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zapcity

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Biophase,
Thanks for your amazing contributions! I'm curious if you add any type of enclosure or wording in your packaging that encourages product feedback via a review?
I have also looked at using feedbackfive as an option to encourage reviews, but haven't pulled the trigger. By what % have you seen FB5 increasing reviews compared to not using the service?
 

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TKDTyler

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Okay, thanks so much. I have a lot of ideas for improvements and want to take the next step.
I saw a lot of manufactirers on Alibaba have minimum orders of 500+ units. If I wanted to do a market test and just try to sell a small sample, what is the best way of going about this?

It's pretty simple to get a sample order. In your initial emails you can say you are representing company X, and see an emerging/strong need in your market for their product and are interested in building a strong relationship with the factory.

When it gets to the subject of the initial order, I usually say that due to company policy, I can only place an order amount for Y units to test for quality, shipping times, packaging, and demand.

Usually this will do the trick. Careful to verify that you are working with an actual factory.

I would highly recommend reading the entirety of this thread. It may take a couple of days, but literally all of the answers you need in terms of working with suppliers, getting past MoQ's, shipping, etc are handled multiple times in this thread.

https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/co...porting-wholesaling-for-resale-on-ebay.51843/
 
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BEBOLD

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Hey Bio, amazing thread.

Just recently I came back from an Asia trip feeling refreshed and ready to buckle down.

Heres the rub: Being an all-over-the-place kind of person I decided to dive into Amazon FBA. Too many people are making steady profits after just a few months starting. I got 5 months to set it all up before I'm back in Europe/Asia for a complete Expat experience. That's the deadline.

This is a two fold question:

PRIMARY: What do you look for when qualifying a product or a niche? Is there a method of research you follow?
What I have so far:
- First product less than 500 Bestseller Rank, 2nd & 3rd less than 1500, 4th - 6th less than 5000
- Reviews on the top 6 are less than 500
- $15-$60 range
- No more than 5 lbs. Ideally less than 2 lbs

SECONDARY: Any good resources/threads that I have not found that you can point me to on the similar topic. I have already checked out "Ask me anything about e-commerce 2015" and "Sharing my lifetime experience in import/export". Both were invaluable and had amazing knowledge.

Looking forward to hearing back from everyone and thank you for any feedback/advice. Will report how it all goes after I validate and start selling.
 
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mws87

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@biophase Not sure if this was asked, but what are some big things not to do? I'm not in eCommerce, but always find these answers can apply to a wide range of niche's.
 

Walter Hay

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Hi Biophase, I hope you will excuse me adding my 2c to your brilliant thread, but I couldn't resist commenting on these 2 posts.
Biophase,

First, thank you for this AMA you have provided a wealth of information.

I am assuming since you have been in this game for some time that you have established contacts with various overseas manufactures? For someone just getting started in the world of ecommerce do you recommend just contacting suppliers through sites like Alibaba? Do you use any U.S. manufactures? I know this has been talked about in several other threads, but I wanted to get your take on it.
As one whose role is to advise mostly newbies, I always tell them to avoid Alibaba. I know it's the biggest and I know there are some good suppliers there, but for a newbie it is fraught with risks and difficulties.

The risks primarily relate to the huge number of professional scammers who find it a rich source of easy pickings.

The difficulties primarily relate to the hard work in sorting the wheat from the chaff. I refer first to the extremely common practice of traders claiming to be manufacturers but also higher prices - bigger MOQs - less negotiable on MOQs - less flexibility in making product modifications etc.
Great thread, thanks Biophase.

I have a question about sourcing:

Do you always just deal direct with factories in China or do you ever go through an agent?

I looked into this a while ago and heard some horror stories e.g. https://thewoodlandgroup.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/how-to-lose-20000-in-one-day/ and this scared me.

This lead me to this guy http://www.youngmoneychina.com who is someone 'on the ground' in China. He seems like a decent guy and his blog is fairly interesting.

Is using someone like him worth considering, or just a scare story?

Every sourcing agent has their horror story. It helps to sell their services. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for them. I know Darren at Woodland, and occasionally I have referred someone in the UK to him. The story he recounts is of a buyer who became concerned at the last minute and arranged a quality inspection that discovered that the £20,000 order consisted of worthless fakes.

What the story teaches is not that you need an expensive sourcing agent, but a much lower cost inspection service. On an order that size (about US$30,000) the cost of an inspection would probably be between 1% and 2%. Sourcing agents charge a lot more than that, and charge to do the work that you can easily do yourself if you understand safe sourcing.

A big concern about sourcing agents (not including Woodland who I know to be safe) is that you don't know if they are looking out for your interests or theirs. It is common for them to act like tour guides who take tourists only to those shops where they get a commission. It is worse than that, because sourcing agents charge you a commission, while also receiving a secret commission.

I know of some sourcing agents who are in fact traders and who buy the goods and resell them to you under a different business name. It will be the "great manufacturer" they have found for you.

I have posted about inspection services on my AMA. I would only recommend one that originates in China. The others I recommend are very old established European companies with offices worldwide and one US company. There are thousands of keen young Chinese offering their services to gullible Western buyers, but who polices the policeman? Even westerners based in China need to prove their trustworthiness before anyone should consider using them as sourcing agents.

The question still remains, why pay someone to do for you what you can easily do for yourself while maintaining control of the process?

Walter
 

biophase

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Okay, thanks so much. I have a lot of ideas for improvements and want to take the next step.
I saw a lot of manufactirers on Alibaba have minimum orders of 500+ units. If I wanted to do a market test and just try to sell a small sample, what is the best way of going about this?

You can always try to buy a smaller minimum quantity. Most sellers are slightly flexible on this. I guess my opinion is that I don't market test. I feel that I know my products well enough that I am fairly confident that they will sell. So far, I've only had 2 duds. These days on Amazon, you almost need to order a couple hundred units to market test, but I assume your market test is going to include some giveaways or discounted sales.

So you order 200 units, giveaway 100 units and sell the rest at regular price to breakeven on the whole 200 unit order.
 
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GuestUser149

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@biophase,

words can't express how much value you have provided with your content. thank you so much.

I am building an eCommerce site and currently only have Instagram and 450 followers (Business is < month old)

Let's assume my product is great and people will like it. Do you think I should postpone the launch from October 1st to November 1st in order to start Facebook and generate more buzz before going live? Does it make a difference?

Thank you in advance!
 

biophase

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Hey bio thanks for all the info! Another family member wants to start an Amazon biz account as well. Should we get separate accounts or should we stay on the same account?
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

It depends, if the family member is your wife/husband, maybe one account may work. If it's a brother, cousin, uncle... you definitely want different accounts. If you file taxes separately, you probably need different accounts.
 

biophase

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I'm always looking for products that have <500 competitors OR new products that I can ride a wave of demand for.

This is not a good method to build a business. Yes, you can do this but you are constantly looking for products, because when the wave ends, you need new products to generate your income. I think this mindset is wrong.

My products don't have any "waves", I've been selling them since 2007. I don't need to worry about alot of things that the white label people worry about. I don't need to watch my listings daily. If you want freedom 5 years from now, you can't keep looking for the next best thing.
 

biophase

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Biophase,
Thanks for your amazing contributions! I'm curious if you add any type of enclosure or wording in your packaging that encourages product feedback via a review?
I have also looked at using feedbackfive as an option to encourage reviews, but haven't pulled the trigger. By what % have you seen FB5 increasing reviews compared to not using the service?

I don't have anything in my packaging or products that asks for a review. I just have a hangtag or an insert with the product name and brand on it. Some of my products have my website on it. I don't only sell on Amazon so I can't package my stuff with specific Amazon related verbage.

I use Feedbackfive right now. I don't know what percentage its increased reviews because I've been using it many many years now, so I have no baseline to compare.
 

biophase

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This is a two fold question:

PRIMARY: What do you look for when qualifying a product or a niche? Is there a method of research you follow?
What I have so far:
- First product less than 500 Bestseller Rank, 2nd & 3rd less than 1500, 4th - 6th less than 5000
- Reviews on the top 6 are less than 500
- $15-$60 range
- No more than 5 lbs. Ideally less than 2 lbs

SECONDARY: Any good resources/threads that I have not found that you can point me to on the similar topic. I have already checked out "Ask me anything about e-commerce 2015" and "Sharing my lifetime experience in import/export". Both were invaluable and had amazing knowledge.

Looking forward to hearing back from everyone and thank you for any feedback/advice. Will report how it all goes after I validate and start selling.

Let me ask you this. Why is your 2nd and 3rd product criteria less than your first product? Why aren't all of your products required to have a BSR<500?

What's the thinking behind this strategy? It makes no sense to me.

I do not use best seller ranks or look at reviews to determine my products. I look for products that I can improve.
 

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biophase

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@biophase Not sure if this was asked, but what are some big things not to do? I'm not in eCommerce, but always find these answers can apply to a wide range of niche's.

Don't dropship.
Don't just try. You must commit to something. I hate when people say they will give it a shot. That to me means that they will fail.
Don't hop from product to product. You need to give you stuff a chance.
Don't do multiple products at once. Concentrate on one product at a time and make it the best possible. Once you get experienced, then you can do a few at a time.

I'm sure there is more...
 

biophase

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@biophase,

words can't express how much value you have provided with your content. thank you so much.

I am building an eCommerce site and currently only have Instagram and 450 followers (Business is < month old)

Let's assume my product is great and people will like it. Do you think I should postpone the launch from October 1st to November 1st in order to start Facebook and generate more buzz before going live? Does it make a difference?

Thank you in advance!

If you have product and it's good, I would launch right away. By delaying you are losing possible sales from Oct 1 to Oct 31st. Do you have a product that needs buzz to sell? I don't do any products like that, so my launch is just putting on my site and Amazon. I don't announce anything at all.
 

Lukebrisbane

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I've decided i'm not going to use alibaba, i'm still confused about finding manufactures and making sure they aren't just middlemen, what are some ways to find out if you're dealing with a manufacture. Do you just type in "product name manufacture" then just go down google and list them all, then contact each one and see whats the best option? What are some countries to look for factories in besides china that could be beneficial?
 

dubsu

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Hey bio,

I’m in the process of modifying a product for launch soon. Hopefully by the end of October so that gives me a little bit of time to market it for the Christmas rush. This is a high-end luxury item I planned on selling for around $100 on Amazon. In your experience, how much inventory should I order so that I don’t sell out before Christmas and that I don’t want to make too big of an order in case the product is a complete failure. What is the best middle ground amount of inventory for a newly launch product happening late in the year? Since this product has a variation of 2 colors, I need to have at least 200 pcs, but I do feel optimistic and was thinking 500 pcs total. Do you think 1000 pcs maybe too much? Obviously, the more I order the more of a discount I will get from my supplier so that’s a consideration.

Thanks in advance.
 
G

GuestUser149

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If you have product and it's good, I would launch right away. By delaying you are losing possible sales from Oct 1 to Oct 31st. Do you have a product that needs buzz to sell? I don't do any products like that, so my launch is just putting on my site and Amazon. I don't announce anything at all.

Yes, I am pretty sure it will need buzz as not that many people know the brand yet. Maybe building social media is not a horrible thing if it comes after the launch. Do you know anyone I can DM that has experience with social media? Thank you for the insight!
 

exclusives88

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I've decided i'm not going to use alibaba, i'm still confused about finding manufactures and making sure they aren't just middlemen, what are some ways to find out if you're dealing with a manufacture. Do you just type in "product name manufacture" then just go down google and list them all, then contact each one and see whats the best option? What are some countries to look for factories in besides china that could be beneficial?

@Lukebrisbane I'll help you with this one.

-In the search function, I would check accessed supplier. That will help eliminate some of the middlemen but does not eliminate ALL so you should still be careful.

-For any manufacture websites that ends with .cn, you can usually tell they are manufactures if they have an ICP number located on the bottom of the website

-Middlemen usually have high MOQ and are not negotiable. Prices are also generally higher so I would e-mail multiple suppliers.

-One way to eliminate middlemen is by asking if you can visit the factory. Usually they are manufactures if they allow you to visit but middlemen can also make this up and give you a address that is not theirs.

-Manufactures (in China) usually have addresses in Shenzhen or Guangzhou and NOT Hong Kong.

-On Alibaba, go to their profile and go to their product listings. Generally, their products will be in one niche. Usually middlemen will have products across multiple niches. For example, a manufacture would sell leather bags, leather ipad covers, leather wallets. A middle men would sell leather bags, kitchen knives, dog toys (probably extreme but you get the point)

-You can look at other countries depending on the products you are looking to source. India is pretty big on textiles, clothing. Mexico is good. What I heard is that Mexico quality is better than China but is more expensive.

I suggest you go to this thread:

https://www.thefastlaneforum.com/co...sourcing-specialist.55062/page-25#post-481336
 
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biophase

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Hey bio,

I’m in the process of modifying a product for launch soon. Hopefully by the end of October so that gives me a little bit of time to market it for the Christmas rush. This is a high-end luxury item I planned on selling for around $100 on Amazon. In your experience, how much inventory should I order so that I don’t sell out before Christmas and that I don’t want to make too big of an order in case the product is a complete failure. What is the best middle ground amount of inventory for a newly launch product happening late in the year? Since this product has a variation of 2 colors, I need to have at least 200 pcs, but I do feel optimistic and was thinking 500 pcs total. Do you think 1000 pcs maybe too much? Obviously, the more I order the more of a discount I will get from my supplier so that’s a consideration.

Thanks in advance.

This is impossible to answer because I don't, and you don't know how much you will sell. It's $100 product, but I don't know if it is a gift type product or a regular product. A $100 fancy garbage can probably won't be a great Xmas gift compared to say a $100 juicer.
 

biophase

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Even veterans make mistakes or get bad orders. I've been dealing with a few weather issues that have never surfaced before. A couple products on my last shipments have been "humid" on the inside. Because Amazon requires sealed polybags, if the factory is packaging during or after a rain storm, the humidity can be high inside the factory (many don't have AC). This moisture gets sealed inside the polybags, and add a one month journey in a hot container and you get some bad, smelly product.

Problem is, your China supplier will say that everything looked fine when they shipped it, and it probably did. I'm sure they didn't pack smelly product and ship it to me. They are probably even used to the humidity so they don't think 'hey it's pretty humid, maybe we should wait to seal these up'. So now I will require them to put desiccant packets in each polybag before shipping. This will add cost and some weight.

This is just one of those things that happens, and you never think about it until it happens.
 

BEBOLD

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Let me ask you this. Why is your 2nd and 3rd product criteria less than your first product? Why aren't all of your products required to have a BSR<500?

What's the thinking behind this strategy? It makes no sense to me.

I do not use best seller ranks or look at reviews to determine my products. I look for products that I can improve.


My thinking behind it is "the first one is really selling, the 2nd and 3rd are selling but are behind the first one and the next 3 are falling off" so I improve the first one on what it got in the 2 and 3 star reviews and put it out there. My hope is to squeeze in the top 3 asap and then creep up to number 1.

Thanks
 

biophase

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My thinking behind it is "the first one is really selling, the 2nd and 3rd are selling but are behind the first one and the next 3 are falling off" so I improve the first one on what it got in the 2 and 3 star reviews and put it out there. My hope is to squeeze in the top 3 asap and then creep up to number 1.

Thanks

I still don't understand, why wouldn't you launch all products that meet only the #1 criteria so that then all of your products are all "really" selling.

But in general, I don't like to follow this method of finding products because you don't end up with a brand if you are just chasing top selling products. And it takes away from you looking at other products which you may have more interest in, or can improve by a larger margin.

If you improve a top seller marginally, say you make a 25% improvement, that's great. But what if you can improve a "middle level" selling product by 200%? Which brand/company do you think would be a better business for you in the long run?
 

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I still don't understand, why wouldn't you launch all products that meet only the #1 criteria so that then all of your products are all "really" selling.

But in general, I don't like to follow this method of finding products because you don't end up with a brand if you are just chasing top selling products. And it takes away from you looking at other products which you may have more interest in, or can improve by a larger margin.

If you improve a top seller marginally, say you make a 25% improvement, that's great. But what if you can improve a "middle level" selling product by 200%? Which brand/company do you think would be a better business for you in the long run?

I'm pretty sure that his line of thinking comes from The Amazing Seller Podcast, where the host recommends finding a "homerun" product first and then allowing yourself to slack a little more with your next couple of products. His logic is that at first you want to make sure that you're definitely getting yourself a product that is guaranteed to sell and get you a chunk of cash.. Then you can get products that still sell but not as well.

Personally I like your strategy better.

One of the reasons that I'm responding is that I wanted to BUMP this thread and get it in front of peoples eyes again. It's an extremely valuable read and since the last time that we spoke on here I went back to basics incorporating your philosophy with my own product research (using JS and Merchant Words to find products I may not have thought of). I've already made a list of close to 70 products (this may seem like overkill.. but once I started searching I lost track of time and just had fun with it!).. I did a quick round of due-diligence with all of them and figured out each products ROI, competitor saturation, Margin, etc. I would say that 85% of the products I found have 65% margins or better with a $10 net or higher in niches with less than 2000 competitors in the All category. At the moment I'm waiting to hear back from 5 different manufacturers of the products that I liked the most and figured I could modify the best.

So all you guys out there wondering if there are too many people jumping into the amazon thing - Don't worry about it! There are PLENTY of products that you can find to import. (Try to stay away from amazon best seller products like silicone BBQ gloves and lemon squeezers or "me-too products" as biophase calls them!)

Great thread again, @biophase !! Thanks for the wisdom and I can't wait to watch this thread as it grows!
 

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Biophase - thank you for all of the value you've provided thus far!

Do you ever feel the need to patent a product modification? IE. A massive company is selling the original product, you make a great modification make some sales, and then the company just demolishes you with economies of scale?
 

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I like your mindset of improving upon existing products. Earlier, you mentioned that none of your products have patents and yet you don't seem concerned that your manufacturer they will sell your newly developed product to other retailers when it's finished. Why is that? Do you have a formal agreement with your manufacturers as you're working with them to develop a new product or some sort of recourse? Thank you for all the great insight!
 

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Biophase - thank you for all of the value you've provided thus far!

Do you ever feel the need to patent a product modification? IE. A massive company is selling the original product, you make a great modification make some sales, and then the company just demolishes you with economies of scale?

I am just not the type of person that gets into this portion. I'm guessing that my improvements are not patentable. It's not like they are breakthroughs in engineering. They are small tweaks in design which I guess people can copy, but they would have to use a different brand name. This is why branding is very important.

If Nike decides to make my product, I guess I would be in trouble. That's a risk I am willing to take. I can't afford to patent 30 products. It's just not cost effective even if I wanted to.
 

biophase

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I like your mindset of improving upon existing products. Earlier, you mentioned that none of your products have patents and yet you don't seem concerned that your manufacturer they will sell your newly developed product to other retailers when it's finished. Why is that? Do you have a formal agreement with your manufacturers as you're working with them to develop a new product or some sort of recourse? Thank you for all the great insight!

I do not have any agreements with the manufacturers. So far the factories that I am dealing with seem fairly honest. And when I visit them I do see my competitors products in their showroom, however they tell me that they cannot sell that product to me. But it doesn't mean I can't use it as a base to modify it. They tell me that their US customers visit once a year, usually trying to see what else they can sell. It's pretty overwhelming when you visit. Your brain just goes crazy.

Basically, you see what raw materials they have. You see what machines they have. And you see their labor force. You can literally design things on the spot and ask them, can you make this? for how much? They can make anything. You just need to provide them the capital and they will make it to the best of their factory's capability.

One factory guy began to ask me alot of questions about selling on Amazon. So I stopped answering him. If they ever figure out Amazon, they can just ship the product to FBA and give it another name. It will be a year or two, but once they figure it out and it becomes mainstream in China, say goodbye to your margins.

A short derailment here... alot of this talk is exactly why you CANNOT just blow your money once you start making it. Nothing is 100% safe and secure. You should treat your business as if you are an NBA player who can blow out a knee at anytime. We always look at athletes and say how stupid they are for not saving any money when we see that they are broke.

But, people making 6 figures also need to do the same thing. You don't want to be that high flying guy on Amazon for 3 years and then back at a job in year 4. Maybe I don't worry about this stuff that much because I've been saving my money.
 

Lukebrisbane

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are you saying that this way of selling products online won't work in 1-2 years when the factories figure it out? I am spending the next few months researching a product, so far i've made notes on the 1 star reviews, and the 5 star reviews, seeing what i can improve and copy. What other things would you look for when planning for a product, is there a way to find the ingredients and google them? Also, I've heard of people saying diversify your income streams so you aren't just selling on amazon FBA, what do they mean by that? Are there other fulfilment bays you use? Do you sell on other places?

I've pretty much got 3-4 months before I get paid properly from work and want to spend that time making sure I can do everything i can to have one solid product to launch.
 

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I am just not the type of person that gets into this portion. I'm guessing that my improvements are not patentable. It's not like they are breakthroughs in engineering. They are small tweaks in design which I guess people can copy, but they would have to use a different brand name. This is why branding is very important.

If Nike decides to make my product, I guess I would be in trouble. That's a risk I am willing to take. I can't afford to patent 30 products. It's just not cost effective even if I wanted to.

Plus, patents take a year or more to go through. By the time you have your patent, it may be in the market already!
 

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@biophase if you have discovered a certain product that you think you can improve, how do you go about testing whether the improved product would sell before you actually 'improve it' ? for example if your improvement is in the design of the product which would require a change in the manufacturing process, how would you go about testing the marketplace without first making the investment in the change? or do you just have to roll the dice and assume it 'should' sell since its just a variation of a profitable product in a proven niche?
 

juan917

Silver Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
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Jul 27, 2015
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I run totally different companies with different addresses, different bank accounts, different everything. Nothing is intermingled with them.

How do you have different addresses? Unless you own multiple properties but surely you are only living in one location.
 

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