In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA – We dive into the Amazon FBA entrepreneurial spark of Carlos Alvarez. Carlos is an Amazon Seller and the founder of Wizards of Amazon, which is the largest meetup group for Amazon sellers in the world. Wizards of Amazon is focused on bringing you content to push your online business to the next level.
Carlos Alvarez has more than 20 years of combined experience as a successful Amazon retailer and as a consultant and marketing expert for online sellers. He entered the Amazon Marketplace when it was in its infancy, and quickly mastered non-traditional marketing and selling strategies while organically achieving first-page rankings. Since the late 90s, he has built, invested, and sold several brands in many Amazon categories including grocery, apparel, kitchen & dining, beauty, electronics, supplements, coffee, and patio & garden. Now, Alvarez teaches others how to achieve success selling online.
Alvarez and his team empower online sellers through his consulting agency Blue Bird Marketing Solutions. He is a frequent keynote speaker at conferences and events and was recently appointed as the first City Organizer by Meetup, where he serves as a liaison between Meetup.com and all other Meetup Organizers in Miami.
Alvarez sums up his mission to help online sellers with a quote he heard early on in his career. “New sellers constantly compare their Chapter 1 to another seller’s Chapter 20. They see what other veteran sellers are doing and they judge their success and failures by this benchmark.” His goal is to show sellers a realistic path to success, and how they can enjoy every chapter of their own, unique journey.
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Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I’m really excited to have an amazing, amazing guest in person. I’m having Carlos Alvarez. Carlos is many things. But right now he’s pretty much focused on being an Amazon seller. And he’s also the founder of the Wizards of Amazon. Right? So the Wizards of Amazon is the largest Amazon sellers Meetup group in the world and in mondo, the ones that you do Spanish. There’s also a Spanish connection there with a community that Carlos also helps to support. But all about that in the episode itself. Carlos, welcome to the show.
Carlos Alvarez 0:40
What’s up, man? Thank you for having me on. I’m glad we’re finally making this happen.
Yoni Mazor 0:43
Yeah, I was really looking forward to this. So thank you so much for your time. Yeah, let’s dive into it. So you’re gonna share with us today is gonna be the story and the episode of Carlos Alvarez, you’re gonna share with all of us who are you? Where were you born? Where did you grow up? How’d you begin your professional career all the way to where you are today with e-commerce. So I guess without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
Carlos Alvarez 1:03
Let’s do it, man. I don’t. First of all, let me say this, I don’t have any professional I guess you’d say or degrees are anything to back up what, what, what I do. I’ve been a full-time seller at this point on Amazon for 15 years, and I have a lot of other businesses that I’ve funded. You know, with Amazon profits over the years ever since getting that first like early suspension letter like 15 years ago, I was just like, I don’t want to be an email away from this happening. So I started out a lot of unrelated businesses sort of as a diversification. I don’t even think I knew the word back then. But it was like diversification in my mind that you know, I’m gonna be able to pay my mortgage if Amazon stops, and plus I had no idea 15 years ago, plus years ago, that Amazon would still be relevant today, right?
Yoni Mazorr 1:58
Yeah. Right. Yeah, that’s the mindset back at the beginning of the first millennium, but before that, let’s take it back. Let’s take it back. Where were you born? Where’d you grow up? But give us some context? You the person, the human the…
Carlos Alvarez 2:25
Yeah, definitely, awesome. Born and raised in Miami, Florida. Southwest Miami I think it was like an unincorporated area at the time. So it didn’t even have a name. And as a matter of fact, now as an adult, I live in another part of Miami which is West Tamiami that most people don’t know the name of as well. You were recently here. West Tamiami. Something like that.
Yeah. West Tamiami? Kind of a funky flow. But yeah.
Carlos Alvarez 2:50
So no, as a kid, I, you know, I just, I pretty much did everything that you shouldn’t do. As a kid. I was a rebel. Started, you know, skipping school in fourth grade. Just nowhere fast.
Yoni Mazor 3:04
What were your parents doing, for example, was a household like?
Carlos Alvarez 3:07
My father was a public servant. My, my mom was a stay-at-home mom.
Yoni Mazor 3:13
They were born in the States or were they, immigrants?
Carlos Alvarez 3:15
My father was born in Cuba and my mother in the United States, but her side of the family is German.
Yoni Mazor 3:23
So did she speak any German at all?
Carlos Alvarez 3L:36
Or? No, no, it wasn’t like that. Now, just English, just English. And she attempted Spanish and it didn’t happen. But so so in that sense, my childhood was just that, you know, skipping school being a rebel.
Yoni Mazor 3:37
But the one of our let’s say, your parents were nothing special in terms of the world of entrepreneurship. They were public servants, your father? Yeah, Mom, you didn’t absorb anything, at least from that angle in terms of being an entrepreneur and, and taking our ventures anything like that.
Carlos Alvarez 3:50
Exactly. Yeah, there was no, there was no any of that. If anything, I could say from my father’s side, it was just supportive of trying new things, and it’s okay to fail and that sort of thing. And I didn’t even realize it at the time, but I think that was actually very important. For me growing up,
Yoni Mazor 4:07
but confidence is crucial, especially at a young age, but Okay, so growing up, did you do anything entrepreneurial, or just be focused on being a rebel?
Carlos Alvarez 4:16
I was the rebel and I actually, didn’t see it as entrepreneurial at the time, but I was the type that would, you know, get a hold of candy and then sell the candy in school like blow pops for 25 cents. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, I would do the lemonade stand. I would look for like paper routes to deliver papers. I was always trying to wash cars, a lawnmower anything just to go out there and make money.
Yoni Mazor 4:41
What would you know with the money when you got the money when he’s finally made it?
Carlos Alvarez 4:45
When I first started I would just go get snacks and sweets and stuff that we couldn’t afford in the house or that my parents didn’t want me to have and I would just sneak and go get it with my own money later on. I realized that I could make more money if I had more sales. So I would get more blow pops and I could sell and I give them to somebody else on the other side of school and I’d be like, hey, look, sell these, and I’ll give you 50% of the profits, which is a lot, but here are 50% of the profits.
Yoni Mazor 5:16
You did. I’m in a franchise on the candy. So when you’re young, it’s pretty interesting.
Carlos Alvarez 5:20
Yeah. And then the lawnmowers and stuff. I was just like, well, you make a pretty good dollar amount mowing somebody’s lawn. And usually, people pay you pretty good. If you’re a kid mowing the lawn. So I decided I wanted to get more mowers I think we got up to like four lawnmowers, which is a pretty big deal we’re talking about I was like, nine.
Yoni Mazor 5:39
Nine years old? I don’t even have one. You have four on the back then. This is what the 80s or something?
Carlos Alvarez 5:43
Yeah, yeah, the 80s 85. So I did a lot of that. Nothing, nothing really materialized into anything. Major or no businesses or anything like that. I stopped going to school in pretty much the sixth grade, sixth or seventh grade.
Yoni Mazor 6:05
Completely. You never went back?
Carlos Alvarez 6:09
No, I never, I never returned, the only time I walked into a classroom again, was as I started succeeding in my business, which we’ll get to, I, I felt, you know, all these other people around me have college degrees like I need to go get a degree. So I made a few failed attempts at going to a local college. And, and just feeling very, very out of place, and just left.
Yoni Mazor 6:32
Got it, like a fish that’s out of the water? But so when you’re in sixth grade, it seems very soft age like you’re what 12 or 13 you stop completely? What pushed you to stop? How is that acceptable with your parents? For example, take us a little bit there.
Carlos Alvarez 6:46
Well, it wasn’t acceptable. My parents, I don’t know how deep you want me to go into that. But I come from an extraordinarily abusive home.
Yoni Mazor 6:53
And where regards, I mean that I mean, you don’t have to over…
Carlos Alvarez 6:56
Mentally, spiritually, physically, sexually, and just in every different way imaginable. It was like a very abusive home father, workaholic. But he did try to instill good stuff, Mom, you know, total wrong way. So no, it wasn’t acceptable to them. But it also wasn’t, I wasn’t on their radar.
Yoni Mazor 7:12
You got it wasn’t a top 10 list of issues to be concerned about.
Carlos Alvarez 7:15
Right. So I mean, I walked out of the fourth grade and walked into a store and I just walked out with fishing supplies, and I didn’t have any money going in. So I obviously didn’t pay for it. And I just walked out and tried to go fishing. So no, it wasn’t acceptable. And the school would call my parents and nothing came of it. I think I got grounded twice. And then it was kind of like, do what I want to do occasionally get grounded. So, so yeah, so I just did that. Eventually, though, and I think the first biggest turning point for me is I’m now in my, like early 30s. Which, which seems like a big jump. But oh, at 16 I wind up getting my GED. I think a lot was self-discipline. Yeah, self-discipline, and it stems from I tried to get a job. And they told me I thought it was a McDonald’s or Burger King. And they told me, we’ll hire you, but we’re gonna pay you this. If you have a high school diploma, we’ll pay you this higher amount. And so I told him, I was like, I don’t have a high school diploma, like, but I don’t even know how to go get one at that point. So somebody mentioned the GED, I looked into it. And I was like, awesome night, some night school. And let’s do it. I got this really thick book that you could, that pretty much gave you a prep test, that you could pass the test in this book, you could pass the test. Any areas that I didn’t pass, I just found more books in the library and I studied them and then I passed the test.
Yoni Mazor 8:38
Sharp so it pushed you to get your education independently like that because it was a business decision. It’s pretty strong for this one, it makes money. I’m on it. It’s done. Executed.
Carlos Alvarez 8:51
Right. And yeah, I got the job. It was Burger King. So I got the job at Burger King. They paid me the lower amount until I got my GED. I got my GED. The time it took maybe, you know, 10 months. By the time I got hired to the GED, I had already been crushing it in Burger King. And I had already gotten like these little mini promotions, a lot more responsibility, and had already given me pay bumps. So when I came in with the GED, I was already getting paid more than what a person normally would just because they have a high school diploma. But they were so happy they gave me a little more. I think they gave me like 25 cents more per hour.
Yoni Mazor 9:27
So your 15 or 16 at the time, correct?
Carlos Alvarez 9:30
Yeah, I’m still 16.
Yoni Mazor 9:32
Take us to the year, what year was that?
Carlos Alvarez 9:39
91 ish. Yeah. Yeah. 1991 ish. And then so the next thing of significance for businesses. In my very early 30s. I find myself in a position where I’m working as a dairy clerk in Publix. Delivering subs. Selling cigars at a local cigar shop. And, and I’m also, I have this expensive ex-girlfriend who I think I’m in love with. And I’m trying to like do all these other odd jobs because no matter how much I make, I feel like I don’t have enough to buy her things and impress her. on on on.
Yoni Mazor 10:18
Hold on, hold on, so when you have this now, this ex-girlfriend, how many jobs do you have? Are you holding two or three jobs?
Carlos Alvarez 10:22
I’m holding three jobs. Publix dairy clerk delivering subs and selling cigars. The cigar thing was more of a when you want to come in and sell do it when you don’t, don’t. So not full-time. But I was in there as much as possible. And one of the things another thing around that time that I think was significant was that…
Yoni Mazor 10:45
This was about ten years ago, it sounds about right? This is about, ugh, fast-forwarding, ah from, sixteen, no sixteen you’re about 1991?
Carlos Alvarez 10:54
I’m very, very early 30s. So we’re talking about like 2007 ish, 2008, I think. And I see that the friends I have, or friends of friends and my ex-girlfriend’s friends. They all have these jobs that have you know, 401 K’s attached to them and paid leave. And there’s none of that where I’m working. So I was very ashamed of that. My ex was very ashamed of it when we would go out.
Yoni Mazor 11:25
What was she doing any anything professional she was doing?
Carlos Alvarez 11:28
Looking back at? No one’s ever asked me that. But like looking back, I don’t think it was very I don’t think it was very glamorous. To be honest. It was like an entry-level. Very, very entry-level no certification or prior experience required finance stuff.
Yoni Mazor 11:42
Got it. Okay, I’m saying there’s every coin has another side. So usually, yeah, balance on the context of things. But I know we jumped into 2007 from 1991. But a lot of those 15 years anything worth mentioning, we’re just rolling between our jobs are drifting away.
Carlos Alvarez 11:57
Figuring life out, man. Yeah, figuring life out trying to get my life together.
Yoni Mazor 12:03
But all in the Miami area. Didn’t go outside, didnt travel anywhere, didnt see anything?
Carlos Alvarez 12:08
All over the state of Florida. Yeah, the. So I remember I’d go to like a networking event. And I would see some of her friends and they’d be talking about what they did for a living. And I would, I would just like make up this thing. Like it was a total lie. But it was like something that sounded business sounded really important for business. Just because back then saying eBay or Amazon and it was almost all eBay, was very juvenile like it wasn’t seen as a career path. And my, I was very aware of that, my ex is very aware of that. So I constantly tried to have these like extra hustles to make money. One of those hustles wound up being selling on eBay.
Yoni Mazor 12:57
So once again, three jobs. And then you had another layer of starting to sell stuff on eBay. And this is around where you said 2006 2007 2008 you had that layer of boom, boom, boom e-commerce knocking on your door. At this entry moment.
Carlos Alvarez 13:14
Yeah, so eBay’s exploding. I quickly find myself making more than my sub-delivery route, which is not saying a lot. And I could see that every time I was at, at real work, I was actually making less money because I wasn’t selling online. So every time I would make more than one of the other jobs consistently, like for two weeks, which was consistent to me, I would quit that other job. And, and I very quickly found myself doing this full time. The friends that I did have at the time, my family, who at that point was really just my dad and then his side of the family. They got together. And they were seeing this, this really this transformation. And they wanted to support this like they wanted to see me head in this direction.
Yoni Mazor 14:09
Go back. So, let’s touch the products or the sourcing What do you do for sourcing when eBay came knocking on your door? What did you sell? What was the first thing you started selling and why?
Carlos Alvarez 14:17
First thing was a random thing around the house that I don’t remember what it was. But immediately when it sold I started grabbing like all the books and board games that I wasn’t using or pots and pans that were you know, underneath the counter that…
Yoni Mazor 14:32
You, you you liquidated your assets.
Carlos Alvarez 13:35
Absolutely. And then I started going to garage sales and I just would pack the car until I couldn’t fit anymore and drop it off and then just keep doing that until the sun went down.
Yoni Mazor 14:43
I call this a validation process. When people humans are validating that e-commerce is a real thing. That you bring the supply, there’s built-in demand you got to keep nourishing it feeding it back in there was a bit more simple today. It’s much more elevated and sophisticated, but it’s still the same equation. Supply and demand, you got to find the right way to nourish and feed the demand and you’ll do wonders for yourself economically, also, but Yeah, go ahead. So your family sees that he sees also the validation you already experienced. And what happened?
Carlos Alvarez 15:12
They start using terms like entrepreneur, marketer, online seller, I didn’t hear e-commerce really, I don’t remember hearing e-commerce until later. But they pulled together. Like they must have just gotten together and they’re like, Oh my god, you know, Carlos is gonna, my nickname as a kid was chopper. Which is like I was this, apparently, like, You’re not supposed to eat meat at that age. And I took a bite out of like a pork chop. And then I was like, This chubby kid and they were like, chop. And then it was this cartoon character that was a dog named chopper and it was chop, chop, and, and chopper. So though, so I guess they got together and they’re kind of like choppers, gonna. choppers doing it, like choppers, like heading in the right direction. So they pulled together $81,000 What, what eventually became $81k, more money than I had ever saw in my life. And at the time, and I at the time, I also about two months before I discovered, like very early days Alibaba.
Yoni Mazor 16:12
And this is once again until 2008. Or where do you go? 2009?
Carlos Alvarez 16:16
We’re 2008 or yeah, 2009 right in there. And I’m like living and breathing this working though. I had really bad insomnia at the time. So I’m not sleeping. I’m just working. And my, what is on Alibaba, I discovered this adult novelty product, which a guy uses there’s a ring or a motor and you get it. But I would get them for a couple cents. And I’d sell them for you know, 15 to 20 bucks on eBay. And I just couldn’t keep them in stock.
Yoni Mazor 16:50
So you got it from Alibaba. Yeah.
Carlos Alvarez 16:52
Yeah, no the factory exists to this day, it is called pleasure chest. And the rep is named Elvis. So I, I in my ignorance, I’m like anyone $81,000 I’m gonna buy $81,000 of this thing. And I calculated it out and I would have been it would have been millions. So I thought this was my, this was my moment, right? So I contact the factory to buy it. And Elvis tells me that they’d gladly do it. But they need this amount upfront, and then it won’t be ready for X amount of days. That things that we know to be normal. But having never done that before. I thought, I thought it smelt fishy. And that this person wasn’t treating me seriously like, like the extraordinarily wealthy savvy person that I thought I was. So I told him that I would find somebody else.I searched on Alibaba and I find a supplier who went by the name of (inaudible.)
Yoni Mazor 17:53
Sounds like that, where do you have this immediate suspect, recall that ah….?
Carlos Alvarez 17:59
I don’t know. I feel like I must not have seen it. Because if I’d ever heard that name like I would. So yeah, okay, so he has everything in stock. He’s got photos of it, factory in Hong Kong. I send them the money because he’s got it all in stock and it’s ready.
Yoni Mazor 18:16
All the money? So you send all of it? $81,000?
Carlos Alvarez 18:20
About 79 ish.
Yoni Mazor 18:22
Yeah, essentially. All, all your available cash for the most part.
Carlos Alvarez 18:27
Yoni Mazor 18:30
First deal. First, purchase Hong Kong. Okay.
Carlos Alvarez 18:31
Stole everything like you can see where it’s going. Like he just stole everything from me. He he didn’t like I didn’t even know it. Like there was no factories in Hong Kong there are in mainland China. A simple Google Earth search would have solved this but I honestly a couple of days afterwards when I didn’t hear from him. I was more concerned in my ignorance. I was concerned that something that happened in his family he got hurt. Is he okay, can I help him like that? That’s where I defaulted. Yeah, and then nothing nothing nothing and my searches even then we’re not, what to do when you’re scammed on Alibaba, it was more like how do you reach a supplier if something happened to their phone? Or their email? And you’ve already done business with them? And that’s when I started unearthing, you know, scams. That happened Alibaba and that’s when my heart just sank. And I was just like, No, please, this can’t happen to me. You know, give me a break here. And I, he eventually, like every time my phone pinged at night, I would jump over to the phone to see like, is he finally reaching out to me? And then finally one night he actually did. And he said, I need you to send me another and it was like more money. Because I’ve been sitting on all this inventory to ship it, it’s ready to go and it was like demurrage fees or something like that. And at that point, I already know I felt like I knew I had been scammed. And I, I just I reply to him and I’ll be like, Look, let’s do this. As soon as you put it on a boat and send it out, then I will send you the rest of the money obviously never happened. He stole the money. So during that, say two weeks, two, three week period, sorry, I have big dogs in the back. And I think Amazon just delivered something. But during that period of time, I didn’t want anyone to know that I had been ripped off. And, and I had said this before, but I really did not. I was very accustomed to being broke. I understood being broke, that would no lifestyle change is going to happen. But the way people were finally seeing me as a successful person, as someone that’s like contributing to society, a positive person…
Yoni Mazor 20:49
An entrepreneur, a businessman, you know, affluent, creating wealth, creating success. That got hammered. And that’s a blow for your mentally.
Carlos Alvarez 20:57