On the show with me today is Agie Sihotang; founder of Indo Trading USA. Agie started his company back when he was 25, and since then, he’s grown it into a multi-million dollar supplier of wholesale products for online sellers. (Think Costco for Amazon sellers.)

If you are a newer seller, or an existing seller looking for more products, this is an episode you are going to love!

Full Transcript

Trent: Everybody. Welcome back to another episode of the bright ideas podcast. As always, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, and I’m here to help you discover what is working in e-commerce by shining a light on the tools, the tactics, and the strategies that are being used by today’s successful entrepreneurs. On the show with me today is a fellow by the name of Agie Sihotang. He is a cell phone seller from Indonesia who came to the U S at the age of 15 he taught themselves how to sell online at age 16 and the years now at the age, I am not sure if you’re 25 now, you don’t think you are man correctly. Anyway, you built a multimillion dollar wholesale company in nine months at age 25 how old are you now?

Agie: I just turned 30 actually.

Trent: Okay, so that was a while back. All right, and welcome to the decade of three. Oh yeah, right. They years. Just keep on going by. All. Alright, so let’s, first of all, let’s start off with your company. This wholesale business that you built, what does it do?

Agie: So in the trading is actually a wholesale company that deals with housewares, toys, electronics. We did that with clothing, with, with shoes. We sell to people who sell online as well as those who sell at the retail stores, mall kiosk, three markets and brick and mortar stores. So we sell products so people can sell them and make profit.

Trent: Okay. So for someone who’s selling on Amazon, you’re replaced, they can buy stuff. So that can happen.

Agie: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. So you know, trying to, you’ve probably going to a Verizon store and you see a charger for $50 and you can go on Amazon or eBay looking at the same exact charger for $25 those people are probably buying from companies like mine for 5, $7 increased the margins and sell them. So we’re selling name brand products. We don’t just sell private label products like most Amazon sellers do, which all brands that are widely recognized.

Trent: So out of all the businesses that you could have started back when you were 25 why did you choose to start this one?

Agie: I have a very short attention span and I love getting to know different industries on how things operate. So this business is perfect for me because I don’t deal with the same products every single time. Once we sell them, once we liquidate them, they’re gone. I may never ever see or sell those products again. And I get to connect, I get to learn different manufacturing industries, different people, different types of organizations behind them. So it keeps my interest going and there’s never a boring day at the office or on the road as you can see.

Trent: Yup. So when you first started out, how did you know, did, did you have certain product categories in mind and your goal of course was to be able to go and buy I guess, clothes out and liquidations, is that right? And you know, how did you know how to do that?

Agie: That’s a lot of our business. That’s a lot of our business. Close out liquidations, companies that are going out of business warehouses, people that don’t pay their rent and liens and court orders, insurance claims. We deal with a lot of folks. Yes. However, that’s not the entire supply chain that we got chair that we currently operate under. We also deal with companies who just don’t sell online or companies that produce the same products over and over.

Trent: Hmmm.

Agie: They want a reliable company to distribute their products online to be able to control the pricing so people don’t crash the prices and all of that. So with all of that in mind too, to answer your question, but I haven’t anything in mind. In the beginning, not really. I knew I want him to sell everything I knew I want a job. Uh, an ability to work just off my laptop and my computer and lots of on my phone. So I started when I was a kid selling cell phones and then, then I started selling TV and then from TVs I started selling shoes. So never really, I, we have a saying at the office of the warehouse, never fall in love with your products. So

Trent: Hmmm.

Agie: I don’t have anything I may favorite or anything like that.

Trent: So let’s talk a little bit about product sourcing because for people who are in wholesale who want to build a wholesale business, obviously product sourcing is the most challenging part of that business because it’s pretty hard to make money if you don’t have anything to sell. So aside from the obvious answer to my question, you can buy stuff from you. Let’s, let’s talk about what clever ways, like if you were having a coffee and I hadn’t with, if you and I were having a coffee and I had not been involved in this business and I said, I’ll get, Hey, I wanna I want to find some stuff to sell. Um, what advice would you give me?

Agie: If you’re able to travel, I would suggest that you go to one of the many expos and the United States. I’m not talking about just the clothes at expo. There’s clothing expert, it’s shoe X for this baby X. For those. All those expos

Trent: Ahuh

Agie: Companies that are introducing their products or launching their products, expos, they are usually brand new or the skews are new, which means that we probably don’t have online presence yet. Right. Online people, and I wasn’t, I was doing a great job with this, that they have allowed third to create tools that determine how much an item is approximately seven a month. Right. I’m sure you know that Trent and your audience does as well, but we’re so accustomed to what’s currently selling instead, what our sourcing team focuses on is also what is going to be trending, right? So when you go to these expos, they’re going to get a very big exposures with retailers, brick and mortars and whatever distribution channels they have. So you know, after they close up the POS in the next 60 90 days, those products are going to be trending high. Now if you’re buying them, no, the moment you sign the PO, it’s not selling yet, but you can predict that it’s gonna. It’s going to be up there. So I will, I would go to,

Trent: How are you? Hold on, hold on. How are you going to explain? I’m thinking of the, like right at the beginning of my career I went to ASD and it’s this huge, huge, massively overwhelming show and I didn’t buy anything there because I didn’t know what I was doing and it was hugely overwhelming. You just said something, you can predict that they’re going to go up. How? How do you do that?

Agie: Oh, so if it’s new company, if it’s a new company, I generally give you a formula besides the fact that you, you do your research on, is it a seasonal right? Number one. Number two have similar toys or similar product elsewhere. Similar products I’ve been selling you, you can look at their competition online. When you go on Amazon, you know you’ve bought, you bought a certain item or you look at certain item and you look at the competitors on the ads below you or when you talk in the the keywords. So I’ll give an example. Maybe you’re looking for a cat scratcher and this is a funny toy for cats that pet supplies that we buy a lot. So you look at the product and you look at the product, you love it, you like it, the packaging was great. It’s, it’s everything you, you would look for as a consumer then.

Agie: Then you look with those key words. If you were a consumer, what would you put on Amazon? You would put a cat scratch or you would put a stepstool stretcher and you’ll see what type of products are there. Then you would order them, compare the products and see, do you have to start from scratch in building the listing? Or has there been an existing listing? It’s just the price is high or maybe there’s no supply. There’s variety there. There are a lot of people out there who use a variety of methods in determining that. But for me, my biggest strength in my opinion in regard or just a sourcing product, is the ability to connect with the suppliers and be able to connect with this wholesalers or business owners. Um, they, most of the time they don’t just produce or showcase one skew, right? They have multiple skews.

Agie: You brought up a example. So let’s, let’s take that for example. You go to ASD or you go to South upper level, for example. That’s the only close on liquidations I go over there every sing every twice a year. That’s, we used to exhibit, but we don’t anymore. I go over there just to shake hands, kiss babies and the opinions in the new products, right. You have a tremendous amount of suppliers and you scan every single one of them, but none of them meets the ROI. The margins or the BSR for Amazon sellers are not good enough, but you know they’re there and you know they’re selling to online consumers. So we have actually students that ended up coming into us and I call them students because they ended up taking lessons from us. That is not our main point and butter. But because of the demand in the past five, six years, we’ve been able to take on some people and that’s how we teach them.

Agie: That’s when we teach them how to connect with these people to be able to give them the products that Amazon sellers are looking for. So there’s a company, a very, very big company. They always have 10 12 people at the booth. You can find everything on the bruise and find zero products that can sell well on Amazon and make money.

Trent: Ahuh.

Agie: if I go in there or one of my students goes in there, all of a sudden they pull out from the back or they just show you a product that needs every criteria to look before. So going to this, this type of shows, it’s not necessarily to buy. Yes, it is a order writing ASD is known as the order writing show, right? Because they write peels right away. However you go over there to build relationships and then you buy at a later time.

Agie: So if I was to meet you at a coffee shop, that is the very first thing I would tell you. Go out there and make relationships. Not just, hi, my name is trans. Hi, my name is Augie C whole term. But it’s more of get to know their business. Always find a solution today. The problem, everybody has a problem you gotta be able to solve. So for example, maybe you have $5,000 or temper. It was notice that you went invest and you meet a wholesaler or a manufacturer or brand that wants to sell a particular skew that is not selling really well at retail stores, but they sell well on Amazon. However, maybe they said something like, well, I need $10,000 to fulfill the Walmart PO for my other skew. So you know right away that they have a problem that they need to solve and you have 10 grand that you can, you can spare. However, as a business person, you would want something back in order for you to benefit your company.

Agie: Tell him, Hey, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll help you with the PO, but you got to give me one of the better skews that sells. Well as on Amazon, here’s $10,000 but you get to give me another skew that I know you’re not showcasing. I know you probably showing them yourself, but let me take that skew and in return I will solve your problem. I’ve encountered this many times. I live in nearby LA just outside of LA. There are tons of warehouses that trends. If I tell you how many times I go and they have a guy or two patrolling their entire warehouse because they are two or three trailers worth of products outside of their warehouse because they can’t fit them in. Oh man, it happens once a week, sometimes two, three times a week. You go out there, two, three trailers outside and I asked the owner, what’s up with this?

Agie: Well, I dunno, we got these stuff. We haven’t even manifested them and we just know there’s a few good items there and the price is high. But I know they have the problem. The problem is they’re paying too few people to patrol these trailers. 24 seven for who knows how long. Right? So what do I tell him? What if by 6:00 PM I will have all these towels picked up? Would you be able to give me a better pricing or would you be able to give her the hot item that I’ve been asking you? A lot. Okay. Most of the time the answer is yes. So find a problem and provide a reasonable solution. Every businessman has a problem. When you become the solution giver and the problem solver, you’ll be able to win every single time.

Trent: So undoubtedly sound advice, although not necessarily super easy to do when you’re at a trade show talking to a complete stranger for the first time in a booth with 13 other people standing around you in the booth.

Agie: Sure, sure. I agree. I agree. So there are a couple of different options. The first one is let’s talk if if you actually have some money to spend, right? If you have some money to spend, put a PO right then and there a PO, even if you know you’re not going to be selling them but your name out there and get accustomed to it. If you don’t have the money to put up or multiple companies writing small POS, then get their contact information, follow up with them, call them and tell them a little bit about your business. You’ve got a conversation going,

Trent: What’s a small deal? What do you mean by small PO? We talk in 500 bucks.

Agie: I would talk just $200 minimum

Trent: 15

Agie: That’s a lot of one five one five zero zero um, so that’s, that’s what I would say because a lot of companies have a minimum of thousand dollars or 1500. And if you have, if you have let’s say $400, just there put three POS and companies that you think or have heard that they have products for you as an Amazon or eBay seller. But if you don’t get the phone number and call them, follow up with them. Let’s let a week or two go by, let them get catch up with their ASD orders or whatever extra orders they’re doing. And then, I mean you’ve talked to them, but here’s where I found, I don’t know if you found the same, the same thing, Trent. We were in a business that you got to pull the trigger quick, you lose on the deal. And sometimes we get accustomed to just go into the straight business.

Agie: Uh, I was born and raised in Indonesia and politeness and respect have always been priority in my family growing up, my upbringing. So what I find though that the people who have deals are typically in the older generation, 50 and above because they’ve been in the business, at least in LA. They’ve been in the business for many years, so they get all the good deals for liquidated products from manufacturers around, what a hell no, they’re tired of these online sellers that online sellers get a bad rep because they’re just rushing. Okay, what is the product? Let me scan it. Oh Nope. I don’t want it. I don’t want it. Why not? It’s not selling well, it’s so aggressive sometimes. So these, these, this generations talk to them. Yes, very transactional. Let me give you a dollar, give me a product, but just get to know them a little bit money.

Agie: Do you really not have two minutes to spare and asking how they’re doing and telling a little bit about your weekend? It works for me. May not work for everybody, but it works for me to be able to, to develop all these relationships and it actually paid off in 2018 we went through a rough part or rough, rough stage of our company. A couple of our big clients went out of business and there was a period of time where I wasn’t even taking any salary, but I had to make sure that everybody in my company payroll is still fulfilled. What I did was I called some, I called four of these people, but I know can help me. I basically just called them and said, look, I need help. I don’t want to owe you any money. I don’t want to ask for money, but can I get some products from you? And as soon as I show them our page, because this is a cash business, right? You pay for it personally to the products. But I reversed it after developing these relationships, four out of four all said, come to my warehouse, get whatever you want, pay me whenever you can. It helped me to go back to where I am, uh, you know, within four or five months we were back to how we were before. And all I can tell you is kind of scape off.

Trent: Ahuh yeah. Relationships. And especially in wholesale, man, this is a relationship business more. I say that over and over and over on webinars cause people when they like you and when they trust you, they want to help you.

Agie: Yes, yes, yes. I’ve mentioned this before. It’s easier to want to help an acquaintance than some stranger. It’s easier to help somebody that you talk to on a weekly basis when some stranger. So at the end of the day, people, generally speaking, people have hearts, they want to help people if they can. So you just gotta be able to make sure that it’s worth it for them. Like I said, it works for me. It may not work for everybody, but it works for me.

Trent: So for the portion of my audience who maybe doesn’t have the schedule flexibility or maybe the free capital to go to a trade show, are there other, and we’ll come around to talking about how they can buy from you at some point in time, but are there, are there other strategies that you could offer as a suggestion for those folks? They, they’re hungry and they have time. You know, evenings and weekends, they’re willing to do the work but they can’t necessarily get on an airplane.

Agie: Sounds good. Of course we live in a digital world, right? So all the information is free out there. You can do your research, just companies that supply people who sell on Amazon. You Google that. There are articles written, there are non-biased articles written about these companies. Not that I’m afraid to myself, but there are companies out there who are just doing reviews. Companies that cater to online sellers and all you gotta do is just Google it, spend some time digging and you’ll be able to find them. Make the call.

Trent: What keywords, if I didn’t know you existed, what key words would I use in Google to find your company and companies like your company?

Agie: Uh, so I would start with something like wholesale products, supplier close out companies for Amazon liquidation companies for Amazon. Roy BSR are probably some of the keywords that you want to input in there because if a company tailors the business towards supplying people who sell on Amazon, being Mike, probably put that in there. And the keywords for their website. So I would start with that.

Trent: Okay.

Agie: And you can always type Indo Trading and you know, you’ll eliminate all the sources. I have to say it. I’m sorry. I have to say it.

Trent: No problem. So let’s, let’s talk a little bit about your company. Um, so feed people who are Amazon sellers that you’ve got a lot of people who are Amazon sellers who are buying stuff from you. You’re predominantly a closeout and liquidation supplier of goods. Um, somebody who’s listening to this and they’re thinking, Hey, I maybe I’d like to see what he’s got for sale. Just give us a little overview of the types of products you carry and what it would be like to, uh, to start buying from you for a brand new seller. Sure.

Agie: Think of us as Costco for online sellers. She’d go to Costco. Maybe you have a small store and you sell Sotos and you sell chips and cookies. So you go to Costco to buy them in bulk and you sell them at your stores. So in order for you to get into Costco, then you have a membership that you got to pay. So for us it’s a membership based company. We provide products that are tailored specifically for Amazon, eBay and Poshmark sellers. We carry housewares, electronic toys, shoes, clothing, you name it, anything and everything that is not alive or against my principle as an owner. We buy himself. We’ve bought and sold caskets too and we’re done all. So I was going to tell your dad joke there, you know everybody was dying to buy it but I have to stop myself. But anyway, we, we sell all those things and we list them on our website.

Agie: But it’s one Avenue of selling it buying. You can go to our website and reserve the products and we’ll send you the Dems for your crib labels to send the labels to us. We’ll slap them on the boxes. We send it straight to an Amazon warehouse with your labels. But there’s also another Avenue and that is being a part of the product sourcing concierge group. So we have a product sourcing concierge, basically sourcing concierge job in a regular car dealership. They would be called a salesman, but we don’t call the salesman because these guys got a high salary and they get bonuses from time to time, but their job is not to sell you products, their jobs, their main job is to make sure that they find you the right products for whatever meets your goal as a seller. Let me give you an example. We’ve got a guy who wants to buy a seven day worth of inventory and he doesn’t care if it’s only five to 10% margin. So he spends anywhere between 15 and $25,000 a week with us, but he just wants seven days worth of inventory. So it should inspector or jungle scatter or whatever, or party tools you use says that it’s selling 300 or 400 we just want a hundred pieces. But if there are two sellers and it’s a third seller, it just wants 33 pieces, right?

Agie: It doesn’t matter about the ROI as long as it’s making a little bit of money. But on the other hand, we have customers who only want 25% ROI and they’ll take two, three months worth of inventory. And we have another customer. I don’t really care about the ROI as far as the take, the entire quantity they want to be able to, to, to, to get all the products out there. And at the end of the day, maybe in six months they’ll do the, anyone who sells that product in the market. So the product sourcing comes here as we’ll be a consultant in what fits your model and he’ll be a point of contact in sales. All of this, all under a few different categories. Right now we have a gold membership, which basically you get to see what we have online. Then you get to buy it and there’s no human interaction.

Agie: And then there’s the platinum membership that allows you to have access to the product sourcing concierge and you also can get help with brand approval. Um, meaning that if you’re selling, if you want to sell a Fisher price toy, but you are restricted and you can’t sell it, you’re gated. You can tell us that you want to get ungated and we’ll help you with that. But it’s only for the products that we actually sell because we are, uh, we got to comply with the Amazon standard. She rules, right? You don’t have to really commit to it until, and so we make sure that you’re on data. And then the third one is we have the diamond member, which basically we provide a style to be almost full time, but it’s considered part time to be a customer service for your company and anything you buy from us, this person will create the labels.

Agie: You still are the one who pulls the trigger. You’re the one that decides what goes into your store. But somebody from our company will actually create the labels, create the shipping plans and ship them out for you. Uh, unfortunately I have to tell you trends that the platinum diamond members memberships right now are currently full. We do have a waiting list that people can submit. We’re hoping in the next month we’ll be able to open it back maybe in a couple of weeks for labor to open it back up. We always want to make sure that everybody can be serviced, so we had a very big influx for probably the past three weeks that we got tons of customers, so we want to make sure that everybody’s happy. Everybody’s taken care of, nobody’s neglected. That’s where we shut it off, but we are in a process of being able to open it back up again and make sure that we got the support needed for our potential customers.

Trent: All right. We’re going to finish up with five quick facts. What is your favorite, I’m just going to ask you five questions, looking for five short answers. First one is what is your favorite business book?

Agie: Ooh, man. I gotta tell you Tony Robbins. Not sure which book I got to tell you as a favorite, but a Tony Robbins book. Can I just stick with that?

Trent: What’s your favorite online tool for growing your business?

Agie: I like Amazon analyzer.

Trent: Amazon analyzer. I’m guessing that’s be software.

Agie: Yes. It is a software.

Trent: I have thought I’d heard of them all. I have never heard of that one. Okay.

Agie: The Analyzer that’s what it’s called.

Trent: How many hours of a week do you work?

Speaker 2: 20

Trent: Family situation? Married? Kids?

Agie: Married. My wife and I both volunteers 70 hours or plus for our volunteer work. That’s where I only worked 20 hours, roughly 20 hours a week.

Trent: Damn dude, that’s a huge give. Good for you.

Agie: You’ve been doing it for 11 years.

Trent: Nice. And what do you wish your younger self knew?

Agie: How to say money to invest money in a smart way instead of splurging just because you have more than your peers.

Trent: All right. My guest today has been Augie Sihotang. Did I say that correctly this time?

Agie: See, hold time

Trent: Sihotang. The company is in the Indo Trading USA. There’ll be links in the show notes and Agie, I want to thank you very much for making some time to come be on the show.

Agie: Sure. Its my pleasure. Bye bye.

Questions Asked During the Interview

  1. What does your company do?
  2. What made you pick this business model?
  3. Who is your target market?
  4. Tell me some effective ways for wholesalers to source products?
  5. How do you predict an uptrend in sales?
  6. Why is building relationships so important in wholesale?
  7. What are some keywords people can use to find companies like yours?

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Today’s Guest

Agie is a cellphone seller from Indonesia who came to the US at age 15. He taught himself how to sell online at age 16, and built a million-dollar wholesale company in 9 months at age 25.

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