Shannon Roddy | From Producing Films to Selling on Amazon
In this Prime Talk Podcast Video Sponsored by GETIDA, Shannon Roddy, the founder, and CEO of Marketplace Seller Courses joins us. Shannon discusses selling on amazon from producing films, and his journey into e-commerce. Marketplace Seller Courses is the leading educational platform for Amazon sellers.
Being in the Amazon marketplace can be a confusing experience for small sellers and big brand sellers alike. It seems that since Amazon is always changing there are always a million things that you as an Amazon seller need to keep up with. Yoni Mazor of Prime Talk talks about a solution that can help any sized Amazon business get ahead and learn the ins and outs of the marketplace in order to achieve greater success.
In today’s episode, Prime Talk has teamed up with Shannon Roddy, the found and CEO of Amazon Marketplace Seller Courses, an educational platform that provides comprehensive training and coaching to Amazon sellers. Amazon Marketplace Seller Courses helps innovators and brand owners in the Amazon community protect the integrity of their products and thus increase product sales.
Shannon Roddy shares his incredible journey from an internship at a homeless shelter in LA, to the wilds of East Africa, to the challenges of following his own dream of success in building a business he could be proud of. So if you’re an Amazon seller who is puzzled by the inner workings of Amazon, or you need help protecting your brand, then this episode is for you!
Learn more about Marketplace Seller Courses!
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'm really excited to have a really special unique person. I'm having Shannon Roddy. Shannon is the founder and CEO of Marketplace Seller Courses, which is a leading educational platform for Amazon sellers. So Shannon, welcome to the show.
Shannon Roddy 0:24
Thank you so much for having me. I know it's been several months trying to get on and I'm glad to be able to make the time to be on.
Yoni Mazor 0:30
Same here. I'm so happy we are getting this opportunity. So where are you located right now? It seems like you're next to a volcano?
Shannon Roddy 0:35
Yes, yeah. So this is just my, my background. This is Mount Oldoinyo Lengai. It's in Kenya, and it's Maasai for “the mountain of God”. My friend actually took that picture. And we'll get a little bit into the backstory later. But it's just this beautiful photo, it actually spans eight feet of my office. And I just knew I was like, I want to wake up and go into my office every single day and have that inspiration. So I'm currently in Atlanta, but highlighted by a beautiful backdrop from Kenya.
Yoni Mazor 1:05
Beautiful. So yeah, if you're listening to this episode, you know, feel free to tune into our YouTube channel and watch the video. Really a beautiful picture. I thought you kind of bought it somewhere. But if you're seeing a friend took a photo, and you printed it out like that, it looks amazing. It makes it even more unique and special. So thank you for that. Today's episode is gonna be all about you. So I guess without further ado, let's jump right into it.
Shannon Roddy 1:25
So I grew up in Chicago, very diverse community environment, learned a lot. I felt like I got a really good sense of the entire country just because there's so many different people being…
Yoni Mazor 1:38
So this is Chicago suburbs? What's the name of the show suburb if you wanna give a shout out?
Shannon Roddy 1:41
Yeah, Evanston. ETHS is where I went to high school, it was a great place to grow up. And I had a sort of a thriving childhood, always super active, you know, doing everything I could athletically and wound up going to college in Colorado. Probably middle of high school, I discovered that I really had a passion and a joy for filmmaking. Read every book on filmmaking that I could get my hands on to. In my senior year of high school, I wrote, directed, produced and starred in sounds like, you know, Mel Gibson with Braveheart, an action movie, like a full hour long action movie that we shot off with my parents farm, you know, fight scenes on the back of trucks. And we had, you know, cliff hanging scenes like actually hanging from cliffs. And it was so much fun. But I knew that as much as I wanted to get into film, I really want to get out of the city. And when I saw that you could go to school in the mountains, I was like, I've got to do that. So I actually wound up going to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, 6500 feet up in the mountains, and spent four years there just in the beautiful nature and outdoors.
Yoni Mazor 2:50
And what do you take at school? What do you learn there?
Shannon Roddy 2:52
I remember, one of my first courses was rhetoric, and I loved it, it was the whole idea of if we're not learning lessons from history, then the lessons don't really stick. And if we're not applying the knowledge that we're learning, we're not making great use of it. And so, rhetoric was one of our favorite classes that I took there. And then when I decided, you know, I really wanted to do some more film production. I was trying to get into a course. And he said, Well, you have to be an English communication major to get this course. So I was like, Okay, hold on, I'll be right back, I walked down to the office, I declared my major as English communications, came back and enrolled in the course. So that was how I picked my major, but it was pretty much..I was able to do a lot with it just in terms of getting a broad understanding. I loved astronomy. I loved physics, and psychology. And so I actually think for me, the goal is always about learning as much as I could about life in its broadest sense as I could, because I knew that I could learn the specifics of whatever job I did in the future on the job. But I wanted that life lesson, sort of the well-roundedness, that for me was more important, just like I felt like high school, what I got was a cultural education by being around so many different people, that was more important than just learning any particular subject.
Yoni Mazor 4:15
So you're saying for you, you know, educational institutions, aka high school and college for you, it wasn't just about, you know, absorbing information data and move on. So it's that, you know, it needs to be a bit more than just being technical. So you absorb the culture and whatever other values you can really populate into your system and basket of values. You adopted that which is a good mindset I would say to anybody going to school right now, you know, just realize there's more opportunity for you if you just appreciate the spot that you’re in and the environment that you're in. Alright, very cool. So let's touch years a little bit. So what year did you I guess, graduate and then I guess, dived into the business world or professional world?
Shannon Roddy 4:58
Yeah, so I graduated ‘03, I know I don't look it...baby face, perhaps. But I graduated no three. And at that point, like I said, I was very excited about film. And I decided I'm gonna go to LA and get into the film business. And one thing people who know me know,
Yoni Mazor 5:18
Acting or directing, producing?
Shannon Roddy 5:20
I wanted to be behind the scenes. I wanted to produce, I wanted to be behind the scenes I wanted to create, I think that's always been sort of, again, a core passion of mine is, I love creating things. And in particular, I love creating things that other people can enjoy. And it doesn't matter whether it's a course, or a product, or, you know, entertainment, that's kind of always been a part of my DNA, so.
Yoni Mazor 5:42
As long as it resonates positively with, you know, the audience.
Shannon Roddy 5:45
Yeah, if you can make people laugh, or cry or get excited or be engaged or, you know, make better decisions about their lives, like anything that will help people. It's always sort of been a driving force for me.
Yoni Mazor 5:57
So you hit Hollywood and what happened?
Shannon Roddy 5:59
I hit Hollywood, you know, and again, I just decided this is what I'm gonna do. I had a laundry bag of clothes. And I had a lamp and a sleeping bag. And that was it. I didn't have a job when I moved out there. But I had a friend of mine who ran an internship program at a homeless shelter. And so he said, Well, why don't you come out and run the internship program, and you can stay at the homeless shelter for free? Well, you know, it was...I mean, you talk about a life immersive experience, I lived in a homeless shelter for three and a half, almost four months, in the worst part of LA I mean, literally, it was at Fifth and San Pedro it is the most dangerous street in Los Angeles. Really, honestly, it was one of the most lonely times in my life, because I didn't know anybody else there, I didn't have any mode of transportation, I was completely broke. It was a really character-building time to discover, really who I was when nobody else was around me, who was Shannon? And understanding that I really felt like I was designed this way. And I don't have to be like anybody else, I don't have to try to be like anybody else, or do what everybody else is doing, I can be me. And that's good enough. And I feel like, I sort of feel like, you know, Wolverine, where they sort of stripped him down to the core. And then like, they put this titanium or whatever on his bones that was sort of like, I felt like that was sort of my experience of, you kind of get to the core of who you are. And then you get sort of like super titanium plated. And once you come out of that, nobody can tear you down. Nobody can tell you you can't do something. Because going through that situation. You learn to trust your instincts and who you are, and gain confidence in something that's not based on anything that anybody else is saying. I mean, I had no outside visible success for you know, for example, and the first job, quote unquote, that I got, you know, well because the internship was unpaid, I wasn't even getting paid. I'm living in a homeless shelter, I had no money. I got a job part time working at a parking lot, a couple blocks away. And I remember sitting in the parking lot one day, and I decided that I wanted a definition. ...
Yoni Mazor 8:14
Let's just remind everybody, you're you know, you're 21-22 after college, you got your college degree, English majors last, you know, film, and Hollywood, and you live in a homeless shelter, and not as a homeless as some sort of a staff, non paid intern, and you're sitting in a parking lot, and I guess in the booth...
Shannon Roddy 8:33
Making minimum wage.
Yoni Mazor 8:34
Minimum wage, collecting tickets, and what's in your mind, at that point?
Shannon Roddy 8:37
I wanted a definition of success, that wouldn't exclude me from it. And I decided that my definition of success was good character acted upon, that if you had good character and acted upon, a lot of people are like nice people, they’re moral people, but I feel like there's a lack of proactive tivity of actually doing anything. And if you want to engage or be, you know, an entrepreneur or successful, you have to take the initiative, you can't wait for somebody else to tell you, you need to go start a company or you need to go create this or you need to go, you know, get in shape or do whatever it is. And so for me, it was good character acted upon. Because I think in our society, there's a lot of people that have the display of success, but don't actually have the character. And so for me, if you made a million dollars, but you did it unethically that's not success. And so again, it kind of got away from the flash and the bling and the titles and the suits and the cars and the vacations like and honestly, it's a challenge sometimes to remind myself, hey, Shannon, that's your definition of success. And even if things don't look on the outside, like they're working out, you have to believe that if you maintain good character, if you're honest, if you have integrity, if you treat people right, if you do the right thing and you have loyalty and a good heart and act upon that, things will work out and that will be your success. So this
Yoni Mazor 10:07
These are your fundamentals no matter what. Even though you’re not going to get sidetracked or blinded by immediate instant success, which is based on, you know, crooked things or unstable things, which might be very pleasing on the eye, but maybe not long term value, no real essence or core values in it. So that's good. That's good for the heart, it’s good for the soul and it's good for long term success and a good piece of mindset, but, okay, so you know, parking lot, but what was the next step? Okay, so you're thinking about success?
Shannon Roddy 10:33
I want to work in film, I want to work in film and, you know, my friend says, You know what, there's a small film company that wants to come in and shoot a movie about a homeless guy. Why don't you work with him?
Yoni Mazor 10:44
Was that the Jamie Foxx movie?
Shannon Roddy 10:45
No, I was like, I don't want to. Yeah,
Yoni Mazor 10:48
He was like a violin player, like a gifted one from Juilliard.
Shannon Roddy 10:51
I didn't even know if it came out.
Yoni Mazor 10:53
Shannon Roddy 10:54
It was a really small film, low budget. And I was like, I don't want to work with these guys. I want to work with Spielberg, like, you know, I want to work with the, you know, A+, you know, players, you know, the big studio films.
Yoni Mazor 11:03
Or as Amazon would call it A+ content, right?
Shannon Roddy 11:06
Yeah, exactly. So they wound up coming in the small film crew. And the first day he said, You know, I need you to show these guys around. None of the other staff are available to do it. And so I'm walking down the hall and this guy, Dave Angus...
Yoni Mazor 11:19
These guys are low budget, but they're paying you correct?
Shannon Roddy 11:21
No, no. I'm just as a representative of the homeless shelter because they're just using it as a location.
Yoni Mazor 11:26
Oh ok, they're coming to your facility to do a low budget movie, as part of your internship.
Shannon Roddy 11:31
Yeah, exactly. So Dave Angus this is the first day, he's walking down the hall and he leans to me, and he says, this is the first night we're doing the walkthrough, he said, I don't usually do stuff this well. He said, I'm just doing it as a favor for a friend. I usually work for Spielberg. And I'm just thinking like, Yeah, right. Like, you know?
Yoni Mazor 11:49
Big Hollywood talk, everybody works for Spielberg.
Shannon Roddy 11:52
Yeah. So he leaves, I look him up on IMDB. And he's done. Spielberg's last several movies, he did AI and then he did like Minority Report. He did Gone in 60 Seconds. Like he's got this amazing resume, and I'm like, Oh, my gosh, this guy's legit. And he'd mentioned he said, You know, I actually have this project coming up in the fall. I'd love to have you be a part of it. So I go back to him and Jeffery Schwartz, who is a second and I was like, I would love to work with you guys. And they said, Yeah, we'd love to have you. And through that process, he wound up having a Jeep that he was giving away to charity, he's like, if you need it, I will give it to you.
Yoni Mazor 12:29
The Jeep, like the vehicle?
Shannon Roddy 12:30
Gave me an old 82 Jeep or 92 Jeep Cherokee. And so within a period of six weeks, I went from living in a homeless shelter, and working in a minimum wage job, and it sounds like a Hollywood story too good to be true. But it happened and to all of a sudden I have a car. And I'm working on set with Tom Hanks and Catherine Zeta Jones on a Spielberg film up in Palmdale, California. And it was like, overnight, and it was like, I felt like the glove fit. It was like, Oh my gosh, like this done. I was made to do you know, nobody gets to work for Spielberg on their first film. I mean, that's crazy. People work for years and never get the opportunity. The really cool redemptive part of that, Yoni, is that the last night of the shoot, we shot downtown LA, we turned summer, you know, Los Angeles into winter New York. And so they actually made a New York taxi cabs and they had like snow and, you know, everything. We base camped in the parking lot where I used to work. And I went to my old boss. And I remember at the time, the first week, he hired me, he's like, you have a college degree, are you sure you want to work here? And I said, You know, I need the money. And he said, Well, I'm gonna make you a supervisor, I said I don't want to be a supervisor. And he said, Why? And I said, because I want to be in film. And as passionately as I have to say yes to that, I have to say no to everything else. And he looked at me very sincerely and said, That's why you're gonna make it. And it was so cool to be able to go back that night, and I popped in the office, and I've got, you know, my radio on and the PA, you know, gods and call sheets and everything. And I was like, I did it, you know, I did it. And I do think that is an entrepreneurial principle or takeaway, that if you really want to do something, you have to say no to everything else as passionately as you say yes to the thing that you want to pursue. And people would say, like, they would offer me promotions, and I would say no to them. They're like, why don't you want a promotion? I was like, because that's not what I want to do. And if I get a promotion, I'm probably more likely to get comfortable with the increased pay and the salary. But I have to say no to that, as passionately, as I say yes,the one thing that I do want to do, and that I think has been another key staple that I've carried throughout my life, and sometimes it means being broke and not having a lot of money. And that's okay.
Yoni Mazor 14:51
Yeah, definitely a tough route. But as long as you're laser focused, and that spirit carries you forward, you know, and the highs and lows, you know, and you're happy. You know, they say, who is rich is the one who is always happy with what he has. So that's a very strong approach. Okay, take me to the next step.
Shannon Roddy 15:09
I met my wife and got married, and my beautiful bride. And so thank you. So it was 2007. We were both working entertainment jobs, crazy hours. And we said, You know what, let's take a step back. Let's just be married for a couple years, we only knew each other for five months before we got engaged, and then another five months before we got married. So pretty fast, relatively, we decided to quit our entertainment jobs. And so for a short time, I started working freelance. My wife and I had just sort of felt a sense of restlessness. And we're like, we're just going through life every single week, the same, you know, day after day, and we wanted something different. And she had actually been to Africa. A couple years back, the first year, we got married, we decided to move to Africa. We had friends who ran an organization, they're a small NGO, or non government organization. And we raised money from friends and family and supporters. And we spent a year and a half working with their organization. They work with…
Yoni Mazor 16:13
All of Africa or a special country or?
Shannon Roddy 16:15
East Africa, in Tanzania and Kenya, primarily. And so hence where the photo comes from.
Yoni Mazor 16:23
Ah so your friend who give you this photo is actually his. Yeah, yeah, from Kenya he’s a native, he’s not like a tourist that came from the States and boom, landed a picture and gave it to you?
Shannon Roddy 16:33
Exactly. So he was born there. And so we worked with them for a year and a half. And they had this amazing project with the Maasai women to do beading, they do incredible bead work.
Yoni Mazor 16:47
So let's see, you said Masa woman, this is a, I suppose, a tribe in Kenya?
Shannon Roddy 16:51
That's correct. And so they're right on the border between Kenya and Tanzania. I mean, just just the life in the story. So you imagine being out miles away from sort of civilization.
Yoni Mazor 17:02
Western civilization, yeah.
Shannon Roddy 17:04
And then, you know, you've got huts, and you've got these sort of Bramble bushes that you encircle, essentially, your village or mini village. And, you know, husbands will have multiple wives, and that's just part of the culture. And they'll raise animals and raise families and, but the women were able to be these incredible products, they would have everything from jewelry to, you know, Christmas ornaments, that kind of thing. And they were able to sell them to, you know, Western countries. And, you know, it provided an incredible income for these women. And for women who in that culture were typically viewed as second class, it really elevated them. And all of a sudden, they were invited to the tribal meetings with the men and they were able to send their kids to school and get food and water. I mean, for me, I get really emotional about it. Because the impact of entrepreneurship is so powerful that you understand it's not just about making money, it's about...
Yoni Mazor 18:02
Making, improving life right?
Shannon Roddy 18:04
Making a significant impact in life.
Yoni Mazor 18:06
So what was your role with the women, with the tribe, just so I get some context here on your involvement.
Shannon Roddy 18:10
Yeah so my wife, my wife primarily worked with the orders. So they would send out raw beads, and then they would get product back and there was kind of like, no standardization in terms of what they sent them and how they got it back. And you know, we get products that are all different sizes. You had like they would do angels, and then they would do Christmas trees. And then sometimes we’d get Christmas trees with angel wings on them, this just kind of
Yoni Mazor 18:38
Interesting variations. Yeah, so you guys helped them standardize their productions, right?
Shannon Roddy 18:43
Exactly. And I did a lot of office work, I trained a lot of their office staff to help them use more Excel spreadsheets, so they could reconcile everything faster, get more accurate information. It allowed it to scale. And when they started, they had only 12 women. I forget how many they had when we first started. But at that point, by the time we left you they had over 100 women who were employed by this project. And we did not account for that whole, they had grown before that. But the project as a whole, we help bring some standardization, organization and clarification to the organization. It takes some of the administrative impact off of their backs, as well as training some of the Tanzanian staff that were there helping run the office so that they could go do the leadership work that they really felt empowered to do.
Yoni Mazor 19:32
Wow. That's an incredible experience I bet. And you this for a year and a half correct?
Shannon Roddy 19:36
We did it for..Yeah, we're there for 15 months. So...
Yoni Mazor 19:39
And this is with pay for you guys or?
Shannon Roddy 19:41
So we raised money to cover our base costs, but we were not making any money. We
Yoni Mazor 19:46
Yeah, I’m saying you’re, basically, there as a part of this mission. You had a way to take care of your own income needs.
Shannon Roddy 19:51
Yeah, I mean, we got food and board. We weren't putting away any money into savings or anything like that.
Yoni Mazor 19:58
You weren't living the big money, high life, entrepreneurship.
Shannon Roddy 20:03
Back to the definition of success, that's what was important.
Yoni Mazor 20:07
Yeah your values. Once they are your core values of, you know, it's authentic, it's important, it's real, it makes a difference. It makes an impact and it's helping other people's lives. That's valuable too. There's no...money cannot buy that experience with that connection or that authentic feeling of support, help and progress to humanity, right? On a very general level. But okay, take me next. What was...How come you left, for example? Such a great impact, such a great experience, what was the next station for you and why?
Shannon Roddy 20:37
It was always for a limited time, we agreed initially to 12 months, they asked us to stay for an additional three. And at that point, we moved back to Atlanta, and I had no job lined up. I remember going in,
Yoni Mazor 20:49
Atlanta because you have family there?
Shannon Roddy 20:50
Yeah, my wife is there. It's the shortest, shortest flight from Tanzania to Atlanta. So, you know, we flew back to LA and our stuff was there. We had acquired a dog while we were there, a guard dog.
Yoni Mazor 21:05
So you brought a dog from Tanzania?
Shannon Roddy 21:06
We brought a dog back. A Siberian Husky/Shepherd mix.
Yoni Mazor 21:11
You found a Siberian animal in Africa?
Shannon Roddy 21:14
Yeah, she was in South Africa. Siberian Husky from South Africa to German Shepherd. And we got one of two pups. So we actually still have a great dog, I get more exercise because of that dog than probably anything else. But you know, we came back, I didn't have a job, and we're going to apply for Target. And I'm like, maybe I can get like an assistant manager or something. They're like, well, we could start you off at $7 an hour. And I'm like, that's not gonna pay for gas to get me here. Like I got a family to provide for. We didn't have kids at that point. But still, it was like..
Yoni Mazor 21:49
The household. Yeah, yeah.
Shannon Roddy 21:49
And I talked to my buddy, Eric Clemens, who's a great dear friend of mine, we met in college. And he said, Well, you know, I need help with some e-commerce websites I'm building, I'll teach you everything you need to know, I'll train you..
Yoni Mazor 22:00
And what year is this? Already crossing 2010-2011ish?
Shannon Roddy 22:03
Exactly. 2010-2011. So we come back. And he's like, I'll hire you for 35 bucks an hour, whatever. And I was like, great. So I wound out pulling out my laptop and I contracted from him, subcontracted for the first few years. And within about five months, we wound up moving back to LA and got a small apartment in South Pasadena, where we were for the next few months.
Yoni Mazor 22:25
Again, you're building websites, basically?
Shannon Roddy 22:27
And I started South Pasadena Web Design. So I was like, guys, my whole...my niche. And you can imagine, you know, when you first start a business, I barely know what I'm doing. Eric's coaching me on everything. And again, I cannot under emphasize the importance of if you're doing something for the first time, you want somebody who's done it before, to show you how to be successful, you do not want to learn everything on your own, because the mistakes can be just devastating, you know, website goes down or get hacked, or whatever, Eric helped me just bypass so many mistakes. And so, I started a web design company, barely made, you know, $35,000, something like that the first year, which in LA, you know, being one of the most pricey cities. And it's like, right at the poverty line, essentially, you know, we ate every day, but, you know, we couldn't go out to dinner, you know, do any recreational activities and stuff.
Yoni Mazor 23:17
Yeah hand to mouth, you know, day to day.
Shannon Roddy 23:19
Yes, it was challenging. And so, we did that for about three and a half, four years. And really, within the first couple years, actually one of the first clients that he brought me on to work on, they said, you know, we've got this problem on Amazon, can you help clean up their inventory and remove..
Yoni Mazor 23:35
I'm already smelling 2013-2014?
Shannon Roddy 23:38
Yeah, it's kind of into that. Really, really probably 2012 you know? The initial early start of it. And he said...
Yoni Mazor 23:45
The Amazon buzzer coming. Yeah,
Shannon Roddy 23:47
Amazon. Yeah. So he said, Can you do it, and I tried for like two weeks, I'm like Eric, you've got to hire somebody else. And he's like, we can't just like because they charge 1000s of dollars, we can't afford them. So you gotta do it. And so we wound up in one month, we cleaned up a you know, we removed about 70 unauthorized resellers, we added the remaining 75% of their inventory, we optimized the current inventory and their sales took off at like 400% the next month, and continued to increase month over month. It wasn't simply a transfer from resellers to their seller account.
Yoni Mazor 24:22
It was a complete change in momentum, you know, cleanup and then trajectory?
Shannon Roddy 24:25
It was just like 100%. I mean, they were just flatlined, because you can't really control the brand experience on Amazon if you don't control the listings. And so that was a neat experience. And it was so challenging because I didn't even know what an ASIN was or how to take control of an ASIN and so as I went through this process of being on hold with Seller Support for, you know, hours every single day, I learned a couple things that I didn't...there was no information on Seller Central Support about this, like how do you take over an ASIN and then clean up your listings. So I wrote an article and I had a company in the UK reached out to me and said, Hey, we're, you know, we're having the same problem we came across your blog post, can you help us. And this was you know, back in the day where Amazon even was still so new, you throw up a blog post about anything Amazon related, and you're the only one. And so that article still lives on my website, I transferred it from the web design domain to Marketplace Seller Courses. But, you know, it was one thing led to another and a dear friend of mine and colleague Nick Lightes, and he said, You know, I think there's something to this Amazon thing. And, you know, I love teaching, I feel like I'm an educator at heart, I love empowering people with principles or strategies that they can own and use, you know, for their growth and success. And, for me, I defined a principle as a truth that you can leverage. If it's a truth that you can leverage that it fits the definition of principle for me, and so trying to find truths that people can leverage to make their lives or businesses better. And so he was, he was such a sweet inspiration in those early days and helped give me some of the initial tools and actually helped me build the first iteration of Marketplace Seller Courses. And, you know, as we come to, I guess, 2016, end of 2015 2016, we had had our first child, so we decided to move back to Atlanta to be around some family, get some family support, and increase our real estate space a little bit. For lower cost to say..
Yoni Mazor 26:32
Yeah, get more for less in terms of real estate, yeah.
Shannon Roddy 26:34
Or way more for the same. For the same, you know, we went from a one bedroom apartment to a five bedroom house for literally the same price. And that's just
Yoni Mazor 26:43
But in LA, you owned it or you leased it?
Shannon Roddy 26:45
Oh no, we were renting.
Yoni Mazor 26:47
But in Atlanta, you lease it or you own it? There you go, that makes the money go into the wall, not just for rent, right, exactly. So let me ask you this. So 2012 to 2015, as you were pretty much professionally, or in terms of income, you know, making a living or designing websites, but also with Amazon, you know, what they were like the company from the UK mentioned, they reached out and another brand that needed help. So you kind of between a few junctions and the e-commerce space, exactly digital space. And in 2015-16, you settle familywise in Atlanta, and
Shannon Roddy 27:21
And I dropped South Pasadena Web Design, it no longer was relevant at that point. And I knew I could do Amazon better. I love Jim Collins' book, you know, “Good to Great'', where he talks about your hedgehog concept, the overlap between what you're passionate about, what drives your economic engine, and what you can do better than anybody else in the world. I don't believe I can do Amazon better than anybody else in the world, I'm pretty straightforward about that. But I do believe I have the ability to teach it and explain it to entrepreneurs and business owners in a way that makes sense to them better than anybody else, you know, relatively speaking. And so I think that understanding that, that's kind of what I grasped and held on to was, maybe I can educate people in a way that brand owners don't have education, material or access to, you know, there's a ton of stuff for FBA sellers and people doing private label, but I felt less for people who had established brands, they're moving on to the Amazon platform or trying to clean up the Amazon platform, they were just presented with different challenges. And there were different strategies to, you know, to face those challenges. So I basically dumped the web design company, but, you know, I realized how much from web design played into Amazon, you've got SEO, you've got advertising, you've got copy, and photos and videos, and a lot of the same elements are there. And when I created the courses, it was sort of like all of these different skills and talents from video production and editing, to design and copy and all these things sort of started coming together, how do you organize all this information, in a way to make it simple and accessible to people kind of came together, that my unique skill set could play into making, you know, the best Amazon courses for brand owners that existed and continuing to, you know, evolve that to today. So that was really the pivot point. You know, moving from LA and at that point, I'm losing my biggest retainer clients from web design. It was kind of like starting over and it was very scary. I mean, we moved into our house and I'm like, I don't know how we're gonna pay the mortgage next month, like literally no idea.
Yoni Mazor 29:23
And your wife, what was she doing all these years, all this time?
Shannon Roddy 29:26
At that point staying home with our son and so, you know, we have two kids now and she's been able to be a stay at home...full time stay at home mom and so for me for entrepreneurs in that situation, you know, just you have to hang in there...
Yoni Mazor 29:42
There’s a gift to that. There's, you know, you're backed up against the wall. There’s a gift to that because you had to make it, you had to make you know, you have a family, you have you know, things that are more important than you and there's no other way. Success is the only option. Failure is just, you know, there's no room for that.
Shannon Roddy 29:58
Failure is not an option. I was watching Apollo 13 last night. Failure isn't an option. And so I think for them well, and even going back to the web design company, you know, I was able to double revenue every year for the first three years. And what's exciting is when you start off, you don't have any clients, you don't have any resumes, you don't even have a portfolio because you haven't done anything yet. And you just have to pound the pavement and you've got to hustle. And you got to be willing to do things, for free to kind of get your foot in the door and get the experience and learn to like, do websites for a fraction of the cost, so that you have a website to put on your portfolio page. Like, that's how you start unless you go out and get some sort of venture capital funding or, you know, huge investment, you got to scrape. And I think that that sort of scrappy mentality plus, you know, productivity, really, it's not about being scrappy, per se, as much as being proactive, it pays off. Over time, it's about doing the same things consistently. And in a lot of cases, you have to pound just as hard when you're a bigger business. Because a lot of people who do things to become successful, again, the definition of success, you know, who becomes successful, you have to keep doing those things to remain successful. You don't ever reach a plateau where you're like, great, no, I don't have to do X, Y, Z anymore.
Yoni Mazor 31:17
Now the higher you get, then the higher you go, the more you can kind of see that though the mountain is still high, there's much more to climb. And I can see myself reaching there. So why not keep you know, pounding it up. No reason to stop, I'm enjoying the view, it's a good life. And I'm making an impact. So there's no draw for you to stop really, you know when you climb, usually, at least for myself and my perspective, over the years as an entrepreneur. But talk to me about writing a little bit, you mentioned writing a lot of content out there online and it resonated. So I just, you know, blog articles and for your website was only type of writing you're involved with? Or did your writing take you to other projects or other domains?
Shannon Roddy 31:54
For the most part it was writing. It was writing articles, and that sort of thing. A lot of the writing went into writing the content for the courses themselves, you know, again, so much even in terms of the downloads, and you know, the content inside the courses, and then the content that you refer the courses to like, all of it is content, you know, and I never resorted to fluff, I never resorted to writing an article just to have an article out there, I wanted it to be something valuable that I can say that would add value to the conversation. And yet, you know, it's still probably the top five articles that bring in all the traffic, but you don't know what those are until you write them. I've always been fascinated by innovation. And the idea of creating a culture of innovation, and being able to sustain that culture was really fascinating to me, because there's so many companies that just knock it out of the park all the time, just over and over.
Yoni Mazor 32:48
Name a few of them, a few that you're aware of.
Shannon Roddy 32:50
I mean, look, Apple is a continual innovator. Amazon is a continual innovator, you know, so a subject from a book from a much different perspective, how do you create a culture that you're always pushing the boundaries, but also deliver with a such a high level of excellence, that people always get a superior customer experience? And that, again, is very, very unique and rare. But it's like, why is it rare? You know, why is it that Southwest is one of the most profitable airlines ever, and is the only airline and until maybe perhaps this year, but maybe not. It depends on what they're able to resolve...is the only airline to be profitable every single year, since they, you know, like 1977, or something crazy like that. They're the highest performing stock between 70 I think it was like 70, something and 90-91 or 92 beating out companies like IBM and Intel. Even now I get to work with innovative companies. And you get to test those theories and you learn principles, things that work and don't work. And, you know, one of the principles, for example, is rework until it's ready. And so many times we see companies who are pushed to deliver a product on time because they said this is the release date. And they push to get it out early. They're not ready, it still has bugs in it and it fails. And you look at it, you look at other companies that they're late by months, in some cases, years coming out with their product. Nobody remembers the product was late if the product was phenomenal. And it was something that Steve Jobs wanted to do very well. And he said, Every product we've ever done, we will hit pause, we'll go back and we'll redesign it. Even with the iPhone, they realized they want a glass all the way to the edge and they said guys, we're gonna have to work nights and weekends, we're going to go back, we're going to rework this until it's ready. And when journalists and people would criticize him and say your product is late, he would counter with no, it's actually five years ahead of its time. And understanding the long term value of that. This is a principle that entrepreneurs can use. If you've got a product and it's innovative, you only get one shot to release it, rework it until it's ready, because you only get one chance and people will never remember that it's late ever. I promise. They will only remember if it sucks.
Yoni Mazor 35:03
That's true. Very, very true. All right, cool. So, since 2015 till today, you know, almost like a five year run, you would, you know, with the Marketplace Seller Courses. That's where you are today. And I guess what's the main challenges for you right now with this position? You know, it's your baby, it's your business, you know, I guess, well probably, the one longest thing you're doing, you know, with your professional career, and it's all you. This has you stamped you all over it, I guess, what are your main challenges? And what do you want to take this, you know, in the following years?
Shannon Roddy 35:35
I think one of the biggest challenges was, again, you know, exposure and scalability. And I think those are always challenges for any business, like, you start a food brand, do you want exposure, and you want to be able to make it scalable, you don't want to just, it's great to sell to the local retail, mom and pop shops. But most companies it’s like, hey, if we can build the regional and then national distribution, that's where you kind of make it as a brand.
Yoni Mazor 35:58
So you’re looking for clients who are just early sprout stages of you know, building a brand or you want the Pepsi brands who are already multi billion dollar? Or anything on the spectrum at any stage works for you, because you will be able to find the elements that they need that they can, you know, improve their game, so to speak.
Shannon Roddy 36:17
It's interesting. So there's a couple different aspects, I'll answer the question with two different sort of analogies. One is that there are companies who want to, you know, in terms of Amazon, they want to do it themselves, or they want to do it with help, or they want somebody else to do it for them. And we play in the first two spaces, if they want somebody else to do it for him, go hire an agency. But if you want to do it yourself, you want to do with help, our courses, our Amazon Brand Success Academy, or our coaching, really provide the perfect fit, because the courses will give you the information, and then the coaching can accentuate that, and provide personalized insight. And so I've had several, I forget maybe 15 or 20 coaching calls in the last month or so, you know, with brand owners, and it's like, for the first time they're having the light bulb go on and understand a complex aspect of Amazon that just made no sense to them, they were so frustrated by it, you know, I had a conversation with a couple entrepreneur female founders this morning. And they're like, we're running into this issue. And this is, and for me, they're really simple issues to resolve. I said, you just need buy the courses. And again, it's like, okay, but we're probably gonna need coaching on top of that, so great, get the courses and then get coaching. The goal is for the most part, it doesn't matter whether they're a small company, a solopreneur, or a large company, it's really more about do they want to do it themselves? In some cases, they're moving away from an agency and wanting to take it in house, but they just, it's all set up, but they don't know how it works. So it's very terrifying to kind of take it on. So it's really more about how, how educated they are about Amazon. That's really the most important part and the three aspects that we focus on are launch, grow and protect your brand. To be able to effectively launch it, launch new products grow over time, you know, with advertising, listing, optimization, and then protect it, protect it against you know, resellers, protect it against counterfeits, protect it against Amazon from getting suspended, from Amazon turning around and creating a private label knockoff, or buying a private label knockoff to compete with you. Like these are things that you have to consider. And so we really focus on that aspect of it. So I do coaching and consulting for really small companies, really small startups, like I said, solopreneurs, all the way to some very, very large companies that, you know, not able to say who they are, but they're looking for that inside of Amazon strategy, because they're very experienced as a brand. They have no idea how to figure out the Amazon thing.
Yoni Mazor 38:38
They need help with the Amazon nuance, I would say, you know, what's the nuance? What's the elements? What's the, you know, there's, you know, don't get caught up in the trail, just get a good guide, they can guide you through. First of all, tell you what to expect, what kind of show you're entering. And once you're there, you want to run that buzzer, you know, help you got the consultant approach where they can come and help you with that moment, which is a good fit for the larger organizations, you know, they can make more sound and safe bets using those. That infrastructure of marketplace other courses. Awesome, brilliant. Okay, so we touched the challenges, we touched, I guess the scope of where you can help, but where do you want this to go in the future?
Shannon Roddy 39:16
I think the goal is getting to a point where we're able to connect with enough, I would say affiliates, but really networks and so working with a lot of incubators, working with a lot of associations that already have a large group of brands who are part of them. And that's, that's gonna be a big part of our strategy in 2021. We've already started it this year, pretty significantly. We're just going to be building on that.
Yoni Mazor 39:39
So if I can read this correctly. Become, you know, pretty much a large part of the DNA of the sellers out there, you know, through other affiliate networks who deal with educating Amazon sellers. So that content, that material, that mindset, you know, the you know, that experience, right, you know, it gets trickled you know, like a DNA into those other venues. And that helps you because I think what you mentioned earlier with the scale, you know, that's one of the ways to scale it up in an effective way. Is that what you mean?
Shannon Roddy 40:09
Yeah, I mean, to some extent, the other aspect is reaching brands who don't know anything about Amazon. So it's not even like they're part of the Amazon community, and they're getting education here, there and the other. The companies that I'm typically trying to reach have no Amazon education.
Yoni Mazor 40:23
This is evangelism, making Amazon believers.
Shannon Roddy 40:25
Exactly. Well, and just the aspect of, I'd say probably the most valuable thing that I help brands do is I help them think about Amazon the right way. I create the paradigm, a lot of people are thinking about Amazon as just another e-commerce channel. And I'm like, No, no, no, it's not that. They're like, well, I don't really care about Amazon. No, no, no, you like, you have to think of it as a brand name platform before it's an e-commerce platform. It's a search engine, there are distributors looking at Amazon, your customers are scanning products at Target, looking at the Amazon reviews, if you don't have a handle on that it's impacting your whole brand. And so it's really that high level strategy education of educating people, like I said, who maybe have dipped and dabbled in selling their brand on Amazon, but are looking to take it to the next level. They know they're missing things. They know there are gaps, and they feel frustrated, trying to go to different avenues and never feeling like there's information customized right for them. That's that's basically our target audience.
Yoni Mazor 41:24
Got it. I like it. Brilliant. Really, really smart. Alright, very good. So we are coming towards the last part of the, you know, the episode. So thank you for sharing. So far, it's been a tremendous journey. And right, between LA, Georgia and Africa. It was awesome and it was fun. Okay, so I know two things to kind of sign off on this episode is the first thing will be, you know, where if somebody wants to learn more about you and reach out to you again, give them a hand off. But um, the last part will be what's your message of hope and inspiration for entrepreneurs listening out there?
Shannon Roddy 41:56
Yeah, so first of all, in terms of reaching out www.marketplacesellercourses.com is the website. We've got our courses, and coaching and speaking opportunities are all available on the website. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, it's probably the most active platform that I'm at, especially since they just shut down our Instagram for no idea why. So reach out to you can either follow Shannon Roddy, or Marketplace Seller Courses on LinkedIn. And then in terms of the message of hope, I think there's a great principle called the Stockdale paradox in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great”. And he talks to us about this idea of like, you have to face the brutal facts. And sometimes the reality is very challenging. And, and there, I know, entrepreneurs who don't like to look at it, it's like, just kind of turn a blind eye, pretend it's not that bad, pretend it's not whatever it is, and it is. You have to pay attention, you have to accept the reality. And once you have accepted that reality, you have to have the discipline and the perseverance to never give up. That said, you have to know when to pull the plug. And what I mean by that is, you have to believe in your product. And there were years when I first got started, Marketplace Seller Courses, I mean, I launched and the number of courses I sold was one, you know, it's like, people are like, well, who is you know, who are you? And what's the course? And is this good? And why should I give you my money? It takes time to earn the reputation to the point where people really trust you and trust to bring, that's true for any product, any service out there, people have to have the trust, you have to build the platform to gain trust. But if you really believe in it, and you know what makes a difference in people's lives or in their businesses, you've got to have that experience. And sometimes people are out there selling a product, and nobody likes it. You know, it's like, if the dog doesn't like the dog food, I don't care how much you market it or slap different labels on it, nothing's going to change. The dogs don't like the dog food, it's never gonna sell well. And so for me, I knew from my own experience, I sold one product on Amazon. I knew from my own experience selling on Amazon and working with other companies. If I had to learn all of this the hard way, I knew how valuable it would be to help somebody else learn from all of my mistakes, challenges, trials and learnings. So they could expedite that, bypass all the mistakes, all the challenges, or at least that they encounter challenges, have solutions for them, and be able to achieve success. And so for me, that was the motivation to continue. And so if...you really have to believe in what you do, and you have to believe that it's going to work, even when everybody in everything is saying, it's not going to work. I mean, I can't tell you how many people are like you're going to go to LA and make it in the movie business. Good luck, you know? And I believed. I believed I was good enough to work there. And I believed I was good enough to work with the best and I, I was able to, to hold my own. And so having that confidence in your own product and your own service, and your own brand, your own company, and it's sometimes in yourself even when you fail and make mistakes. Jeff Bezos might have made more mistakes than all of us put together. So success is not about making mistakes or not. It's about believing in what you do. being passionate, persistent and pursuing it, and doing the right thing.
Yoni Mazor 45:10
Brilliant, beautiful. All right, Shannon, thank you so much for that. And it's been a hell of a ride. It's been inspirational. I wish you much-continued success. I guess more importantly to your clients because that makes a real impact. And if they're successful, you're successful, you know, compounded even more. So thank you again. Stay safe, everybody is healthy. Until next time, take care. Bye-bye.