icon-folder-black Dropshipping Entrepreneurship Digital Marketing

Steve Tan — Dominate the Ecommerce Industry in Months

icon-calendar 2020-09-16 | icon-microphone 58m 17s Listening Time | icon-user Joseph Ianni
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Steve Tan representing what half of the Super Tan brothers shares a commonality with many of the legends we'll be talking about over the course of the series, put simply they needed to find themselves in a better place. And so they did. One day they're glued to the screen controller in hand, trying to top the leaderboard now. Okay. Well, they're still on screens a lot. They still have devices with buttons on them. And still aim to be on top, but now it's somewhere they can make a real difference. Millions of differences. As a matter of fact, join us as we visited the kingdom of Steve Tan and learn how he builds businesses, fosters community and keeps his head in the game.

Singapore based serial entrepreneur, Steven Tan is a renowned eCommerce dropshipper and full-stack digital marketer with over 14 years of extensive background and massive hands-on experience in the eCommerce industry. Steve and his brother Evan Tan conquered the eCommerce game by selling over $100 million worth of products from their eCommerce stores, including one that has generated over $360,000 in revenue in one day.

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Tags: #ecommerce #onlinebusiness #workfromhome #scaling #gaming #dropshipping #e-commerce #passiveincome #dropshipper #digitalmarketing


 

[00:00:00] Steve Tan: [00:00:00] I'm a big advocate for risk. So, I mean, I've been through hell. Because, like I put all my eggs in one basket, like some of my  startups I've lost everything I have to rebuild up from scratch, which is why, like, even for business, e-commerce, you know, we have like a lot of stores that we diversify all traffic to.

[00:00:22] It's not, it's not everything in one store. Right. We spread out our risk. So in the event, if something. If shit happens, right? 

[00:00:29] Joseph: [00:00:29] You're listening to  Ecomonics a Debutify podcast, your resource for one of a kind insights into the world of eCommerce and business in the modern age, this is Joseph. I'll be presenting a wealth of industry knowledge from interviews, with successful business people and our own state-of-the-art research.

[00:00:48] Your time is valuable. So let's go.

[00:01:01] [00:01:00] Steve Tan representing what half of the Super Tan brothers shares a commonality with many of the legends we'll be talking about over the course of the series, put simply they needed to find themselves in a better place. And so they did. One day they're glued to the screen controller in hand, trying to top the leaderboard now.

[00:01:19] Okay. Well, they're still on screens a lot. They still have devices with buttons on them. And still aim to be on top, but now it's somewhere they can make a real difference. Millions of differences. As a matter of fact, join us as we visited the kingdom of Steve Tan and learn how he builds businesses, fosters community and keeps his head in the game.

[00:01:38] So Steve tan, uh, great to have you here. Um, I see you grew up in Singapore and I would love to start there because I don't really know anything about the nation. So can you tell us what life was like growing up there? 

[00:01:51] Steve Tan: [00:01:51] A Singapore is like a pretty traditional Asia country, but it's kind of like the kind of, kind of look, look at it more like this Swiss of [00:02:00] Asia.

[00:02:00] So it's kind of like the financial hub alongside with Hong Kong. So Singapore, like, it used to be kind of one of the major ports in Asia, but ever since  like, you know, China comes back in power and, you know, a lot of things has been routed to China rather than Singapore. So Singapore government had a shift into tourism.

[00:02:21] So it's one of the popular areas in, in Asia for people to come over to, you know, take a week of holiday, probably just come to casino and all that. Um, 

[00:02:32] Joseph: [00:02:32] if you know, off the top of your head, when did, uh, China come back into power, was this something around, like to the- did you experience or was this before your time?

[00:02:39] Steve Tan: [00:02:39] This was, this was probably like when I was like, I would say 10, 10, 15 years old. So I'd say more into like, taking back because like, because once their port started becoming better, people don't have to do the transit at Singapore. So they would do all transit in China or [00:03:00] Shanghai or somewhere else. So it took away a lot of business for Singapore as a, as one of the main ports across Asia.

[00:03:09] Joseph: [00:03:09] And what about, um, The schooling system there. I'm not sure how much you know about how we have it in the West, but we have like our elementary system grades one through eight, each one takes a year and high school is like a four year program. And then college, anything from like six weeks to eight years, depending on, uh, uh, how much permission you have to open up somebody else's body.

[00:03:34] Steve Tan: [00:03:34] Singapore is, uh, Singapore used to be, uh, um, colonized by the British. So, which is why Singapore is very British in terms of like the education. Um, and a lot of things it's, it's following how the British work. So kinda like our education is from my primary one to primary six, uh, four years of secondary school.

[00:03:59] Uh, two to [00:04:00] three years of high school then college. So I wouldn't say it's very different compared to the U S 

[00:04:07] Joseph: [00:04:07] well, see, I didn't even know that it was colonized. It's a little bit good. A crash course for me, but, uh, let's uh, we'll, we'll, uh, we'll move on to that. Um, I have a feeling that we might end up bringing it up in bits and pieces here or there as we go.

[00:04:20] One of the things I learned about you is that a, you have a close working relationship alongside, your brother, Evan. So I'd like to know more about the dynamic between the two of you and how you guys work together. 

[00:04:32] Steve Tan: [00:04:32] Um, so Evan runs like the operations side of things. He managed, he manages our eCommerce business.

[00:04:39] So as we have like multiple different businesses, I've been kind of like runs the entire operations for our eCommerce business. And while I focus more on the strategy and planning and expansion and growth side of things, 

[00:04:52] Joseph: [00:04:52] and as you guys were, uh, working together throughout, uh, how long have you guys been, um, been, have been working together?

[00:04:59] Exactly. 

[00:05:00] [00:05:00] Steve Tan: [00:05:00] Oh, probably like 10 years. 

[00:05:04] Joseph: [00:05:04] 10 years  and would has your, uh, have you have your roles changed and evolved over time or have you guys basically found your, your, your fit together and have been able to stick to it all that time? 

[00:05:16] Steve Tan: [00:05:16] Yeah, I think more or less, it has been always the same, which is like, um, you know, Evan started helping me out, you know, while he was studying.

[00:05:24] So a lot of things I'm guiding him in sense of like, you know, what he should be doing or how he should be helping out. But now. Like, I mean, across the years he has learned his skillsets well, and now he's being able to lead an entire company himself. So it's going to like a [it's] been a really great help to the business.

[00:05:44] Joseph: [00:05:44] According to your profile on Forbes. You're a skillset is e-commerce digital marketing and growth hacking. Um, on our show, we do have some grasp on the first two. Um, but I'd like to know more about growth hacking. So how would you define a growth hack and how do [00:06:00] you apply it to your eCommerce business?

[00:06:02] Steve Tan: [00:06:02] Um, we have stores going from zero to 7 million in a month. So like, um, that's kind of how we scale. Pretty hard when kind of like we found a winning product and we have the systems in place so that when we find a winning product, um, we are able to scale this up, know using Facebook ads and at the same time, um, modify to different platforms, like, you know, Google shopping, um, native ads and search as well at the same time.

[00:06:33] And 

[00:06:33] Joseph: [00:06:33] when, um, from the time that you, you started on this, were you able to apply these right away? Or was this something that you started to learn over time? Like what were some of the earliest  growth hacks that you were able to apply and see? Oh, wow. This really works. This is a, this is huge. 

[00:06:50] Steve Tan: [00:06:50] Um, I mean, it really, it varies from business to business.

[00:06:54] So some business, like sometimes even if you apply all this hacks or probably you try to [00:07:00] scale it, it takes time. Or some, some products doesn't have the kind of virality compared to like some products. So as much as we want to, like, as much as we hope that every product would go viral or like we can apply all these growth hacks, um, it doesn't necessarily.

[00:07:17] Um, would succeed every single time. So we started applying this from, from some of our campaigns, like, um, back in like 2012, like when we're launching like new brands. So we started on a smallest scale. Um, it just like some, you still need the like, um, significant ad budget to scale Facebook ads at the same time.

[00:07:38] So when we're just starting out, it's kinda like, you know, we plan out the entire launch funnel and we kinda like, see how. The entire market reacts to the launch. And when the launch goes, well, we can start like reinvesting more of the cashflow that's coming in from the preorders. So the first time that we started applying, and this was [00:08:00] like for our Indiegogo project, which was in 2012 and like even on really, really tight budget, we've managed to get the campaign to over 1.5 million.

[00:08:11] Like in 2012. So that was, that was when we started realizing that like, there's definitely things that we could apply to increase the chances of the product going viral or increase the chances of this product. Like, you know, getting more exposure, getting more people to share. Um, and so and so forth. So 

[00:08:33] Joseph: [00:08:33] are you looking for products that are already doing, um, a certain level of sales in the marketplace?

[00:08:39] Is there like a cutoff point where you say, okay, maybe this product is good, but we're not exactly going to commit to this just yet. 

[00:08:45] Steve Tan: [00:08:45] So there's a few ways that we do it. Uh, one of the easiest ways is obviously the easiest way is to leverage whatever someone else is already selling. That's kinda like piggy bank [00:09:00] um piggy backing on the

[00:09:03] their sales. So what we can do is usually when we find someone that has been selling it for probably like one week or two weeks. And we see, we spot like a trend that this product has been going viral. And we, we measure based on their video views. And like, if their video views has increased substantially across like, you know, within one week and it will come under our radar and sometimes we'll decide if we want to sell the exact same product.

[00:09:32] Because someone has really proven this product is really selling very well for us. But long story short, usually the biggest sellers comes from our internal own finds, because usually when someone is already selling one, one week is still okay. But sometimes it's easy to find it on the second or third week.

[00:09:53] Someone has really probably been selling it for so long. And when you come on board, You might have only [00:10:00] breadcrumbs left because somewhat they have really good milking this product for a really like two, three weeks. And depending on how much, um, budget that that they  have been investing into this product, they probably have already saturated this product in a short span of two, three, three weeks.

[00:10:16] And that usually happens very quickly because a lot of, a lot of like dropshippers. When they see a winning product, all of them would jump on board. So market saturation would happen very, very quickly if, if it's like, you know, a common product. 

[00:10:33] Joseph: [00:10:33] Yeah. And I know that, you know, my family, we, we order, uh, quite a number of things online.

[00:10:39] So there are quite a lot of products that. You, buy it once and it's probably going to be that one product for a, for a long time. Like my mom, she just bought like one of those mini a room, air conditioners. I have like once, once the first wave of those is sold, it's getting it on. It will be like, Hey, you know that small air conditioning thing you've got here's [00:11:00] another.

[00:11:00] Yeah. 

[00:11:01] Steve Tan: [00:11:01] Yeah. I understand. Yeah. 

[00:11:04] Joseph: [00:11:04] Yeah. So on one of your Forbes articles, you say with great transparency that, uh, some of your, uh, projects weren't home runs and, but some were, I want to give you the, uh, the decision to tell us about which of your endeavors didn't work and what happened with them. 

[00:11:22] Steve Tan: [00:11:22] So, one of the startups that we did, um, it was like a consumer electronic product and we.

[00:11:30] We came from like the previous startup doing the same consumer electronics product, kind of like similar project range. But like we did all the branding and we, we just, we really didn't innovate a lot. So we're kind of like modeling on, on, on a winning product that's already in the market for probably like about a year.

[00:11:53] So there's. Probably like five to six competitors on the market that has been in the market for [00:12:00] quite a while. So, you know, we thought that this would be a big winner because there's so many people selling very well and the market leader is selling for $30. So we thought that selling it at$15. We would actually gain a lot of market share, but that was kind of like naive of me because like, you know, I was pretty new.

[00:12:20] I thought like, you know, just doing the branding really well undercutting the, um, the first, um, the first person in the market would actually gain us like pretty good market share. Uh, we actually sold like, um, probably like 5,000 units. And after which we have pretty much, very big difficulty in pushing the product because like, um, you know, the competitors started spotting us selling at that price and they started lowering their price to match our selling price.

[00:12:48] So that didn't give us any advantage anymore. And people would still prefer to, buy from them because like they have already like huge coverage in terms of like [00:13:00] branding and like, um, compatibility and we're just starting out. So it was really, really hard for us to continue, like, um, that project, because like, um, we were facing our competitor, matching our price, if not lower when they're buying in bulk or in bundle.

[00:13:15] So. Long story short, we have to wrap up the company because we weren't competitive enough to continue that startup. Yeah, 

[00:13:23] Joseph: [00:13:23] right? Yeah. It can be hard to find an edge in there because they've got the, the, the customer loyalty. They've got the ability to buy, like you said, in a greater quantity. Um, when, in terms of your, your branding though, um, what did you do to, to set your brand up at that, in that project?

[00:13:42] Steve Tan: [00:13:42] So, um, we started from scratch with designing the logos, the brand identity, the brand guidelines. Then we started designing on the packaging from there on, we scaled up to like, you know, all the other channels from social media. And it took [00:14:00] us quite a while because we really want to focus on the user experience from our design standpoint.

[00:14:04] So, because it was like, kinda like, um, A consumer electronic that connects to your phone through and through an app. And from there, we could actually search for our products. That's actually, um, so it's actually a consumer electronic product that helps you find your lost stuff. So you could attach it.

[00:14:25] Yeah.  () Oh, I've seen those - Joseph) chains. Yeah. Key chains or your wallet or whatsoever. So it took us quite a while because we really want to go for perfection in terms of like, you know, usability standpoint. But I think we didn't get like a, we weren't careful enough because we care so much about usability, but we didn't focus enough on making sure that the selling point is very competitive or like we have like, or, or we're spending enough time to [00:15:00] invest.

[00:15:01] The right amount of time into marketing. So I think that was one of the big flops that we actually did, which is why subsequent projects. We started to go into. Probably a leaner model. So we would start testing out the product with some ads, you know, to see if it's works. And if it works, we'll just go white label.

[00:15:23] Instead of going through the entire branding, um, branding route, we would just go white label, slap on a simple logo packaging, and w we're good to go. And when that really goes, well, then we'll consider going like the full brand route. 

[00:15:39] Joseph: [00:15:39] You know, it sounds you're, you're describing what. Is your you're describing a mistake that I'm probably going to make, because, because as I'm doing the.

[00:15:49] Uh, as I'm learning the, the eCommerce and I'm interviewing people such as yourself, and I'm also like doing scripting and researching for, uh, for solo content and what I, what I'm, what I'm picturing in [00:16:00] my head is that there's an eagerness to, I think have a lot of like personality and a lot of expression in the store.

[00:16:07] Focus on the, the aesthetic and the experience that I want people to have, uh, where it sounds like, yeah, that's, maybe you should hold off on that. It will make sure that everything is running efficiently first. And then you can start to add a little bit more of that additional flare to continue to attract attention.

[00:16:26] Steve Tan: [00:16:26] I think, I think it's more about whether the company's going to be able to survive. Is there any like cashflow coming in? I think that's kinda like what we weren't able to realize, because we fought like, Oh, when we designed this product, you know, when it has really beautiful branding, when it has great UI, great app great design sales is going to come, but.

[00:16:51] Usually that's not the case. Right. So I think we learned it the hard way going through like closing down the company and yeah, I [00:17:00] think which is why nowadays we will really focus on sales, sales, sales, then we'll start like, you know, putting in different assets in terms of different parts of the product.

[00:17:11] Joseph: [00:17:11] And with this product, was this something that you were drop-shipping or was this something that you would actually purchase yourself and then tried to sell. 

[00:17:18] Steve Tan: [00:17:18] Yeah. We'd have to stock everything because like, um, what, which is why I really don't like to touch, um, electronics nowadays, because like we tried to like do our RNB ourselves.

[00:17:31] So that means that you have to stock a significant amount of like, you know, um, chips and, you know, all the CPUs and all kinds of stuff like electronic parts. But if you buy it like an existing product in the market, it's so much easier. It's so much easier to white label and to slap on something that's really in the market.

[00:17:52] But that also means that any, any, any other competitors or any other people, people could get the exact same product and do the same [00:18:00] thing. So we're taking higher risk. To ensure that like, you know, going through the research and development route, but that also means if it goes well, it's great. But if, if it goes South, you're going to lose your, like you're going to lose a lot of money.

[00:18:17] Joseph: [00:18:17] Well, I, you can count on me to definitely be reviewing this too, uh, possibly several times over. Uh, all right. Let's uh, let's go to this next question. This one's gonna be a bit of a break from the eCommerce stuff. It's not too far off the Mark, but, um, this is one thing that I wanted to know more about is, uh, what do you do to stay on top of current trends and news and, uh, what are your sources of information?

[00:18:40] Steve Tan: [00:18:40] Um, we do have like a tight knit group of like, um, high level entrepreneurs. That's doing like brands drop shipping, Amazon. So we get together like very frequently too. Everyone goes through like, kind of like a round table, so everyone will share what have they been doing you know, what are, what are [00:19:00] some things that they think are working for them

[00:19:03] so we go one round. Every time and we learn and network with each other all the time. So that's kind of like how we get to know the trends  and stay on top of like, you know, market shifts, especially because like there's a, this group of people are all doing from eight to nine figures. So, you know, hearing from them is definitely the fastest way to.

[00:19:26] Get the understanding on all the different markets. Like, doesn't matter if it's drop shipping, doesn't matter if it's Amazon, it's all like, you know, we could understand the whole, the whole trend or the whole shift in the whole industry. So I think that's the best way. And I highly suggest people get into small groups of masterminds, likeminded people to share like close door secrets or close to our strategies among themselves.

[00:19:51] Joseph: [00:19:51] Now is this the eCommerce elites mastermind community that you're talking about? 

[00:19:55] Steve Tan: [00:19:55] No, this is like, this is private. Like, yeah, this is private. [00:20:00] ECommerce elite mastermind has like a hundred thousand people. It's not like possible to like, um, 

[00:20:05] Joseph: [00:20:05] have a round table with that many. 

[00:20:06] Steve Tan: [00:20:06] Yeah, probably  take 10 years. 

[00:20:08] Joseph: [00:20:08] Yeah. I w I mean, I suppose I would have thought like a subgroups within that, whereas that's like the main collective, but I'll, we'll, we'll, we'll get to that.

[00:20:16] Cause I do want to know more about that as well. So I read from your Yahoo finance article, you have a whole e-commerce ecosystem, uh, fulfillment agencies, software education. Um, I'd like to get a sense of how your operation is structured. And what does the average day look like for you and trying to manage these companies?

[00:20:35] Steve Tan: [00:20:35] It's pretty simple for me because I manage my CEOs. So technically I have like 20 companies, but I only manage 20 CEOs. So, yeah, so I don't do like the day to day that nitty gritty groundwork, I don't do my media buying myself. My typical day is mostly meetings across different companies. You know, sometimes I'll the only [00:21:00] time I have to really do the dirty work myself.

[00:21:02] It's usually like finance or banking work on [?] By like opening new accounts or setting up new companies. That's usually when, like, um, that's going to take like some of my time, but usually like I spend time, um, with different companies across like the week. So I'll probably have like company ABC, like across Monday, I'll do it the rest on Tuesday, Wednesday, so and so forth.

[00:21:25] But I'll usually keep like, uh, some time for me to do strategic discussion and brainstorming with the executives. To see how we could scale the business to like, uh, probably the next level 

[00:21:39] Joseph: [00:21:39] has a, have things ever get to a point where you do have to get a little bit more hands on just in case something needs a little bit of your personal touch.

[00:21:46] Steve Tan: [00:21:46] Yeah, for sure. So like, um, you know, the reason why we spread ourselves into so many different industries is kind of like one of, one of the main reasons is diversification. You know, like at any point of [00:22:00] time, let's say if job should die or probably my entire eCommerce business just went away like within 24 hours, you know?

[00:22:09] I'm still going to be pretty comfortable because like, my risk is very diverse. I have softwares and all that, but like, for example, like if sometimes we will come across like a home run, like for, um, you know, we initially we didn't know that this project is going to do well. So we probably put in very minimal resources or probably, I didn't really get myself involved with a lot of probably just get my managers or all my VPs involved in.

[00:22:35] That particular project. And when, when the project is growing so fast, usually they will be backlogged with hires, you know, with man power. So that's kinda like the time where I need to kind of like step in and help them out more, give them more advice or probably like see a [?], bring on some resources from my other companies to help them out first so that they could ensure a [00:23:00] smooth.

[00:23:00] Growth rather than like, everything comes to a complete stop because we don't have enough manpower. We don't have the systems in place. We don't have a consultant in place to help streamline things because like some even though some of the resources are mine, You know, they are still like pretty backlogged because there's like a few companies that some of my VPs are overlooking across different companies.

[00:23:24] So yeah, that's kinda like, Oh, this is kind of like the times where I buy, I have to like, like, you know, roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty. I get myself more involved with the new business, because like when, when, when an opportunity comes knocking. You have to be ready if not like, you know, sometimes that our opportunity timeframe might be just like for that particular month.

[00:23:46] And we want to make sure that we always capture whenever the opportunity comes knocking down our doors. 

[00:23:53] Joseph: [00:23:53] Right. And as you were saying earlier, sometimes you have a very limited window to act on these before somebody else takes hold of the [00:24:00] market. Whether that's. A product or if that's a service that somebody else can, uh, can effectively distribute out into the market and, um, actually leads me into another part of it.

[00:24:11] Cause so you're, you're talking about diversification and how, if, uh, if one thing doesn't go particularly well, you do have other. Um, platforms and other things that you have to, uh, to fall back on. And some of, it increases  it increases personal investment it obviously increases financial investment.

[00:24:30] Um, and it just keeps you more locked into the industry at large. Now, do you, you also apply this to, um, to stores in particular, as well as your business in its entirety. 

[00:24:42] Steve Tan: [00:24:42] Uh, I'm a, I'm a big advocate for risk. So, I mean, I've been through hell because like, I put all my eggs in one basket, like some more of my startups.

[00:24:52] I lost everything. You don't have to rebuild up everything from scratch, which is why, like, even for business, [00:25:00] e-commerce, you know, we have like a lot of stores that we diversify our traffic to. It's not this, not everything in one store. Right. We spread out our risk. So in the event, if, if shit happens right.

[00:25:13] Not all is going to take the damage. So one of a few of those going to die, that's normal. We'll just move on. So even we apply this for all our business, regardless, it's Facebook ads. We have like so many Facebook business managers, different accounts, you know, for different different pages for different stores.

[00:25:31] So you just have to be careful and just got to be prepared before the problem finds you. You have to be proactive in, in terms of like, Knowing when problems might come and be prepared before the problems come to you. 

[00:25:50] Joseph: [00:25:50] And then as, as far as the, um, the, the product line go, are there certain areas that you don't touch maybe due to expertise like do you get in?

[00:25:59] Is there any [00:26:00] limitations to what are products you'll uh, you'll try to sell in a store?

[00:26:05] Steve Tan: [00:26:05] No, we don't really have a limitation. The only limitation is like logistics. Like, so probably like things that contains powder 

[00:26:13] Joseph: [00:26:13] or liquid. 

[00:26:14] Steve Tan: [00:26:14] Okay. It's a little bit more tricky, but our dinner that we don't really have restrictions we sell, what are the things that makes us money as long as they are legal

[00:26:23] Joseph: [00:26:23] yeah, no, I understand that completely. I have a, a long and sorted relationship with liquids. 

[00:26:29] Steve Tan: [00:26:29] Okay. 

[00:26:30] Joseph: [00:26:30] I wanna spend a little bit more time specifically on drop shipping because it's essential a component to e-commerce. Um, how did you, uh, discover a drop shipping? Uh, so what was it like for you going into it and also, what are your thoughts on drop shipping in our, uh, in our current climate?

[00:26:46] Like how you, where you see it going and, uh, how your relationship with it has been. 

[00:26:50] Steve Tan: [00:26:50] Yeah, so I started dropshipping probably in 2006, so. It was like half [00:27:00] dropshipping, because like, I'm the person, I'm the person actually [?] backing, shipping out the product. So I'll buy, I'll buy. Whenever I have a sale from the supplier, the supplier will ship it to me because most of like, during that time in 2006, most suppliers do not ship international.

[00:27:20] Right. So I have to purchase it to my own place and have to pack it up then I'll ship it myself. So I'll, I'll. I'm not even sure whether people considered that dropshipping, but that's kinda like my first taste into eCommerce and kind of like, it was like, um, you know, why I got into it was because I have no money.

[00:27:39] I'm trying to be an entrepreneur. So, and I tried everything, digital, digital marketing, selling ClickBank products, ad sense blogging and all kinds of stuff. And didn't work. So, but when I went into drop shipping or eCommerce, I would say eBay selling on my own [00:28:00] website, it was so much easier. Like, it seems like it's so much easier to connect, check with the buyer because like we're selling tangible stuff.

[00:28:10] But like in 2004, 2005 I was learning internet marketing, which was like a pretty new, like, it was like an entire new world to me because like, I'm, I just finished my high school and I was just waiting to see how I could change my life because like, I'm a broke student. I have no money. And this was really easy for me to get started, like with like eBay.

[00:28:36] So that's kind of like how I got started 

[00:28:38]  () first - Steve)

[00:28:39] Joseph: [00:28:39] Yeah. And I am noticing that, that, uh, that trend across, uh, some of the people that I've been researching is that whereas other business opportunities only seem to present themselves to people who've already been presented opportunities. Uh, the beauty of dropshipping is because it's a, it's a low investment.

[00:28:55] Um, yeah, a business, a lot of people who just, who have that drive [00:29:00] and legitimately want to give it a go have very little excuse, not to like one of the stores that I researched for, for another episode, uh, his budget was $60 and he was, and thanks to dropshipping, he was able to turn that into a business that can feed his feed his family.

[00:29:16] Steve Tan: [00:29:16] Wow. Yeah. I mean, definitely like, I mean, even since my days, drop shipping has dropshipping wasn't popular back then, but it was already there, you know, the last few years for drop-shipping has been critical because like it can expose more, a lot more people that they could get started with eCommerce.

[00:29:37] Without out a lot of money. Cause like the traditional way of doing e-commerce that you have to stock inventory sounded like what I like what I've done in my past startups. Right? You have to invest a lot of money and chances are it might not work because you're, you're just a dumb ass. Like, you know, you be a new entrepreneur that doesn't know what he's doing.

[00:29:58] And all I know is my, [00:30:00] I think that my product is going to sell very well, but truth is nobody wants your product. And you're stuck with like probably 50 to $100,000 worth of inventory. And that's your entire cashflow. So a lot, a few of my business fail because of overstock inventory and it killed my cashflow.

[00:30:18] I don't have cashflow enough to run ads. You know, I don't have, no one's buying my product. So, which is why I'm still a really, really big advocate of like drop shipping. Because I honestly think that this is one of the best business models in the world. And anyone could get started with it. We've got a lot of money.

[00:30:36] We bought a lot of like investment with, for inventory warehouse, hiring like a bunch of physical staff to do all that kind of stuff. And if one product doesn't work, you have like thousands of hundreds of thousands of different products that you could play around with. Without risk, which is why, like, I think.

[00:30:54] Drop shipping is going to be here to stay, but the enitre business model needs to take a little bit [?] Because there are so many [00:31:00] different kinds of like people jumping on board. When you have like a bunch of people coming on to this, the same market you're going to attract like. Oh, [?]  Sellers and scammers.

[00:31:12] So scammers are those people that spoils it for everybody. Like, you know, they, they collect the money they don't ship the product, or if they don't, if they ship the product, they probably ship something crap or they like, you know, they ship, something that's totally irrelevant to the product that you have bought.

[00:31:27] So these are the people that spoil the entire, like drop shipping for people. And which is why drop some times dropshipping gets a pretty bad name that the product quality is crap. But if there's some big there's, some big companies are still doing drop shipping, but their entire ecosystem is a little bit different.

[00:31:45] And I think for like small business owners like us, we could. Kinda like model what these guys are doing. Right. They work with like really good suppliers in China or they probably, or what they could do is they work with like [00:32:00] local logistics. Right. or probably they could important the products, a small amount of product into US, or wherever just selling most.

[00:32:08] And they could keep the majority of the inventory in probably China. So they need to have like a very good, like, um, Partner that could help them do like predictions or like rolling, rolling inventory so that whenever the stock in the US or the local side gets low, they could ship things in time by ocean.

[00:32:31] So that look, and when they run out, if in the event, they run out of products, they could just ship it directly from China. But majority of the orders will be shipped out from the local countries. So if you're able to take care of like, Customer service shipping speed, product quality dropshipping will be available to you like for very, very long time.

[00:32:54] I don't see any problem that you're going to get into because these few. [00:33:00] These few, few things would actually ensure that your Facebook feedback score will be really, really high because like all these points are very, very critical to running your Facebook business, 

[00:33:16] Joseph: [00:33:16] right? Yeah. I mean, I can tell you that, um, since we were, you know, locked inside of our house, uh, as was, uh, it was a law, if we, I I've, I've been ordering stuff online, uh, prior to COVID-19, but my family definitely, uh, picked up the frequency of orders and I've seen.

[00:33:35] Um, I've seen I've, I've had stuff delivered. The branding was great. Packaging was great. And I felt very comfortable with the company, but I've also had a product. It was like a handsfree bracket, where you can put your tablet into it, and then it would, you can move it around. It never showed up. It ended up getting delivered to somebody in another province.

[00:33:52] And then I go to the website to try to find out what happened and the website went down. So there are people that are giving it a bad name [00:34:00] for sure. But there are people that are doing the right thing as well. Yeah, 

[00:34:03] Steve Tan: [00:34:03] for sure. I mean, the eCommerce market's so big, right? There's definitely going to be bad apples that, you know, are gonna destroy it for everybody 

[00:34:12] Joseph: [00:34:12] and there's bad apples in all businesses.

[00:34:15] Steve Tan: [00:34:15] So  (joseph) 

[00:34:16] Joseph: [00:34:16] it's nothing it's nothing unique to drop shipping. All right. Let's switch gears and want to talk a little bit about, um, some of the community aspect of, uh, what you're up to. Uh, I'd love to know more about the eCommerce summit and tell me how these got going and given the current circumstances, what the situation is looking like now.

[00:34:35] Steve Tan: [00:34:35] So, um, we launched our eCommerce world summit a couple of years ago, and we kinda got, had a really great response, uh, for about a thousand people flying from all around the world, joining us in Singapore. You know, a lot of people haven't been to Singapore for like yourself. And they were like very surprised that like, um, there's actually such a small country.

[00:34:57] Uh, in Asia, that's like, um, kinda [00:35:00] like sizzling in a sense, um, the safe spot and very various, um, centralized financial banking systems, uh, in Asia. So we started off kind of like as a hobby. Um, we, we got to attract a thousand people, that paying, paying , paying customers coming to Singapore all through our community.

[00:35:22] Uh, e-commerce elites mastermind. So that kinda like got us interested in sharing more value across like events, offline events, online community seminars, workshops, and all that kind of stuff. And it was very fulfilling because like, uh, w we, we have seen a lot of change. We have seen a lot of people change their lives, uh, you know, with our free content from through our paid workshops, mastermind and all that kind of stuff.

[00:35:50] And w which was why resulted us in pursuing an education business as well? 

[00:35:56] Joseph: [00:35:56] Yeah. And I also think that because so much of the [00:36:00] business is conducted online and virtually, uh, people don't get the opportunity to meet face to face. And there's a lot of value to just being able to like see people and experience people in person.

[00:36:12] I miss that. That's for sure. 

[00:36:14] Steve Tan: [00:36:14] Yeah. I mean, like, um, one of the big changes that we encounter is like, we have to share, all our lessons online and it's a shame because like, we really enjoy the face to face interaction, you know, with the students. And a lot of people wanted to come to like the live events, but it's still in a very tricky situation right now because the Singapore government, um, just recently unlocked the country because like, um, there's, there was some huge surge in, um, COVID cases locally.

[00:36:49] Um, and they're very, very careful in terms of like education providers like us. On doing big events, like couple of hundred people, [00:37:00] they are not allowing it so far. So we don't really, if we don't really want to wait till when they could allow us to do it, we're just, just going to do it online. In the meantime, until the whole wall comes through, like, you know, a good state whereby we could start conducting our face to face masterminds and meetups, and that will be kind of like, uh, what we're looking for it too.

[00:37:23] Joseph: [00:37:23] Okay, great. And you've already brought up the, uh, masterminds and we've alluded to it so far. So let's get right to that. Uh, tell us about the eCommerce leads, mastermind and, uh, how the community functions, how it got started and what's its mission. 

[00:37:38] Steve Tan: [00:37:38] Yeah. So, um, I think we. I don't even know how many years has it been?

[00:37:44] Like since we created the group. So initially like, uh, we, we were sharing a lot of like content and people's groups and sometimes, when we share a lot of value, like, I'm not sure our posts just [00:38:00] got deleted by some of the group owners. And I kinda like understand why, because like, Oh, we're getting so much like attention and it kinda like our results are, even bigger than a lot of like, um, the gurus and kind of, like, you know, um, Group owners and they started [?] It.

[00:38:20] It started like, um, also like I was like quite taken aback and he saw it all. It's just sharing value, pure value, no link to like website and no opt in pages. No, nothing. It's just pure value. And I just got booted, so, and a lot of people started messaging me every single day. You could do like share this.

[00:38:40] Could you share that? I was like, Oh, okay. Like, I started replying like 10 messages, 20 messages, a hundred messages, a few hundred messages per day. And I kinda thought, you know, this, this has to stop, right. I have a business to run and this couldn't like, I couldn't, I couldn't function if I have to reply to so many messages [00:39:00] every single day.

[00:39:01] So my friends suggested like, hey Steve probably like, you know, just create a small group of people. Like, honestly, like a masterminds, probably like hundred people. In it, wherever everyone could share it. But like, it kind of got out of hand where we started sharing a lot of value in a small group and people started adding people after the people.

[00:39:20] And, you know, we went to like, I think from like zero to 10,000 members, I think it only took us like less than like 30 days. And it just scaled from there. And now we're over like a hundred thousand people in the community. 

[00:39:36] Joseph: [00:39:36] That's actually, that's funny to me just because it's. Pretty similar to, uh, how, um, you're, you're able to scale a business operations in a short amount of time, uh, elsewhere.

[00:39:45] So it's funny to me that the same thing happens within your Facebook community page as well. It must be something that you're doing across all of these. It just seems to work 

[00:39:54] Steve Tan: [00:39:54] to be honest, right. Um, like for our personal branding and like the [00:40:00] Facebook group, honestly, we haven't. I mean, we know we need to be putting more resources, more attention to it, but honestly, we haven't even been like, you know, taking care of it across these years.

[00:40:12] It's more, like a site. It's more like our hobby. It's more kind of like our go to spot to kinda like, you know, Like meet new people, meet new friends. And I'm really thankful to the group because like that resulted in meeting all my potential, all my businesses that I have right now, because like, I've met a lot of people, good people, bad people, really bad people as well from the group.

[00:40:36] And, but I'm thankful because it allowed me to get involved in a lot more different businesses rather than just only e-commerce myself. like, you know, eCommerce like logistics ecommerce software, even though they're all in the same e-commerce niche, but it expands my whole eco-system. So when our, when we just got [00:41:00] started, like, you know, when we were crushing it with or eCommerce business, I kind of had a dream that I wanted to.

[00:41:07] Have a more robust ecosystem whereby like, you know, every, every component in the ecosystem would be like, you know, trusted, validated companies that I personally use or invest, or, you know, acquire it to be in part of our ecosystem whereby we could share openly with like, you know, our community or myself or my business partner.

[00:41:30] And I'm. I really liked the synergy between different companies. Like for example, my partner, a company with partners, C company have like good synergies and they could add value to each other. So that's kinda like my dream that I had, like a couple of years ago. And I'm proud to say, like, you know, I'm taking baby steps across, like, you know, every year, you know, acquiring or investing in like good, good companies that I believe can really help take, um, eCommerce [00:42:00] business owners to the next level.

[00:42:02] Joseph: [00:42:02] Well, and then fundamentally across all of it, it comes back to value because you're providing a value, that's just its own a way to influence others. And so, yeah, that's great to hear. 

[00:42:14] Steve Tan: [00:42:14] Yeah, I think value and at same time performance. So like for example, our, one of our softwares, like intocart, Um, we, we launched it without any marketing budget.

[00:42:26] We have zero marketing budget and like, we have like waiting, waiting lists people wanting like messaging me, Steve, could I get on it? Because like we used to it's now only in house. Like it's closed the community that we use. We only accept like performance marketers or people that's doing at least a few hundred thousand dollars revenue and above, and we've no marketing.

[00:42:53] We grew it from zero to like probably like 70 million per month, uh, in terms of like, [00:43:00] um, revenue for like merchants. So we process like the checkout for all our merchants through our software. And I'm proud to say that, like, you know, with no marketing. Um, I'm honestly very, very surprised that we were able to like, have like this kind of revenue come in, like through all our merchants combined.

[00:43:26] Joseph: [00:43:26] And you were mentioning a little bit about how you did expect to see some, uh, some revenue there, which does remind me of something that I saw on your Instagram page is that, um, you do, you do do the investing. Um, if you're willing to make us, I just wanna make sure I got this right. If you're willing to make a sizable investment into a company, you anticipate it'll hit 10 million in sales.

[00:43:48] So what do you, what do you expect to see in a business before you commit to investing? 

[00:43:53] Steve Tan: [00:43:53] Hmm, definitely. First as the founder, the founder's mindset, how hungry the [00:44:00] founder, you know, I get a lot of deal flows coming in my way. A lot of, a lot of them are like just time-wasters right. People just come to, like, they just want to get on a call with me.

[00:44:10] They just want to ask for a free advice and all kinds of stuff. So like right now we. Two things. One is the founder second  is the the project or the idea, or like, you know, the business itself. So if we feel that this business has like big or, or we feel if this business has a big enough niche, or if we come in, we are confident.

[00:44:38] that we could double, triple or quadruple the business then. It will be a good fit for us because we would never want to get involved with companies or businesses that, you know, if the father bring us on board, he's going to sacrifice like some significant amount of equity. Right. So we would never consider companies that when we come in, [00:45:00] we would not be able to add value or like, you know, greatly increase your profitability or revenue.

[00:45:06] Joseph: [00:45:06] Okay. that's a great answer to that question. Uh, last couple of ones I got for you. This is some personal develop stuff. So I read from the backstory for both, uh, you and Evan, that you guys, uh, you weren't always these, uh, these amazing prolific, um, uh, members of the eCommerce world. Uh, you were doing.

[00:45:28] Quite a lot of gaming. Um, now I, I still do. I still do quite a lot of gaming and I think when you balance it, it can be a valuable part of life. Um, I guess it does depend on the game. Uh, for me it hones a competitive edge keeps my reaction time high. Um, did you guys pick up anything positive from your gaming experience?

[00:45:46] Anything to carry over into business that actually helped 

[00:45:49] Steve Tan: [00:45:49] of course, 100%. So I used to be like, A crazy gamer, right? I'll, I'll game for like 48 to 72 hours, non [00:46:00] stop, non sleep, no sleep at all. But the reason why I'm doing that is because I want to be the top player in the server. So I'm really, really competitive.

[00:46:09] Right. I really want to have the best armors and best weapons, you know, all, all that kind of stuff on the server. And I think my mom has like a big impact on me. So I kind of had my first epiphany my life because we were going through a really hard time and kind of like my mom sacrificed a lot of things for us.

[00:46:30] And I was just addicted to gaming nonstop, and worst of all, I I've even got my brother. Uh, involved in this whole gaming stuff. So I was rotating shift with him. I was playing like 10:00 PM, 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Right. And he was playing 10:00 PM to 10:00 AM, 24 hours, like nonstop during school holidays. So my mom was really good, disappointed.

[00:46:53] And like, you know, I think she can like have, um, had enough so, well, she told me like, [00:47:00] Hey, like, you know, if, if you're still competitive, like on. On the virtual right? Why don't you be like so super competitive in the real world and be like, Like a good person or, or be a useful person because like, I don't see any future in you or your brother right now.

[00:47:18] So there was like, that was shared to me at like one of like my mom's lowest point in time in life and kind of like that kind of woke me up and I was like, yeah, man, like, you know, why am I like trying to be the top player in a server, right? I should be someone better or like, you know, a good businessman running like multiple business and being successful in life or like rather than being like, you know, a keyboard warrior, just type, just training his character away.

[00:47:51] you know he hid in his small dark room and I don't want to be that person anymore. So, and that [00:48:00] actually. Forced me into like internet, internet marketing, because I will see what [?] even though I had my epiphany in my life. Right. And I started looking into how to make money online, Google and our kind of stuff.

[00:48:13] And like, you know, doing all the digital marketing, internet marketing, you know, blogs and all of that didn't work out for me, but it kind of gave me the confidence that, you know, yeah. I believe in that this is going to work. And I'm very grateful even to this day that, you know, I've been involved in this industry.

[00:48:32] I've been exposed to internet marketing e-commerce and all this kind of digital stuff at such an early stage in my life, because like, Now, nowadays people are like, Oh my God, if I know this like 10 years ago, that would be like, you know, that'd be so helpful. But for me, like, uh, I still count it as a blessing that, you know, I was forced to, you know, pick up a skillset at my early days in my life.

[00:48:57] And you know, it led me [00:49:00] to a lot of opportunities. You know, I got involved, I lost my money. I met a lot of bad partners. And kind of like hone my skills to kind of like spot bullshit from like a mile away. And it kind of like to kinda like differentiate good partners from bad partners and, and I've learned through all this partnerships you can like really, um, value and appreciate people that, um, made an impact in your life or people that, that wants to really.

[00:49:29] Give you the helping hand and sharing and advising you how you could like, you know, grow in your business. Because like, I mean, we have taught, so many students, like across, like, um, you know, like, um, you know, be it in the group, be it in like the, the trainings and all the kind of stuff, you know, like people come and go and it's, it's sad because like, you know, people feel that like, Oh, because they, they, they watch like Steve's courses and yeah.

[00:49:55] And they, they became successful. They would just forget you. But like for us, It's [00:50:00] like, they are still like really, really close friends with us, because these are the people that you really need to hold closely in your life. And, you know, having all these people that really cares about you and have, um, you know, willing to share things or share like business strategies, with you.

[00:50:18] You are going to be able to grow so much faster compared to doing everything yourself or compared to you, like not sharing or not having like a tight Muslim community that you are openly able to share all these things will make a really, really big difference. So I really I'm kinda like, I think the big difference that I see was, you know, I had like a really good bunch of friends that I really called my brothers and all that everyone's very, willing to share, like, you know, EComm knowledge be e-comm or whichever, like opportunities that come across.

[00:50:52] And that was like, kind of like, I would say one of my big turning points in my life as well, because like, you know, I I've learned so much from [00:51:00] them. I've learned so much like, you know, new stuff and probably business opportunities through like, you know, just engaging and just networking with them and just learning them from them.

[00:51:10] Wow. 

[00:51:10] Joseph: [00:51:10] That's amazing. I gotta say I, uh, I wasn't, I never know what answer I'm going to get to the question. That's why it's a question, but, uh, that was impressive.  Thank  (Steve) 

[00:51:19] Steve Tan: [00:51:19] you. 

[00:51:20] Joseph: [00:51:20] You're welcome. So, uh, I'll I got one more, uh, for you and it does tie into what I've just asked. This one is going to be very based on present tense.

[00:51:29] So, one thing that you've talked about is that everyone has a self limiting tendency, uh, that theoretically prevents us from disappointment and failure. So I want to, I'm curious if you've got. Any ones that you're currently trying to, uh, overcome. Um, but I want to admit one of my own just in good faith.

[00:51:49] Um, the one that I'm dealing with right now is my, uh, my, my dopamine consumption. It didn't really occur to me until I learned what a dopamine addiction even is just like a year and a half [00:52:00] ago, which is just that constant checking our phone for updates on Facebook or, uh, opening up my clash of clans briefly just to check on my village.

[00:52:08] And then before I, before I know it. I've lost 30 minutes before I know it. I've lost 40 minutes. I'll be in, I'll be in bed and I'll be like, Oh my goodness. I woke up and it's been 30 minutes. I got to interview Steve. So like these, these things, they, they come up and it's something that I'm trying to deal with.

[00:52:25] Um, I'm curious what, uh, uh, what you're working on right now and what's your strategy to get past it? 

[00:52:32] Steve Tan: [00:52:32] Um, yeah, for sure. Um, Right now, I would say I'm pretty disciplined. Right? I love using tiktok, right. The China version, because it has a lot of crap on it. You know, funny stuff. So I only use it on the weekends.

[00:52:49] Like when I really want to destress, it's kind of like my go to destress thing, a tool to it's kind of like really not do anything and just like slouch on my sofa. There's [00:53:00] watching random crap, like that's on it. Right. So I used to like do it often, but I cannot find it. It's like quite addictive. Right.

[00:53:08] Just doing nothing. I could spend hours on, on, on the app at any one go. Right. But nowadays I only do it on a weekend. So I recently going to like, I really want it to change my lifestyle a little bit. I'm a very business focused person. But when it comes to my fitness health, like it's, um, you know, I could never find a great reason why I need to be like in good shape and all that kind of stuff.

[00:53:37] So I'm always like, you know, I wouldn't say I'm fat, but like, you know, I'm not very slim either, so kinda like, Average, I would say so it's like very average. So I wanted to start making, um, make changes to my life. So I started setting up my morning routine. I started watching some YouTube [00:54:00] videos and I started making up like checklists that I want to like start making small changes in my life.

[00:54:05] And so far so good. I've been on this like a new lifestyle for like probably close to a few months now. So, you know, I'm I'm always a night owl. I usually sleep at one or 2:00 AM nowadays. I sleep at 10:00 PM. So after this interview, I'm really just gonna like, get a quick shower and just get a head straight.

[00:54:22] Right straight to bed like, like, um, I only found out till now that I really,also, I want to share with like your community as well that no entrepreneur should really like undermine the importance of sleep. Great. So I used to like burn the midnight oil I'll work like 24 hours. When I have really great idea. I worked throughout the entire night.

[00:54:48] My next day would be shit, even though I'm like, I'm super excited, but the lack of sleep really, um, impairs your ability to perform. But a lot of founders don't realize that they were like, Oh yeah, [00:55:00] the startup, like, you really need to put it. Yes, you should put in a lot of efforts, but you also need to get adequate rest.

[00:55:07] And which is why now like I'm more into like, you know, a little bit bio hacking my, my performance. So I want to make sure that I'm in my peak state by, through normal means not through taking like what supplements or drugs or whatever kind of stuff. I just want to like be healthy. So, so that it can get me into my peak state.

[00:55:29] And you know, keep myself energized throughout the entire day through workouts, I know that kind of stuff. And so that I could be ready for longevity rather than just a hundred, a hundred meter sprint, because business is also about longevity. I'm not in this business so that I could be in this business for a year.

[00:55:47] I want to be in the business for like 10, 20, 30 years ongoing. Right. So I need to be, which is why I finally found my, why, why I need to be in great shape so that I could be in this game [00:56:00] for as long as I want, rather than being reactive. I can be proactive in being control of what state or what, um, what performance that I could be in.

[00:56:13] Joseph: [00:56:13] Yeah. I mean, I just, uh, try getting into the habit maybe in the last couple of months to just try and get a walk in every single day. And even just going for a walk every day is a significant difference. So if anybody is not like we, people don't need to become athletes, but even a little bit of physical exercise makes a huge difference.

[00:56:33] Steve Tan: [00:56:33] Yeah, for sure. You don't really need to be like an athlete like, woah, 10% body fat. [?] I think it's more about finding a balance and making sure that balance suits you because you, you need to be consistent in doing something every single day. And if you don't like it, you're not going to do it for, for sure.

[00:56:57] Joseph: [00:56:57] All right, Steve, this has been excellent. [00:57:00] I really appreciate your time. And that's everything I got for you today. So, uh, unless there's any parting wisdom you want to leave us with, you can, uh, hit the shower and then head to bed. 

[00:57:11] Steve Tan: [00:57:11] Yeah, it's been fun, um you know talking to you tonight and thanks for having me. 

[00:57:17] Joseph: [00:57:17] And thanks to you as well.

[00:57:18] Thank you. You might've found this show on any number of platforms, Apple podcasts, Spotify, Google play Stitcher, or right here on Debutify, whatever the case. If you enjoyed this content and want to help us thrive, please take a few moments to leave a review on Apple podcast or wherever you think is best.

[00:57:39] We also want to hear from you. So whether you think you'd be a good guest. Or want to weigh in on anything related to our show? You can email podcast@debutify.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tiktok. Finally, this podcast is created and by the passionate team at Debutify, if you're ready to take the plunge into [00:58:00] eCommerce or are looking to up your game, Head over to Debutify.com and see how it can change your life and the lives of many through what you do 

[00:58:07] next.


 

Written by

Joseph Ianni

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