Episode Summary

In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Melissa Simonson, the General Manager of Empowery, discusses the passion to empower Amazon sellers and is the leading cooperative (Co-Op) for Amazon sellers shares her life’s journey into eCommerce. 


Being a part of the e-commerce world can often make you feel like you are a small fish swimming in a big pond. But there are organizations out there that can give your small business a voice, and at the same time empower you to grow and scale your business and revenues. Yoni Mazor of PrimeTalk discusses these organizations and the benefits that they can provide to you and your business.


In today’s episode, PrimeTalk has teamed up with Melissa Simonson, the General Manager of Empowery, an innovative non-profit co-operative geared specifically towards helping and empowering e-commerce sellers in any type of marketplace. Empowery works with entrepreneurs to help them perform financially better, they influence marketplace decision-makers for the benefit of entrepreneurs, and basically, help e-commerce sellers remain independent through a sense of community.


Melissa Simonson discusses her very interesting full-circle journey of starting her career at her brother’s business to working with her brother again on this non-profit venture. So if you’re an e-commerce seller feeling like you’re in too deep and you need some guidance, then this episode is for you!


Learn more at Empowery.


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 Melissa Simonson. Melissa is the general manager of Empowery, which is a leading co-op for e-commerce sellers. So a co-op is a kind of innovation in the e-commerce space. So we’re gonna elaborate more about it as we fall into the episode. But in the meantime, Melissa, welcome to the show. 


Melissa Simonson 0:29

Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.


Yoni Mazor 0:31

Our pleasure, really. So today’s episode is really going to be all about the Melissa Simonson story. So you’re going to share with us you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where’d you grow up? Where did you go to school? How’d you begin your professional career and you know, stations of your life until we hit to the now? So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.


Melissa Simonson 0:51

 Okay, I’m excited to do it. So you want me to just begin and just?


Yoni Mazor 0:54

Yeah, start from the beginning. Where are you? And where were you born for example?


Melissa Simonson 0:58

Well, I was actually born in Germany. So my dad was in the army. And so when, when I was born, we were just about to move from Germany and my family had… there are nine kids in my family. And so


Yoni Mazor 1:14

Hold on, you’re speeding, you’re speeding. Alright, so you’re born in Germany, where Frankfurt? Munich? Which part? Which area? Do you remember? Landstuhl…and was this is an army base or an Air Force Base? 


Melissa Simonson 1:27

I guess it was an army base.


Yoni Mazor 1:29

And what was the major general? He was like, General MacArthur or something?


Melissa Simonson 1:34

Not so famous as that I think!


Yoni Mazor 1:37

He invaded Europe, or is this something that like legacy from the War of the Second World War where the United States really established itself as a, you know, a power? That, you know, make sure the pieces have been kept, especially in Germany. So I guess he was in the army, and that led to him living there for how many years? Do you know?


Melissa Simonson 1:57

Yeah. So um, I think we lived there for maybe two or three years. I actually was born there. So I only lived there for one year, and then we moved to the States. We moved back to the States after that. 


Yoni Mazor 2:12

So when you moved to the States, where’d you guys move to? 


Melissa Simonson 2:13

Washington State. 


Yoni Mazor 2:14

Washington State, Seattle area, or Tacoma?


Melissa Simonson 2:16

Yeah. So we actually used to live in Carnation, which is kind of like the Redmond area. And that’s actually where some of my older siblings, that was where they went to high school. You know, that was really where they grew up. And so that’s why, Steve Simonson, and my oldest brother, ended up there in the Seattle area and why I travel there’s so much.


Yoni Mazor 2:34

Got it. So Steve Stephenson is the oldest in the family. Also very well known figure in the e-commerce world. He’s helping a lot of sellers. And he’s doing wonderful things. Hopefully, maybe we’ll have him on the show as well at some point. But you’re…what’s your number? You’re the very last? Oh, very, very sweet. Very nice. 


Melissa Simonson 2:52

He likes to tell people that he’s number one. And I’m number nine.


Yoni Mazor 2:56

Well, if you flip it, you’re number one, he’s number nine also. Depends on how you look at it. Upside down, right? So you guys, uh, you know, I guess the next question if you guys have nine children, you guys are Catholic or anything like that? 


Melissa Simonson 3:08

Well, my parents were Mormon. Yeah, we were LDS.


Melissa Simonson 3:10

Mormon. Got it, okay. It kind of makes sense. You know, some faiths or streams of faiths have the tendency to have, you know, blessed families and big families. With Orthodox Jews, we have those elements as well. The Mormons, but also I believe the Catholics. So it’s very, very nice. So you grew up in the Seattle, Seattle area, that’s where you basically graduated high school as well?


Melissa Simonson 3:31

Well, actually, by the time I came around, so my high school years were actually in Idaho. That’s why I ended up settling here. I think kind of where you go through your formative years in your youth, that’s where you usually end up. And that’s kind of why I ended up settling back in Idaho is small and, and that’s where I knew everything. It’s where I learned to drive and all that stuff.


Yoni Mazor 3:50

So I guess, what year were you, I guess, how old were you when you moved from Washington State to Idaho?


Melissa Simonson 3:57

I was seven. I was in second grade.


Yoni Mazor 3:59

Okay, so you’re more of an Idaho than anything else, right? As far as you consider yourself, and you graduate, you graduated high school and Idaho? What was the next step for you? 


Yoni Mazor 4:10

Um, I actually got married when I was 18. So life was moving fast. And I couldn’t wait to get started. Like I actually was very impatient to get on with life when I was in high school. I found high school to be kind of a hindrance to moving on. So I ended up in my…early in my senior year getting my GED and starting college. And then about a year later, while I was 18, I got married. I started a family. You know, much later we actually didn’t have kids for about seven years after we got married. And then yeah, so I was in college and we moved to Arizona.


Yoni Mazor 4:49

Did you move to Arizona? Chandler? Phoenix?


Melissa Simonson 4:51

Um, it was the Mesa area.


Yoni Mazor 4:56

All right. I’m not too familiar with that area. But Mesa, how do you spell Mesa?


Melissa Simonson 4:59

M E S A, it’s about 45 minutes from Phoenix.


Yoni Mazor 5:02

Oh Mesa, as a table in Spanish. Very cool. All right. So let’s touch years a little bit. So what was the year that you moved into Arizona? And what were you doing there? What was the trigger for the move?


Melissa Simonson 5:12

So I have some family in Arizona, we wanted to let my ex-husband, who I had just married, he wanted to go to school for like technology stuff. And there’s a great tech school in Arizona. And since I had some family there, we thought that would be a good place to land. So we moved down there, and we had a series of unfortunate events, we had a couple of cars break down. And it was almost impossible for him to get to school and register. And so it was… it kind of was not the best of all situations, but you kind of have to figure it out as you go when you’re that age.


Yoni Mazor 5:42

Yeah, life is unexpected, you know, challenges, hopefully, that you overcome them. So what was the year you guys moved to Arizona? Let’s make it a baseline.


Melissa Simonson 5:51

That was 2003. 


Yoni Mazor 5:53

2003, you moved to Arizona. You know, your husband back then he’s in school. And what were you doing? What was your trajectory? Were you working? Or were you in school? 


Melissa Simonson 6:02

Yeah, at that time, when I was 18, I actually worked for Steve’s company. He had an online flooring store. And so I was able to work remotely. 


Yoni Mazor 6:10

Online what store flooring? 


Melissa Simonson 6:12

Flooring store. Yeah.


Yoni Mazor 6:13

So you buy the floors? Right? The tiles or something?


Melissa Simonson 6:16

Yeah, carpet and like floor tiles and all kinds of stuff. Yeah.


Yoni Mazor 6:20

Alright. So in the e-commerce game since 2003, you can say?


Melissa Simonson 6:23

Sure, I would say, Yeah, I was at the stage where it wasn’t.


Yoni Mazor 6:30

You’re in the industry. I’m not sure what you’re doing yet in the industry, but you’re at least there. So what were you doing for the company? 


Melissa Simonson 6:35

So I made sure that all of the products that were being sold had the proper installation instructions, the warranties, and so I contacted manufacturers to make sure that those were listed appropriately. And also, if we needed to change anything on the listings, if we had a complaint come in that said, you know, the picture is incorrect, it looks blue, it actually came out, you know, it’s a teal color, then I would make changes on the listing. And so at that time, you had to know HTML and stuff to be able to make changes to a listing. And a whole team of programmers if you needed something more intricate than a quick HTML change.


Yoni Mazor 7:06

So nice. That’s good dabbling. So you did, you know, customer service, you did product experience, HTML, you know, code, a little bit dabbling, to make sure that you update the web pages. That’s, you know, back in 2003, that’s top-of-the-line stuff back then. And how many years did you stay in that position?


Melissa Simonson 7:24

I think I worked there until I was about 20. So maybe, I started there my final summer traveling to Seattle, which I did every summer when I was in high school. And so it…


Yoni Mazor 7:35

Did you travel to Seattle for the family? To visit you mean?


Melissa Simonson 7:37

Yeah, to work for Steve, to visit family.


Yoni Mazor 7:40

And the company was based out of the Seattle area?


Melissa Simonson 7:42

That’s right.


Yoni Mazor 7:43

Yeah. 2003 until which year?


Melissa Simonson 7:47

Um, well, so I actually started probably in 2002, and then carried on full time from there. Instead of just doing summers, I was actually just working full time. And so probably from 2017. till I’m sorry, from 2002. Until 2005, maybe.


Yoni Mazor 8:07

So about a three-year run, you were working in e-commerce with the title company. For Steve, your…the oldest brother. And what happened in 2005? What was the next station for you?


Melissa Simonson 8:17

I got a job offer from a company that was with some family that I knew, down in Arizona. And so I changed positions. Because one thing that I think is a tricky situation when you are sort of in the family business, there can be office politics, you want to make sure that you’re not, you know, giving the impression that you’re overpaying your family members or anything. So we often were at the very lowest end of the pay scale, just to make sure everyone felt comfortable with how much we were getting paid.


Yoni Mazor 8:50

So it sounds like you guys were very cautious about nepotism. So you know, there’s a meritocracy. So whether your family or not, you start from the bottom, you got to work your way up. But was it just you and Steven in the company or the whole entire family, what was the structure?


Melissa Simonson 9:04

So two of my brothers actually also worked there at the time, I had a brother-in-law that worked there at the time, and then everyone else was just, you know, just regular hires. There are maybe 35 or 40 people that worked in the office.


Yoni Mazor 9:16

So though, I mean, the whole company, about 30 to 40 people?


Melissa Simonson 9:18

That was the main office, there was also a call center in the Philippines with maybe 80 people.


Yoni Mazor 9:24

Got it. Wow, that’s a pretty impressive setup to have that back, you know, in 2002. Yeah, pretty good. All right. Great. So, you realized, alright, so there are some meritocracy and family politics. Let’s try to pivot into I guess a new fresh surrounding. This is 2005. And what was the position?


Melissa Simonson 9:41

Yeah, so because of that, I wanted to make sure I didn’t put him in an awkward position and I was offered a job that was a better pay scale for, you know, being a new family, you know, starting a new family. So I worked for a home builder. And it was a great job. I worked with one of my brother-in-law’s and it was a really good experience. And I was good at what I did.  My ex-husband…


Yoni Mazor 10:03

What did you do for them though?


Melissa Simonson 10:07

Um. I was kind of like the liaison. So there would be people working out in the field. And they would be completing jobs. And they might have questions for, you know, the main office of what was intended to be done or like a service provider would come in and do like the plumbing or something. And they needed to have some questions answered. So I’d put them all in touch with each other and make sure that they knew what they were supposed to do.


Yoni Mazor 10:29

Got it. So you’re clutching everything for the construction company? And this is in the Mesa area? Mesa, Arizona?


Melissa Simonson 10:34

Yes, yeah, it was actually the Mesa Gilbert area. And they had a bunch of different subdivisions. Very successful company for quite a while.


Yoni Mazor 10:42

Got any special projects you want to mention, or you remember? Or you guys built the Pentagon or anything like that?


Melissa Simonson 10:48

No. They built very beautiful houses, I would have loved to live in one of them. They were, they’re like the rich and famous houses most of them.


Yoni Mazor 10:56

Okay, so 2005 until which year were you there?


Melissa Simonson 11:00

Probably 2008. Maybe, because 2008, you know, there was a big crash in the housing market. My ex-husband also works for a…so at that time he worked for it was like heavy equipment stuff. So he was repairing the equipment that’s like paving the roads and the…


Yoni Mazor 11:21

Construction, right? In the construction infrastructure world, which took a major hit in 2008.


Melissa Simonson 11:27

So if they don’t need to be painting for houses, then they don’t need the mechanic to fix the machinery. So he got laid off. And then I got laid off. And it was a pretty crazy situation.


Yoni Mazor 11:39

So some…really you guys, felt the full brunt of the economic impact of the subprime meltdown. So you guys were out of work for a few months, a few years? What was the position then?


Melissa Simonson 11:52

Yeah, I know, again, I was kind of impatient to get on with…with when we got…


Yoni Mazor 11:57

You were very impatient with unemployment. Okay, which is a good thing to have.


Melissa Simonson 12:02

So yeah, we had an old truck that I knew was probably not gonna make it back to Idaho, but the kind that people like to fix up. So we sold that, we had some traveling money, we had a little bit in the bank, and I had some family back in Idaho, who was looking around for open apartments and stuff like that. And so we were able to find a place, but the deposit down, and then travel there and move straight at the moment we parked the car. So.


Yoni Mazor 12:25

So you moved back into Idaho? And this is all transpired in 2008?


Melissa Simonson 12:29

Yeah, yeah, that’s right.


Yoni Mazor 12:29

You reacted fairly quickly from Arizona into Idaho, closer to the family, and you landed on a job as well?


Melissa Simonson 12:35

Yeah, I was hired fairly quickly, I got a job working for a doctor’s office. It’s actually a residency, so you know how you have interns who are learning to become proper physicians? This was a family medicine residency, and so I was an executive assistant for the director of the program, so it was sort of a doctor’s office, and also sort of part of the college because it was a college town.


Yoni Mazor 12:59

Wow. Alright, so what was it like for you? and How many years did you do that?


Melissa Simonson 13:04

I did that for about two or three years, I think.


Yoni Mazor 13:07

Something about the 36 months that you have over there. It’s like a repetitive thing, you did 36 months with the tile company with Steve, 36 with the construction, and another about 24 to 36 with the medical office and being an executive assistant. But what was it like for you over there? What were, you know, effectively what we’re doing all day, just clutching, again, all the schedule, you know, all the patients coming in and out?


Melissa Simonson 13:31

No, I really didn’t do anything on the medical side of things. I handled things with the residents to make sure that they’re getting the education that they need. So I was hosting events as well. So there’s a lot of things that you have to set up so that they’re getting the credit that they need in order to graduate from the medical program. And so I was more on the education side of things, the event coordination side of things. And then I would also coordinate the interview season. So when they’re bringing in the new interns, and we’re selecting, there’s like this matching process we have to do and it’s a very painstaking season.


Yoni Mazor 14:02

So matchmaking, right? Professional matchmaking. That’s pretty, pretty interesting. Because I guess it might, these are, you know, might have been some sprouts to what you’re doing now with Empowery, which we’re going to get to soon. So I can, I guess, since the elements a little bit. Alright so, 2008 until like 2010 or 11 you were there? 


Melissa Simonson 14:19

Oh, sure. Yeah, that sounds about right. 


Yoni Mazor 14:21

Alright. What was the next station after that?


Melissa Simonson 14:24

Let’s see. Oh, my goodness. I’m not even sure. I haven’t even like thinking about that…


Yoni Mazor 14:28

Let’s pull out that resume.


Melissa Simonson 14:31

Weird. Oh, okay. So, um, I worked. I wanted to work from home. Like, again, I’m not a huge fan of going into offices and stuff like that. And I had been spoiled by, you know, the time I was 17 to be able to work remotely. And I really wanted to get back to that because it was so much better for me. And so I actually found a job that was sort of related to the position that I had had where I was doing transcriptions for doctors in the area that I knew and I could do it from home. And so sometimes I could go into the hospital if I needed to, but I can also work from home.


Yoni Mazor 15:04

Were you doing it as a freelance or you’re part of some sort of organization, what was the structure for you?


Melissa Simonson 15:09

Um, no, it was I was actually hired by the hospital. So I worked for them.


Yoni Mazor 15:12

Got it. So the hospital said, this is a flexible work arrangement in terms of physicality, you can work from home. And I guess for you was a need. So because you have children, you want to raise them, you want to be there for them. And make sure you in the house…


Melissa Simonson 15:25

Uh, I didn’t at that time.


Yoni Mazor 15:27

Oh, so what was compelling for you to be at home, for that position before having children?


Melissa Simonson 15:33

I am an introvert, I prefer to you know, I prefer to, to work from home.


Yoni Mazor 15:40

Nice, the comfort of your home. That’s, that’s pretty good. Because on the one hand, I see that you did matchmaking, which is pretty amazing, you know, with professionals. So you have to be very, very good at understanding the needs of both sides and parties and make that match. But essentially, you were doing the same thing with all the transcripts, but they just do it remotely. So I guess there’s a bit of more peace of mind to actually complete the task and work because you’re diving into the writings and you know, the written content of, you know, individuals. So how long did you stay in that position?


Melissa Simonson 16:07

You know, actually…


Yoni Mazor 16:09

You’re still working in it? Don’t tell me you’re still doing it. You’re still doing it? 


Melissa Simonson 16:12

No, no, this was actually less time than my previous pattern.


Yoni Mazor 16:16

Oh, less than 36 months? Ok good. 


Melissa Simonson 16:18

Yeah. So this one was interesting because a private company bought out our community hospital. And they actually outsourced all of the transcriptions, the radiology, a bunch of different departments. And so like entire departments just got laid off all at once. And that, incidentally, is when I found out I was pregnant as well.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *