In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Shannon Roddy, the founder, and CEO of Marketplace Seller Courses joins us. Shannon discusses selling on amazon from producing films, and his journey into e-commerce. Marketplace Seller Courses is the leading educational platform for Amazon sellers.
Being in the Amazon marketplace can be a confusing experience for small sellers and big brand sellers alike. It seems that since Amazon is always changing there are always a million things that you as an Amazon seller need to keep up with. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk talks about a solution that can help any sized Amazon business get ahead and learn the ins and outs of the marketplace in order to achieve greater success.
In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Shannon Roddy, the found and CEO of Amazon Marketplace Seller Courses, an educational platform that provides comprehensive training and coaching to Amazon sellers. Amazon Marketplace Seller Courses helps innovators and brand owners in the Amazon community protect the integrity of their products and thus increase product sales.
Shannon Roddy shares his incredible journey from an internship at a homeless shelter in LA, to the wilds of East Africa, to the challenges of following his own dream of success in building a business he could be proud of. So if you’re an Amazon seller who is puzzled by the inner workings of Amazon, or you need help protecting your brand, then this episode is for you!
Learn more about Marketplace Seller Courses!
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Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m really excited to have a really special unique person. I’m having Shannon Roddy. Shannon is the founder and CEO of Marketplace Seller Courses, which is a leading educational platform for Amazon sellers. So Shannon, welcome to the show.
Shannon Roddy 0:24
Thank you so much for having me. I know it’s been several months trying to get on and I’m glad to be able to make the time to be on.
Yoni Mazor 0:30
Same here. I’m so happy we are getting this opportunity. So where are you located right now? It seems like you’re next to a volcano?
Shannon Roddy 0:35
Yes, yeah. So this is just my, my background. This is Mount Oldoinyo Lengai. It’s in Kenya, and it’s Maasai for “the mountain of God”. My friend actually took that picture. And we’ll get a little bit into the backstory later. But it’s just this beautiful photo, it actually spans eight feet of my office. And I just knew I was like, I want to wake up and go into my office every single day and have that inspiration. So I’m currently in Atlanta, but highlighted by a beautiful backdrop from Kenya.
Yoni Mazor 1:05
Beautiful. So yeah, if you’re listening to this episode, you know, feel free to tune into our YouTube channel and watch the video. Really a beautiful picture. I thought you kind of bought it somewhere. But if you’re seeing a friend took a photo, and you printed it out like that, it looks amazing. It makes it even more unique and special. So thank you for that. Today’s episode is gonna be all about you. So I guess without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Shannon Roddy 1:25
So I grew up in Chicago, very diverse community environment, learned a lot. I felt like I got a really good sense of the entire country just because there’s so many different people being…
Yoni Mazor 1:38
So this is Chicago suburbs? What’s the name of the show suburb if you wanna give a shout out?
Shannon Roddy 1:41
Yeah, Evanston. ETHS is where I went to high school, it was a great place to grow up. And I had a sort of a thriving childhood, always super active, you know, doing everything I could athletically and wound up going to college in Colorado. Probably middle of high school, I discovered that I really had a passion and a joy for filmmaking. Read every book on filmmaking that I could get my hands on to. In my senior year of high school, I wrote, directed, produced and starred in sounds like, you know, Mel Gibson with Braveheart, an action movie, like a full hour long action movie that we shot off with my parents farm, you know, fight scenes on the back of trucks. And we had, you know, cliff hanging scenes like actually hanging from cliffs. And it was so much fun. But I knew that as much as I wanted to get into film, I really want to get out of the city. And when I saw that you could go to school in the mountains, I was like, I’ve got to do that. So I actually wound up going to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, 6500 feet up in the mountains, and spent four years there just in the beautiful nature and outdoors.
Yoni Mazor 2:50
And what do you take at school? What do you learn there?
Shannon Roddy 2:52
I remember, one of my first courses was rhetoric, and I loved it, it was the whole idea of if we’re not learning lessons from history, then the lessons don’t really stick. And if we’re not applying the knowledge that we’re learning, we’re not making great use of it. And so, rhetoric was one of our favorite classes that I took there. And then when I decided, you know, I really wanted to do some more film production. I was trying to get into a course. And he said, Well, you have to be an English communication major to get this course. So I was like, Okay, hold on, I’ll be right back, I walked down to the office, I declared my major as English communications, came back and enrolled in the course. So that was how I picked my major, but it was pretty much..I was able to do a lot with it just in terms of getting a broad understanding. I loved astronomy. I loved physics, and psychology. And so I actually think for me, the goal is always about learning as much as I could about life in its broadest sense as I could, because I knew that I could learn the specifics of whatever job I did in the future on the job. But I wanted that life lesson, sort of the well-roundedness, that for me was more important, just like I felt like high school, what I got was a cultural education by being around so many different people, that was more important than just learning any particular subject.
Yoni Mazor 4:15
So you’re saying for you, you know, educational institutions, aka high school and college for you, it wasn’t just about, you know, absorbing information data and move on. So it’s that, you know, it needs to be a bit more than just being technical. So you absorb the culture and whatever other values you can really populate into your system and basket of values. You adopted that which is a good mindset I would say to anybody going to school right now, you know, just realize there’s more opportunity for you if you just appreciate the spot that you’re in and the environment that you’re in. Alright, very cool. So let’s touch years a little bit. So what year did you I guess, graduate and then I guess, dived into the business world or professional world?
Shannon Roddy 4:58
Yeah, so I graduated ‘03, I know I don’t look it…baby face, perhaps. But I graduated no three. And at that point, like I said, I was very excited about film. And I decided I’m gonna go to LA and get into the film business. And one thing people who know me know,
Yoni Mazor 5:18
Acting or directing, producing?
Shannon Roddy 5:20
I wanted to be behind the scenes. I wanted to produce, I wanted to be behind the scenes I wanted to create, I think that’s always been sort of, again, a core passion of mine is, I love creating things. And in particular, I love creating things that other people can enjoy. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a course, or a product, or, you know, entertainment, that’s kind of always been a part of my DNA, so.
Yoni Mazor 5:42
As long as it resonates positively with, you know, the audience.
Shannon Roddy 5:45
Yeah, if you can make people laugh, or cry or get excited or be engaged or, you know, make better decisions about their lives, like anything that will help people. It’s always sort of been a driving force for me.
Yoni Mazor 5:57
So you hit Hollywood and what happened?
Shannon Roddy 5:59
I hit Hollywood, you know, and again, I just decided this is what I’m gonna do. I had a laundry bag of clothes. And I had a lamp and a sleeping bag. And that was it. I didn’t have a job when I moved out there. But I had a friend of mine who ran an internship program at a homeless shelter. And so he said, Well, why don’t you come out and run the internship program, and you can stay at the homeless shelter for free? Well, you know, it was…I mean, you talk about a life immersive experience, I lived in a homeless shelter for three and a half, almost four months, in the worst part of LA I mean, literally, it was at Fifth and San Pedro it is the most dangerous street in Los Angeles. Really, honestly, it was one of the most lonely times in my life, because I didn’t know anybody else there, I didn’t have any mode of transportation, I was completely broke. It was a really character-building time to discover, really who I was when nobody else was around me, who was Shannon? And understanding that I really felt like I was designed this way. And I don’t have to be like anybody else, I don’t have to try to be like anybody else, or do what everybody else is doing, I can be me. And that’s good enough. And I feel like, I sort of feel like, you know, Wolverine, where they sort of stripped him down to the core. And then like, they put this titanium or whatever on his bones that was sort of like, I felt like that was sort of my experience of, you kind of get to the core of who you are. And then you get sort of like super titanium plated. And once you come out of that, nobody can tear you down. Nobody can tell you you can’t do something. Because going through that situation. You learn to trust your instincts and who you are, and gain confidence in something that’s not based on anything that anybody else is saying. I mean, I had no outside visible success for you know, for example, and the first job, quote unquote, that I got, you know, well because the internship was unpaid, I wasn’t even getting paid. I’m living in a homeless shelter, I had no money. I got a job part time working at a parking lot, a couple blocks away. And I remember sitting in the parking lot one day, and I decided that I wanted a definition. …
Yoni Mazor 8:14
Let’s just remind everybody, you’re you know, you’re 21-22 after college, you got your college degree, English majors last, you know, film, and Hollywood, and you live in a homeless shelter, and not as a homeless as some sort of a staff, non paid intern, and you’re sitting in a parking lot, and I guess in the booth…
Shannon Roddy 8:33
Making minimum wage.
Yoni Mazor 8:34
Minimum wage, collecting tickets, and what’s in your mind, at that point?
Shannon Roddy 8:37
I wanted a definition of success, that wouldn’t exclude me from it. And I decided that my definition of success was good character acted upon, that if you had good character and acted upon, a lot of people are like nice people, they’re moral people, but I feel like there’s a lack of proactive tivity of actually doing anything. And if you want to engage or be, you know, an entrepreneur or successful, you have to take the initiative, you can’t wait for somebody else to tell you, you need to go start a company or you need to go create this or you need to go, you know, get in shape or do whatever it is. And so for me, it was good character acted upon. Because I think in our society, there’s a lot of people that have the display of success, but don’t actually have the character. And so for me, if you made a million dollars, but you did it unethically that’s not success. And so again, it kind of got away from the flash and the bling and the titles and the suits and the cars and the vacations like and honestly, it’s a challenge sometimes to remind myself, hey, Shannon, that’s your definition of success. And even if things don’t look on the outside, like they’re working out, you have to believe that if you maintain good character, if you’re honest, if you have integrity, if you treat people right, if you do the right thing and you have loyalty and a good heart and act upon that, things will work out and that will be your success. So this
Yoni Mazor 10:07
These are your fundamentals no matter what. Even though you’re not going to get sidetracked or blinded by immediate instant success, which is based on, you know, crooked things or unstable things, which might be very pleasing on the eye, but maybe not long term value, no real essence or core values in it. So that’s good. That’s good for the heart, it’s good for the soul and it’s good for long term success and a good piece of mindset, but, okay, so you know, parking lot, but what was the next step? Okay, so you’re thinking about success?
Shannon Roddy 10:33
I want to work in film, I want to work in film and, you know, my friend says, You know what, there’s a small film company that wants to come in and shoot a movie about a homeless guy. Why don’t you work with him?
Yoni Mazor 10:44
Was that the Jamie Foxx movie?
Shannon Roddy 10:45
No, I was like, I don’t want to. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 10:48
He was like a violin player, like a gifted one from Juilliard.
Shannon Roddy 10:51
I didn’t even know if it came out.
Yoni Mazor 10:53
Shannon Roddy 10:54
It was a really small film, low budget. And I was like, I don’t want to work with these guys. I want to work with Spielberg, like, you know, I want to work with the, you know, A+, you know, players, you know, the big studio films.
Yoni Mazor 11:03
Or as Amazon would call it A+ content, right?
Shannon Roddy 11:06
Yeah, exactly. So they wound up coming in the small film crew. And the first day he said, You know, I need you to show these guys around. None of the other staff are available to do it. And so I’m walking down the hall and this guy, Dave Angus…
Yoni Mazor 11:19
These guys are low budget, but they’re paying you correct?
Shannon Roddy 11:21
No, no. I’m just as a representative of the homeless shelter because they’re just using it as a location.
Yoni Mazor 11:26
Oh ok, they’re coming to your facility to do a low budget movie, as part of your internship.
Shannon Roddy 11:31
Yeah, exactly. So Dave Angus this is the first day, he’s walking down the hall and he leans to me, and he says, this is the first night we’re doing the walkthrough, he said, I don’t usually do stuff this well. He said, I’m just doing it as a favor for a friend. I usually work for Spielberg. And I’m just thinking like, Yeah, right. Like, you know?
Yoni Mazor 11:49
Big Hollywood talk, everybody works for Spielberg.
Shannon Roddy 11:52
Yeah. So he leaves, I look him up on IMDB. And he’s done. Spielberg’s last several movies, he did AI and then he did like Minority Report. He did Gone in 60 Seconds. Like he’s got this amazing resume, and I’m like, Oh, my gosh, this guy’s legit. And he’d mentioned he said, You know, I actually have this project coming up in the fall. I’d love to have you be a part of it. So I go back to him and Jeffery Schwartz, who is a second and I was like, I would love to work with you guys. And they said, Yeah, we’d love to have you. And through that process, he wound up having a Jeep that he was giving away to charity, he’s like, if you need it, I will give it to you.
Yoni Mazor 12:29
The Jeep, like the vehicle?
Shannon Roddy 12:30
Gave me an old 82 Jeep or 92 Jeep Cherokee. And so within a period of six weeks, I went from living in a homeless shelter, and working in a minimum wage job, and it sounds like a Hollywood story too good to be true. But it happened and to all of a sudden I have a car. And I’m working on set with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones on a Spielberg film up in Palmdale, California. And it was like, overnight, and it was like, I felt like the glove fit. It was like, Oh my gosh, like this done. I was made to do you know, nobody gets to work for Spielberg on their first film. I mean, that’s crazy. People work for years and never get the opportunity. The really cool redemptive part of that, Yoni, is that the last night of the shoot, we shot downtown LA, we turned summer, you know, Los Angeles into winter New York. And so they actually made a New York taxi cabs and they had like snow and, you know, everything. We base camped in the parking lot where I used to work. And I went to my old boss. And I remember at the time, the first week, he hired me, he’s like, you have a college degree, are you sure you want to work here? And I said, You know, I need the money. And he said, Well, I’m gonna make you a supervisor, I said I don’t want to be a supervisor. And he said, Why? And I said, because I want to be in film. And as passionately as I have to say yes to that, I have to say no to everything else. And he looked at me very sincerely and said, That’s why you’re gonna make it. And it was so cool to be able to go back that night, and I popped in the office, and I’ve got, you know, my radio on and the PA, you know, gods and call sheets and everything. And I was like, I did it, you know, I did it. And I do think that is an entrepreneurial principle or takeaway, that if you really want to do something, you have to say no to everything else as passionately as you say yes to the thing that you want to pursue. And people would say, like, they would offer me promotions, and I would say no to them. They’re like, why don’t you want a promotion? I was like, because that’s not what I want to do. And if I get a promotion, I’m probably more likely to get comfortable with the increased pay and the salary. But I have to say no to that, as passionately, as I say yes,the one thing that I do want to do, and that I think has been another key staple that I’ve carried throughout my life, and sometimes it means being broke and not having a lot of money. And that’s okay.
Yoni Mazor 14:51
Yeah, definitely a tough route. But as long as you’re laser focused, and that spirit carries you forward, you know, and the highs and lows, you know, and you’re happy. You know, they say, who is rich is the one who is always happy with what he has. So that’s a very strong approach. Okay, take me to the next step.
Shannon Roddy 15:09
I met my wife and got married, and my beautiful bride. And so thank you. So it was 2007. We were both working entertainment jobs, crazy hours. And we said, You know what, let’s take a step back. Let’s just be married for a couple years, we only knew each other for five months before we got engaged, and then another five months before we got married. So pretty fast, relatively, we decided to quit our entertainment jobs. And so for a short time, I started working freelance. My wife and I had just sort of felt a sense of restlessness. And we’re like, we’re just going through life every single week, the same, you know, day after day, and we wanted something different. And she had actually been to Africa. A couple years back, the first year, we got married, we decided to move to Africa. We had friends who ran an organization, they’re a small NGO, or non government organization. And we raised money from friends and family and supporters. And we spent a year and a half working with their organization. They work with…
Yoni Mazor 16:13
All of Africa or a special country or?
Shannon Roddy 16:15
East Africa, in Tanzania and Kenya, primarily. And so hence where the photo comes from.
Yoni Mazor 16:23
Ah so your friend who give you this photo is actually his. Yeah, yeah, from Kenya he’s a native, he’s not like a tourist that came from the States and boom, landed a picture and gave it to you?
Shannon Roddy 16:33
Exactly. So he was born there. And so we worked with them for a year and a half. And they had this amazing project with the Maasai women to do beading, they do incredible bead work.
Yoni Mazor 16:47
So let’s see, you said Masa woman, this is a, I suppose, a tribe in Kenya?
Shannon Roddy 16:51
That’s correct. And so they’re right on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. I mean, just just the life in the story. So you imagine being out miles away from sort of civilization.
Yoni Mazor 17:02
Western civilization, yeah.
Shannon Roddy 17:04
And then, you know, you’ve got huts, and you’ve got these sort of Bramble bushes that you encircle, essentially, your village or mini village. And, you know, husbands will have multiple wives, and that’s just part of the culture. And they’ll raise animals and raise families and, but the women were able to be these incredible products, they would have everything from jewelry to, you know, Christmas ornaments, that kind of thing. And they were able to sell them to, you know, Western countries. And, you know, it provided an incredible income for these women. And for women who in that culture were typically viewed as second class, it really elevated them. And all of a sudden, they were invited to the tribal meetings with the men and they were able to send their kids to school and get food and water. I mean, for me, I get really emotional about it. Because the impact of entrepreneurship is so powerful that you understand it’s not just about making money, it’s about…
Yoni Mazor 18:02
Making, improving life right?
Shannon Roddy 18:04
Making a significant impact in life.
Yoni Mazor 18:06
So what was your role with the women, with the tribe, just so I get some context here on your involvement.
Shannon Roddy 18:10
Yeah so my wife, my wife primarily worked with the orders. So they would send out raw beads, and then they would get product back and there was kind of like, no standardization in terms of what they sent them and how they got it back. And you know, we get products that are all different sizes. You had like they would do angels, and then they would do Christmas trees. And then sometimes we’d get Christmas trees with angel wings on them, this just kind of
Yoni Mazor 18:38
Interesting variations. Yeah, so you guys helped them standardize their productions, right?
Shannon Roddy 18:43
Exactly. And I did a lot of office work, I trained a lot of their office staff to help them use more Excel spreadsheets, so they could reconcile everything faster, get more accurate information. It allowed it to scale. And when they started, they had only 12 women. I forget how many they had when we first started. But at that point, by the time we left you they had over 100 women who were employed by this project. And we did not account for that whole, they had grown before that. But the project as a whole, we help bring some standardization, organization and clarification to the organization. It takes some of the administrative impact off of their backs, as well as training some of the Tanzanian staff that were there helping run the office so that they could go do the leadership work that they really felt empowered to do.
Yoni Mazor 19:32
Wow. That’s an incredible experience I bet. And you this for a year and a half correct?
Shannon Roddy 19:36
We did it for..Yeah, we’re there for 15 months. So…
Yoni Mazor 19:39
And this is with pay for you guys or?
Shannon Roddy 19:41
So we raised money to cover our base costs, but we were not making any money. We
Yoni Mazor 19:46
Yeah, I’m saying you’re, basically, there as a part of this mission. You had a way to take care of your own income needs.
Shannon Roddy 19:51
Yeah, I mean, we got food and board. We weren’t putting away any money into savings or anything like that.
Yoni Mazor 19:58
You weren’t living the big money, high life, entrepreneurship.
Shannon Roddy 20:03
Back to the definition of success, that’s what was important.
Yoni Mazor 20:07
Yeah your values. Once they are your core values of, you know, it’s authentic, it’s important, it’s real, it makes a difference. It makes an impact and it’s helping other people’s lives. That’s valuable too. There’s no…money cannot buy that experience with that connection or that authentic feeling of support, help and progress to humanity, right? On a very general level. But okay, take me next. What was…How come you left, for example? Such a great impact, such a great experience, what was the next station for you and why?
Shannon Roddy 20:37
It was always for a limited time, we agreed initially to 12 months, they asked us to stay for an additional three. And at that point, we moved back to Atlanta, and I had no job lined up. I remember going in,
Yoni Mazor 20:49
Atlanta because you have family there?
Shannon Roddy 20:50
Yeah, my wife is there. It’s the shortest, shortest flight from Tanzania to Atlanta. So, you know, we f