Amazon Expert Mike Begg’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Episode Transcription

Glenn Harper [00:00:00]:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of an Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. I’m Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith [00:00:04]:

Julie Smith.

Glenn Harper [00:00:05]:

What’s going on, Julie?

Julie Smith [00:00:06]:

You know, the kids are back in school, so I feel like I have a little bit of routine schedule and time back.

Glenn Harper [00:00:11]:

I’m telling you, that’s a big thing when that summertime is brutal. I don’t know how parents do it. Flashbacks for me.

Julie Smith [00:00:18]:

One day at a time.

Glenn Harper [00:00:19]:

That’s good. How’s coffee looking this morning? You went to Sheets, eh?

Julie Smith [00:00:22]:

Yeah, I’m back on the sheets, you’re back on Starbucks.

Glenn Harper [00:00:25]:

You know, go with what I know. Well, we have got a really special guest today. I’d like to introduce to Michael Begg, a fellow entrepreneur who is the co founder and CEO of AMZ Advisors, a company that can show you how to grow online sales via the Amazon platform, as well as co founder of Go Advanced, which is more of an end end e commerce solution to crack the Latin American market. But wait, there’s more. He also is the co founder of Magnified that provides remote sales teams for entrepreneurs that they might want to use instead of hiring themselves, they get to do it with a remote team. He’s got an intensity about him that’s contagious. And if Sears would have listened to him back in the day, they’d probably still be a dominant player in the retail space. Thanks, Mike, for being on our show.

Mike Begg [00:01:10]:

Thank you for that intro, Glenn. And thank you both for having me here today.

Glenn Harper [00:01:14]:

You bet. We like I like to stalk the guests a little bit just to find some obscure facts about them and useless trivia knowledge. And I had you as you’re originally from Connecticut, correct?

Mike Begg [00:01:27]:

Yes, I am originally from just outside of New Haven.

Glenn Harper [00:01:31]:


Julie Smith [00:01:31]:

Are you sweating? Wondering what he found on you?

Mike Begg [00:01:34]:

I’m wondering now. I don’t know how far back he.

Glenn Harper [00:01:37]:

You know, I can’t find any old fraternity pictures of yourself enjoying life or anything. There’s nothing out there. You’re like a black box. How’s that happen?

Mike Begg [00:01:46]:

Thankfully, I don’t know. My lacrosse photos are out there somewhere, so hopefully those didn’t get found, but we’ll see.

Glenn Harper [00:01:53]:

We did find some in the una tank top, which was very awesome. It was back in the day. And I was just curious, when you were in Connecticut and I think where you were living, did you ever do Mr. Frosty’s ice cream shop? Is that something you would go?

Mike Begg [00:02:09]:

I don’t I don’t know.

Glenn Harper [00:02:10]:

Mr. Frosty’s seem like it is. Right down the street, right in your little town. What’s the name of Norwalk?

Mike Begg [00:02:16]:

I know what place you’re talking about. Yeah, I know. I don’t really ice cream, but I know the place you’re talking.

Glenn Harper [00:02:21]:

Well, that’s that’s too bad. My ice cream’s awesome.

Julie Smith [00:02:23]:

You just killed all his stalking and his map skills.

Glenn Harper [00:02:26]:

Right now I got nothing. I got nothing. Well, again, we love having guests on here, and we’re trying to figure out we just try to help empower entrepreneurs to understand that it’s a lonely journey. It’s an epiphany. When you do it, it’s nobody there is to help, and it’s really freaking hard. And why do people choose it to do it? How does that happen? And again, you’ve got a little bit of a storied past here of how you ended up where you are, and we’re going to get into that of how you made the choice to be an entrepreneur. But a lot of times it starts when you grow up. Did you have some sort of mentor, somebody that said, man, that guy’s self employed or, that girl’s self employed? I’d like to do that. Or was it just something you were just a hard worker, hustling guy?

Mike Begg [00:03:10]:

I don’t think it was any one thing. I think there were a variety of things that I’ve kind of noticed throughout my young life that got me to that kind of moted me to go down the entrepreneurship path. One of them was my grandparents were all entrepreneurs. They all had their own businesses. I think that was a big motivating factor. But ironically, my parents weren’t. They all had careers. So I think that was one early influence I had. Another one was just growing up in Connecticut. In general, the area I’m from is generally a pretty wealthy area, and because of that, you get exposure to a lot of people that are successful in business, successful in finance, investment banking, whatever it may be. And I think that also kind of motivated me a little bit more to learn how they got to those points and figure out how I can do that for myself.

Glenn Harper [00:04:00]:

Did your parents work in your grandpa and grandma’s business at all growing up? Is that how they got burnt out or do you know?

Mike Begg [00:04:07]:

I think my mom may have done something with her dad’s business. My mom’s parents were both immigrants, so they were kind of hustlers in their own way. But I’m not sure. My mom got into nursing. She’s still a nurse to this day. My dad worked in manufacturing, so maybe some spelled over because my dad’s father had a manufacturing business. But I don’t know. I’m not exactly sure how they got to deciding that having a stable job, it’s just working for someone else is the way to go.

Glenn Harper [00:04:41]:

Yeah, it’s funny because some people, they grow up with their parents or grandma doing it, and they just love it, and other people are like, no freaking way. You’re working too hard for too little money. I don’t want any part of it. So I was just wondering if that was a factor at all for your parents to get in or out. And then again, you got to skip and see that you didn’t probably have to go in there and be slave labor like you make all your kids do, but you kind of missed out on that, I guess.

Mike Begg [00:05:05]:

Yeah, I didn’t have that experience. But I think another factor there is obviously, like I said, my mom’s family, my mom’s parents were immigrants. And I think that’s kind of a big thing is going from a situation from one country to another. It’s about creating stability, security, and I think maybe they pushed her more down that route. But I personally did not have any exposure to working in the businesses day to day.

Glenn Harper [00:05:25]:

Yeah, it’s probably in that genetic thing of you recognize when everybody immigrants here, it’s the opportunity that’s here that’s not everywhere else in the world. And if you’re here, you want to take that opportunity and go with it. So that is probably in your genetic somehow.

Julie Smith [00:05:40]:

But the irony in that is that he’s not in the United States.

Glenn Harper [00:05:43]:

Funny. Well, I think he cut his teeth here. He probably cut his teeth. Know, it’s funny how some people do the entrepreneur path by the school of hard knocks and just have an idea and go with it. And other people, they go through some education and try to figure things out, gets a real job and then they have the epiphany and do I can’t it is unconscionable how much schooling you went to. I mean, is there something wrong with you? And what I mean by that is not only to go to Stony Brook and Long Island, which is that near the Gold Coast, the famed Gold Coast. Is that close to that?

Mike Begg [00:06:18]:

It’s pretty close, yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:06:19]:

Business management. Then you went to St. Joseph’s for economics and international relations. Did you do the Brooklyn or the Long Island branch?

Mike Begg [00:06:27]:

No, St. Joseph’s. In Philly.

Glenn Harper [00:06:28]:

In Philly. Oh, okay, cool. So you decided to get out of New York and Connecticut and go to Philly. Okay. And then you went to NYU for real estate and investment, and that was in Manhattan, correct?

Mike Begg [00:06:40]:

Yep, that was in I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me.

Glenn Harper [00:06:44]:

I like learning.

Mike Begg [00:06:45]:

I think that’s the good thing. But I’ve always kind of prioritized, I don’t know, trying to improve myself in the best way that I can. I mean, some of those degrees came out of finding out what I liked and didn’t like, and other ones came from necessity of trying to change careers, kind of like the NYU side. But I think education can play a valuable role in improving who we are and how we work.

Glenn Harper [00:07:11]:

It’s funny, like you say, grew up in Connecticut with all the investment banking stuff. You kind of started on that track and then you had to like, wait a minute, I might want to do something different. Which again, is just always neat when people can recognize that they don’t have to go into what they pick. Right. You can always have options. Right. And that’s cool that you decide to do that.

Mike Begg [00:07:28]:

Yeah, for sure. Oh, sorry, go ahead.

Julie Smith [00:07:30]:

No, you can go for it.

Mike Begg [00:07:32]:

I was going to say I definitely was kind of on that route, and I went into consulting after college, so it’s like I wasn’t far from it, but, yeah, after working in the field, I realized, this isn’t it, I got to change. And then that kind of led me in other ways.

Julie Smith [00:07:48]:

So before you made your trek on your college career, did you do anything growing up in regards to being an entrepreneur? Younger? Did you cut grass? You obviously didn’t work at Mr. Frosty’s, but anything else that may have led you to where you are today?

Mike Begg [00:08:04]:

No, I actually never really had, or at least I never really recognized it myself, that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. It was kind of more of an opportunity that I saw, which pushed me down the road and really, just in general, not being happy with working for other people. When I was growing up, I worked in restaurants. I worked as a bartender. I worked at a marina. The marina gave me some other visibility into the entrepreneurship world because everyone that has these huge yachts are all business owners. So that was like another exposure to it, but it wasn’t me. Like, yeah, I’m going to go sell lemonade on the side of the road, or something like that.

Glenn Harper [00:08:39]:

Did you play lacrosse in college or you just do it in high school?

Mike Begg [00:08:43]:

Yes, I played in college.

Glenn Harper [00:08:44]:

Right. So that college athlete thing really gives you that intensity that a non athlete just can’t comprehend.

Mike Begg [00:08:54]:

It definitely gave me a lot of skills when it comes to staying motivated, putting in hard work, trying when things aren’t even going your way. There’s so many different ways that I use those skills, not even realizing it, like, subconsciously today while I’m working. And it actually helps me to keep going when things are difficult, when things are hard. And in general, I think it’s really helped me become a better entrepreneur and a better leader.

Glenn Harper [00:09:17]:

I agree with that. What position did you play? Did you play the same position?

Mike Begg [00:09:22]:

Yes, I played attack.

Glenn Harper [00:09:23]:

Attack. That explains everything. So here you are working for a living. You’re at Sears, I think, at some point, and you’re doing what you do and you’re working, consulting. And then what was the trigger that said, this is absolute mean? You have to have an idea. You have to have a thing to say, well, I want to go do something. What was that thing? And then how long did it take you to say, yeah, I’m ready to go do that?

Mike Begg [00:09:48]:

Well, it’s interesting because I mentioned I was in consulting and I absolutely hated it. It was terrible. That’s why I got into real estate to begin with, and I actually really enjoyed real estate. I mean, I was doing massive projects at Sears. We spun off a $2.2 billion REIT. I was doing redevelopment projects on my own, and this is me as a 24, 25 year old. I was having crazy responsibility that I would not have in my career anywhere else. And I really, actually enjoyed working there, but I felt, I don’t know, this underlying hole that was like, I’m still not working for myself. I’m responsible to somebody else, I’m answerable to somebody else. And that kind of started myself and the two partners I have today in my main business to start looking for other ways to start a business. I mean, real estate is really capital intensive. I would have had to raise a lot of money to actually make a living in real estate. And I didn’t personally have the money. I probably could have found people to put the money, but it’s also hard to get people to give a bunch of money to a 24 and 25 year old. So I started looking for other opportunities. While I was at Sears, I was doing a lot of deals where I was selling off Sears assets, and one of them was at a mall, which was pretty much abandoned. Everything was closed except the Sears store. And we were selling it to Amazon. And that was kind of where I started thinking, well, why am I selling a store to Amazon? Amazon is the online platform. That’s what they’re known as. And as I started to do more research on the deal, I found out that they were trying to turn the mall into a fulfillment center or a distribution center to actually send product to consumers. And that kind of got me like, whoa, that’s really interesting. That’s a huge amount of square footage. That’s a huge redevelopment plan. Why are they doing this? And then from there, it started evolving into, wow, e commerce is growing fast. Wow, I can sell my own products on Amazon. And it just kind of started snowballing from there.

Glenn Harper [00:11:44]:

When you say your own products, is these are just things that you think people would be interested in? Or did you have a line or something that you wanted to any I.

Mike Begg [00:11:54]:

Didn’T have any particular plan. I wasn’t imagining building anything to start with. The first way I got into it was just retail arbitrage, which was just going to Walmart, Target, buying whatever I could on clearance, going to Amazon, flipping it, selling it for more there, ended up clearing about $10,000 from that. And then from there started researching on Amazon using a lot of third party tools, figure out what categories looked good or looked like. There was sales volume or potential to build a brand. And it was kind of interesting. But the first product we launched was actually or the first brand we launched was an art supply brand, which is kind of crazy now that I think about it, because our main competitor was Crayola. But this was back in 2014, 2015, and a lot of the big companies didn’t know what they were doing on Amazon. So seeing the opportunity in the art supply space, we got into it. We started importing products from China with our own brand and everything on them and started selling them on the platform that way.

Julie Smith [00:12:56]:

So how do you go from, okay, I’m just going to sell some stuff to, I’m going to go import something, put my own brand on it? There’s more to that than just doing it, right?

Glenn Harper [00:13:07]:

That’s big.

Mike Begg [00:13:08]:

Yeah, it was definitely a lot of learning. Again, learning is one thing I always harp back on this time, not formal education, but more from learning from people that were already doing it. So there were a lot of podcasts, a lot of Facebook groups, a lot of other resources out there that we were using to learn how to do these steps. At one point we actually bought, I say we, I’m talking about myself, my partners, we actually bought a course to learn about how to do this stuff and it kind of explained everything. So from Main, the first step was going to Alibaba and from Alibaba trying to find suppliers in the category you’re looking for and then getting them, ordering samples from them. And once you get the samples and you know they’re trustworthy and the product’s good, then placing an order. And I still remember the first day that the first order I think was like 500 units showed up in all these boxes and we were like, oh, this is really happening, this is here. And that was probably one of the coolest feelings, but we learned all of it just from free resources that were online.

Julie Smith [00:14:06]:

So how long did it take you from saying, okay, we’re going to go, this is what we’re going to do, we have to do the research, we have to find a supplier, we have to import all the things too that shows up on your doorstep and it’s ready to go.

Mike Begg [00:14:18]:

It took about four months in total, so we moved pretty quick on it too, because we didn’t want to keep waiting. But I think we ordered samples from three or four suppliers. It took about two weeks to arrive from there. Once we knew that the product was good, we had replaced the purchase order. I think it was like a month and a half to get the product built or the product manufactured. And then I think it was like two, three weeks for shipping by sea to us. And yeah, I mean it was about four months in total for us to go from idea to actually having a product.

Julie Smith [00:14:54]:

How quickly did you sell that first 500 fast.

Mike Begg [00:14:58]:

We sold it way faster than we planned. And that was one of the crazy things about Amazon at the time, was the competition level is not the same as it was today. I’m not going to say we were a first mover, but we were there early and we sold the first day that we put the product up, we sold 25 units and we were like, wow, all right. This is going to go quickly, and I think we sold through the first 500 in, like, two months.

Glenn Harper [00:15:22]:

So I think half the crap I order is sitting on a shipping container somewhere. How did you get everything in? I mean, that seems like a very quick turnaround time to find the manufacturer, get it sampled. Was it way different back then than it is now? Today? If I wanted to start doing the same business, would I have a four month turnaround time?

Mike Begg [00:15:43]:

Yeah, I mean, it’s different. Things are way different. And I think you could find manufacturers that are capable of doing it. It’s definitely harder, and depending on the shipping you do, I mean, you could do air freight, and air freight would get to you extremely quick. But the cost is really high. It really depends on how you want to manage it. I mean, like you said, sea freight right now it’s gotten better, but it’s still kind of a mess with things being delayed and things taking longer times, and the cost still being high. But, yeah, I mean, it is possible to get started in probably four to six months.

Julie Smith [00:16:12]:

So you sell these 500 units. What do you do next?

Mike Begg [00:16:17]:

That was where we started to realize what our strengths and what our weaknesses were. Our strengths were selling product and marketing product and positioning it and getting people to actually buy it. Our weaknesses were manufacturing, supply chain, inventory management. And that is kind of what made us realize that there’s probably other things that we’re better at or how we can leverage our strengths into a different business that we have today. We reordered probably three or four times, and then we got to a point where we had an issue with our manufacturer. We went to go look for another manufacturer, and this is China, so things aren’t not always done very ethically. And one of the manufacturers we reached out to ripped off our product, pretty much started manufacturing it ourselves. We couldn’t order more product. And then they came into the category on Amazon and just pretty much blew us. Yeah, that was our own undoing. And we were young. We didn’t know what we were really doing in the manufacturing space. And it wasn’t something that we had ever really considered could be a problem. So it was a tough learning lesson, but it’s a lesson that we got, and that has helped us to be more aware of what we share, what we make public, what we let other people know, and what we have to keep more protected within our businesses.

Glenn Harper [00:17:32]:

Did you put on a big review and say there’s all toxic chemicals in this stuff, like make them shut down?

Mike Begg [00:17:39]:

No, we didn’t.

Glenn Harper [00:17:40]:

Okay, well, I’m saying that definitely is a choice right now.

Julie Smith [00:17:43]:

We know what Glenn would have done.

Glenn Harper [00:17:44]:

No, I mean, like, you steal from me, that’s just not cool. Well, I think one thing that I think is very pointed that you said is that even back then, this is, what, 14 that you’re doing this.

Mike Begg [00:17:56]:

All right, 1415. Yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:17:58]:

Yes. We’re talking what is that? I’m not a numbers guy seven, eight years ago, but you had tremendous amount of free resources that you were able to go hunt and find and acquire, and they laid it out for you. Right. I think today there’s even more resources. Right now, you got to separate the fly poop from the pepper. But still, at some point, there’s resources out there. People think they have to invent it all themselves and figure that out. But there is shortcuts, right? And how did you just say, look, I’m just going to go for this and see what this is? Why did you not want to go do the school of hard knocks? You’re just smarter than the average bear. Because most people try to figure it out. Entrepreneurs, right? They do the shortcut.

Mike Begg [00:18:41]:

Yeah. I mean, for us, it was just a matter of why not follow the example of someone that has already been successful in this or someone that already knows how to do it. And I think that’s the way that I approach a lot of different things. There are ways for us to learn how to do it ourselves, and there’s plenty of mistakes that we’ve made in our current business that have taught us those hard knock lessons. But there are other things where you can save yourself a lot of brain damage and you can literally just move ahead, like three, four years from where you would be if you had to figure this out all out on your own. And that’s kind of what I prefer doing. If there’s someone out there that has that experience, that knowledge, I would rather go find that person and learn from them instead of having to create all these lessons for myself and all the problems that come with them.

Glenn Harper [00:19:32]:

That is a great piece of advice for our listeners. Now, another thing that is interesting with you is that you kind of went out. Some people go out on their own, some people get partners, some people get associates, whatever that case. But it looks like you went out immediately with partners. You found what, two other people or however, X Men, it doesn’t matter that had like, minded about you, and you all probably had different strengths and weaknesses that you guys kind of hooked up like that. Did everybody say, okay, we’re all quitting to tomorrow and we’re starting this thing, or did you guys say, no, we’ll kind of test it with our toes. How did you make that transition? Because that’s hard to get one person to move, let alone some partners to move. That’s a big thing.

Mike Begg [00:20:10]:

Yeah, we started running the I mean, the great thing about being able to sell products and especially doing it in ecommerce is that it’s not very time consuming so it’s a project that we were pretty much just running at night until we got it up and going. You get out from work, you wake up in the morning, check to see if there’s any customer messages. If not, check in the afternoon, see if there’s any customer messages, and then from there, just keep rolling. So it wasn’t something that was extremely time consuming at the time. We continued to work in our normal jobs from there, and when we started making the shift to a marketing agency is really when we started looking at, all right, now it’s time to quit our jobs because we need more time to move down that way. And it happened in phases. One partner quit first, then me, and then the other partner, and it happened over time. So while we were running the product business, the art supply brand, we were just doing that while we had nine to five jobs.

Glenn Harper [00:21:06]:

That’s cool. That takes a lot of trust in your fellow partner when two of you say, we’re going to keep working, but Bob, you go ahead and just quit, and you can start doing that full time, and we got your back. And just knowing that he or she was like, yeah, I know it, I got this, and I can’t wait to get you guys over because I know you got my back and you’re coming to do that, that took a lot of a moxie to do that.

Mike Begg [00:21:30]:

I would think it really depends on who your partners are and how well you trust them and how much they’re going to actually be invested in the project. We had another partner that actually wasn’t as committed, and we ended up cutting him out after a while because we were putting in all our effort all our time outside of what we were doing in our normal work, and we didn’t feel the same commitment or see the same commitment from him. So I think that’s a really good point in that we had a solid group of the three of us that we thought could do this together. We had other people we were working at the time that we didn’t have trust in, and we just had to kind of cut ties with them and then focus on the core group going forward.

Glenn Harper [00:22:12]:

It’s hard enough on your own with partners. There’s such a different dynamic that’s even expert level to deal with that. But ultimately, I guess, everybody knew their role, everybody knew what was expected of them, and everybody was trying to overachieve a little bit to have their relevance and make sure they’re doing their part. And I suspect that is continuing today. Nobody can take their foot off the gas, I would imagine, right?

Mike Begg [00:22:36]:

Yeah. In any business, I don’t think it’s a good idea to take the foot off the gas. I think you should keep pushing forward as much as you can, and that’s been the reason why the partnership has worked out so well. And while we’ve started some of these other businesses is because we have known that we can trust each other to keep things moving forward. Even when things get hard, when things change, when we’re not certain what exactly we need to do, we know that we’ll figure it out because we’ve been through it before and we’ll keep pushing that way.

Glenn Harper [00:23:03]:

So this is your attack lacrosse mentality kicking in. Now, the other two partners, were they athletes or they came from a different background? Because this sounds like a lot like a team unit concept. Are these guys athletes as well?

Mike Begg [00:23:18]:

Yes, I have five partners across all the businesses, different partners in different businesses. But four of us all played sports in college, and one was in the Royal Marines in the UK.

Glenn Harper [00:23:35]:

There’s no discipline in that. I don’t get that. That doesn’t make sense to wear that hat.

Mike Begg [00:23:40]:

Yeah, exactly. So we had two lacrosse players, one hockey player and one soccer player, and then one Royal Marines. Scrappy mix of everything.

Glenn Harper [00:23:49]:

Scrappy. Well, that explains it. And so entrepreneurs out there, and that’s one of our big things we talk about, is having the team around you. Like, when do you put that together and how do you navigate that and how do you assign those roles and who does what? And that’s a very hard thing to navigate. But if you’re used to that environment as a college athlete and are in the Marines, I think you can fall into that pretty easy. Is that what you kind of found out real quick to work in a team?

Mike Begg [00:24:16]:

Yeah, it’s pretty easy that way. I would say one of the challenges, though, that I definitely had was coming from such a long time of working in a team. It was hard for I mean, now I’m the CEO, but it was hard for someone to kind of take the lead. We were working as a team in whatever aspects we were doing in the past, but none of us were really captains or leaders. It was just we had the experience working within the team. So it’s like, who’s taking the step forward? Who’s leading us in the right direction? Who’s taking the responsibility? And that was something that I think inhibited us a little bit while we were getting started or took us a little bit longer to really see the success until some people really started stepping up in the specific areas that they were managing and taking more responsibility on. Because when you come from that team environment, if you’re not at 100%, there’s always other people there that will step up and take the lead or make up for where you’re lacking. And when you’re in the entrepreneurship world, you have to be at 100% all the time or the business is just not going to work out. And that definitely took a little bit of time of adjusting from that mentality. But at the same time, working as a team and being able to handle different responsibilities and step up in different areas actually helped us grow faster.

Julie Smith [00:25:34]:

So I just want to go back and Glenn wants to talk about the team, and that’s just I want to know how you guys pivoted from selling art supplies to let’s do a marketing company. What did that look like? I mean, there had to be something that triggered that.

Mike Begg [00:25:54]:

Where I mentioned we had another partner that we kind of cut out. He was a partner in that product business. And we were getting to the point where we’re kind of getting fed up with that. We were having the issues with the manufacturer in China at this point. We had another brand, which was like, outdoor sports products. We had, like, umbrellas, swim gear, things like that. And that brand wasn’t as successful. So we started looking at what had made us successful to begin with, and it was the fact that we could really sell or market or advertise our products on the platform. And going back to the art supply brand, we realized that that’s kind of where we had the breakthrough. That like, oh, we’re competing against Crayola, and we were competing against Crayola, and we were beating Crayola in categories. And that’s where it started, realizing that these big companies don’t know what they’re doing on the Amazon platform. And we started shifting our plan to cut out this other partner, move into the agency world or the marketing world, using our strengths as sales, marketing, advertising, and reaching out to these companies and figuring out if they needed help on the Amazon platform, which most of them did that time. No one really knew what they were doing. And that was kind of the breakthrough. It was, let’s take our strengths, which is this side, let’s find people that need it, which are at these companies, and let’s grow it that way.

Julie Smith [00:27:14]:

What was your first big company that you got, if you’re allowed to say, I don’t know.

Mike Begg [00:27:19]:

I mean, we were not working with them anymore, but the first big company we had was Rembrandt, Teeth Whitening and Placards. It’s the same company, but those are the two brands we were managing.

Glenn Harper [00:27:32]:

It is almost impossible to crack into a big company to get your RFPs to get everything in and then be on their list and get you got to jump through a lot of hoops. Again, I’m just fascinated. How does one go about going, oh, I’m going to go tell a multibillion dollar international company how to do this thing better? Because they can’t possibly know how to do it, but I know how to do it, and I’m going to get in there. How does one say, yeah, I can do this, and who do you even talk to?

Julie Smith [00:27:58]:

Not to mention you’re 25 years old.

Mike Begg [00:28:02]:

Yeah, that’s a small detail, but the world was different back then. We timed it really well, and we had a lot of luck getting into it. At the time, there were not many companies that were focused on the Amazon platform or focused on helping brands on the Amazon platform. So we actually got these jobs from upwork. There were companies, multi billion dollar companies on upwork looking for help with managing Amazon because they had all of these third party sellers that were building all these disruptor brands and taking their market share on the Amazon platform. And they were like, I need to figure out how to do this. And I guess the only way that they could find it was by going to those platforms, because, like I said, there weren’t companies out there at the time. So it was really luck. We connected with a marketing and sales executive who had experience working with a lot of these companies, a lot of these multi billion dollar companies. And he didn’t know what he was doing on Amazon, but he was selling Amazon services. So from there, he kind of just white labeled all the work to us. We did all the work, and that’s really where it started from. And then from there, we kind of got more experienced on how to deal with these companies and started reaching out to other companies and started acquiring more clients that way.

Julie Smith [00:29:15]:

Now you say it’s luck. I had a professor, and I know that’s a long time ago for me to think that I can remember that, but it was very impactful. And he always said there’s no luck. It’s when preparation meets opportunity. And I definitely think you guys had prepared for that moment, and that opportunity led you to where you are today.

Mike Begg [00:29:32]:

Yeah, I mean, that’s exactly what it is. I have a similar quote that I really enjoy, and I find the harder that I work, the luckier I get. And it is preparation. We learned all of our skills by doing it ourselves. And we were in a position at the time because we knew there weren’t many other companies out there where we were one of the only companies that had these skills that were going to be in demand. And we saw that ecommerce kept growing and growing. So you’re right. It wasn’t luck in the sense of that this just stumbled upon us. It was luck in the sense that we had positioned ourselves to be in the right place at the right time when these companies needed it, and then we just happened to have them reach out to us.

Glenn Harper [00:30:10]:

Is there any truth to the rumor that you guys invented the Crayon sharpener that was on the 64 pack for Crayola? Is that how you got in the door with that?

Mike Begg [00:30:19]:

No, unfortunately not. I would like to take credit for.

Glenn Harper [00:30:22]:

That, but that would have been awesome.

Mike Begg [00:30:23]:

Not us.

Glenn Harper [00:30:24]:

That would have been awesome. Now, is it a situation where you’re established you’re doing what you do? Do you have, like, a dream client where you’re looking across the multiplatforms, all these different companies, and going, man, if I could just get in with that company, I could make them gajillions. You don’t have to say their name, but do you have somebody like that that you really want to go after and get?

Mike Begg [00:30:49]:

I mean, from a profile standpoint, we’ve kind of learned who we enjoy working with and who we don’t enjoy working with. When you get to these multibillion dollar companies, it’s actually really a pain to work with them because there are so many stakeholders and decision makers that it leads to either things getting delayed, pushed back, or I just remembered a call that we had one time. We jumped on a call with one of these companies, and one of the stakeholders goes, Whoa, who are these guys? And we were like, we’re the agency you hired. What do you mean? So they ended the call, canceled it there, and we lost our time on that. We ended up continuing to work with them, but it was, like, one of those frustrating things. It’s like, if you guys aren’t aware of what’s going on within your own business and you’re a billion dollar corporation, why would we want to deal with that or why would we want to work with that? So for us, ideally, the companies that we enjoy working with the most are doing about a million dollars on Amazon or a million dollars online. And they’re trying to get to eight figures going over 10 million, 50 million. Wherever it may be. Because those are the ones where we see the most engagement in the process and in the growth of the brand online, and they’re the most invested in it. And there’s not a ton of people tripping over themselves trying to get their word across or their point across at every meeting.

Glenn Harper [00:32:02]:

Julie and I, we laugh about this all the time. Background is more like corporate America, where you got to go through committees and all this stuff. You talked to an entrepreneur. We’re like, you want to do this? Yeah, let’s do it. Start right now. And people are like, how can you move that fast? Well, that’s how entrepreneurs role, right? And small businesses, and then at some point it inverts where they get so big that they have to go megacorp, which is just it sucks, right? Like, you used to be this nimble, mean fighting machine, and next thing you know, you’re bogged down with all the bureaucracy. How do you help these companies that you grow from a million to a ten or 50 million company? How do you help them navigate that? Or is that not your problem? You’re just helping them sell their operations. That’s their problem.

Mike Begg [00:32:42]:

Yeah, we’ll make recommendations, and we have a lot of partners that will refer to them if they need specific help with managing those aspects of growth. But we mainly just stick to the online sales channels. That’s where our strength is. That’s where our skills are. We have obviously our own skills building our own businesses. But a lot of times we don’t want to cross that line of making recommendations that we’re not hired to make recommendations on. So we generally just stick to what we know and what our sweet spot is.

Glenn Harper [00:33:10]:

So if you’re sitting there looking at this and you’re like, I’ve done this 5000 times, these guys are going right down this path. They’re going to self destruct. They just need these couple of little things. Is that a different type of business that you have where you’ll try to step in and say, hey guys, hold my beer, I got this. I show you how to do this? Or do you guys just let it happen? I mean, when you see that, you know what’s going to happen. You’ve seen it. Do you just let it happen? Or do you try to go, hey, time out. Can I get in there and help you a little bit? Or is that just not what your core business is?

Julie Smith [00:33:37]:

He stays in his lane.

Glenn Harper [00:33:39]:

I know, I’m just trying to see entrepreneurs always have a different angle. That’s the key right there’s always the next thing.

Mike Begg [00:33:44]:

No, we definitely want to stay in our lane. If we see something that is coming that’s catastrophic or something that we think or that we’ve seen before that could lead to significant problems, we will bring it up and say like, hey, we’ve dealt with this before, we’ve seen this before. You may want to consider this or talking to this person or whatever. We’re not going to make a hard step in there and be like, hey, hire us for your operations consulting now. No, we’re not going to do that. We focus on our area. We make recommendations where we can to help them improve. And a lot of times the recommendations we make help the companies grow significantly more. So I think that’s kind of the way that we approach those conversations and those situations that we encounter.

Julie Smith [00:34:26]:

So we like to talk about an entrepreneur. There’s always these peaks and valleys and you’ve alluded that you’ve been through a lot of them as you’ve gone through them. Do you believe that your valleys have essentially led to your peaks and that you actually are maybe more of a fan of your valley than your peaks in regards to just self development, personal awareness, where you are today, how it led you down that path?

Mike Begg [00:34:53]:

That’s a very good question. I think there’s another saying and I’m going to butcher it because I don’t.

Glenn Harper [00:35:00]:

Know that’s okay word for word, but.

Mike Begg [00:35:03]:

It’S something like hard times make strong men or whatever it is. Good times make weak men. However it goes.

Glenn Harper [00:35:11]:

Just like that.

Julie Smith [00:35:11]:

I know what you’re saying.

Glenn Harper [00:35:12]:

That’s it. That’s the one.

Mike Begg [00:35:13]:

That’s it. Okay, all right. I was close then. I think that makes a lot of sense in the example you just gave. When things aren’t going well in the business, you really got to dive in, figure out what’s going on. And that’s led to a lot of breakthroughs within the business on how we can evolve as an organization or evolve our structure to handle clients better, provide better service, become more operationally efficient. So I would say that the valleys definitely help to make changes within the business and force ourselves to learn more and to grow more as leaders. But I don’t like them. They’re not enjoyable when you have for example, we had one that was super frustrating, which was COVID. The pandemic started and we went from March to April losing like 60% of our revenue because companies were panicking and they didn’t know what was going on. Most of those clients ended up coming back, but that was a value that you can’t account for and it wasn’t fun. It was painful, it hurt. It required us to make a lot of changes within the business, which made us more financially sound. We had to collect some people go, we had to change the way that we were paying some people or the payment structures we had in place, which made the company more sustainable in the long run. But yeah, it definitely was not fun going through those.

Glenn Harper [00:36:30]:

No, that’s the kind of moxie you have when you got to go through something like that. And again, the people that I don’t want to use this term lightly, but when they embraced the challenge and Kate, we got to figure this out. Instead of panic and shut down and go into fear mode, they went the other way, which just sounds like you did. And I think that’s one of the things where we always like, what’s the biggest fear? Not fear. Like you’re scared, but the biggest uncertainty that you’re like, it’s just lurking. They’re just sitting in the corner and you go, I got to attack this thing someday. And then finally you go, Attack. You’re like, well, that wasn’t so bad. Did you have obviously you probably had 1000 of those. But is there one that stood and stands out most that I can’t believe I made such a big deal out of nothing.

Mike Begg [00:37:14]:

Yeah, I mean, I’m also a big fan of Ryan Holiday. The obstacle is the way. And I think that’s a really good way to approach problems. In most of the problems that you’re going to have in any business, the biggest problem you have is probably the problem you need to tackle the most. And we’ve come across a lot of those. One of the big ones was kind of changing the structure of the business or the operations of the business. Originally we were a consulting agency, more or less where the consultants were doing the work. And we realized that that was only scalable to a certain point because consultants only have so much time so we had to start figuring out how do we increase their bandwidth or increase their time. And from there is where we started building out our operations more and tackling that problem. Of the problem is our consultants are constrained on the amount of clients they can handle. How do we solve this? We started figuring out that if we outsource some of the lower value tasks they’re doing and just keep them focused on the higher value tasks, they’ll be able to start handling more clients, be able to spend their time on what’s driving more revenue for the business and then the things that need to be done in the background. We can hire other people for them. So that’s an example of a big problem that we had to solve. But in general, I think that’s a really good way to approach solving problems in businesses. Like figure out what the biggest obstacle you have is and then go out and tackle it.

Julie Smith [00:38:33]:

Have any obstacles or valleys brought on new businesses for you or new opportunities?

Mike Begg [00:38:40]:

Yeah, definitely. It’s not like completely related, but you mentioned one of my businesses, Magnified, that business came during the COVID pandemic because one of my other partners met the Royal Marine that we’re partners with now during the Pandemic when they were trapped in the same apartment building in Playa del Carmen in Mexico. So they were living together. That was one example. That was a valley not related to business that we ended up with a new business from. And some of the other ones we had another partner that was actually working in China at the time of COVID He left right before the Pandemic broke out because he knew what was coming or he knew it was going to shut down and be like crazy restrained. He came to Mexico and he ended up actually starting an entire new service within our company where he helped Brands expand from the US to Europe, europe to the US and so on and so forth. So because of changes in the business or values in the business, there were other opportunities that came up not necessarily related to the business themselves, but a lot of the externalities that the business was faced with.

Julie Smith [00:39:51]:

And how did you end up in Mexico?

Mike Begg [00:39:55]:

So this is kind of when we were starting AMZ Advisors, the main agency that we were, we had our money saved up from what we had been selling. We had our money saved up from when we were working. We didn’t know how long it would take to get to the point where the business would be paying ourselves. So the initial idea was let’s make the money last as long as possible and how do we make the money last as long as possible? Well, let’s move to Mexico.

Glenn Harper [00:40:22]:

Launder the money in Mexico. I like it.

Julie Smith [00:40:26]:

I wish I would have been at that dinner table.

Glenn Harper [00:40:27]:

Well, that’s a whole nother discussion. People don’t do this.

Mike Begg [00:40:31]:

Yeah, we definitely didn’t do that one on video or recording. There’s no evidence or anything, but no, I mean, we’re all from connecticut, myself and four of my partners, one’s from the UK. And we didn’t like the winter, either. I mean, we’ve grown up there our entire lives. We like warm weather. Mexico was cheap. The weather was great. It would give us enough time to make our money last to get the business up and running. And that’s kind of how I ended up here to begin with. After living in play del carmen for a few months, I wanted to go travel. I ended up coming to guadalajara, which is where I live now, and I met my now wife in guadalajara. She’s from here. And ever since then, I’ve just been here building the teams. We’re in our office right now, and, yeah, it’s just been growing ever since.

Julie Smith [00:41:17]:

So did everybody stay? No one moved back.

Mike Begg [00:41:20]:

One of my other partners is also dating a mexican, and they live in mexico city. My other partner lives in connecticut, and my other partner, who handles the global expansion side, lives in europe because his girlfriend is.

Glenn Harper [00:41:36]:

You know, here we are. I’m trying to figure out who’s giving you advice that thinks that e commerce in latin america is a good idea. I’m totally messing with no, like, again, you’re here, you’re tapping in the market. US. You’re like, there’s a tremendous opportunity, easy cost to enter, low cost to operate, and just nothing but upside. I mean, how long did it take you to say, that’s where I need to be? Would it happen the same time you wanted to move there? Or are you like, that’s where it’s going. I need to get there on the ground to do it there?

Mike Begg [00:42:09]:

No, I wouldn’t say it didn’t start with that idea. It kind of just grew over time. The main idea was just make money, last as long as possible, and then it kind of just came around that there’s a lot of opportunity to grow e commerce businesses here. One of the interesting things or one of the coolest things that we found was there weren’t any companies doing what we were doing in Mexico or in Latin America in that’s really there were a lot of people that were interested a lot of employees, I mean, that were interested in it and kind of working in the industry, but there were no opportunities for them. So once we started hiring down here and creating those opportunities, we were able to acquire a lot of really good talent that were interested in the space, that were doing some aspects of e commerce themselves, but wanted a full time job doing it. And from that standpoint, it just kind of continued to grow and that we were able to find better and better people.

Glenn Harper [00:43:02]:

Is this still the amazon platform, or is this something different for the e commerce?

Mike Begg [00:43:08]:

Yeah, so it’s with Amazon and other mean in Latin America. We have Mercado Libre, we have Amazon, we have Walmart. So those are the big platforms. We do work with some clients in other countries, like Brazil as well, where you have a whole different range of platforms. You have Casaballa Lojas, Americana, and then Amazon. Those are the three biggest Mercado Libre, actually, as well. I forgot that one. So there’s a whole different variety of platforms we’re dealing with and we’re continuing to learn about.

Glenn Harper [00:43:42]:

When did you decide to learn Spanish?

Julie Smith [00:43:47]:

I don’t know that he had a choice.

Glenn Harper [00:43:50]:

At some point, you’re like, okay, I’m over here. I got to figure out how to speak this right.

Mike Begg [00:43:55]:

So I always took Spanish growing up in school. My mom’s family is my family is Portuguese, so it’s similar. It wasn’t easy.

Glenn Harper [00:44:08]:

Yeah, Portuguese is the hardest language to learn. Right? So everything else after that is cake. That’s what I hear, anyway.

Mike Begg [00:44:14]:

I don’t know. But when I got to Mexico, I had a really easy time understanding everybody. I had a harder time speaking and communicating back to them, but I could understand what they were saying to me. So it just became a matter of time of listening, learning. I took some classes, which helped speed up the growth a lot, and then from there, I was able to really pick up the language and become fully fluent in it pretty fast.

Julie Smith [00:44:39]:

So I always like to ask this question, what is your superpower?

Mike Begg [00:44:46]:

Um, that’s a good one, I think, right now, and this is one of the changes that we’ve made over the past few months, is kind of leadership and driving the business forward. And it’s a little weird to say that, which is why I kind of hesitate there, but it’s not weird. Well, it sounds weird to me, at least, but the company was in a position where it really needed someone to start driving it forward, really start getting everyone to buy in and start working together to keep pushing things forward. We had been making a lot of progress, but we were getting to points where we were kind of plateauing, and there was no real disruption, no real changes within the business to keep things moving forward. And I think that’s probably where my strength or my superpower came in, in that I got more comfortable with taking more of a leadership role, and I was able to start getting the teams to work together in a new direction and start moving forward. And I think getting that momentum moving forward has put us in a much different position from where we were even six months ago. And right now, for me, that’s the one that sticks out the most, is getting teams to work together, buy in, continuing to make progress, planning on how we’re going to move forward, and then getting everyone to move in that direction.

Glenn Harper [00:46:01]:

Have you watched that Netflix series, The Know? With the it’s the Florida Gators. And ultimately, to build a championship team, ultimately you have to have leadership step up inside the team to lead everybody.

Julie Smith [00:46:15]:

And get their buy in.

Glenn Harper [00:46:17]:

Correct? Right. But to your point, you were just like a part of you were never a leader, and then all of a sudden you found your superpower and now you’re a natural leader. Who knew, right? Well done. That’s pretty cool.

Mike Begg [00:46:30]:

Yeah. No, thank you. And I mean, there’s always those opportunities to step up and lead. It was really just more of a point of getting more comfortable. Kind of going back to what I said earlier, working in that team environment. In the past, I never had to be the leader. I was contributing, I was doing my part. But now it was the point where someone that was more comfortable with uncertainty, more comfortable with taking control, had to step up. And that’s kind of just what I did.

Glenn Harper [00:46:53]:

Well, look at you.

Julie Smith [00:46:55]:

So one last question, and it’s kind of a loaded one, but what is your end game?

Mike Begg [00:47:02]:

That is a loaded question. I don’t know. From my standpoint, what I really enjoy about entrepreneurship and business in general is just growing businesses and building them. As you can see, I have multiple businesses that are running multiple businesses that I’m trying to grow. We were just talking yesterday about starting a new business. I don’t see myself ever kind of moving out of the entrepreneurship game. It’ll really just evolve into how big I want to build something or how big I can build something. Whether that ends with exits or putting employees in place to run certain businesses while I focus on other areas, I’m not sure. But I do see a lot of opportunity in e commerce. I do see a lot of opportunity in Latin America. I imagine that I will probably continue to build businesses here in Latin America or businesses here that serve companies in the US. In some aspects. So I imagine I’ll just continue to grow things, continue to build businesses over time.

Julie Smith [00:47:59]:

So not only was it a loaded question, but it was a trick question because there is no end game for you.

Mike Begg [00:48:04]:

Yeah, exactly. It’s not going to happen. Unfortunately, no. I like the thrill too much. That’s really what it comes down to.

Glenn Harper [00:48:10]:

You know too much. And when you know too much, how can you possibly walk away? I mean, it sucks you right back in. And now you’re in a position where you said when you’re building the team down in Mexico, you’re creating so many opportunities for people that they didn’t have a day ago, and now they’re going to be part of something that’s way bigger than even they could imagine. And you’re impacting lives. You’re helping people buy things for better prices, more better products, better people working. You’re impacting everyone. And that’s a pretty cool feeling. And most people don’t get to really get to do that. So, I mean, congrats on that. So there can’t be an end game. You got to keep doing what you do because you love it too much.

Julie Smith [00:48:50]:

We’re not letting you off the hook.

Mike Begg [00:48:51]:

Is what he’s correct.

Glenn Harper [00:48:53]:

Correct. Well, I tell you, it was a joy having you on with us today, Mike, and I don’t know if you want to put a little plug in on your businesses, if people want to find you, and then, of course, are.

Julie Smith [00:49:04]:

You going to write a book or have you written a book?

Mike Begg [00:49:06]:

I’ve not written a book. I’ve thought about it. I just feel like I don’t have the time to sit down and commit to it. I need to force myself to start writing.

Julie Smith [00:49:15]:

These days, you just talk into something and someone writes it for you.

Glenn Harper [00:49:18]:

You have memoirs, don’t you? You have all that stuff down somewhere.

Mike Begg [00:49:21]:

Yeah, I need to really start doing more of that. You guys are just reminding me now of sorry, other things I got to.

Glenn Harper [00:49:26]:

Put on my other thing.

Julie Smith [00:49:28]:

We just want to make sure you don’t have an end game.

Glenn Harper [00:49:29]:

That’s it. The add is forced as strong with all of us. So it’s a natural thing. So it’s okay.

Mike Begg [00:49:35]:

Yeah. And, I mean, I could talk about my businesses for a while. I’ll keep it short, though. AMC advisors. We help brands grow their sales, accelerate their sales on the Amazon platform or launch on Amazon magnify IO. That business helps coaches and service providers with outsourced sales. If you’re looking to close more deals, you should talk to us. We will be able to help and then goavants that business is helping brands from the US. Canada and Europe break into the Latin American markets. So if you are a brand owner, if you’re looking to expand, you should contact us there.

Glenn Harper [00:50:13]:

Fantastic. Mike, definitely a pleasure having you on the show. We learned a lot, and I think our listeners can get a lot of good nuggets out of this one.

Julie Smith [00:50:20]:

I hope we can have you back in a year and know where you are and what you’re doing and what other opportunities you’ve seized.

Mike Begg [00:50:26]:

I would be happy to come back anytime and talk. I love kind of chatting about these things, my experience and my views. And hopefully a year from now, things will be in a much different position.

Glenn Harper [00:50:35]:

Yeah, you’re going to have a villa somewhere on the coast, and we’ll come and do it live. It’ll be great.

Mike Begg [00:50:40]:

We’ll do it live in Tulum next time.

Glenn Harper [00:50:42]:

There you go. I love Tulum.

Julie Smith [00:50:43]:

You’re going to be launching your book by this time next year. I just have this feeling.

Glenn Harper [00:50:47]:

Yeah, we’ll be sitting in the sonotos hanging out. It’ll be great. All right, well, Mike, thanks again for being on the show. And Julie. Another good one. We’ll talk to y’all later. This is.

Episode Show Notes

Welcome back to another episode of Empowering Entrepreneurs! In this episode, we have the privilege of hearing from Mike Begg, a seasoned entrepreneur who has navigated the ups and downs of the business world with great success.

Here are 3 key takeaways from our conversation with Mike:

1. Embrace challenges as opportunities for growth: Mike’s story is a testament to the power of resilience and adaptability. When faced with setbacks, he not only found solutions but also identified new business opportunities. As leaders, we should embrace challenges, seek out solutions, and remain open to evolving our businesses.

2. Focus on your strengths and leverage them: Mike realized that his success came from his ability to sell, market, and advertise products on the Amazon platform. This self-awareness prompted him to transition into the agency and marketing world, helping companies navigate the Amazon platform. Identifying your strengths and finding ways to leverage them can be a game-changer for your business.

3. Find your ideal clients: Mike discovered the importance of working with clients who are engaged in the growth process and have a clear vision. He found that smaller companies aiming to reach eight-figure revenues, rather than multi-billion dollar companies, were a better fit for his agency. Understanding your ideal client profile can help you focus your efforts and drive better results.

Mike shares his strategies, lessons learned, and the breakthroughs that led to the growth and evolution of his business. Get ready to be inspired and empowered to overcome obstacles and drive your entrepreneurial dreams forward. Let’s dive in!

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