I, you know, it’s not to be taken lightly. So I know we do appreciate your service. Alright, so you are in Iraq, you got a, you know, a hell of a worldly experience, you know, war, you know, and modern-day warfare. Let’s zoom out of Iraq and see what the next station was because we still got, you know, nowadays to cover. So let’s, let’s visit the next station after I guess Iraq or the military. Let’s, you can wrap that up.
Ken Wilson 15:38
Yeah, yeah. So, you know, I went back to Germany, I spent about a year and a half, maybe two years in Germany. After Iraq, I traveled Europe, kind of took it down a notch. And, you know, traveled Europe, saw a bunch of countries, traveled around a bit. And then I, you know, I was like, okay, that’s my four years. I’m done.
Yoni Mazor 15:55
So 4 years between 2001 to about 2004 2005?
Ken Wilson 15:59
Yeah. 2005 is when I came back to the States. And yeah, so I came back. So when I was in the military, I had a top-secret clearance. So when I came back to the States, I thought, you know, what am I, what am I going to do? How am I gonna make money? So I leveraged that top-secret clearance, and I got a job for the Department of Defense, and in their Defense Information System.
Yoni Mazor 16:21
But um where? In Missouri as well?
Ken Wilson 16:23
It was actually at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, which is about an hour’s drive from where I live. So you know, I got a job there. And I…
Yoni Mazor 16:32
And you still lived in Missouri? Or you moved to live in Illinois?
Ken Wilson 16:35
Now, I still lived in Missouri, I got a couple of young, young children. So it kind of worked out with having family close. So I would commute for the job. And, you know, so that job was, it was interesting. And it was a time, I learned a lot. We stood up at, after 9/11, the United States figured, you know, we are our communications and our networks are exposed. So what they did was they stood up an entire, what’s called the global information grid. And they basically built a secure network. And so…
Yoni Mazor 17:09
How was it exposed? Let’s touch that for just a short moment. In what way it was exposed, for example, to give us an idea, because I have no idea what does that means, from, you know, listening from the side?
Ken Wilson 17:18
Sure. So let’s just say, for example, the CIA, wants to call somebody at the FBI. They’re going to go over, you know, AT&T’s lines or something.
Yoni Mazor 17:29
I got it. Commercial, they go through commercial lines, instead of, you know, your own dedicated, secure lines. Got it. So that’s the exposure, got it. Makes sense. Alright?
Ken Wilson 17:36
So we spent the next three years standing up the global information grid, and I worked on the fiber optic network portion of that. And we stood that up. And you know, I was still there. I was kind of like, this is a little bit. We’re in a maintenance phase. And so I still stayed there about two years, I was like, I’m kind of bored. I don’t want to, I don’t want to do this. So I got a job on the commercial side.
Yoni Mazor 18:02
So uh 2005, 2007 you’re with the, you know, what was it Homeland Defense?
Ken Wilson 18:08
Department of Defense.
Yoni Mazor 18:10
Department of Defense, and then 2007 you pivot into?
Ken Wilson 18:12
I was a probably