Keith O’Brien | The Ups, Downs, and Hustle of An Amazon Entrepreneur
In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Keith O'Brien, opens up about the hustle of an Amazon entrepreneur. Keith is the founder, and CEO of Page One, a full-service Amazon agency.
Entrepreneurship is all about the ups and downs of the journey. The important thing is business, though, is to learn from the downs, learn from your mistakes, and use them as pivot points to get you to your next goal. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk looks at how you can use your negative experiences and turn them into positives.
In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Keith O’Brien, the founder, and CEO of Page One, a full-service agency serving Amazon sellers. Page One is a team of Amazon experts who can help sellers to increase sales, reduce costs, and lead the competition. They offer a variety of services designed to optimize your brand or line including photography, listing optimization, A+ content design, and PPC management.
Keith O’Brien shares his journey from door-to-door salesman to non-profit organization creator, to the founder of Page One. So if you’re an Amazon seller who needs a little bit of help optimizing your brand or understanding your PPC, then this episode is for you.
Learn more about Page One!
Learn more about GETIDA’s Amazon reimbursement solution software
Find the Full Transcript Below
Yoni Mazor 0:06
Hi, everybody, welcome to another episode of Prime Talk. Today I have a special guest. I'm having Keith O'Brien. Keith is the founder and CEO of Page One, which is a full service Amazon agency. Keith, welcome to the show.
Keith O’Brien 0:20
Hey, thanks so much for having me, Yoni.
Yoni Mazor 0:22
Our pleasure, really. Um, where are you located? Where are you based out of?
Keith O'Brien 0:26
I am as we are speaking now, I'll date this one July 1 right, we are three and a bit months into quarantine here, so I'm coming from my house which is in Fort Lauderdale. We have had most of the staff outside of the studio and offices since like middle March.
Yoni Mazor 0:48
So Fort Lauderdale, Florida and most of the team is in Florida or they're scattered all over the world?
Keith O'Brien 0:53
We have...our core team is here in South Florida spread out between Miami and Fort Lauderdale and everywhere in between. We have a few remote workers. Our business development specialists just relocated to Vegas from LA. So and, you know, that core team manages a pretty decent sized group of outsourced workers as well.
Yoni Mazor 1:15
Got it. Alright, so I hope really everybody's gonna keep safe and healthy. Today, the episode is gonna be basically about you: the story of Keith O’Brien, so you're going to share with us, you know, who are you? Where are you from? Where did you go to school? How did you begin your professional career? So without further ado, let's just jump right into it.
Keith O'Brien 1:33
Oh, you're trying to repel listeners, I guess, right? With that sort of content?
Yoni Mazor 1:38
Yeah, China knows a lot of bugs out there so we gotta find the best repellent right?
Keith O'Brien 1:42
We got our time. Alright. Let's jump in. So where should I start, background?
Yoni Mazor 1:51
Where'd you grow up? Where are you from?
Keith O'Brien 1:53
Sure. So I grew up, I was born outside of Pittsburgh, north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I lived there until I was about five, moved to a suburb outside of Chicago. And then my father got relocated in the middle of high school, my high school, not his high school, my high school. So I moved down to Texas, literally right on the border of Mexico for my last two years of high school.
Yoni Mazor 2:23
Tiquana is it?
Keith O'Brien 2:24
Ah no, Tijuana is south of San Diego.
Yoni Mazor 2:27
Oh sorry, yeah yeah. So what's the border in the..?
Keith O'Brien 2:31
US and Mexico share a long border right?
Yoni Mazor 2:34
Yeah, I just saw something about Mexico. What was it? Yeah, that anyways. Well, when What's the name of the town over there in Texas, the border town?
Keith O'Brien 2:43
It's a little known border town called Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila. But this is kind of one of the main areas for what's called twin plants. So they're in Spanish, it's maquiladora. So you have...generally have a US distribution center. But and then right across the border is their manufacturing facility.
Yoni Mazor 3:06
Yeah, today it's actually, for sellers out there, it's a good way to save a lot of costs. You can manufacture there or import there and bring it through customs. I know there's a whole gig right now with reducing costs for Amazon sellers to do private label who they imported through Mexico. I know there's a whole trail like that.
Keith O'Brien 3:21
Companies have been doing it for decades, right? So my father would go over the border every day, manage the manufacturing facility, come back at night, but literally, from my front door to the border was 10 minutes.
Yoni Mazor 3:37
Wow. Listen, I used to live in Detroit. And it was, you know, right on the border with Canada. And it's always nice to have another country right next door.
Keith O'Brien 3:44
Yeah, yeah. I mean, for a teenager to be able to...10 minutes and being in a legal drinking age of 15 it’s probably not the best thing...But it was fun anyway.
Yoni Mazor 4:00
Yeah. All right. Good. So that's where you graduate high school by the way?
Keith O'Brien 4:06
That is. That is and it wasn't my favorite place in the world to live, especially coming out of Chicago. So I applied for university, like I was always...How do I put that? So as always good in school. I wouldn't say I was a good student. I always maintained pretty decent grades. But it wasn't...I didn’t love it right? So I was always the kid in class who asked, excuse me, what are we going to use this information for after so I applied to universities, literally 100% by location, you know, I applied to San Diego State, UC Santa Barbara, Colorado State, Florida State...pretty well spread out by places and things that I'd like to do. So I ended up going to school in San Diego. For a couple of years. I left midway my sophomore year and started my first business.
Yoni Mazor 5:04
So you were what year, what age were you when you actually did that pivot? Alright, so did a few years in college, aged 20. Boom, let's let's take us there. What was that moment? Well, what was happening?
Keith O'Brien 5:17
Oh, look, I mean, my first business track was in network marketing. I, you know, I drank the Kool Aid big time at a meeting and you know, I wouldn't say financially it was I mean, it was backwards. I mean, I was 22. I was $35,000 in the hole.
Yoni Mazor 5:37
Oh, that you already took us two years afterwards and the outcome, the outcome was it put you in the hole. After two years, you had a hole in your pocket?
Keith O'Brien 5:44
Look, I think like a lot of people, you know, network marketing is one of those things where it's really tough...
Yoni Mazor 5:51
What is that by the way? Yeah, touch that for a moment. What is that network marketing?
Keith O'Brien 5:54
Network marketing, multi level marketing...
Yoni Mazor 5:56
Oh multi level marketing...got it.
Keith O'Brien 5:57
You know pyramid schemes? Right?
Yoni Mazor 5:59
Yeah. So Herbalife, what was the...what was like the brand that year?
Keith O'Brien 6:03
This was a company called Equinox, which, you know, was back, you know, just before it started, it was for a couple years, it was the fastest growing privately held company in America. I think the founder actually ended up going to jail. Yeah, so it was one of those stories, but I, you know, look, I mean, network marketing this industry has a draw, you can, you can start a business for not a lot of money. And, you know, a lot..like Amazon, a lot of the hard parts of running a business are kind of done for you, you know, you've got a manufacturer, you just have to sell and build a team. So it's a lot of similarities to product sales, in that, you know, Amazon takes a lot of the heavy lifting off of the business owner, right. Running a traditional real business, even in commerce is way more complex. I don't really network marketing to me is not a real business.
Yoni Mazor 6:59
Yeah, it's a first into business. It's for many, many entrepreneurs, especially the serial entrepreneurs. It wasn't a successful attempt, but nevertheless, the lessons learned are golden, and they usually bring the fruits later on. But let's..take us to the year also your 20-22 but what year is that? What era? Like?
Keith O'Brien 7:17
Oh, God, I've got you probably by double. I graduated high school in 1990. So that would have been 91-92-93-94 era then.
Yoni Mazor 7:27
Oh I didn’t realize that MLMs were that, uh, you know, there..was there so early on. It's interesting.
Keith O'Brien 7:32
I think Amway started in the 60s.
Yoni Mazor 7:35
Oh yeah, that I know, also, there's a beautiful one, I forgot the name there.
Keith O'Brien 7:39
Mary Kay, Avon? They’re all...
Yoni Mazor 7:41
Avon. I think that Avon also has a good legacy. Okay, so you're in early 90s, 22 years old? What was the next station?
Keith O'Brien 7:48
So I moved out to...sometimes you just need to change the scenery. Right? I moved from San Diego to Atlanta. And, you know, honestly went back in and got a job, right? And I was in sales. I was a young kid. I was like, 22. And I will tell you, with my unsuccessful career in network marketing, I did learn how to sell, right? And I learned how to...
Yoni Mazor 8:16
Extremely valuable. Yeah, build relationships. For sure. It's, it’s...
Keith O'Brien 8:19
Yeah, I learned how to build relationships. I learned how to do this. I also, you know, one of the things I did in college was during the summer before I left, is I worked with this door to door environmental campaign. So it was like, everyone’s heard of Greenpeace, this was like the other side. This was called Perg. And they lobbied to get laws changed and things like that. Whereas Greenpeace would like chains, chained themselves to ships and stuff, you know, that from happening these guys.
Yoni Mazor 8:48
That's more guerrilla marketing, I would say.
Keith O'Brien 8:51
Yeah well these were political right? But I raised money door to door for an entire summer.
Yoni Mazor 8:55
Wow, that's great. That's really good.
Keith O'Brien 8:56
I was standing at the door front, right in front of your potential customer and having to tell a story to engage somebody enough to do something that they literally were not thinking of doing five minutes before. And it's not coercion, it's just connection, right? And anyway, so…
Yoni Mazor 9:15
So you took that to Atlanta to your job. Well, what was your job? What were you selling?
Keith O'Brien 9:20
Ironically, I ended up selling off site timeshare, right? So now I felt like a total loser right. I went from network marketing to timeshare sales, which is another one of these industries, but I was 22 years old. I didn't know anything about it right?
Yoni Mazor 9:36
First of all, you got to make a living. Second of all salespeople, usually for the most part, they're agnostic you give them let them sell a good one at least you can sell anything you can sell an ice to an Eskimo and every every sales pitch respected salesperson, so yeah, I just showed that.
Keith O'Brien 9:51
The thing about it though, was I was never that guy. Like I couldn't do ice to an Eskimo. I couldn't. I never was good at representing something that I didn’t believe in. I couldn't just fake it. It just wasn't in my DNA.
Yoni Mazor 10:03
So how many years were you doing that position?
Keith O'Brien 10:05
I only did it for like eight months. But that's really where I learned, you know, some really technical sales ability. But what happened was like, I didn't know anything about it, I got the pitch, I learned about it. And the pitch of timeshare sounds amazing, you know? You buy this unit somewhere and then you can basically travel almost unlimited for the rest of your life and you own this little deeded property. And then, you know, as I did it for a while, I learned that people really didn't figure out how to use it well, and it wasn't necessarily the industry's fault. Well, it was right. So people got sold this thing, then they didn't figure out how to people I really understood like that.
Yoni Mazor 10:48
So the idea was good, but the actual execution had some bumps. So which created this chord with usability.
Keith O'Brien 10:55
I literally remember this like as a 20 year old kid, I sit down with my boss, and I said, you know, look, I'm really questioning the value of what we're doing. Right? Like, I'm having fun. I'm making some money, but I'm really questioning the value. And he didn't miss a beat. He's like, well, it was a nice run. Thanks so much for being here. Like literally no questions.
Yoni Mazor 11:16
Wow. That is very dramatic.
Yoni Mazor 11:19
Yeah, no questions, but he's like, Look, wherever your heads at, your ass is gonna fall. You know? So, you know, he went through the like, these are things that I'll remember to this day. And it was for me, you know, he didn't want to have to talk me in or convince me of anything. He knew that it was there's time better spent for him. finding someone that was aligned with what they were doing.
Yoni Mazor 11:45
Right, their soul was into it. Yeah. So the moment he saw your soul was not into the game? Yeah, thank you for your time, you know, you can move on. So what was the next station?
Keith O'Brien 11:52
So I did a couple of years in a health club, right? So I worked at a very large center, fitness center. This was a health and racquet Club in Atlanta. And, you know, what was interesting is like, if you had a 10% closing rate in timeshare, you made a fortune, it was a great, you know, a great job. In the health club business people are coming in looking to get fit. You know, I think I average like a 45%, you know?
Yoni Mazor 12:25
Keith O'Brien 12:26
Yeah. So it was very, very different, very different. And, like, I just utilized, you know, some strategies. And and, you know, most of what I learned in sales is really asking good questions, right? And, you know, when you ask really good questions, people generally tell you what it is, and, you know, relating back into the Amazon business, these are things that, like, if you ask the right questions about who your customers are, it literally will give you 100, couldn't give you 100% different way of actually getting in touch, you know, in front of them. And this is something that I find, you know, running agency, as most businesses don't do well, really understanding who their customer is, so that they can tailor their marketing.
Yoni Mazor 13:10
Yeah, I think they call it the avatar, you build an avatar, which is your you know, profile of a client or clients because sometimes there's a spectrum. And the more you know this avatar, the more you get closer to that avatar, you're able to perform on the best and highest level. We'll get to that e-commerce space, we're not there yet. I want to get there. This is true. We gotta we gotta walk the trail of Keith until we get there.
Keith O'Brien 13:31
I did that for over a year. I think, you know, the city, we had six locations, there was about 100 sales people, I was still a kid, I was like, 23 and I think I was number two salesperson in the city out of the 100 or so. Look, what it did is it got me kind of back on track, I was able to pay off a bunch of debt back then you could go negotiate with creditors, like it was great, you know? So settled all that stuff, you know, and then you know, really got to kind of start clean. And at that point, I’d paid off all my bank debt and was making money, right? So had a little confidence. I, you know, kind of got my life back so to speak, and, you know, still relatively young.
Yoni Mazor 14:20
Yeah, you did in a few short years, you know, you're you know, but this is a you know, 1,2,3 years you were able to regain your financial stability and I guess go a little bit of confidence. It’s a very important trait to know that I can take a hit go under, but come back early on in your 20s. So I think it's very valuable
Yoni Mazor 14:39
And contrary to popular belief, you know, your credit does not take seven years to rebuild, right? Like, you know, that's what everyone says but you know, I started off with a local bank, Wachovia, which was local to Atlanta.
Yoni Mazor 14:53
Now it's Wells Fargo it got bought out...
Keith O'Brien 14:54
I think I started originally with First Union which then became Wachovia, but then became Wells Fargo. But you know, after, you know, a couple years of banking in the same place and, and, and building up your account, you know, you go and you talk to someone and someone can make something happen for you, you know. And so literally I think it took me two years once I'd paid off all the old stuff, two years of banking at the same place.
Yoni Mazor 15:19
So this is important, actually, this is a big thing to pull on, if you're an entrepreneur listening out there, and maybe you're in a bind right now financially, or whatever, from Keith’s experience, the journey is not that long, it's not seven years, and he was able to do it, and I guess up to 24 months, which is great. I mean, if you're down under, you know, fix yourself, create a trail to get out of it. And hopefully, we'll be out of there soon and move on to the bigger targets that you have. So this is a great partner. Appreciate that. Okay, let's, let's move on with the next station.
Keith O'Brien 15:55
So I found, like there was...so there was things around like that network marketing industry that I thought were smart. And then there's things that I really didn't like. And so after I found another business where I was in the personal development space, right? So, you know, I think as an entrepreneur, and just as a thinker, like I've always gravitated towards, you know, success-minded content and information. And, you know, so I started that, you know, when I was a kid, the one great, one of the great things about network marketing is it, there's a lot of that around the space. So it really got me in the habit of seeking books, materials, talks, seminars that I could go to, to better myself. And so I found a business actually, as an agent selling a line of courses and seminars. And so I started it part time when I was working at the Racquet Club, a couple months in, I turned a small investment into a profit and and then left, I went full time in that business and did it for about two and a half to three years.
Yoni Mazor 17:07
What's the business model in a nutshell?
Keith O'Brien 17:09
Yeah, I was basically an independent distributor for...it was like, I was selling Tony Robbins stuff, right? So it wasn't his stuff. But it was a different, you know, parent company. And we had a line of self-study courses that people did in the home, and then a series of live seminars.
Yoni Mazor 17:27
Yeah, to make it short, you were selling content that was focused on self-improvement for people. And you had some sort of distribution mechanism and rights, and you did fairly well with it for a few years. And which years is that? This is late 90s or already in the 2000s?
Keith O'Brien 17:41
Now, this would have been like mid 90s.
Yoni Mazor 17:44
Man, we're gonna take a while till we get to 2020
Keith O'Brien 17:48
Yeah. So that look, I mean, I did a lot of things quickly, I didn't know I had a lot of, you know, my early 20s, I was trying to find myself I was an entrepreneur, you know, back then, there was, you know, Amazon, you know, there were books, right, you know, back then and interesting in that business, that's where I really where I really learned marketing. So I got into like, old school copying, you know, direct response copywriting. We learned how to generate leads through direct mail. As a matter of fact, back in the day. Direct mail, ironically, back then, was our number one highest return on investment for advertising. That was like the beginning of Internet Marketing. So I remember, like, literally buying, we didn't do internet marketing, we did, spamming, you know? I mean, buying, like 10 million AOL email addresses back then. So it was a very, very different environment. But you know, I learned so much about direct response marketing at that time, you know, a message of how to get to a consumer directly and take that and turn it into action quickly. And that was, you know, fortunately, those lessons, I did well in the business, so I was getting paid to learn that stuff, as opposed to the old stuff where I just paid to learn.
Yoni Mazor 19:06
Right, this is great. This is this fundamental experience, early days of internet also, and it's a good you're that intersection point between, you know, the traditional mail marketing, traditional marketing and the early birth and beginning of online marketing. And now I'm curious to see what would be the next next station that allows you all the way to e commerce.
Keith O'Brien 19:27
We're gonna get faster because the next project was a decade, but you wouldn't get so like, I think what happened was you know, I had made some money in that business. And that was, that was a lot for being young, like I was, you know, you know, multiple six figures. I was still in my mid 20s. And, honestly, like, I just like, I hit...Like, I hit a point I think that most people don't get till later, and I hit it kind of in my late 20s where I said, Okay, Not that I had mastered money by any stretch. But I had, you know, when I first started that business, the financial return was 100% the motivation, right? And I got to where that started a couple of years of good, you know, good revenue. And then like, I started asking myself, well, what's next, right? What's beyond this that is gonna help me get up in the morning?
Yoni Mazor 20:26
And that's what I call the entrepreneurial bug. There's a bug in the entrepreneurs that even if you conquer a peak on the mountain, you're like, Whoa, I got to keep moving. I'm not staying even though it's beautiful here, there's a good landscape. What's the next step? So yeah, you got that bug in you? And what happened?
Keith O'Brien 20:42
Well, yeah, and it's so it wasn't it was more of like, kind of like answering some internal questions like, what do I really...want impact do I really want to make? And, you know, beyond a business that makes money, what else do I want to do with that? So I didn't see the path in the current business. So I started, I started writing. Actually, I started writing, you know, who do I want to work with? How do I want to impact them with? And it was really kind of a point where I wanted just to pump more meaning into the world, right? So. So I started an organization, I actually set it up as a charity called Future Point. And that...
Yoni Mazor 21:21
Yoni Mazor 21:22
Future Point. So I worked with middle school, high school and college students...really helping them figure out who they wanted to be in the world while they were figuring out what they wanted to do in the world. So it was really transformational leadership training for teenagers. And that was a really cool project. Now, what's funny is, when I sat down...
Yoni Mazor 21:41
And you did this in the Atlanta area?
Keith O'Brien 21:45
At this point, I was already in Florida.
Yoni Mazor 21:47
Florida, Fort Lauderdale?
Keith O'Brien 21:49
Yeah, so we worked with, over that next 10 years, we worked with about 12,000 kids, some of which, honestly, are still in touch with me on facebook today. And, yeah, it's cool. I mean, some of these suddenly, the kids that we worked with, you know, are, you know, now they're parents, they’re full time in awesome careers. And, and it's interesting, you know, and it's funny...
Yoni Mazor 22:15
Hold on, but let me ask you this. Let me get this straight. So for a decade, you were running a...that was your business? Basically, the NPO, the nonprofit organization that you created to help others. So how did you fund it? What was it? Where'd you get funding from?
Keith O'Brien 22:27
So as an entrepreneur, we created really a fee-for-service model. So I don't love the charitable model where you're always out there begging for...begging is a bad word, but always having to be on this fundraising hamster wheel. Right? So we created fees for services, right? So we actually did workshops and retreats and courses inside of the schools, and we charged the schools for it. So that funded most of the business and then we had this gap for growth that we had to raise the money. So..
Yoni Mazor 22:54
And for that gap used to do the fundraising?
Keith O'Brien 22:57
Yeah, we did events, you know, individual donors, corporate sponsorships.
Yoni Mazor 23:01
Right and this was...uh, this activity was sustainable financially for a decade?
Keith O'Brien 23:07
Well I worked for free the first two years. So I had put away enough to where, you know, my, I've never really been into stuff. So, you know, I had a car, I had an apartment, you know, and the rest I, you know, I like to spend my money still to this day on experiences, you know? So I've never really been a big stuff guy. And so anyway, so yeah.
Yoni Mazor 23:31
One last question about the NPO. How big was the team, though, that you created in the organization?
Keith O'Brien 23:37
The...probably at the biggest, which was probably 2007, I think we probably worked with 4000 kids that year. We had a staff, paid staff of five and about 30 contract facilitators that we had trained to teach the programs.
Yoni Mazor 23:59
Got it. Wow, this is a pretty impressive ride of 10 years, impacting the lives of 1000s 1000s of, you know, youth. That's a great asset to have on a spiritual level, you know?
Keith O'Brien 24:11
Yeah, ironically, just like two days ago, one of my...Well, we had evolved to working with kids and we kept getting asked by teachers that we were hired by, hey, do you do this for teachers? So we developed a teacher training. And then local organizations, we started working with local adult leadership groups, too. So, you know, one of the people that were in the program literally just like found their journal from one of our retreats, like from 1999 or 2006, or something like that. And posted on Facebook a couple of days ago, and I was like, Oh, my God!
Yoni Mazor 24:55
Vintage vintage stuff. Nostalgia. Okay, so...What year did you, I guess, transition to the next station?
Keith O'Brien 25:03
Yeah, so we wound that down. We got really pretty hit hard with the GFC back in 2008. So we had really taken all this time to...
Yoni Mazor 25:18
You said GFC?
Keith O'Brien 25:19
Global financial crisis.
Yoni Mazor 25:20
Crisis, right? You mean the subprime? The subprime mortgage bubble burst?
Keith O'Brien 25:24
Yeah, yeah. So, we had a number of larger contracts with local school districts and some specific partners. So, early in 2008, we lost our three biggest contracts all in the same month. And that had represented about 60% of our revenue from the previous year. And we lost them all in 30 days. So, you know, look at the business was NPO, right. So there's no ownership. I had committed 10 years of my life to the project, and I was in year nine. And so I went back and talked to the board and said, Look, you know, either in the next 12 months, we're going to find someone that wants to come in and take it over and see this on in perpetuity, or we'll wind it down. And ironically, that 10 year commitment was in my business plan back in 1998. And I literally shut the organization down the week 10 years later.
Yoni Mazor 26:26
Wow. So within the dot to the plan, you made a plan, executed the most unexpected way possible. Yeah.
Keith O'Brien 26:32
Yeah. So look, so that that took 10 years, that was a great project, it was, you know, I..
Yoni Mazor 26:38
Way to go. I salute you. I think it's a great cause.
Yoni Mazor 26:41
Thank you. Yeah. I mean, I look back over that time. And it was hard, it was challenging. I didn't make a lot of money, ever. But it was a really, really good use of 10 years of my life.
Yoni Mazor 26:51
You mentioned you're big into experience, I can imagine the experience was just phenomenal. Alright, so what was next, what was the next station?
Keith O'Brien 26:59
Uh, you know, honestly kicked around a bit consulted, took some, you know, odd things here and there, mostly little consulting, gigs, stuff like that. And, you know, sold some stuff online. And, you know, I...
Yoni Mazor 27:12
When you say sold stuff online, on eBay, Amazon, both?
Keith O'Brien 27:16
Uhh more just direct to consumer off the website. Yeah. So this was, you know, on the days, and just kind of trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. But in the meantime, like, you know, fast forward a couple of years, I think I shut the organization down in 2009. So a couple years of consulting, you know, put me in a situation in 2013 that was just rough. Like, it was my hardest year as an adult by far, right? You know, I, you know, time between consulting gigs got longer. You know, I, you know, I think this is somewhat common for, you know, like, I was raised in this, like, you know, the thing about doing personal development work is like everything, like you just take responsibility for everything, because you just get that like playing a victim doesn't do anything. And so you see the world through those lenses, right? Like, my place in life is my responsibility, good or bad. I own it, right? Because then you can do something about it. But that really messed with me that year, and I was feeling bad about it. I was putting all of these tools that I learned through personal development and success training to work, and none of them were really working. Right? And so, like, I don't really at that point and prior to that I never really understood, like, what people talked about with depression, but I would say that I was doing my version of it. It was tough man, it was, you know, you know, I'm not doing well financially, you know, so that restricts your social life, right? And it was just rough. And I'm a dad at this point. Right. So my son, it was, it was it was a rough time, like trying to, you know, I, you know, and I told this story a couple of times, but I just remember it got really, really tight where I remember in line at the grocery store with my son, and I'm looking at my phone, looking at the frickin bank balance, looking at the stuff on the conveyor belt, and trying to see if I can afford to buy. And as a dad, who is supposed to be a provider, like that's not an easy moment, right?
Yoni Mazor 29:32
Yeah, looking back at a low point for you. You've been ….Yeah, it was a test of character. I guess a big junction and what was the beginning of the resolution?
Keith O'Brien 29:44
Yeah, end of 2013 Now, I've been an entrepreneur for a fairly long time, right? So 2000 to 2013. I'm like, dude, you need to, you know, swallow your entrepreneurial pride and get a job. Like you need to go get a paycheck and..Like I knew, because I’d done it before, like, once like that weight is just a little bit off of you like you can actually think, right? I can, I can breathe. And so I took a job at a digital marketing agency as Director of Business Development. You know, at this point, I had this, you know, scattered history of, of, you know, background, but like I knew this space really well. And so. So anyway, so I went in, and I helped a local business grow and, and brought in a lot of business for them over the first year, it really kind of got my sea legs back underneath me. And it was that into that, that we moved into...a buddy of mine started a company called “I Love to Review” in the Amazon space. We were talking a lot of time, he had actually, in a previous business become a client of the agency. So we spent a lot of time. And then shortly after he launched it out of LA, I partnered in, literally left that job like a couple of weeks later, and opened up the second office for I Love to Review in Fort Lauderdale.
Yoni Mazor 31:13
So what year was this? So this is...you got a job essentially and?
Keith O'Brien 31:19
At the end of 2014.
Yoni Mazor 31:20
So 2014 is where you opened up I Love to Review?
Keith O'Brien 31:22
Yeah, yeah. So I actually opened the office here January 2015. The company was a couple months old at that point.
Yoni Mazor 31:30
Got it then. Okay, so 2015 you were scattered right now in two offices in a new venture essentially?
Keith O'Brien 31:39
Yeah, exactly. So I was at the time, I was a minority equity partner and, and was running this office.
Yoni Mazor 31:47
Wait, let me just touch the model. What were you guys actually doing?
Keith O'Brien 31:51
So I Love to Review was the first product review service for Amazon. So it was...we launched maybe like a month before Snagshot that was owned by SellerLabs. And we were the first to do it in this space. So back then...
Yoni Mazor 32:08
But what was the drill? What was the purpose of this? So anybody listening to just understand the landscape?
Keith O'Brien 32:13
Yeah. Back then Amazon...within Amazon Terms of Service, you could if you were selling this Sharpie, right, this pen, this highlighter, you were allowed to give someone, I was allowed to give this to you at a huge discount, or for free, didn't matter, in exchange, literally as a transactional exchange for an honest review on the product. So Amazon always allowed people to do this because it's kind of the standard way most products, consumer products are launched in the world, you know? You go to Whole Foods, and they've got a table of a new product given out samples. Right? You know, their goal is to spend a little money on product, get it into the marketplace, have people come back and buy. So that model was 100% within Terms of Service, right? And it's we really modeled it after the buy-in program, which at the time was only available to vendors, there was nothing for third party sellers. So we launched this service, we and strict, very shortly after that a lot of people followed behind, you know. And so there became a lot of competitors quickly, we were unique in this space, because...
Yoni Mazor 33:21
So this was a subscription model, meaning this Amazon seller comes in, utilizes the platform to get reviews to their listings, and they pay what? A monthly subscription fee?
Keith O'Brien 33:31
All of our competitors built their business just like this. So that was probably a very smart business model. Scalability was easy. We looked at it differently, because a lot of sellers really had...they were struggling with a lot of parts of the business. And so we launched it as almost like a concierge service. So we had, we were the only company in the space that you could actually call and talk to somebody, everyone else you’d do business with a website. So we had account managers that we trained on all the core basics around what makes an Amazon listing work. Because we were, we could literally drive as many reviews to a new product as you want. Like, we could put 500 reviews on a product in two weeks. Right? But what we're noticing is that a lot of the listings that we were sending reviews to, their listings weren't very good. And so how long that product would stay up in the rankings were 100% due to how good it was, right? So it's funny, we have products that we launched, like we checked in on one, we helped a board game launch in like 2016 maybe, you know, I've seen the owner, the guy that created it at a couple of events over the years. We checked in just a couple months ago and he was still a top 10 board game. I mean, last time I checked that guy was living in a small house in the middle of the mountains. But literally he was nowhere, we put them on the map. He was number one for Games on Amazon for months. So anyway, so yeah, that was it. So, whereas what we did is we dived in and dove into the psychology of it. So like, without really knowing what we were doing, we built like this learning algorithm for the reviewers, so like they come in and like we did all this, like Amazon would literally put out best practices for reviews to the consumers. And so we just followed their guidelines. And so, you know, we started helping them how to craft a better review without telling them what to say. And it got, we got really good. I mean, we, across the board had the highest review rate of any of the services, 90 some odd percent when we shut down.
Yoni Mazor 35:44
But why did you guys shut down? What was the evolution?
Keith O'Brien 35:47
Amazon changed the rules. So, you know, one day I woke up,...
Yoni Mazor 35:52
What year was this?
Keith O'Brien 35:53
- October 8th.
Yoni Mazor 35:57
It sounds like it's infamous. The infamous date October 2016. It's like Churchill or not Churchill who said it? With the Pearl Harbor, you know? It's like a moment where, you know, your ships got attacked, and he had to basically let it sink and move on to the next.
Keith O'Brien 36:11
I mean, it was a great business, you know, we were on a $2 million run rate. You know, as a business, you know, good healthy profit margins in the business. We had a great team, we're helping a ton of people make a lot of money. And yeah, overnight, it went to zero, right? So, you know…
Yoni Mazor 36:27
What's amazing, from my perspective is it's another test of character for you. And this is 2016.
Keith O'Brien 36:33
That’s so true. We were tested.
Yoni Mazor 36:34
Yeah. I said, No, this is a very big lesson for entrepreneurs, your character will keep on getting tested along with your successes and your failures. Because for your story, a part of the story is that you had a big success. And you're you felt, you know, financially, I'm sitting well, but it wasn't good enough for your soul. So you went on to create an NPO, a non-profit organization, and challenge yourself through that aspect. So you see, even with success and failure, you know, you still have a test of character, you got to answer sometimes to yourself, sometimes it's financially, sometimes to Amazon, sometimes to yourself, you have all these triangles and deltas. So it's interesting, so for entrepreneurs out there, test a character is just part of the game. It just, that's, that's probably the game. So 2016 in October, how'd you guys pivot? What do you guys do after?
Keith O'Brien 37:18
Well, I mean, it was, it was, it was a tough time. And we had, you know, we had a bunch of money in the bank, we had 1000s of clients at that point, that, you know, we had helped make, you know..
Yoni Mazor 37:31
Relationship. Yeah, relationship.
Keith O'Brien 37:32
Yeah. And they trusted us, so it was really interesting. So we knew we're gonna stay in the space. We knew we're gonna stay in the space, we learned a lot. We didn't know exactly where we're gonna go. But we knew we were going to do something around an agency, something around optimization, conversion rate, things like that. So we pivoted into a company called Market Hustle, which started doing content optimization, this is back really before the tools were
Yoni Mazor 38:00
You said Market Hustle?
Keith O'Brien 38:01
Yeah, yeah, Market Hustle. So which this company rolled up into Page One, we just rebranded it.
Yoni Mazor 38:05
So so this is the evolution of Page One where we are at the moment, I guess, you took the legacy and the foundations of it, you know, I Love to Review right? The feedback business you had and pivoted into, I guess, you know, where you are now, which is, I guess, sustainable. This is...I would like to believe and to say that this is sustainable when you're a full service Amazon agency. What's beautiful about it is from a business perspective, is that Amazon keeps on changing the goal and the rules. So the agencies are the best players out there that are capable in absorbing that as soon as possible and carrying all those ever changing needs to their clients, the businesses or entrepreneurs out there, they're trying to utilize Amazon as a sales platform, which is a great benefit. It's very hard to keep up and he becomes more and more intense. And your trial on this and your ability to successfully pivot engraved your DNA on a business level to sustain these things and, and just succeed in that terrain. So now take us to Page One, you know, we're now in the evolution of your full service. What are you guys doing? What's your? What's your thing?
Keith O'Brien 39:07
We kind of started bolting on services year after year. So we started with content optimization, we knew that space really well. You know, we created our own internal Keyword Tool before really, you know, I was frustrated with having to use four or five different tools to get what we needed. This is way before they got good, right? And so then we quickly shortly after that bolted on photography, photography and design. But a year later, I started doing PPC ad management. And then about a year later started full service brand management. And so what's you know, what's unique is, different than a lot of agencies, we actually technically grew brand management out of all the other pieces. So all those teams are still in house, right? So you know, we actually are good partners. So we do a lot of work. with other agencies that do pieces, like they manage the client, they may run advertising and they do the client relationship. But usually those agencies in house don't have in house photography, often don't have in house content. And so we do a lot of those pieces for other agencies. But for our first full service clients, we manage the whole robot. And what's cool is, you know, in the same room or zoom, you know, now, you know that the head of the content team and the head of the photography design, and head of the advertising team, and then the brand manager, all can get together and collaborate on a direction for either a line or a brand or an account. And it helps, right, because really getting consistent around that message, you know, to the consumer is really important, that stuff has a huge impact on conversion over time. So that's what we do. From our...we have a like a 4000 square foot studio and offices in Hollywood, Florida. And, yeah, so you know, the current state of the world has changed things a little bit, but, you know, overall, not that much.
Yoni Mazor 41:08
Good. So you’re finding it now, there's a good balance between, you know, healthy business model where it plays by the rules, and hopefully, these rules, the genius thing about the NHS is that part of the job is to keep keep updating the changing rules, and use that ability to keep up with the updates to serve your clients. Yeah, so the thing that impacted your first business now, which is the updates, now is your this is a component, it's any agency that helps you to stay successful, and actually stay in the business, you understand? Because if Amazon changes the way you do pictures, you guys will absorb it. If they change the way you got to do content, you absorb it, so I find the pivot that you guys did interesting, which was your capacity to bridge between the seller's needs and Amazon's rules and regulations.
Keith O'Brien 42:01
Yoni Mazor 42:02
Hold on to that I basically became your anchor that weakness, so to speak. Yeah, that became now your strength. It's a pivot. So it's pretty interesting.
Keith O'Brien 42:10
Yeah, there wasn't like..we weren’t in any illusion with I Love to Review, like, you know, we always knew it was going to change. I didn't predict..I didn't expect it to change the way they did. So yeah, we, those that have been around the industry for a while, and other agencies and service providers, like, you know, the joke was with me is like, I'm always super white hat, like, I would just do everything by the book. And, and the reality is, is like we as an agency, like we're not going to do anything that's going to put someone's account at risk, right? But not everyone lives that way. Right? I'm not saying it's the right way. And some of the stuff that we don't do is probably okay. Right? But, you know, when you've gone through that track record, you know, erring a little bit of side of caution. That's good. And the reality is, is the core fundamentals are still where it's at, right, and all the other things? Sure, maybe you can save some time off, but over time, the core fundamentals are always gonna win.
Yoni Mazor 43:16
Yeah, I say that the shortest way is the straight and honest way, you know, you try to ban and things like that, usually, especially in the e-commerce space, you're getting into real trouble. So the best is an honest way, the straight way. Work hard, think long term, do all the right things and stop all at all the right stations. Wow, phenomenal. Keith, your story. And evolution has been...Wow, it's, uh...
Keith O'Brien 43:39
It hasn't been boring, that's for sure.
Yoni Mazor 43:41
It's, yeah, it's unique. It's your perspective on things. It's definitely something that it's, I think valuable probably now for a lot of sellers out there that you help with agency. So we do appreciate, you know, sharing the story. I would like to end off I guess, you know, with your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there. So, last words of hope?
Keith O'Brien 44:03
So, let's see. I think that like really getting underneath what's important to you in life is really paramount, right? And so really getting a sense of kind of A) your moral compass, right? What you will or won't do. Because at so many times within the journey of entrepreneurship that's going to be tested, and understand what really works for you within a business, you know, spectrum. You know, we all can get different things from business, you know, even the same business of e-commerce can provide a whole range of different benefits for different people. And, you know, I think that, ultimately, you're going to be tested over and over and over again. And it is not, you know, a straight line up to the top right. It is met with all kinds of challenges, right? And, and that's okay. Right? That is okay, it's part of what makes it all worthwhile.
Yoni Mazor 45:16
That is the experience, I would say. Get ready and make sure you know, make sure you're aware of, it's not always a jump to the top, that's very rare. And if it happens, usually there's a little bit of a dip after a major dip for some players, and then they have to figure out what's going on.
Keith O'Brien 45:30
100%, you know, on the money or the exit or whatever that you know, the long term result is, it's really just a byproduct of your ability to navigate all that stuff. Right? And continuously refine your decision-making process and how you make choices. And always putting those back up against that value. Yeah, who you want to be in the world. And it's not always easy to decipher, sometimes you get involved in something, and everything looks good. And then, you know, sometimes it just becomes like the little subtle things that, you know, like, you don't notice until it's been six months, or nine months or a year and then you're like, wait a minute. I mean, it's really, it's much easy to connect the dots looking back. Oh, yeah, kind of doing going forward is almost impossible. Right? Right. You know, you get a business plan and projected have a vision all you want. Rarely is that actually going to happen just like that. But looking back, you're like, Oh, well, that decision led to this. And oh, man, going back, I would have changed that decision point at that moment. Right? And that's how we learn, right? Not having some, you know, some self-reflection is the surest way to repeat the past, right? So, you know, take some time, you know, everything can get kind of crazy and you can live in a schedule can get overwhelmed, you got to take time, to really just sit and be with it all. And whatever you call that, based on your beliefs, it's really important.
Yoni Mazor 47:08
Awesome. So I'm gonna kind of try to put it out in a few words. To summarize recap on your message of hope and inspiration. Work with your moral compass, okay? The adventure is, and the experience is what the entrepreneur is all about. But never forget to look back and try to reflect to look back and learn from the mistakes and, and going forward, you know, learn from those lessons, utilize those lessons, and you'll probably find yourself succeeding on a long-term basis. Was that kind of the essence of the….?
Keith O'Brien 47:37
For sure man. From an overnight 30 year success.
Yoni Mazor 47:39
Yeah, you gotta summarize down in one bite, you know, so they can, they can swallow. Because, you know, your story is very rich, it's intense, and it's full of nuance. But, sadly, we can’t do a 10 hour series and maybe one day you know, as you come along, where we do a special 10 series, you know, 10 episode series and dive into every function and function. But um, for now that our time is limited. So I really want to thank you again, anybody listening here, and got this far. Thank you. Well, we hope you enjoyed. We hope you learned something. Stay safe, stay healthy. Until next time,
Keith O'Brien 48:13
Thanks so much. Bye for now.