Today is a special episode with two awesome guests: husband and wife team Karen and Neil from Private Label University. They have 52 years combined experience with private labeling, building brands, sourcing, and selling products.
(02:00) Neil has been in the private label and physical product industry for over 35 years. In the 1960’s, his father imported products from Europe (later, Taiwan and Hong Kong) into Canada. He was always around the idea of working with physical products, private labeling and manufacturing overseas.
They’ve worked with chain stores including Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Toys R Us, and pharmaceutical companies. They were involved in private labeling as well as sourcing. That grew to other manufacturers and importers. They also private labeled their own brands. They have a popular book out on Amazon and have been involved with products his entire life. In the 1970’s, he was situated in Taiwan and took Taiwanese people to mainland China to show products. He’s worked with retail operations, manufacturers, and private labeling products in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Europe, and South America.
(05:00) Karen began private labeling products 17 years ago. She was looking after their children but her job did not pay well. They needed a new source of income, and Karen created her first private label business. Neil and Karen have Private Label University, where they teach others how to find products, add their brand, and share with 200+ million people shopping on Amazon. Their goal is not only to make money but to improve lives.
(08:45) The biggest difference with private labeling years compared to now is that years ago, it was difficult to create a personal brand and market it to people. You used to require that connection to a brick and mortar store to get in front of buyers. Now, Amazon has enabled entrepreneurs to create a personal product and launch the entire business online. Years ago, you needed a warehouse, staff, and a shipping department, which all cost money. It’s much more affordable now, due to Amazon.
(11:00) Amazon and Walmart were successful because they slowly introduced “grey label” brands and not just the mainstream brands with better margins. Private label products used to mean “discount products.” The mentality has changed and people are looking for the product and quality and not only a specific brand name. You can charge more for a private labeled brand.
(13:50) The buyer’s mind has shifted. People don’t trust big corporations where the shareholders come first and understand that the lesser-known brands could be better because they are focused on a good quality product.
How did the trend to buy and sell globally start without Alibaba? The key was starting in Europe. Buying products from the UK, Germany, Italy, and France. They visited Taiwan which had many skilled wood-makers or carpenters. They shipped pre-made products into Germany, the UK and Italy. Neil thought to have more products built there. Back then, it sometimes took 3-4 months to get a sample since the Taiwanese wanted everything created perfectly and measured properly. Taiwan was not as fast-paced as Chinese ones. They want “Made in Taiwan” to have a special meaning with good craftsmanship.
(20:20) Hong Kong companies looked for more flair, more style, more designs, and good packaging, so printing and packaging happened there. This was all before mainland China came into the picture. This was around 1986.
(21:40) How to establish trust with manufacturers. Neil had an easier time with Taiwan and Hong Kong being from Canada and not the U.S. He had a long-term visa to travel in and out of Asia. The communication barrier was tough initially. He drew pictures on a chalkboard and had help with some translation from a person who had studied in the UK. Neil picked up enough Cantonese and Taiwanese for people to understand a few words.
(25:00) There’s been massive change inside China even in the last few years. They’re producing for themselves now and salaries are increasing. People can now afford more living spaces, cars, luxuries, and more. Many suppliers are servicing their own local population in China, Taiwan, South Korea, Indian, and Japan. They aren’t optimizing for North America and Europe.
(27:00) Many people have a fixed mindset and need to open themselves up to other countries and cultures to think differently. Visit China to change your perception of how life is.
(28:40) Karen and Neil run a live event in China to show what it’s like doing business there. They focus on culture, relationship, communication, negotiating, and understanding the language. Building a relationship is very important, as is educating yourself about how things are done there. Many people visit the fairs and don’t get enough out of that visit because they don’t know how to navigate, negotiate, communicate, and build relationships. That exact reason is why they review best practices before visiting a fair.
(31:30) They’ve taken the knowledge they teach to students around the world and formulated the Import Success Formula Program. It contains 50+ short modules that walk you through the step-by-step process of starting a product business from scratch. There’s a five step process to start your business, find a product, find suppliers, get them to you or Amazon, and launch on Amazon. They have Suzie Hickson who’s a private label lawyer who teaches about patents and trademarks.
This is a roadmap or blueprint of what a private label business should look like, and it’s for anyone who’s looking to start a business or add products to their business. This helps you attract more clients on a global level, especially on Amazon.
They also take live groups to China, hold a live training there, then enter the Canton Fair so those students have access to work with 60,000+ suppliers at the fair.
(35:00) Their first book is called Private Label Secrets. It’s on Amazon and teaches the five step private labeling process. Their 14-year-old son launched his first private label business with only $500. It gives you the steps you need to launch your business.
(36:00) Discussion about basics you’re taught in school that fails to teach about real life, calculating taxes, getting a loan, and how a business works. At any age but especially a young age, it’s great to get an understanding by being an entrepreneur and starting a business. Years ago, people taught and learned “business” but being an entrepreneur was something to be laughed at. This perception is changing.
We all have an entrepreneur in us, so listen to what is true for you. We’ve been trained to avoid risk but you should take the leap. It’s always greener on the other side. It’s great to have a cause that you’re fighting for.