In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Troy Johnston talks about his all-in-one suite of growth tools for Amazon sellers. He's the co-founder, and CEO of Seller.Tools, and he shares his personal journey into eCommerce.
Growing your e-commerce business can be difficult. Like most people, you will probably fail at some point along the way. But is all failure a negative? Yoni Mazur from PrimeTalk considers failure and how it can help you actually succeed more in your business.
In today’s interview, PrimeTalk chats with Troy Johnston, co-founder, and CEO of Seller.Tools, a suite of the most innovative business tools available to Amazon sellers today. Seller.Tools was created and built by the most successful Amazon sellers, so they can really understand how to use the data to help you maximize revenue and put your business ahead of the competition.
Troy Johnstone talks about his experiences in marketing and then Amazon selling and how they led him to co-found and create Seller.Tools. If you’re an Amazon seller and are looking to grow and become more successful, then this episode is for you!
Click the link to learn more about Seller.Tools.
Click the link to learn more about GETIDA.
Yoni Mazur 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of PrimeTalk. Today I have a really special guest. Today I'm having Troy Johnston. Troy is the co-founder and CEO of Seller.Tools, which is an all-in-one suite for optimization tool that focuses on growth for Amazon sellers. So if you're an Amazon seller that's looking to grow, they have a suite of tools for you. He's gonna touch more about that very, very soon. But in the meantime, let's welcome to the show. Troy, welcome to the show.
Troy Johnston 0:35
Yeah, great. Thanks so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Yoni Mazur 0:37
Our pleasure. Our pleasure. So today's episode is really going to be all about you: the story of Troy Johnston. So you're gonna share with us, you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where were you born? Where'd you grow up? How did you begin your profession, professional career and how you ended up in e-commerce? So without further ado, let's jump right into it.
Troy Johnston 0:55
Sounds great. Yeah. Looking forward to it.
Yoni Mazur 0:59
Alright go ahead, you can start. Fire at will.
Troy Johnston 1:02
A little bit about me. And honestly, I'm one of those people. I guess this speaks to my upbringing that when it comes to talking about myself, I'm used to trying to deflect a little bit more and talk about some other things. But yeah, I mean, when it comes to starting from the beginning, I actually was born in Japan. I was a, uhh, military kid.
Yoni Mazor 1:23
Ohh I did not expect that at all. Okay, military brat, born in Japan, your father, your mother both?
Troy Johnston 1:28
Both at that time, were both in the military both in the Air Force. So I was born on base there and spent most of my early younger days in Japan. Great experience. I mean, I have some memories...
Yoni Mazor 1:46
Until which age? Or what age?
Troy Johnston 1:48
I moved. We moved I think when I was about eight years old?
Yoni Mazor 1:52
Oh so for your first eight years of your life in Japan. Speak any Japanese at all?
Troy Johnston 1:57
Very little, very little. And like my mom, she was helping in teaching speak English there. So taking part in some of that and getting kind of engulfed more in the culture and I wish I had better memories. I have great memories, but there are not as many as I’d like for that experience.
Yoni Mazor 2:15
Yeah, you wish you could archive a bit more in the database but um, which part of Japan?
Troy Johnston 2:20
It was in...oh man...the name is going to elude me now.
Yoni Mazor 2:25
North? South? Center? Where do you remember?
Troy Johnston 2:29
It was in...oh man (laughing). See this is me not...
Yoni Mazor 2:33
What was the name of the Air Force base? You were living on base I would assume, no?
Troy Johnston 2:37
On base, yup, on base.
Yoni Mazor 2:39
It was a fort this? Fort that? Usually, starts with the fort right?
Troy Johnston 2:42
Starts... Yeah, it starts with Y? People are gonna be like, Oh, man, you shouldn't be.
Yoni Mazor 2:51
Alright, nevermind. If it comes to mind, just let us know. So first eight years of your life, you're in Japan. Wow. That's pretty, pretty unique. Eight years old, you guys, you know, you move where? Back to the States?
Troy Johnston 3:02
Yeah, yeah, we ended up moving back to the US. And then really kind of got settled in in the Midwest. Missoula. In Derby, Kansas. We ended up moving back to, and the same trajectory there, where we were moving close to, I remember McConnell Air Force Base was the base there in the area. So we settled into Derby. And that was home for a long time.
Yoni Mazor 3:31
This so this has nothing to do with the Kentucky Derby. Right? That's a whole different world.
Troy Johnston 3:35
No, no, no. Yeah. This is, Derby is the city. The Kentucky Derby is the race, it takes place in Kentucky. But yeah, yeah, it's... if you're familiar with like Wichita, Derby is kind of like a satellite of that area. And you know, it's still pretty rural being out in Kansas. But that's...
Yoni Mazor 3:55
Is that where you went to a Junior High, High School? Graduated?
Troy Johnston 3:58
Yep. Yeah, you got it. We really were moving from there. It was, you know, really starting school, and really all the way through to high school. That was home for us. And then what
Yoni Mazor 4:12
What was the next station for you after high school?
Troy Johnston 4:14
Then after high school, we decided to move to Florida.
Yoni Mazor 4:17
“We” meaning the whole family or just yourself?
Troy Johnston 4:20
No, excuse me, it was the whole family. So it was kind of around the time where I was thinking about, you know, thinking about college, where to attend school. My parents at the time, we're thinking about being closer to family and you know, as they're, they're getting older, sort of settling in and creating roots somewhere else. So
Yoni Mazor 4:40
Oh you know, again, I cannot avoid the cliche if you're about to retire, Florida is the destination, right?
Troy Johnston 4:45
It’s like a magnet for….but it's not bad. I tell you. I mean, I enjoyed the Midwest, but there's, there's, you know, it's nice to never have to warm up your car and scrape your windows and do all that stuff. So you know...
Yoni Mazor 4:59
Got it. And which part of Orlando did you guys settle in?
Troy Johnston 5:02
So we actually ended up on the coast. We settled in...
Yoni Mazor 5:06
I said Orlando, I meant Florida.
Troy Johnston 5:08
Yeah, Florida, which I'm now kind of in the Orlando area, but at the time of that move, we settled in Melbourne, Florida, which is on the coast.
Yoni Mazor 5:18
Is it spelled the same way as Melbourne, Australia. Okay, it this like a twin city or something or some sort of satellite?
Troy Johnston 5:25
No, I mean, like a satellite of, um?
Yoni Mazor 5:29
Of Melbourne or something. Because, you know, I know I live in New Jersey and I know New Jersey is based on the original Jersey Island, you know, in the UK, the United Kingdom, much like York is New York. So just wondering if there's any resemblance to either Melbourne in Australia, or maybe also comes from the UK where kind of you know, the British Empire is sprawled around the world and got new this is just a copy the name is shut up. You know, there's London Kentucky somewhere. I'm sure there is. The original London is in London, UK. Nevermind so city city names and affiliations is second round that we are we are the Derby Kentucky or Derby in Kansas. And now we're doing Melbourne, Australia, and Melbourne, Florida. Some sort of wacky city tap for names. Yeah, you seem yourself to be attached to but... Yeah, go ahead.
Troy Johnston 6:15
Yeah, so I mean, that was the next step. And I ended up waiting a year to get that time being sensitive to like in-state tuition and thinking about college and that type of thing. So when I started going to school, started attending college, local community college, and then moved on from that to attending the University of Florida. So I moved out to Gainesville for school, which was great. Great college, was working through school..
Yoni Mazor 6:45
But what’d you learn in school? What's your major in school?
Troy Johnston 6:47
So I went into the College of Journalism and Communication with a real big emphasis on advertising. That was really what my, I always knew I wanted to get into, into advertising, which was always really unique, how they structured schools and programs were like, advertising, especially at the University of Florida, where advertising was in journalism and communications, then marketing had this very heavy business, finance sort of bent. And I always just thought there was far more overlap in the two areas. So really interesting now, you know, kind of the school, the programs, the colleges, as I like to call them, kind of the segmented different, you know, study paths is really interesting.
Yoni Mazor 7:34
So you found it to be a cross-synergy between the marketing of journalism, but also on marketing and the business world.
Troy Johnston 7:41
Yeah, yeah. They sort of separated that out. And I thought, you know, when going to school that, you know, there would be, you know, there would be a lot more overlap.
Yoni Mazor 7:51
Synergy? Yeah, it's all bundled up. But when you go into the business world, you kind of see it as one service, the other, you have your big business, big corporation, even in finance, use, journalists, or whatever it is to market yourself or vice versa. The journalists are using the big businesses to get what they need. It can be a software solution and stuff like that. There's a lot of cost synergies and many many levels. But in any case, alright, so you graduated, which year?
Troy Johnston 8:18
Yeah, this would have been ’09 I graduated.
Yoni Mazor 8:21
2009 you graduated, fresh out of college. So what's the next station for you?
Troy Johnston 8:26
Yeah this is where there's, I think, for most I had a lot of uncertainty, you know, going down that path and being used to working, I was working two jobs in school, put myself through college.
Yoni Mazor 8:35
What kind of jobs? Just as a side note, what kind of jobs? Random jobs?
Troy Johnston 8:39
So I was working at, I was actually working at Best Buy, and I worked for Best Buy for like, nine years that was always steady, and I was serving a bunch of different roles. You know, I was...
Yoni Mazor 8:50
Did you do Geek Squad at all? They had the Geek Squad back in the day.
Troy Johnston 8:53
They did, they did. I didn't do Geek Squad. I feel like I did like everything except that you know, I stocked shelves I did the..what do they call it? I think...
Yoni Mazor 9:02
So you really came from the brick and mortar world and you know, no joke for you. You have probably, you know, nine years of experience. That’s no joke and a giant retailer that are still around so it's pretty impressive. And what was the second job?
Troy Johnston 9:13
And then in school I was actually worked at the Independent Florida Alligator. It was the..
Yoni Mazor 9:19
The what? Independent?
Troy Johnston 9:22
Florida alligator. So it was the school’s newspaper. Yeah. Pretty well known, very popular for a college newspaper. And I had you know, we had dedicated sections as account executives to sell different ad space, to supplement some of the articles. And then I had the restaurant guide that I had to oversee where, you know, we were covering local businesses, local restaurants, you know, dining highlights, their menus, those types of things. And that was a good experience. Definitely
Yoni Mazor 9:54
Great experience. You got brick and mortar and journalism slash advertising. That's...and you know, dining. A lethal combination and a few have multiple ways you can probably at that point just open them all and, and sell everything about them all. But you go... Alright, so 2009, I just wanted for context reasons, you know, it's kind of, you know, it's a major financial crisis that was, you know 2008 happened. And 2009 was kind of a tough year because financial global crisis, I believe they call it FGS, some financial global crisis or something. So 2009, you find yourself at a crossroad after college and looking for the next station? What was the dilemmas back then?
Troy Johnston 10:31
Yeah, it truly was. It was really tricky times to sort of have a lot of certainty as to what the next move was, and be so abrupt. I mean, I actually continued working at Best Buy, I'd moved away from Gainesville. So the paper was no longer, no longer any of my work at that time. So, ended up moving back home, and being with my parents, working at Best Buy. And then, you know, kind of looking at what was solid, local immediate options to find emploYoni Mazorent. So my first, my first job out of college was as an administrator, administrator, admissions representative for a, it was a for-profit school, it was Kaiser college, which was actually Kaiser University, which is pretty prominent down here in Florida. They specialize in a lot of medical, different medical kind of, education.
Yoni Mazor 11:25
They're familiar, they're affiliated with Kaiser industries, that's a big corporation for the healthcare industry, I believe, right?
Troy Johnston 11:30
I don't think so. They’re not affiliate...like Kaiser Permanente. They're not affiliated with them, they're kind of their own. And they've, you know, it's a very interesting niche in terms of, you know, being in Florida, being medical focused, being a for-profit college, and there's been a lot of ups and downs, I think, in that industry and for that company. And so that was a little bit out of necessity, needing to find something to kind of, you know, to jump into something for...
Yoni Mazor 11:58
Yeah, you need a career path, so, you know, this is, you know, this is all the doors are open for, you know, for me, so you pull the lever and you get in, and how many years did you stay in with Kaiser?
Troy Johnston 12:07
That would have been...it would have been...I want to say it was about three years
Yoni Mazor 12:16
So around 2012? Right? Yeah. All right, I guess the next station, what was it? What happened after that?
Troy Johnston 12:23
So, yeah, I was working there. And then exploring more, let's say, specialized career paths, you know, something that really fit in the vein of what I was doing in advertising. So, you know, at that time, my then girlfriend, we were, you know, talking about taking things more seriously, we were looking at, you know, sort of broadening the scope of areas we'd be willing to, hey, we need to move to find an opportunity because of the, you know, the landscape, the economic landscape. So that's what brought us back actually to the Midwest. I ended up... My wife, actually, my now wife, took a job over the phone that was going to take us back to the Midwest.
Yoni Mazor 13:12
Midwest, in the Wichita area? Once again, the same area?
Troy Johnston 13:14
it was actually in Kansas City. Kansas City. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 13:18
Which side? The Missouri side or the Kansas side?
Troy Johnston 13:20
That was on the Missouri side.
Yoni Mazor 13:24
Got it? Yeah, it's cut in half or something, right? Kansas City, it's kind of a unique town.
Troy Johnston 13:27
It is because it has that melding and there's kind of nuances to either side, but it's also, you know, kind of up and coming. You know,
Yoni Mazor 13:35
It's a Boomtown for sure.
Troy Johnston 13:37
Yeah. There's a lot going on there. four sides of the town, it is and some of the the arts and the really cool things that they do quite well. So that was interesting to kind of take…
Yoni Mazor 13:51
So love took you back to the Midwest and to Kansas. Is that fair to say?
Troy Johnston 13:56
Yep. So, and we, both, my wife has also studied when she attended UCF here, was studying marketing, advertising...similar vein...it was kind of the way in which we sparked up some interest and...
Yoni Mazor 14:10
You said which? UCS?
Troy Johnston 14:12
UCF. So University of Central Florida? Yeah. So that was really, and again, she was working in Kaiser here with, different campus. But through training was the way that we kind of synched up, we had the common interests, that was kind of what sparked things from there. Yeah. And then that led us back to Kansas City. And I've found that I couldn't take a job quickly enough to come on as a project coordinator at that time for an advertising agency.
Yoni Mazor 14:44
And this, once again, this is 2012. You're in Kansas City, and you're jumping into the world of advertising. This time with the hardcore advertising agency. What did you do there?
Troy Johnston 14:53
And so my role was as a project manager, and they really siloed off the project managers to oversee different creative teams. So the connection, the company was a platform agency, and they did marketing and advertising for for-profit schools. So that was kind of the connection with Kaiser where there was a little bit of a, you know, the trajectory made somewhat sense where I could say, Hey, I'm I was in the trenches, I was doing admissions, you know, we were doing marketing at the ground level. I want to come in now and, you know, be a project manager for, for this agency. So, I came in and, you know, we would do traditional advertising, we do collateral, we do that kind of thing, but where I ended up kind of landing was on the video production side of things. So I would, you know, I would do everything on the project management side to define the scope of the project, define the budget of the project,
Yoni Mazor 15:45
And what were the clients? What kind of clients were you guys working for?
Troy Johnston 15:49
So, it would be as if like Kaiser University was coming to an ad agency, that would be the platform at the time would do all of their, you know, do all of their advertising, depending on the scope of their contract, of course, but would do some of their advertising. So we've done like, we've done TV commercials for Kaiser while I was there, ironically enough, and then other, you know, mostly for-profit schools,
Yoni Mazor 16:13
So the nature of your position was creating these advertising videos for for-profit educational institutions.
Troy Johnston 16:22
Yeah, yep. Yep, video production, whether it was, you know, graphic videos, whether it was, you know, we did some pretty intricate stuff, like we use, we would use, you know, spots in Kansas City, and, you know, do these videos with graphic elements, and they'd be really built-out, pretty high production value. So it was really cool to see. Because, you know, up until that time, the idea of, you know, video production, and, you know, thinking through the entire team that you need, whether you need a gaffer or director of photography, like all of these different production team members. Yeah, it was, it was really cool, really cool to be able to see that and as a project manager, a lot of moving pieces. So it was, it was a good way to kind of get deep into that activity. And I think for me, give me a lot of confidence as somebody that could….
Yoni Mazor 17:10
So first time in your life, you’re in position to kind of a leadership position in a serious organization, commercial, you know, organization making ads, and so forth. So that's pretty great experience to get there. And how many years did you stay in that role?
Troy Johnston 17:23
That was just about, I want to say, about two and a half years.
Yoni Mazor 17:26
So around 2014-2015.
Troy Johnston 17:30
Right around there.It might have been closer to two years, because then we were back in Florida, by 2014. So about two years.
Yoni Mazor 17:39
So 2014. And moving back to Florida, what was the next station there?
Troy Johnston 17:43
So from there, sort of a reset, my wife found a job, and then I reset, and I was looking for opportunities here. And kind of had to do a lot of, you know, a lot of digging to find good opportunities at that time. And ended up synching up with a digital marketing agency that focused on hoteliers, kind of kind of entrenched in the travel industry. Same and similar role. In this case, it was a project manager, the pivot being focusing on digital solutions. So website build-outs, doing SEO...
Yoni Mazor 18:23
Was the travel industry worldwide, or was more a locale, a Florida locale? What was kind of the scope?
Troy Johnston 18:28
It was worldwide, it was really, it was really cool, because we'd work with, you know, the Four Seasons, the Hyatts, these luxury boutique hotels. So you know, every, every week or so you would see these just amazing locations, and then you would figure out, hey, well, how do we make a website that conveys this and, you know, bring in those assets and make sure that the process was seamless for people to book for some of those experiences. So that was that was really cool as well.
Yoni Mazor 18:54
So how long did you stay in that role?
Troy Johnston 18:56
That would have been about a year and a half. About a year and a half I was there.
Yoni Mazor 19:06
Yeah. 2015-2016. That's where you meet your next station.
Troy Johnston 19:09
About 2000-- about 2015, because this is where it starts to bleed into where Amazon FBA kind of crept in. Yeah, where I was looking, still at the time, even more so than back in Kansas City, was looking at different side hustles different ways of you know, making some extra income. And that's really where you know, FBA came into the equation.
Yoni Mazor 19:31
Troy Johnston 19:48
Yeah. So. At that time, this was really while I was still at Travelclick, Travelclick is the name of the company that I was at, for the project management.
Yoni Mazor 20:00
For the hotel industry, right?
Troy Johnston 20:02
Yep. And so I was working with, at the time, with a close friend, he and I were working both as project managers. Equally again, looking at, you know, different side hustles. And through he and I started to take very seriously some real estate investing, we found this real estate investing community, the head of that community was an affiliate for ASM - Amazing Selling Machine, but...
Yoni Mazor 20:25
Also known today as amazing dot com.
Troy Johnston 20:30
Yep, yep. And so we, you know, we sort of saw this on a whim, and it was against something supplementing the real estate, and it popped up an opportunity where she leading the community, an angel investor was willing to come in, give you, give somebody in the community, some initial seed capital, to buy inventory, to buy into the program to buy into ASM and then they would, they would come in and take their their equity stake in the company. So on a whim, it was over a weekend, I think, where I said, Hey, you know, the submission process is just say why you would be a good fit. So I just outlined, hey,...
Yoni Mazor 21:06
Okay, so let me get this straight. So inside ASM’s program, there was a program, inner program that you apply to, you kind of say, what kind of product you would like to sell. What kind of, you know, what's your vision? What's your dream? And then there's an opportunity for a seed investor or an angel investor to throw capital at you. So you can give it a shot?
Troy Johnston 21:30
This it's so it was actually outside of the scope of ASM.
Yoni Mazor 21:32
So through ASM, you find out the people who were introduced to this program or opportunity, this is one time opportunity, or this was happening on a larger scale?
Troy Johnston 21:40
Yeah, I mean. So the way that it kind of played out is that we found this, the way that we found this real estate investing community was actually somebody we knew, kind of a family friend, and he referred us to Hey, check out this thought leader that runs this community. And then we were starting to get involved in it. But they were an affiliate. So they were actually outside of ASM, they were just saying, Hey, you know, this is a program you'd be interested in. Here's a discount commission that they would receive, right? But then that angel investor was part of their real estate investing community, but all of it, all of it still separate from ASM.
Yoni Mazor 22:15
So you went to ASM, you did the course, you got the training, so to speak. And they went back to your, you know, your mastermind group with this leader, who said, Now, there happens to be an angel in the group that you might have, you know, common ground to talk about an opportunity. So you basically, lay the track, your vision, to what you can do. And that's how you guys were matched together?
Troy Johnston 22:34
Yeah. Yeah. And it was before. So the angel investor came in and was giving the capital to be able to take the course. To even take ASM.
Troy Johnston 22:41
Now I get it. So inside your mastermind group, you know, there was an initiative to say, go hit that course I'll provide the capital because it’s not a cheap course. Probably a few thousand dollars, right?
Troy Johnston 22:53
Right. Yeah, at that time, I think it was like four, four grand, I wanna say...
Yoni Mazor 22:55
Right, the dynamics was, $4,000 right? So the dynamic was, if you graduate through that course, is a continuation or just taking the course and you're good to go? What was the expectation there? From that angel investor? Yeah.
Troy Johnston 23:08
Yeah, no, it was just to take it and, you know, part of the submission to get approved or to sort of win this opportunity was just to say why you would be a good fit, why you would be unique, different.
Yoni Mazor 23:20
And what’d you say? What was your pitch?
Troy Johnston 23:23
Um, yeah, I think it was just an opportunity to humble brag. You know, I tried to lay out everything I had done up to that point, which was still a pretty corporate path, but like, you know, putting myself through college, graduating top of my class, like, all of these things, I was trying to really, you know, play myself up to say, hey, this would be something good for me to take on. So
Yoni Mazor 23:45
Well, that’s a very cool group you're in. Yeah, pretty cool group to be in. Your network so they did, your family friends who pitched you into the group, they did you a great service. Okay, so let's talk about the ASM part, you took the course, you have to know-how. And what was the next move?
Troy Johnston 23:58
Yeah, it was a slow start. It was a slow start. So you know, we started to, I started to really take in some of the education and my co-worker at the time, far more entrepreneurial than I am, he started to kind of see what I was doing. Because again, the real estate investing kind of was started with DNI. And so we were starting to consume more of the content together, which was good. It was kind of pushing one another, and really taking it more seriously, but it was pretty slow starting. Ordering products from China, waiting. You know, I didn't have any sense of urgency, I would say in the beginning.
Yoni Mazor 24:28
It started 2015 or 2000, already rolled into 2016.
Troy Johnston 24:36
This would have been it would have been late 2014. So a lot of this was still going on while we were both employed at Travelclick. At that business. So yeah, we were, you know, we were starting to starting to get going but slowly, you know, I had, again, a lot of products that I was getting in,
Yoni Mazor 24:53
Right, so you did the market research, you try to identify a lot of products that you can maybe launch in the Amazon Marketplace and you source it overseas. In China. You get in, you get samples, all that, you know, back and forth, you probably, do you register a trademark?
Troy Johnston 25:06
No, not at that...not in those early stages. I eventually got to that point. But I would say, for the first handful of months, it was really slow rolling. I just didn't have the sense of urgency, I would say, where it was like, Okay, let's take our time, we’ll order things...
Yoni Mazor 25:21
But you guys were partner already? Partners at that time? You and your...what was the name of your friend?
Troy Johnston 25:25
My? Well, his name's AJ, AJ Patel,
Yoni Mazor 25:28
You guys still around together?
Troy Johnston 25:31
Yeah, he’s now sold brands for, you know, seven, eight figures. He's been quite successful himself. So it was a good, good way for us to eventually start at you know, sort of humble beginnings. So it was, but it was good. That really served me I think, you know, once there was kind of a major inflection point. And again, it was the same way how it started, where it was just kind of a random series of events where, I want to say it was either ASM or it might have even been the affiliate, they were throwing out, hey, think about some of these product ideas, you know, here's a list of 50 product ideas. And, you know, we would take the time to kind of scour those. And we both ended up on a beauty product. And both he and I were... essentially brought that same product to market.
Yoni Mazor 26:17
Together or separately? So you all have your own infrastructure, and you bought the same exact product. Yeah, so it shows you the distillery is very accurate with all the data processing, you know, put you down to a position where this is where you got to invest in it. Okay, so you both launched around 2015, the same product?
Troy Johnston 26:36
Yeah, it would have been rented right at the end of 14 into 15. Launching both in the same space, similar products. And, you know, we were starting to see, hey, you know, as we were adding in more and more capital, taking things more seriously, adding in more sense of urgency, that there was a sizable return. So it lit a little bit more of a fire, I think underneath us to really, you know, get things moving. And I think, as many negatives as there are to kind of compete from day one, there are positives too. Like it lit, you know, that the competition sort of pushed us
Yoni Mazor 27:15
So you’re competing against him or others? When you say competition, you're competing against each other?
Troy Johnston 27:19
Well, more specifically us but then, you know, we were competing against the others in our space. But I think that competition between us just had us pushing a little bit more.
Meaning Oh, I already did this. Oh, you got to catch up, you already did that he was trying to catch up. So you guys, you guys are fueling each other with your own dynamics, to put a fire into this track that you laid out being entrepreneurs, creating your own brand, selling it on Amazon. That's a pretty, pretty cool ride you guys have together. Okay, and take us to the next station or the next major station in this path.
Troy Johnston 27:48
Yeah, I mean, from there, once, once the proof of concept was laid both as the strategy, the use of FBA, and then the products that we were bringing to market, it was really kind of growing from that center. It was, you know, how do we develop, you know, we were in the beauty space. And a lot of, for me, it was fairly intuitive to think about creating routines and creating a more of a, not a lifestyle brand, because that can feel a little bit cliche, but more of the, more of the idea of how do I create a line in which a customer will intuitively pick my products next, you know, if they have a regimen that's four or five products, you know, where they clean their skin, they moisturize their skin, they utilize a serum, they use a shampoo, they use, you know, organic oils. How do we sort of take over their bathroom and become the go-to brand? So it made it very easy to sort of apply that strategically, and then develop and work with our partners to bring those products to market. So, you know, first it was one, then it was three, then it was five, and then we were consistently adding, you know, new products to the line every two or three months. Trying to do that as well. You know, and this is where with our vendors, many of them were specializing in our products, it wasn't just part of their, you know, wide array of catalogs. It was, you know, oil specialists, it was, you know, were you using serums, we may have consistently kind of looked at, hey, how can we do something a little bit unique or different in that area? But yeah, it was really just kind of scaling, scaling the line thinking about a regimen, thinking about a customer's experience with the products and trying to own that more.
Yoni Mazor 29:33
So this, this trajectory, how long did it take place? For a few months? A few years? When did you figure out your portfolio of SKUs or iterations or your catalog, so to speak?
Troy Johnston 29:47
Right. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, would have been, it really grew and developed up into the time, you know, I was ready to have the brand acquired. It was about two and a half, two and a half, three years. That we did that true ramp up, like I said, the beginning was a little bit gray where, you know, it was in the holidays of 2014, we were working full time, like, it was a, it was a pretty limited side hustle. It was coming into 2015 where it was like, Okay, this is this is serious, you know, and there could have been a tie in there to those types of products being in the beauty category. New Year, people are thinking, you know, ways of, they were natural, organic products, many people gravitate towards that, you know, they think about their health, their lifestyle, their diet, you know, things they’re putting on their skin, their hair. And so I think, I think there was a fuel on that fire to really start having it ramp up. And then yeah, it was just, you know, kind of...
Yoni Mazor 30:41
So for three, three and a half years ago, like around 2018. You know, you guys peaked with this, you know, trajectory of the brand. And what happened next? Was there an exit? Is this an exit story coming in?
Troy Johnston 30:53
Yeah,yeah. So, there was a period of time and probably about four months, where I was very seriously looking at having the brand acquired. So, was having more of those conversations, scheduling more of those meetings. And really, the party that ended up acquiring the brand, it was through, through a networking event, just you know, that that both myself, and my original, you know, colleague, now business owner who's running his own brands, both of us attended, were big parts of, and, yeah, it was, it was great, because I, you know, I, that time, you're hearing a lot of different numbers, you're meeting with a lot of people. And as you're trying to run your business and try to maintain that focus, it's a, it's a lot to kind of juggle, to have all that going on at once.
Yoni Mazor 31:44
So the moment the opportunity presented itself, that you're able to sell your brand, until you sold them, how long did it take? Would you say? You realize, oh there's a market, there's buyers who buy actually these Amazon brands or Amazon businesses, like I just developed for the past few years. So there's the moment you realize it, and then you take the action, you meet, you network, whatever it is, until you actually sold the business. How long did that take?
Troy Johnston 32:08
Um, it was...Yeah, I mean, it was serious, taking it seriously in terms of the acquisition, it was about four solid months, if not six months, where I had more of that mental shift. And then yeah, when I lined up with the right party, you know, we were measuring things sort of in two, three month chunks, the due diligence was relatively quick as well. And then my transition off the brand was, you know, that was about 30 days, too. So it was a pretty tight timeline, based on some...
Yoni Mazor 32:37
Yeah, sounds pretty quick, by all means. And if it's okay to ask, what was the multiple that they bought the business for? And the multiple, usually, just to give some context to the audience, when you're trying to sell your business, at least in the Amazon space, they kind of look at your earnings, what's your earnings before you call EBITA, earnings before interest, tax and amortization. And then they give a multiplier, I'm going to give it pay you three times your earnings, four times, five times, whatever it is. Basically, their future earnings, instead of you staying in the business for years, making the money or not making it, they're buying it off your hands and ensuring that you make that money. So in your case, what was the multiple there?
Troy Johnston 33:10
It was, it was about four three.
Yoni Mazor 33:14
4.3? Got it? Okay, pretty good. Pretty decent.
Troy Johnston 33:16
Yeah. No, I was happy with it. And at that point in time with the business, I was ready to transition.
Yoni Mazor 33:23
You had a team? Or was it all you?
Troy Johnston 33:26
I had a team, I had a team. At the time that the brand was acquired, I think it was still relatively small. It was about 6. 6 to 8 employees.
Yoni Mazor 33:37
Did most of them stay? All of them stay, none of them? After the purchase.
Troy Johnston 33:41
I think one or two of them moved on. But then they had their own team members that they were kind of coming in and
Yoni Mazor 33:46
Right. Yeah. Makes sense. Yeah. So two left and about three or four stayed.
Troy Johnston 33:51
Yes. Yeah, I know of at least three that did stay. Yeah.
Yoni Mazor 33:54
Okay. Very good. All right. So what was the next station for you? 2018 you're unemployed, but you made an exit. So congratulations on that. What transpired after, what after?
Troy Johnston 34:04
That's all rosy from there? No, it was actually a really hard time for me.
Yoni Mazor 34:06
Troy Johnston 34:10
I had a, I think, really had a lot of mental struggles with the idea of doing this thing and having this baby of sorts, of your business for so long and identifying with it that once it was outside of my control and my day to day completely changed. Yeah, it was like, it was an interesting time. It was really tough. And like I said, when you think Okay, you go through that and you're supposed to be the happiest you're like, you know from anybody viewing what's going on, and myself included, you have your payday, you can consider retiring, stepping away, taking some time. But yeah, I really struggled with it. And I've talked with a lot of sellers, a lot of people who have gone through business acquisitions, and I feel like it's sort of one of the unspoken things.
Yoni Mazor 35:02
I know the answer to this. I'll give you the answer in a moment if you need it. But yeah, it's one of those. But yeah, what's your take on this?
Troy Johnston 35:07
I think it's identity, I think it's at the core of who you are, when you are just doing something, and you're so ingrained into it, your mission, you know, emotionally and physically invested in it. And then, and again, for me, it was a very relatively quick transition. So you have all of this deep commitment, and then a massive drop off. I think, for myself, my own kind of analysis of it is that it was really tied to that. And I thought I was going through health issues, and it was...
Yoni Mazor 35:39
Psychosomatic. So the mental brain has some, so this vacuum that comes in, and the void that needs to be filled, and it's not. So at the body level, you know, there's pain, there's aches, there's illnesses. So yes, it's a very powerful struggle and play internally with the mind and the body of the people. But I think for my perspective, it's what I call the entrepreneurial bug, that's in people, if you're a true entrepreneur, you have that, all of sudden that died, that clip, that nothing's there yet, afterwards, that bug just wants to be attached to another body. And you know, wants to, you know, be a part of it. So, I guess that led you to the next tracks that relate to having Seller.Tools, which you're one of the co-founder and CEO, so was that what transpired after that? After that, you know, that slope where you know, your entrepreneur bug is itching you, you have to do something about it, and it created another business that you created.
Troy Johnston 36:31
I mean, actually, so after, after the business was acquired, there was kind of going through that experience. And then
Yoni Mazor 36:38
For how long? How long did it last, would you say, that experience, that transition mode? You know, a few weeks, a few months?
Troy Johnston 36:44
It was...Yeah, it was a handful of months, it was probably about five, six months, where it was, it was a lot of...
Yoni Mazor 36:50
And this is already 2018 already gliding into 2019?
Troy Johnston 36:54
But so this is actually because the brand was acquired in 2017, February 2017. And so and then I transitioned off effectively, March, April. And so it was really, that part of the year, were
Yoni Mazor 37:08
2017, yeah, you're kind of struggling with yourself in around 2018. What happened then?
Troy Johnston 37:16
And then, through my network, I was able to connect with a few brand owners that were kind of going through similar experiences, they were in the midst of going through their own acquisition, were trying to set in more systems, or processes, looking at Amazon strategies, which dovetails really nicely with my skill set in terms of, you know, a project manager, you know, operational excellence, that's a lot of stuff I like to kind of geek out on. And so I came in, started consulting for them, to build out their team, build out their processes, think about some of their Amazon strategy and make sure that it was scalable. As they were going through that, so they were in the midst of their own transition.
Yoni Mazor 37:57
How did it feel? How did it feel that the opportunity to help from your knowledge, from your skill, from your force? Was at a healing process for you?
Troy Johnston 38:06
It was. It was I mean, I think, yeah, to your point, it's, it's, it's solved a lot of the, the gray, I would say in terms of, you know, not having something else to, I don't wanna say derive meaning, but like, when you when you really take your work that seriously,
Yoni Mazor 38:21
Yeah, when you're an entrepreneur, you're full of energy, full of a lot, full of talent, and it's explored somewhere, and it's an outlet. And if it doesn't, it's painful. So once you find that outlet, again, it's a healing process, where all my all my talent, my skill, and just just because it's a beautiful synergy, it's a beautiful Yoni Mazorphony of action doing on a daily basis, which humans simply need. We're just built like that.
Troy Johnston 38:43
Right? Yep. And that was great. I mean, that was a, that was a learning opportunity in and of itself in terms of consulting. Because I am, I am somebody that doesn't mind getting my hands dirty. And I had to kind of learn, I had to learn that sweet spot of like, not implementing, but advising, so that way that my full value could be kind of utilized in that capacity. But that was great. That was a great opportunity to sort of just distill my knowledge, convey it, sometimes get in there and get my hands dirty, but but really, lend value for some of those brands.
Yoni Mazor 39:16
That's great. That's a nice healing story there. Okay, so what was the next station?
Troy Johnston 39:20
So from there, similar, similar kind of occurrence, where through an event, through this same kind of group network that I have...
Yoni Mazor 39:31
And this is a real estate group, or how many groups are involved in it seems like you're like, you know, yeah, you're pretty spread out nice. And we should exchange group lists later.
Troy Johnston 39:42
It was, I think, at Mastermind. It might have been one of the big events that's been really big for me is Ryan Moran's community. He's been really great at bringing along...
Yoni Mazor 39:52
capitalism dot com, right? So if anybody's not familiar, capitalism dot com., Ryan Moran, very robust, you know, group and, you know, led by him really focused on entrepreneurship, making money, opportunities, identifying opportunities and working, hustling. So if anybody wants to tap into that, that's what you did. So what happened with that?
Troy Johnston 40:14
Yeah, it was a bit where, we were having really good conversations for, you know, what's next, what people are working on? How can we collaborate? And this is really where the opportunity with Seller.Tools presented themselves, where I connected with my now two partners, got some of the things that they were working on. And you know, Seller.Tools, at that point in time, was really one of my business partners, Bernard Morris, it was really just an internal set of tools he was using for his brands. His brand is doing exceptional scale, I mean, he's consistently been running seven, eight-figure brands. And that was really the starting place was tools that only he was using that only he needed at that scale of business.
Yoni Mazor 40:56
Okay, so let's take a moment here. So what's the name of your partner again? You have two partners with Seller.Tools today, right? The first guy is?
Troy Johnston 41:02
Brendan, Brendan Morris,
Yoni Mazor 41:05
Troy Johnston 41:08
Brendan with an E. Okay. And then the second gentleman is?
Troy Johnston 41:12
And then the second one is Todd A. Pearson
Yoni Mazor 41:14
Todd A. Pearson. Again, how'd you guys all meet? Through the capitalism dot com network?
Troy Johnston 41:19
Yoni Mazor 41:20
Yep. So you join forces. Brendan, had its, you know, kind of suite of tools that he was, developed internally to use for his, for his brands , that he’s pushing and is doing at a high level seven, eight figures. And that created some sort of roll up into its own solution.
Troy Johnston 41:37
Yeah, yeah. And he was looking for more steady, reliable, higher level developers at that time, because he was able to just bootstrap what he was developing at that point. And that's where, for the three of us, we saw a lot of this obvious synergy, where, you know, whether it was highly technical, whether it was background, all the sellers, excuse me, and then, you know, for myself coming in, it was, okay, how do we make this more more broadly available, and with my skill set in terms of building more operations, doing, being willing to do business development, those types of things, was just seeing a synergy across the three of us.
Yoni Mazor 42:15
And this is 2019. That's when you start rolling up Seller.Tools as Seller.Tools, you know, when you branded it, package it and it went on to the world, was 2019, or was already 2020?
Troy Johnston 42:25
That would have been ‘18. ‘18, we're really starting to welcome some of the initial users, we're building out packages and plans to different feature levels. And yeah, that's really where the core suite, now with a little bit higher touch, again, on the development side, more unique feature set more, you know, elegant data aggregation, all these things that we were with, you know, at that point in time with search volume, utilizing more of that data. But yeah, that's really where I would say the foundation was sort of set.
Yoni Mazor 42:57
Proof of concept early roll up 2010 by 2019, as you guys are already much more formidable. You're out there strong into the market. But you know, talk about Seller.Tools. What's like the main thing, what is the main value? What is the main solution? Or because it's a package tool, so touch, maybe there's just a few of them or the core ones. You know, if I'm an Amazon seller listening to this, tell me who are you, what's going on with this? What are you providing me?
Troy Johnston 43:23
Yeah, now the way that I like to kind of describe because we are an all in one suite, is that we have that foundation that covers our keyword research, keyword tracking, listing optimization, we have words, we have competitive analysis. So there's a robust foundation set of features, where we sort of innovating and, where a lot of people will also come in the door, for this reason, is the things that we do with mini chat and our API. And I think rightfully so. And when you're talking about how these tools allow you to rank more easily getting page one visibility, and capture more Amazon reviews. And we know if we consistently do that, we'll always have a very wide user base.
Yoni Mazor 44:04
So at the heart of it, the suite of tools, helps you to optimize kind of everything that you're touching in order to generate sales, which is your PPC campaigns, advertising, you know, the rank of your listing, the conversion rate of your listing, all these components that make you strong in the marketplace. So this set of tools is really supposed to, and it's each level, it's each unique nuance, empower you and help you blow it up. Right, so to speak. But also, there's an interesting component of utilizing mini chat, a flow in many chats where you can actually capture an audience outside of Amazon, correct? If I'm wrong in any point, just feel free to, you know, correct. Right? Yeah. So you capture and interact with consumers outside the Amazon ecosystem, you know, through mini chats and creating all these flows. So if there's a consumer show, you know, going on Facebook or something, this website, you know, they see maybe a picture of a product or a video of a product, they're interested in it, they click on it, you capture them, you engage with them, so you have a relationship. with them, so to speak. And it's all managed automatically through a very well thought flow. And these consumers, seem to like it. So they get maybe an offer. And the offer might say, you know what this product is 19.99. It's, let's say, a cutting board, top of the line or whatever, it's all good. If you'd like to actually try it out, you can, here's a flow, here's how you can really find it or buy it, you can buy on our website, or maybe even buy it on Amazon, or let's say you choose Amazon, you buy it on Amazon, you pay 19.99. Thank you very much. And then we'll send you a follow-up, you know, how'd you like it? How was it? So we also will offer you a rebate, okay, basically saying, you know, here's 19.99, or maybe 10, or nine, you know, whatever, there can be a full cover of the product or some of it, to indulge them to say, you know, thank you for trying, thank you for your feedback, thank you for engaging with us. And the whole thing. And by doing that, if you're throwing traffic, healthy traffic into your listings, online, on your website, or even Amazon, these listings that come in, and they actually convert, and you know, there's a purchase being made, and your metrics improve with Amazon's eyes, and especially Amazon, loves, loves, loves outside traffic that converts, they're in love with that because that's how they feel that their ecosystem is simply growing and growing, which is correct. By the way, it's a very powerful thing Amazon has behind the scenes, though, even though they're a giant, they always have a passion to how do we get more, insatiable appetite. So in this ecosystem, sell up, you know, tools can help the sellers engage more and optimize more and just get more bang for the buck from all fronts? Is that kind of a fair analysis of Seller.Tools?
Troy Johnston 46:28
Yeah, you went, you went in deep and there's, there's a lot of other things I would say you can do with it as well, it's really customizable. But as you touched on, I mean how it checks off all these boxes, and there can be the perception of complexity. So this is where like, for us we give our mini chat flows away for free. So we want you to know, whether it's new sellers, legitimize brands that are getting into the use of mini chat, as an Amazon seller, we wanted to make sure that these specific strategies, you had a flow in hand, it's just ready to go. Plug in your...
Yoni Mazor 47:03
So you guys, even though there's a level of complexity of this, this is an art, you make a turnkey by saying, you know, this is kind of the menu, there's a menu of you know, if you're beginning, you’re entry-level, this probably was gonna suit you the most. So it is customized, but you already from very, very well in a well crafted experience. So to make a decision, eventually, it's really easy. It's like when you go to a restaurant and say, there's all this massive, massive menu. But look, there's a lunch special, dinner special, Italian special, Chinese special. Alright, I feel like Chinese, and boom, let me have that. Is that kind of the dynamic?
Troy Johnston 47:33
I like that idea. Yeah, I have to start using that now.
Yoni Mazor 47:37
You got it, you got it. No worries. Alright, very cool. So, you know, this is where you guys are now, looking into the future-wise, where would you like, you know, you guys want to be at, what's the challenges that are stopping you from getting there? Well, what's the status, you know, or dynamics for you right now in the marketplace?
Troy Johnston 47:54
Yeah, I think the way that you described Seller.Tools too initially as a growth platform is really where our vision lies. Because I think now sellers have no shortage. There's no secret, there's no shortage of Amazon software tools. Where we want to be is on the growth side of things. The maintenance is where you lend yourself and your brand to potentially stagnating. And for smaller sellers turning out of this business, and for bigger sellers, just missing their potential. So we want to continue to build a feature set that is focused on growth, focus on the 80/20 of Amazon, which is ranking and reviews as we've touched on. And if we continue to innovate there, we want to keep growing, we want to 2x, 3x our business as we've done this past year. 2020 has been great for us. I know it has been for many e-commerce brands. But that's our, that's our unique space in the market is truly focusing on growth, if we can automate those high-value activities. That's where brands can play a different game than everyone else, they have the leverage of Amazon and then they have these tools that are all about just you know, putting fuel on that fire. And we want to be a key part of that. So that's really where our current features, I think, do an exceptional job of it. But as we look ahead to this next year, it's doubling down, going even deeper. Yeah, and bringing something truly unique where sellers absolutely need us. Right. That's what our goal is, is having that real stickiness to where we're essential to growth on Amazon.
Yoni Mazor 49:17
Yeah. Do you want to be part of that DNA, the growth DNA for all the marketplace sellers? So now, you know, sharing your struggles in the past, today, you find this as your passion and this is where you committed to. Is this where you see your own growth?
Troy Johnston 49:30
Yeah, it's been really great. I mean, going from seller to consultant to now on the SAS side, it's been very eye-opening, you sort of see what you like and don't like. There's never any, I would say perfect path. One of the things we see with SAS and you know, I think this is not unique to us, is things just taking twice as long to build and twice the like, it's just, it can be very intensive. And I think sometimes people say oh, you know, it'd be so easy to just do this or like, Oh, can you add that? And we are a team of no shortage of ideas. Again as sellers ourselves, our wish list is a mile long, it really is. And so that's that our task is really kind of distilling the absolutely essential and making sure that it ties into our vision. So and that's fun. Those are fun challenges. So that's why...
Yoni Mazor 50:17
Yeah, and you’re in a great spot. This is a great place to be where you’re saying, you know, I'm growing so fast, but I could grow even more. And that's kind of where I put my energy and focus on. And that's a pain. You know, growing pains is a great pain to have. And I do wish that for any entrepreneur out there listening. Okay, so let's do a quick recap of your situation and then we'll close off the episode. Right, so graduate 2009, you dabble into working with admissions right for a university. In Florida, you bounce back to the Midwest, you do about two years you do marketing for and video editing for kind of the same industry for for-profit education, then you bounce back to Florida and you focus more on advertising for the travel industry. So you spent a few years in that space as well. And then through some family friends, you kind of dabble into real estate, which led you to dabble into e-commerce. And selling on Amazon has you developing your brand, doing it for about three years, growing into a very nice dimension where you have a liquidity event, you made an exit, then you find yourself actually instead of being you know, elevator, elated, it’s creating kind of discord because your entrepreneurial bug was, you know, eating you from the inside and you needed an outlet to pull your mind and talent and skill and passion into, which made its way into the early beginning to consulting, right because you can share, you can easily share your skills and knowledge to you know, certain players. And then once again, through family networks, you're able to connect with my Ryan, not family networks in this case but, you know, networks that you're involved with, in this case, Ryan Moran, you made your current partners where you guys create an innovative suite of tools that hyper-focus on helping you know, sellers growth, and focus on growth. So this has been going on for the past two-plus years. You're tripling, you know, double, tripling almost every year. That's kind of the quick snapshot of your position.
Troy Johnston 52:08
That sounds about right. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 52:10
There we go. There we go. Alright, it's very cool. So now we're gonna touch two last points to wrap it up. So the first thing will be if anybody wants to learn more and you know, connect with you and follow you, where can they find you. And the last thing would be is what is your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there?
Troy Johnston 52:27
Yeah, so where you can find us, we're at seller dot tools. You can always reach out to us at hello at seller dot tools, we'd love to hear from you. We've got a 14-day free trial. So you can try out anything that you see from us whether it is mini chat optimization, PPC, we've got you covered. And then we've got a great Facebook group, FBA Kings, a great place to have really great, and for the most part, very elevated, high caliber sellers and brands in that community as well. So that's where you can find us. And I would say kind of as a parting inspirational message, I shared this on another podcast. And so I've had, I've had a little bit more time to think, think about it too, and I think it lands really well is, is really the idea that you know, nobody has, even the most inspirational people that you see, or business leaders or entrepreneurs, you know, nobody has the answers, they're still failing to this day. And I think sometimes we see these people, and we think that's so out of reach, whether it's their achievements or their monetary success, you know, whatever label you put on it. And I think, really acknowledging that is very eye-opening because it gives you more of the freedom to yes, take chances, to be willing to fail. One of the things I always say too is many of the successful people I know, in my network, it's sort of like a view that in my mind is like this graph where they have, you know, they have an equal number of failures as they do successes. And as people get more and more successful, they have more and more failures. And yeah, it's true, the most, the most successful people I know, have had literally the most quantifiable failures. So give yourself that permission, can give you a little bit more peace of mind, let you take some chances and dream and think big.
Yoni Mazor 54:09
Got it. Like it. So permit yourself to fail because as you permit yourself to fail more you attempt to fail more. It's just on the other side, it's like a balance sheet, is it going to create success along the way. So it's always kind of balanced. So the more you try, and you fail hopefully on the other end, you've touched successes, and that's kind of the balance of things and any scope in any level. If you ask Jeff Bezos on his failure list, it's probably long as much as his success list and, you know, brought him to the highest magnitude in terms of, I guess, economical, or monetary levels in the world that we can definitely recognize Alright, Troy, enjoyed it. Thank you so much for sharing. I was very kind of you. We wish you guys in the whole team much more, you know, tremendous and continued success over the years, you pumping others that's really a good focus to have. Thank you everybody for listening and joining us today. Until next time, thanks.