Todd Snively has been in the Amazon game for well over a decade now. He’s cultivated a formidable reputation for success, which culminated in him and his business parter, Chris Keef, establishing Expert University in 2015. Expert University isn’t a conventional university. Put simply, it’s an online learning center that helps ecommerce sellers and other entrepreneurs learn how to become successful, professional Amazon sellers. It doesn’t matter if you have little to no experience in the ecommerce field because the courses at Expert University are specifically designed to help people of all skillsets, experience and knowledge.
Fortunately for us, Todd was able to answer several questions we had about Expert University and Amazon third party selling.
Hey Todd, thanks for your time. What career did you pursue before linking up with Amazon and becoming an ecommerce retailer?
I’ve been blessed to have had many different types of businesses since 1983. My first business was a licensed collection agency that collected judgments for attorneys, and purchased charged-off credit card debt for pennies on the dollar that we would collect as much as we could for ourselves. I’ve invested in real estate, had a marketing company and even owned a video store, among other things.
You’ve been on selling online since 2002 and with Amazon since 2009. In that time, how much has the Amazon space changed and, as a result, how have you adapted to these changes?
Around 2015 there was this big push by internet marketers to teach people how to do the private label model on Amazon where they would identify top sellers on Amazon and then copy the product and add their own brand name to it. This lead to the largest number of failed attempts we’d ever seen in a single niche. Amazon became flooded with the same products, but with different brand names. Private label is here to stay, but it’s a very expensive, risky model that we suggest not be attempted until you’ve become successful at the wholesale model. Amazon continues to evolve its platform to the benefit of the wholesale model and even it’s CEO, Jeff Bezos announced that third party sellers (sellers like us) were kicking Amazon’s butt, and therefore, Amazon would be getting “out of the way” more and more to allow us to do, well, more and more. This is one reason why Amazon needs more third party sellers than ever before. For a lot of folks this flies in the face of logic, but once they understand how the buy box rotation method for competitive sellers actually works, the light bulbs go off and they get excited about the opportunities.
What have you done to ensure that you remain one of the most successful Amazon sellers? Has this improved your competitive advantage?
We actually took the step to become a recognized wholesale supplier by Amazon. This allows us now to supply the people we train with wholesale products directly from all of the sources we’ve established ourselves with over the last ten years. This allows us to buy in larger quantities, passing the volume savings onto everyone, consolidate the inspection, prep and shipping of products to Amazon to one warehouse, and allows our members to leverage our team for purchasing, receiving, inspection, prep and shipping to the FBA warehouses. It’s truly a win for everyone involved. We have relationships with manufacturers, brands and wholesalers that won’t work with anyone else because it makes more sense for them to just work with us as we then work with our members.
What have been some of the challenges of starting Expert University and how have you handled these obstacles?
Online training is a brutally, competitive arena and not everyone out there is conducting themselves in an honorable manner. This causes a lot of confusion for people looking to get started as a professional Amazon seller. They don’t know who they should trust in choosing the right mentor, or even a business model. Lots of fads get promoted as a legitimate business, when there’s no way they’ll stand the test of time. Right now there is a new model called “Amazon Automation” out there that is hurting a lot of people. It’s a model that is fundamentally flawed, but sounds really good at first. The only folks making a lot of money with Amazon Automation are the sales reps closing big deals with unsuspecting people. So, making sure that we cut through the marketing noise that is out there and try to get people to hear about the right way to sell on Amazon has been our biggest challenge. We try to do that through education and delivering on the promises we are able to make.
How important has your family been through times of uncertainty and hardship?
I have a very supportive wife that makes getting up in the morning worthwhile. She has been by my side through extraordinary challenges. Without her my goals would for sure be different. To be surrounded by supportive and understanding family while you endure hardships is a valuable gift indeed. I have three daughters that I know I could reach out to any time for any reason, and they know they can do the same with me.
For young entrepreneurs, what would your advice be in terms of navigating the post-coronavirus economic climate?
No doubt about it, the young entrepreneurs have their work cut out for them. They need to do some homework about the different, legitimate ways to earn money, both online and off, as the economy faces uncertainty. They must be prepared to take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. Spend time deep diving areas of interest in the free educational channels like YouTube and blogs, and when they find something that looks viable, get yourself a mentor or trainer that has already accomplished what you’d like to accomplish. It will fast track you and cut the risk factor way down. There cannot be success without risk, but we can do a lot to minimize it.
Todd, thank you for your time!