After her husband, an injured veteran, could no longer support the family, Kat Simpson rolled up her sleeves and took up online selling as a means to take care of her loved ones. Today, she has a podcast, blog and a developing we series to grow her seller coaching empire. Learn more about Kat and her warm personality.
Appeagle: How did you get into selling and eCommerce?
Kat Simpson: I’m an accidently entrepreneur. I started as a housewife with Beanie Babies. My neighbor would take our kids to shops so they could be first in line for the chosen Beanie Baby of the day. These little guys were becoming an economy in themselves.
My husband was in the military so eBay was something I could take with me wherever we went— Iowa, Key West, etc. For many years it was a part time milk money. My husband become fully disabled in 2009 so it went from milk money to “It’s time to support the family.”
It was scary and exciting. I’ve been supporting the family since 2010. First on eBay now I’m on Amazon as FBA, then I have my coaching business where I teach people the hard lessons I’ve learned. That’s how I started my radio show. I love hearing everyone’s stories.
Appeagle: When did you begin selling online?
Kat Simpson: I started selling part time in 1997 on eBay and became full time in 2009. In 2011 I joined FBA on Amazon. Ebay was becoming more and more competitive so I needed to branch out. Amazon is getting that way now.
I have always been a bargain hunter—yard sales, garage sales. I sold anything I could make a buck on. The arbitrage model. Then I got into wholesale lines with stuffed animals. When I got very serious about selling in 2010, I had to make a choice on my eBay store—Kat’s Boutique— to refine what I was selling, and the common denominator was that all my products were invented by women. It was usually moms that were looking for something to build.
On Amazon I don’t restrain myself to a niche, I sell whatever I can find. It’s a lot of liquidation. I live in rural Arkansas so there’s not a lot available to me so I sell what I can by going to lots of auctions and liquidators. That’s how I’ve adapted to living in Arkansas. A lot of the gurus are teaching arbitrage. If you live in a rural area, that method doesn’t work. You have to find what makes your area unique to help you source. Adapting is an absolute must.
Appeagle: What was it about your experience in beginning to sell on Amazon that prompted you to start a career as a selling coach?
Kat Simpson: I love people. That has always been my personality. I want to hear their stories and know where they’ve been and with the typical mother gene, I want to help them.
My personality type is a connector. I love connecting people. It’s the best feeling in the world to help and connect people. “Have you met so and so?” It started with the pod cast and listening to people’s stories. Through that it became “Hey you know all these people, can you help me with this?”
Appeagle: As a multi-channel repricing tool, we know that there are all kinds of sellers out there and no two are the same. How would you describe your primary audience of sellers?
Kat Simpson: Most of my audience are small to mid-size ecommerce sellers. Many are mom and pop or accidental entrepreneurs like myself. They’ve had some success but are looking to get to the next level but don’t know how to get there. They’re asking, “What’s next?” “How can I make more money?” “How can I find more time?” I help them automate their business so they have more time or help them make more money.
Repricers are a wonderful tool to save you time, but many people are miseducated about them. It’s about maximizing profits. They think it’s a race to the bottom. Don’t worry about the ankle biters because they won’t be in business for long. Seller have to use customizable settings. Most of my audience knows about repricing. I think there are people that are curious. People are not aware that there are repricers for eBay. Or they’re intimidated by it.
Appeagle: In addition to being a skilled seller and selling coach, you’re also an accomplished writer. Explain how your passion for writing helped your career blossom?
Kat Simpson: That’s the hard part; I’m still figuring that out. I used to be very vocal about how you shouldn’t listen to a coach and I used to be very judgmental. It’s difficult to do it all. I’m a little less judgmental now that I do it. I have a virtual assistant who helps me with behind the scenes work and keeping me organized. You can’t do it all yourself. You need to have a team. We can always make more money but it’s time we can’t make more of.
Appeagle: The topics on your blog are highly informative and resourceful. How do you come up with ideas for your posts?
Kat Simpson: I have a couple of people that write for me and I try to keep up with the news. I follow as much news as I can. People joke about Facebook but I get a lot of my ideas from Facebook comments.
Appeagle: What are some of the biggest concerns you hear from your users? How do their concerns help you modify your strategies as a selling coach and seller?
Kat Simpson: A lot of the sellers are struggling with the increasing competitiveness of the market. But they wouldn’t say that. They would say things aren’t the same. Things do change rapidly and it’s hard. The eBay of today isn’t the eBay of last year. People keep doing the same things but the market is changing so they need to change.
Traffic indicators are showing eBay has less traffic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t adapt and take advantage of it. There are a lot of people making a lot of money on eBay. Yes folks are struggling and sales may be down, but there are still opportunities. Find the best practices and copy that. What you’ve been doing for the last five years or five months may not work now.
Appeagle: You offer many webinars. Why do you feel it’s important to offer them and what kind of feedback do you receive from sellers whom attend the webinars?
Kat Simpson: People learn in different ways. Right now I have a podcast with pressure to turn it into a video-cast. People listen while they do something else. They listen while they work. Other people prefer to read. The webinar format, I find people relate to that. I’m finding that a lot of my content can be translated to video. People like the talking heads and love video format. I’ll still strip the audio and have it in podcast format but people seem to prefer video.
Appeagle: What would your best advice be to those looking to begin selling online, and those who are already actively selling?
Kat Simpson: For the beginners I think eBay is the venue of choice. It’s my first love but honestly it is the easiest and lowest barrier for entry into E-Commerce. It allows you to brand yourself much more than Amazon. The internet joke is that once eBay is suspended you need a new computer. If Amazon suspends you, you need new DNA. Start with buying things on eBay to familiarize yourself with the transaction process. YouTube videos are great for free education.
For those who are looking for the next step the answer is multi-channel. It’s too dangerous of a world to put all your eggs in one basket. Everything comes back to what my mom told me. It’s easy to lose your eBay and Amazon account due to mistakes. I know sellers who have had their accounts shut down based on the discretion of the marketplace, which is something the sellers have no control over.
Learn more about Kat Simpson at thatkat.com.