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Surviving Amazon’s Wild West – Return on Podcast Ep. 30 with Sami Mubasher

Surviving Amazon's Wild West - Return on Podcast Ep. 30 with Sami Mubasher

The following is a transcript of Episode 30 of Return on Podcast, the show where we help e-commerce sellers improve their ROI in business and in life. For more episodes, subscribe to our YouTube channel or listen on Podbean, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon/Audible.

Tyler Jefcoat:
All right. Welcome back to Return on Podcast, where we talk about the experiences, the obsessions, and the habits of the most successful e-commerce entrepreneurs. I’m your host, of course, Tyler Jefcoat, and whether you’re listening to this show through one of the various podcast streams that we use, Apple or Spotify or otherwise, or whether you may be watching this on YouTube afterwards, or maybe you found some other way, maybe you’re on my website, I’m not sure. But I just wanna thank you for spending this time with us today. Hope this podcast is valuable, and I’ve got a really strong episode today where we wanna talk about brand building and what’s the latest in Amazon.

But before we dive into the content, I just wanna ask you for a quick favor. I’m a much better accountant than I am a marketer, and I’ve been told by my team that I need to try to get some, maybe some five star reviews on the podcast platforms or some likes on YouTube. So I just wanna ask you, if this is a show that serves you, if you wouldn’t mind sharing it with your friends and liking it and subscribing to it, doing all the things that would help us. That’s selfish, I know, but I just would really appreciate your help. And with that being said, I’ll pivot. Thank you in advance for helping us in that regard. Let’s dive into the content for today.

So the art and science of building a profitable marketplace business is still alive, and it’s still well, but that art is always evolving. And so I wanna talk to my, my new friend, Sami Mubasher, today about that art and science, what’s evolving, what’s happening in Amazon. Sami, welcome to the show, buddy.

Sami Mubasher:
Hey, Tyler. Thanks for having me.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Man, you bet, buddy. I really am, I’m grateful that our mutual friend, Vanessa, connected us. I’m grateful that you would give us this time, and I can’t wait to hear your story. So you you’re a seller. You’ve, your family is engaged in building and selling on Amazon and you have some chops in the old eBay world and you’re dipping into Walmart. Can you just give us a little bit of the story first? Like, how did you get into this business of selling online, and then how did you end up pivoting into the golf business that you’re in now?

Sami Mubasher:
Okay. So it’s a bit of a storied career. My brother and I, we used to play a video game. It was called Diablo 2 for the PC. And you could kill monsters in the game and they would drop stuff on the ground, and then the stuff that they, the items that they dropped would power up your character.

So we found a piece of software that would basically run that loop for you and it would farm it as a bot. And then we would collect all of these digital items and then once we had all a bunch of good stuff, we would throw ’em on eBay. This was like 21 years ago. So we put – man, that sounds like a long time ago now. We would put ’em on eBay, and then one summer, like collectively between him and me, I wanna say it was like five grand that we made just doing this.
So that was like our foray into e-commerce. But outside of that, my dad, in 2008, 2007, 2008, whenever all the housing crisis stuff was going on, the economy was really bad, he worked as an engineer in Austin and he kept getting laid off and then brought back on and then laid off. And with three kids and family, that uncertainty was just like killing him. So he was like, I gotta take stuff into my own hands. So he started to like repair laptops, and then he would sell them online. And then this was also around the same time that I guess like the cell phone boom started to happen.

So he was like, oh, let me try phones. And then while it turns out, phones are like substantially less parts, substantially less like moving pieces, no software. So he started to fix phones. And then from phones it was like, oh, I need the battery component. So he would source the batteries from China. So then he started to sell the batteries online, oh, I also need the chargers. So source the chargers and then that was like his start for e-commerce. And then in the summer of 2009, I was two years into college and I just absolutely hated it. Like it was, it, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I completely lacked any ambition really. Didn’t have much like direction for myself. And so I was looking for a way to like just not go to college anymore. And so I decided to help my dad with the online business. And I was like, okay, I’m gonna start it this summer and if I can make $300 a week, I’m just never gonna go back.

So this was the summer of 2009. And so I was like, hey dad, let’s just, let’s take all this stuff in your store, ’cause he had a physical store. My mom and dad purchased and built a physical store. I was like, let’s put everything online. And so we, we put phones and cases and he was already doing some batteries. But we put everything on there and then we ended up getting to that $300 a week mark. And I was like, okay, I’m never going back. So that was the start of it.

Then in late 2010 I had mentioned beforehand that my brother was playing poker professionally. So he used to play a lot of online poker. And in 2010, they actually referred to it as the Black Friday that poker, online poker got banned in the United States. So you’re technically not allowed to play online poker. So that kind of ruined his source of income. And so he came and was like, hey, this is, I’m looking for a way to get out of poker. A way out, that sounds really bad. It wasn’t like that dire. He came and approached us, and we’re a really tight, tightly close knit family. And so after a few objections from me where I was like, no, I’m building this thing, you can’t come in and come in and get a piece of it, my dad was like, no, it’s the right thing to do.

So then my brother joined us in late 2010. And obviously it was like the best decision we ever made because I don’t know if much about poker players, but these people are, they know numbers to a T, they understand statistics, probability, and there’s like just this practical application just across the board for your business.
We started selling on Amazon. That was like the first thing that he did is he got us on Amazon. And I think we sold our first item in January of 2011. And I’ve done, that’s just kinda like the quick of it, but I’ve done literally every part of the Amazon selling journey that you can think of, I, we’ve done it, so.

Tyler Jefcoat:
That’s such a great story. I think I love the family part of it. You and I were talking before we started recording. I have started hobbying in poker. By the way, I had no idea. This totally makes sense now, ’cause I remember there being news articles about the legalities of online poker. But since I had never played 12 years ago, I had no ideas. I could imagine that was pretty discouraging for guys like your brother that were making a living doing it. And wow. And okay, so he gets involved. You guys go from – I love this by the way. I had another good friend of mine that’s built a pretty monster Amazon business that was almost similar there.

Like dad had this legacy bricks and mortar kind of business that my friend Nhan was able to get involved with and pivot and make larger and make profitable, and then you guys pivot into Amazon. And so, okay, so now we’re doing Amazon, we’re flirting with different products that are related to electronics. How did you guys like evolve from selling electronic accessories for your dad’s business to now we’re selling used golf balls and recycling. Gimme that journey.

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah, sure. So I’ll just do it in buckets of years. From 2011 until 2014 it was like the Wild West on Amazon. There was a ton – there hadn’t been like, people, there were some, but not everybody doing any kind of branding. So somebody would come in and hey, I have this cell phone case from China, and then they would make that listing online, and it would just be like a generic product. And so anybody could import that product from China, bring it in, list against that generic product detail page.

And we did that from, and that was for like chargers and batteries and cases and all the little, you know, different peripherals that like a cell phone was starting to come into its own to have. We would bring those in and just, it, it was more or less like a, think of it as like retail arbitrage, but turned up to 11 and you could just grab whatever product you wanted from China and just bring it in and resell it. So there wasn’t any, there wasn’t anything that you, you know, had ownership of. So we did really well for those years.

And one of the main things was account suspensions happened very frequently back then for basically a ping of anything. Getting rid of competition was probably like the easiest thing back then because all you needed to do is make one singular kind of report and it was like a one report and you’re out. It’s not like that at all anymore. It is, in my opinion, it’s very difficult to get suspended nowadays. Like what you have to do is very egregious. But back then, it was crazy. Like I said, it was wild west. Like it really was.

We were so afraid of getting suspended that we needed to keep our revenue streams high enough to maintain our account manager, ’cause back then if you did a certain amount of revenue, they gave you an account manager and you got like technical support, like direct from a human being. You got selling support, and they basically helped manage your account. So we wanted to maintain that account. And so as we started to see the revenues decline because we were selling a product that we didn’t really own, and our main competition was China, over a course of time there, it’s a race to the bottom, right? Because there’s no differentiation, there’s no branding, there’s no anything. It’s just price. So over time, like our revenues are decreasing, decreasing, and we’re like, we want to maintain our account manager cause we’re afraid of any type of volatility or variance within keeping the account.

So we did a foray into selling cell phones, used cell phones, ’cause that would keep the dollar amount high, and we could justify keeping the account manager keep our account sane and stable. I know all of this just sounds ridiculous, right? Because it’s like just completely different nowadays, but it was like a requirement ’cause we were so afraid of any type of account suspension. Especially for flipping products. We lost a lot of money doing that. We weren’t paying attention. I think my brother and I developed some bad habits from just like not building a really secure business instead of just like flipping products. So I’m like a huge advocate for only doing retail arbitrage for up to a certain point and not relying it as like a huge business model. Just because I’ve known. We’ve been burned by it.

Anyways then in 2016 we got out of that. We saw the writing on the wall for the cell phones. We lost a lot of money doing that. And so we needed to make the shift. So we’ve been doing a private label ever since 2016 at the tail end of when they cut off the being able to solicit for a review. Are you familiar? Like you used to just, you used to just be able to give out a ton of products and just get a ton of reviews. Get a ton of ranking and like it counted towards organic ranking plus reviews. And then since they have this synergistic relationship, it was like the, it was basically like a silver bullet for any lack of selling skills that you might have.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Yep. No, actually, it’s funny you mentioned that by the way. Two parts of your story are really, a really close friend of mine named Brandon Checketts is the guy that founded Seller Labs. And also by the way, early in his career, he had written some code to try to marketize the stuff that you can get on. I think it was called Star Wars Galaxy. So that part of your story was a part of Brandon’s also. It’s funny you guys both did that, but.
No, he, I remember when he splintered off their solicit review – obviously Feedback Genius is still going strong now, but they had a more like pay to play feature on their product that they actually, right in the beginning of 2017 I think, or right at the end of 2016, that policy, that TOS policy changed, and they really quickly had to split that business and sell it to one guy and let it go so that they could, ’cause almost like you described, like they were big enough as a software company and still are where like, they need Amazon to keep them active. They need to stay in the zone.

But yeah, no, to get you back into your story. So yeah, so that TOS goes from wild west to a little bit, I call it like a professionalization, like professionalized seller. You have to evolve into private label. Sorry, I interrupted you. You keep going then.

Sami Mubasher:
No. I, like I said, I love talking about this kind of stuff. Like I used Seller Labs, I watched the founders videos that he made around the time whenever they were pushing out content. I use Feedback Genius. I use or I used to use Feedback Genius. I used their like, product research software. I’ve been around watching all of this unfold. I have stories for days on all of this kind of stuff. So, no I love it, and I love to talk about it. Yeah, so in 2016 we decided, okay, we’re gonna take all of that money that we’ve been putting into phones, obviously minus the large sum of money that we had lost that hurt us pretty badly, and then put it fully into a private label.

Our main focus at the time was we wanted to make sure that whatever it is that we brought in was gonna have as much longevity as possible. So we wanted to not go after the super high volume – like we wanted to make sure that we had no competition whenever we were getting into it. Initially we were like, okay, let’s go after the really heavy, bulky stuff because we have 10,000 square foot of warehousing space at this point. Let’s just bring in a bunch of stuff by sea that’s heavy and bulky. None of this – because the Amazon seller zeitgeist at the time was like, make sure it fits inside of a shoebox and more than $20.

And so I’m a big fan of like, whenever everybody’s looking this way, I’m gonna look the other way. So we decided to do the exact opposite and we were going for items between the $10 and $20 range, and then if it was heavy, if it was bulky, even better. We would ship it by sea, we would store some of the inventories and the other amount to Amazon. So we fell into the category of tools and home improvement. And just because I wanna set up this story properly, because eventually I will get to the golf balls thing, is all of the decisions that we were making were primarily based on like data points and revenue generation and letting that speak for what it was that we were trying to build. Which is perfectly fine. But I feel like that held us back quite a bit. But I’ll get to it.

We’re bringing in these products, and we’re doing well in tools and home improvement. We did that, and then we started to like branch into some other tangential related products. So like we started doing like arts and crafts cause they’re a little bit related with the tools that we are bringing in and then like making stuff. So there’s kinda like this whole DIY, but it’s all just data driven, using Helium 10 tools, analyzing competition, going after stuff that, where there’s not a lot of people looking at it.

And my brother is really good at like managing the data and the inventory. So we were perfectly okay with shotgunning a whole bunch of SKUs, importing ’em in, and then if we could get a product to do three to five units per day, then we were totally happy with that, right? We would just fold it into our operation, and then we’ll just do another product and then we’ll do another three to five SKUs. Because we have the infrastructure in order to handle it, we had the space in order to do it. My brother had the software to manage all of the inventory.

And we did that to, to a good amount of success. Up until last year, June of 2021, we were doing that same kind of exercise of let’s find products that are low competition, have like decent volume. And we stumbled upon golf balls that were like at the last leg of their life, right? So it’s just like, you knock ’em away once, you take ’em in the backyard, you go to a driving range, this is like the end life cycle of a golf ball. My brother was like, oh, this is cool. So we found somebody that sold ’em locally, and we ended up buying 20,000 of these used golf balls for a really small amount and sold them in batches of a hundred, and over a weekend, we sold 200 units. We sold all 20,000 golf balls over a weekend.

I was like, Whoa, wait a second. What is this? So my brother in being the absolute risk taker and poker player at heart, right? Very like willing for risk, he goes to the person, he was like, hey, I’d like to buy more of that. And the guy’s like, oh, well I don’t have anymore, but I have all of these other golf balls. And so my brother ends up purchasing, it was like, 20,000 golf balls of all of these other different kind of golf balls. And I come to work the next day and, or on the Monday, And we were like, oh, wow, that was really great. Let’s package these all up. And then my brother goes, oh, hey, by the way we need to go pick up, $20,000 worth of more golf balls.

And I was like, what are you doing? I was so upset because I was doing all the product research to import more products from China. And this is like now we have to figure out how we’re going to wash them, how we’re going to clean them, how we’re gonna sort them, what are we gonna ship ’em in? I don’t even have a, a sales funnel in which to put these products in. I don’t have any product listings made. And then here you are doing this.

It turns out it was actually like the best decision that we ever made. So, what we were able to do is we took all of the knowledge that I had accumulated from the sales side from 2016 until 2021 and looked at that marketplace and that niche, right? And that niche of a product. And we were like, oh, wow. We can take everything that we’ve learned up to this point, and it hits all of the metrics that we want to hit and checks all of the boxes that we want to have with this product. This product requires a ton of space, right? It requires a ton of manpower. It requires great logistics problem solving, and we can do the whole brand building with it.

And so that’s what we’ve been doing. And yeah, it’s been great. So it wasn’t very hard to do ’cause we didn’t have any competition, but now we are like the number one recycled golf balls on Amazon. And we’re quite proud of that and we’re continuing to grow it and build it.

Tyler Jefcoat:
So great. Obviously part of the real secret sauce, I don’t want you to give that away here, but the sourcing of this has gotta be an ongoing, getting those relationships right, where you can get the golf ball. So, just a question, just being honest, cause I don’t even know that I want you to answer that question, but are you still actively trying to purchase private label products from China or have you guys really 100% pivoted into this brand?

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah, so this brand now represents 80% of our revenue. It’s funny that you that you asked that question because up until June of last year, I have an entire spreadsheet of like 20 products that I was just ready to pull the trigger on that’s just now laying dormant in my spreadsheets that I’m probably never gonna revisit because we’re going full head on into this. The opportunity has just been, it’s been that big for us. So no, other than the components that we’re using for packaging for this product, which we are sourcing from China, but everything else we’re just like, all the rest of our brands are just in maintenance mode, right? We’re just trying to pull in as much profit as we can off of them. And then we’re pulling, we’re pouring everything into this operation.

Tyler Jefcoat:
And one of the things you said that I found so compelling is you talk about this kind of internal mindset of when they’re zigging, I want to zag, right? I’ll give you an example of this, and actually I was talking to somebody about this last week, but the prevailing wisdom 18 months ago for every Amazon related seller was lean up, two SKUs, a million dollars each. If I can have two heroes with one supply chain supplier and have one channel, then I can get a maximum multiple from an aggregator. I’m gonna sell the business and have a big exit.

And all the while, I do think that the most profitable guys that are out there now in today’s market where it’s a little bit softer, are the ones that actually just went a different direction, built some infrastructure. Like you had mentioned having a 10,000 square foot operating space. You’re selling products that are very labor – I read some of your website. You’re having to sort and grade the balls to put them into different packages based on the quality. And I play enough golf to know that like, they don’t look great after I like hit ’em into the creek three or four times. Like that kinda.

And so my question to you then is if somebody out there is listening to this and they’re like, man, I’d really love some guidance, trying to find that niche that may include some harder elements but may actually carve me out more of a competitive advantage or a moat that can be sustainable. What, other than the fact that your brother just had a stroke of genius one day and you guys sold 200 units in a weekend, that’s great feedback from the market. Anything else that you guys did that you’re like, man, I would really, if this hadn’t hit, if this hadn’t been the one, I would probably be thinking this way to try to drive this kind of result.

Sami Mubasher:
I wanted to loop this back around, I made mention about the soul part of the business, right? That previously, up until that point, we had just been doing things because it hit certain metrics, it hit certain data points, and then we let that drive everything. And while I think you can get to a certain level of success by doing that, I think we completely sold ourselves short by not infusing some kind of soul into what it was that we were working on.

So I give advice to a monthly meetup group that I meet with that are other e-commerce sellers, Amazon sellers. And for anybody that’s just starting out, or for anybody that’s trying to find a little bit more direction, I give them this singular advice. Whatever it is that you’re going to pursue, make sure that it is something that you absolutely enjoy. It makes you enjoy the highs so much more, and it makes you stomach the lows because you’re purpose driven.
You’re not looking at just the metric of like, how many units did I move this time? It allows you to enjoy the process. And then there’s others. There’s also some other tangential benefits of it where if it’s something that you enjoy, chances are, you know a lot about it. So whenever you know a lot about it, you know your target demographic, you know how to sell them the product, the proper verbiage to use. You understand the colloquial terms in order to hit on certain keywords. You understand how to do customer support. You can get out ahead of customer support issues. You can make changes to a product in order to appease that group.

So at the baseline is infusing some kind of like soul or purpose towards the product. And that is a lesson that I wish I would’ve learned way earlier on. Way earlier on, because it will drive your decision making. It’ll make everything else so much easier. Like I said, you’ll enjoy the good parts and you’ll be able to stomach whenever you don’t meet the success level that you’re wanting to have, or like you get a bad review. Like people forget about the failures of stuff. Like whenever things fail, it’s like, how do you deal with the failure?

It’s like, oh, I’m really enjoying what it is that I’m doing. I believe in the product, right? If you’re just bringing in a widget from China, right? And you made a small change to it, people can honestly ask themselves whenever that product doesn’t do well and the reviews are bad or something bad happens to it, they have to be honest with themselves, whether or not they are all in on that product. Do you actually believe in the product? Do you think that those reviews are justified, right? Because if you get bad reviews and you’re like, no, this doesn’t make any sense. My product is not this, it’s way better than this, then you throw yourself a little bit more into it.

You try and get around those bad reviews. You try and sell more products. You try and get the products in front of more people in order to generate more reviews, and I know the reviews are just like a singular subject, but like, if you believe in something and it has a soul, then it helps you deal with whenever you’re hit with bad variants, because sometimes it does go bad. And trust me, in my career I’ve seen it go bad.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Sami, this is so powerful, ’cause I think you’re right. I mean, it’s a, and this is not necessarily to pull the cell phone in contrast, but you think about the two evolutions and in your voice, I can hear it. It’s very different. Okay, we actually had an experiment with cell phones, but actually your comment twice was, we lost a lot of money in that one. And it may not have been directly because there wasn’t a purpose or a soul there, but it’s easy to imagine that story fitting a lot of the sellers that I’ve worked with where it’s like, okay I did do a helium 10 or Scope or one of these other searches, I identified a keyword opportunity. Yeah, I didn’t give a crap about that segment of the market, but it was an opportunity and I went for it.

And there’s no unfair competitive advantage to that. And as long as you can get away with what you said from 2016-17, which is essentially supply chain arbitrage. I’ve been able to orient my arbitrage around the supply chain. But as soon as that dries up that’s really difficult. And so now you see, I see at least to just looking at you here on the screen, this pivot into the mission. And I need you to tell us the mission, ’cause now we’re all like, what is this guy’s mission? ‘Cause he’s so passionate about it. This mission that drives him, that gives him that unfair advantage, that insight into the customer’s desires that frankly I give a shit. And so when it’s harder, I’m gonna push through it. And yeah, I think that’s really meaningful man. If you don’t mind me, what is the battle cry for your company? What is it that you guys are trying to do?

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah, so at the basic level, right? Our mission statement, as it’s written on our website, on our Amazon content, is to put more golf balls on the green and less in the landfills, right? Like that is, that’s the mission statement. Let’s reduce the effects that golf balls have on the environment. I think golf already doesn’t get a whole lot of good publicity when it comes to sustainability and all that. So let’s do that as our as the basis for us.

Then on top of that, we are consumers ourselves, and in the recycled golf ball industry, it’s not particularly sophisticated. The people who do sell these kinds of things do not back it up with I’m gonna give you a customer response within 24 hours. I’m gonna ship your product out Monday through Friday within 24 hours, and then we’re gonna deliver that product within two to five days. A lot of the other businesses are not grading the product correctly. Like whenever I had talked to other people who were avid golfers and talked to them about recycled balls, they think of the ones whenever they go to Walmart shelves and they pick up the ball and they’re like, these are all crap.
We don’t want that to be our product. We want it to be the best version of this particular product. And so we’re striving towards that. And so now we’re setting up what are all the parameters that we need to do and all of the things that we need to check in order to make sure that whenever we get on the shelves, whenever we are against everybody else, how is it that we’re standing out from everybody?

I’m gonna make sure that we have that Amazon DNA infused into our business, like relentless customer service. We’re going to ship the product right on time. Whenever we get on product shelves, we’re gonna make sure that our grades are substantially better than everybody else. And this is gonna differentiate us, and we’re gonna do it with a human touch, right? You’re gonna speak to a real person when you call us or whenever you email us, right? It’s gonna be all the things that modern businesses should be, which is completely nonexistent in this niche of a product. It’s just, it’s not there. That’s our rallying cry.

And before, like I said, a lot of our stuff is yeah, we had that, but we weren’t particularly proud to say that, oh I got this product because it, it hits certain key metrics. Now what we’re doing is, we’re cleaning up the environment, we’re sponsoring, and we’ve done a three sponsorships this year, and we’re gonna do substantially more next year. But we did three sponsorships for charity golf tournaments this year. We did a breast cancer awareness, we did a general charity one, we did a Marine Corps veteran one, and like that is, that’s the whole purpose of what it is that you should be doing.

It should be to improve lives. And I feel like we, we can miss that being under the Amazon seller umbrella. At least I feel like that’s how it had been up to this point where it’s just like I’m gonna flip this product, or I’m gonna get this product from China and then just meet these metrics. Let’s build something a little bit more And the reason why I say is because that’s who I was. That’s how I understood it. But it wasn’t until we made this drastic change to having, having purpose behind what it is that you’re doing. That was the biggest change. Absolutely.

Tyler Jefcoat:
And it makes sense. And so I think you basically just gave us, Sami, the roadmap there. I think if, friends, if you’re listening to this and you can try to comb through, this is your ideation, whiteboard, Google Doc, whatever works for you, spreadsheet, thinking of the problems that matter to you. And I love this. By the way, the two businesses that I’ve started, I think, Sami, have had somewhat similar origins in the sense that there’s just a lack of sophistication amongst – so it’s crazy, right? I own an accounting firm. What do you mean, lack of sophistication? But I think the ability for our customers to receive the level of care that I would want if I were in their shoes didn’t exist in the market.

And so it was easy to create a hero that was in the center of the room for Seller Accountant, which is this kind $1 to 10 million e-commerce seller. This guy’s up against the juggernauts, the the titans of industry. Bezos is gonna buy another penthouse regardless of whether Sami and Tyler ever make a buck doing this. And so to your same point, I think when things get touchy, when we have personnel issues, when things don’t go our way, when our sales funnel breaks or whatever it might be, I think the mission, the battle cry, the coaching, the people, the transformational relationships really turn our crank.

And so for those of you guys that are listening to this, maybe that’s the question. What is it that really revs your engine or turns your crank, that gets you motivated? And my suspicion is that there’s probably a hidden business model in there somewhere. And if you think about – there’s nothing less sexy than selling bookkeeping, guys, I’m gonna be honest with you. Like we sell bookkeeping, right?

And then you think about washing golf balls that are dirty and selling them. I think the point, maybe the parable or the proverb here, so to speak from Sami and I, is that there’s something in your life that could simultaneously accomplish a greater mission for you, generate great revenue. And again, Sami, I’m guessing here, but I’m guessing the golf ball business is a lot more profitable than the cell phone business.

Sami Mubasher:
For sure. For sure. If I can throw in, and I – go ahead. Go ahead.

Tyler Jefcoat:
No. I’m, that was my punctuation, buddy. Why don’t you dive in.

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah. Like I said, whenever it’s generating purpose, it allows you to deal with the failures. And you’re gonna have failures. And so it’s like, what are you really doing? I guess that’s like the, that’s like the main takeaway for me.

Tyler Jefcoat:
So one more question about the Amazon part of it. So what’s, what’s next? What’s on your radar? This is a broad question. We’ll let you take it wherever you want to, but what is it that has you and your brother that you that you would wanna share with the audience here?

Sami Mubasher:
So we’re constantly working on the Amazon. We’re constantly working on also building out the D2C on our website because a lot of people are actually also buying, we’re finding out, recycled golf balls not specifically on Amazon. So we’re trying to build out our D2C. We were invited to Walmart’s open call earlier this year which is where they want to bring in businesses. And this one was, I dunno if it’s like this historically, but this one was primarily focused on American manufacturers or American, selling American products. And so we signed up for it, and we were selected out of I think it was like 4,000, 5,000 businesses. They selected like 400 to come out and pitch to them. And so it was like a little miniature, like a little mini Shark Tank. And actually this shirt right here, I have a funny story about it.

I’ll tell it here in just a minute after I get through all of this. We went out and we pitched the product to Walmart and we didn’t really think much of it up until we get to the point to where we’re actually starting to pitch because we were like, it just seemed like too fast track and like too easy. Like we’re so used to being in e-commerce where every decision matters, right? Every keyword that you’re bidding on matters, every new competition matters, every review matters. And so it’s very difficult. We’re very, for better, for worse, I like to think that the Amazon sellers and e-commerce sellers in general, we’re very hardened by competition. It’s not easy for us. It’s very difficult. There’s a lot to take in. There’s so much information. And so whenever we were going through this Walmart thing, we were like, oh, okay this will be good, but probably nothing will come of it. We’ll make the pitch and just leave it out there.

So we go, and they had a big event with huge fanfare. And then we go and we make our pitch. And for some of the people that they really wanted the products for, they would give ’em a golden ticket on the spot. I actually have it on, a picture of us, on our website, under our blog, if you ever want to go check it out. And so we go and we pitch the product, and they give us a deal on the spot, right? And so they were like, how many stores could you do? And we’re like I think we can only do, you know, a hundred stores. They’re like, okay, let’s do a hundred stores. So it was just like right there, on the spot.

So that’s one of our primary focuses is we got that and we’re gonna be in a spring module for a hundred stores next year, which is awesome. I was like, I can’t believe it. I really can’t. But this t-shirt that I’m wearing right now is actually the one that I wore on the day that we did our pitch. And this is actually the wrong t-shirt ’cause right here there’s supposed to be a white golf ball. And so this was like an error printed t-shirt that I would just wear around our warehouse. And so I’m wearing the wrong logo t-shirt on the day of.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Actually, it’s funny. By the way, a lot of people will listen to this. If you want to go –

Sami Mubasher:
Oh, yeah sorry. Forgot this is audio.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I’ll have my team post the blog. I actually found it here, so it’s, in case you’re wondering, like it’s golf club logo, but there’s supposed to actually be a golf club sitting in it. And the one that Sami has on the screen here is just green. It’s sans the golf ball. I could at least see your brother. I guess your brother’s wearing the other shirt here, so he is –

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah. He’s got the correct one on.

Tyler Jefcoat:
But you know what? It worked. For whatever reason, Walmart was like, you know what, these guys. Something about these shirts. We gotta go. We gotta, this has gotta be a yes.

Sami Mubasher:
I think it’s also very emblematic of you just don’t know, right? Like you can forecast everything in your head and you can cross all your T’s and dot all your i’s, and you can think that t-shirt is going to make a difference for you. Like it could be make or break. At least like I felt on the day of I grabbed my T-shirt and I picked it up and I was like, oh my gosh, I was like, Rami, this is the wrong shirt. I’m so embarrassed. Look how ridiculous this looks. And so we set all of these expectations up, but really at the end of the day you don’t really know. And I would also say that, to loop this into something else is that this has been like my motivation to, to talk to other people, to talk to people in space, to talk to you, Tyler, is that you just never know what can come of it, right? Like the networking is, it’s one of the most important things, along with having purpose.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Yeah, no, I found the same thing. In fact I don’t know, you said you listened to a couple episodes, but last week I actually interviewed my largest competitor on the show, Sami. So I was, I for the same reasons that you just mentioned. I think when I first got into the e-commerce space, I had just sold my first business, and I talked to some guys that were really scared of, ah, what if somebody hacks my product and steals it? And I think what I have found over and over again that if you have a competitor that is willing to hack and steal your product, you’re gonna probably be three steps ahead of them, and that’s not really, that’s not the most important thing for you and me to worry about. And you said this really well earlier, Sami. You talked about the Bezosian obsession with the customer’s experience. And so for us, at Seller Accountant, it sounds like for you guys there, if I just, don’t waste that energy on the things that don’t matter.

And in fact be fairly liberal with the way you share and partner and collaborate. Because I’ve found some really cool business ideas with people that you guys would’ve perceived as being my competitors that are, we’re in business together. We’re figuring this out together because there’s a lot of opportunity, there’s a lot of – and when you find people that are aligned, like you said, Sami, with your mission, really only good things tend to come out of that. So I really respect that kind of mindset that you guys have.

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah, I’m big on metaphor, and I’m big on, on philosophy. I have a good anecdote if I could share it with you on the whole networking side. We have two warehouses situated on our property and we’re housing – so the golf balls come palletized, and we store them in our back warehouse, and then we use a forklift to bring them from the back warehouse to the front warehouse where we handle all the washing and prepping and sorting and all that.

So my dad, he’s a forklift operator, and he’s getting the pallet from the back and he’s bringing it to the front. No, not my dad. One of our employees. One of our employees brings it, and as he’s getting to our other warehouse, it gets stuck in the mud. And I don’t know if y’all know much about forklifts, but these things weigh an unbelievable amount, right? So here we have this, and we actually had just gotten the forklift. So here we have this forklift just stuck in the mud and we can’t transport stuff to and from. Leaving our product exposed.

So my dad gets on the phone, and he’s calling all of these tow trucks and saying, hey, I have a forklift stuck. Can you come and get it out? The first person he calls, he’s like, oh, no, we don’t deal with forklifts. They’ve broken our tow trucks in the past. And then we called two other ones. Another one couldn’t come out. Another one couldn’t come out ’til a later date. And so we were like we’re screwed right now. We have product and we have our forklift just sitting in the mud right now. And so my dad, he calls somebody on the phone who had just done our, he had spread some more rocks on our property for like road. We’re out in the country, by the way.

So we’re, our warehouse is situated on a highway, between Bastrop and Elgan in outside of Austin. And my dad calls the guy up on the phone. He’s like, hey, I got my forklift stuck. Nobody will come and help me out. Can you, is there anything? The guy’s like, oh yeah, I can pull that. I can pull your forklift out. No problem. I’ll bring my tractor. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. So sure enough, 10 minutes later, here comes this tractor on the highway. Like it’s just a tractor on the highway, right? Like driving down the highway. And it’s just it’s just this awesome scene where there’s, there’s a big pasture of cows across the street.

Here’s our business warehouse, and then here comes a tractor coming on along down the road. It’s just like a really funny sight. And within two minutes, he pulls in, pulls the forklift as if nothing had ever happened, pulls it straight out of the mud, and we’re able to just go about our business. And so to, to bring it all back around, and the metaphor is like that is who your network is. It’s all of these people who are like, you are absolutely hosed if you can’t find somebody to pull your metaphorical forklift out of the mud. Like they fill in the gaps of knowledge that you have, and that’s why you want it to be as broad as possible, and you want to talk to as many people as possible that are, that are relevant, that you wanna keep around. It’s for instances like that, and that’s the reason why I, that’s why I talk to so many people that I do is for that primary reason, is if I need that from somebody, then maybe I can be that for somebody else in the future.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I had a mentor that used to say, I’m sure he still does, I haven’t seen him in a couple years, but he says, your net worth is your network.

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah. Love that one too. Yeah.

Tyler Jefcoat:
I completely agree, and I think that allows us to have a real genuine growth almost servant mindset, right? I don’t need to, I’m not looking for a relationship for someone I can use. I really am eager to serve. And because I also know that those relationships, like you said, they literally, you know. The time to have somebody that you could call at 2:00 AM if you’re stuck is not at 2:00 AM when you’re stuck.

The time is to develop those relationships in advance. I love the forklift exercise. That illustration is so good. All right, listen, I wanna, I want to land our plane here. So you’ve got a busy business. You and your family are really hustling. You and I were talking about some hobbies and cards and video games. What’s your favorite video game right now? What’s got you busy in the video game world?

Sami Mubasher:
Oh, man. Okay. So it’s a video game called Path of Exile. Which is, it’s like a spirit. It’s actually interesting ’cause at the beginning of this conversation I had mentioned a game called Diablo 2. So this game is actually like the spiritual successor to that game. So sure enough that like we’re talking about selling and like my favorite game now is actually the one that is the spiritual successor to the game that kind of got us started in e-commerce to begin with. It’s totally relevant. Yeah, full circle. It’s a ton of fun. It’s basically just like killing monsters, but there’s this whole like, economy behind it, right? Between the stuff that you find and then you can trade it and things have value, and then you power up your character. It’s really cool. It has a whole, economy and marketplace behind it, which is a lot of fun. So it, it’s a total blast.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Love it, dude. I love it. I would call you a nerd, but I’m wearing a Lord of the Rings t-shirt here.

Sami Mubasher:
I embrace the term willingly. Us, us nerds move the world, man.

Tyler Jefcoat:
We do, man. I love it. Listen, final segment of each of these shows is the Return on Podcast segment, and I ask you what I ask all of our guests. Like what is, what are one or two things that are regular, that happen in your life that are habits, hacks, practices that you think just give you an unusual return on investment?

Sami Mubasher:
So there’s two things that jump to mind for me. One, I’m always keeping my mind actively stimulated. We were talking about video games. Like the video game is what I’m doing with my hands, right? But like, while I’m doing that, I’m listening to a book or I’m listening to a lecture. I’m learning something. I’m listening to a podcast. Whenever I go to the gym, every single day, I’m listening to something while I’m on the StairMaster, right? I’m listening to a podcast, I’m listening to a book. Like I’m keeping that stimulated. I would say that’s. That’s probably one of the biggest things. But it’s not good to just listen to something. For me, it’s not like I wanna listen to something arbitrarily. It’s, I want to listen and listen to somebody who I know is gonna fill gaps of knowledge.

I know it sounds so cliche, but I’m listening with my ears open. Are they going to say something that I don’t know? And you have to really humble yourself in order to do that. You have to acknowledge that, hey, I don’t know something, and so I’m going to listen to you in hopes that I can learn something from you.

But you can’t do that if you just feel that, oh, hey, I, I know everything, right? Which you can a trap and kind of fall into. It, it also reminds me of a great quote written by Plato, but attributed to Socrates that, I know that I know nothing or I know enough to know that I know nothing. Like you have to really put yourself in that mindset. So I say, I’d say that’s one of my biggest ones when it comes to like my leisurely activities. I’m always dual purpose. I’m always having my mind going while I’m doing something. And then listening whenever I am.

And then second to that is, you have to set up, if we’re gonna talk about habits for business, you have to set up the parameters for success, right? It’s a really great quote that I heard that success is a narrow line and the chances that you stumble upon it on accident is zero, right? You have to set up the parameters for success. You have to know what it is that you’re pursuing. And this is just like a, a more eloquent way of saying you need to bullet point everything.

You need to know what your daily goals are. You need to know what your weekly goals are, you need to your monthly and yearly goals are. And then you need to visibly see them and you need to say, oh, because you’re gonna forget about stuff, right? So you’re gonna, you’re gonna check those boxes. You’re gonna, you’re gonna look at every single thing that’s on your list and you’re gonna follow through with them. And how are you going to do that if one, you don’t know what the parameters are, and two if you’re forgetting about them. So I would say that those are the two biggest things for me.

Tyler Jefcoat:
Beautiful. Man, such good – I don’t have a lot to add to that. I think those are both powerful habits. Friends, you may wanna rewind and listen to that again. That was a nugget drop there, Sami. Thank you. And Sami, just in closing, I just wanna thank you. Thank you for joining me for the show. I’m really grateful for your time today. Any final comment for the good of the group here before we close today’s episode?

Sami Mubasher:
No. But I will say for the parameters of success for this meeting before coming into it, I went and I watched a few episodes, and I was noticing, I was like, oh, so this one is 30 minutes, this one is 20 minutes. This one was 45 minutes. I was like, All right, I wanna try and get to the hour mark as close I can, because hopefully that’s gonna be emblematic that I put forth good enough conversation to justify being here for the amount of time that I was.

Tyler Jefcoat:
You did it, man. And honestly, you did great. I love that this is a free flowing conversation, and buddy, it’s been great talking to you. It’s really been an absolute thrill. Guys, if you wanna learn more about Clean Green Golf Balls, we’re gonna make sure the website is in the show notes here. I am gonna be a customer here ’cause I am, I do enjoy golf, and I am not great at it. So having some super nice, gently used, but also cleaned golf balls would really win. Yeah, it’d be a huge win for me.

And then I just wanna make, as we close here today, friends, just remember what I said at the beginning. It actually helps us if you’ll like or subscribe to the podcast, or if you haven’t gone to the YouTube channel, you wanted to see the T-shirt that Sami is wearing, you wanna check it out, go grab us. You’re not gonna wanna look at me each week, but occasionally come visit. We’d love to have your support in that regard. And with that, we’re gonna close this episode. This has been Return On Podcast with Tyler Jefcoat. Sami, thanks again for joining us, buddy.

Sami Mubasher:
Yeah, thanks a lot. Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. Had a lot of fun.

Tyler Jefcoat:
All right, take care. Bye.

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