Financing on Amazon: Breaking Down The Strategy & Risk To Scale Quickly

July 12, 2018
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Financing on Amazon: Breaking Down The Strategy & Risk To Scale Quickly

Amazon is a cash game. Sellers often enter into the Amazon space knowing this, but don’t fully recognize just how much truth is in the notion that a LARGE part of Selling is optimizing where you’re funneling all of your cash. You need to ask yourself the RIGHT questions as you begin considering expanding your business with a cash infusion. There are a lot of different options sellers have used to get an influx of cash, and we’re going to break that down today. What each of them are, the risks associated with these methods, the right questions to ask, and everything in-between.

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Amazon is a cash game.  Sellers often enter into the Amazon space knowing this but don’t fully recognize just how much truth is in the notion that a large part of selling is optimizing where you’re funneling all of your cash.  There are a lot of different options sellers have used to get an influx of cash, and we’re going to break all that down today, what those are, the risks associated with these methods and everything in between. 

I’m Cameron Yoder, your host for Follow the Data: Your Journey to Amazon FBA Success.  In this show we leverage the data we’ve accumulated at Viral Launch from over 30,000 product launches and our experience working with more than 8,000 brands to help you understand the big picture when it comes to Amazon and the best practices for success as an Amazon seller. 

Now before we jump in, I do want to stipulate that we’re running with a sort of different emphasis with this episode.  So I’m going to break down the different methods we’ve seen sellers use successfully for funneling cash into their Amazon business.  However, I’m also looking for a lot of input from all of you.  So the different methods that you’ve – go back and get this – so the different methods that you’ve used, whether successfully or unsuccessfully, to increase cash flow.  As you’re listening, when you think of other methods you’ve seen or used yourself, message me.  I’m curious about everything that you’ve seen.  So message Viral Launch on Facebook with any and all of the ideas and just tag me or reference me in the beginning of the message so that I can see them.  So knowing that, thank you all ahead of time.  I look forward to hearing from all of you.  Let’s jump right in. 

Okay, so we’re breaking down funding on Amazon, truly, truly Amazon you’ll hear a lot of sellers agree with the fact that Amazon is a cash game.  Inventory, or there’s a lot of, just a lot of cash that’s tied up in inventory, and oftentimes people don’t have a lot of inventory management experience going into or working into the Amazon space.  Oftentimes sellers are just not involved with that.  And if you are, then awesome.  Good for you.  That’s actually a really good skill to have.  However, for everyone else, managing inventory and cash flow is a new experience, and oftentimes people are asking, when people jump into the Amazon space, the Amazon game, they realize just how much it takes to scale an Amazon business quickly.  And when you see – if you don’t have a whole lot of cash on hand at first, at least when you are investing in products, which is the case for a lot of Amazon sellers, scaling quickly is a really big challenge.  And so today we’re breaking down kind of the different methodologies that people have used to fund their Amazon businesses and increase cash flow to funnel into other products.  And we’re going to break down different risks associated and a couple things that you should ask yourself before you do something like borrow money. 

Okay, so first off, borrowing money to scale your business.  Is it recommended?  Well, that’s hard – it’s really hard for us to give an exact definite yes or no, but we can break down different positives and negatives.  So borrowing money to scale your Amazon business.  Well, the positives are that you get more products and inventory quickly.  That’s just that –  that comes as a part of borrowing money.  So yes, when you borrow money – let’s say you launched your first – let’s say you’ve launched your first product and are looking to grow your business and scale your business.  Well, you can either wait – well, hang on – well, you can either wait and just kind of increase cash flow organically, or you can borrow money from something or someone else to increase cash flow to source another product right away since most of that money that you have available to invest in a product is going to be spent on just buying more inventory over and over and over again.  So the positives with borrowing money to scale your business are you can just get more products right away, throw them up on Amazon.  You can also buy into markets that you couldn’t access otherwise.  So some markets require a large influx of cash in order to get started even, something like the supplements space.  So if you don’t have that cash on hand, at least initially, borrowing that money could get you into more competitive markets and/or markets that have higher barriers to entry simply because of the startup cost. 

You also have the ability to, instead of just investing if you borrow money, you can invest more in aggressive ranking strategy.  So if you get an influx of cash typically you can put that towards either buying a new product to sell, to source, or to funnel – or you can funnel into your pre-existing, you’re already existing products, into being more aggressive, basically, with your launch strategy and/or ranking strategy.  So basically borrowing money allows you to scale very quickly.  More products basically equal or equate to a quicker growth as long as you’re picking, again, as long as you’re picking the right products.  And in that, of course, you’re probably going to – you’re not going to have or pick all the right products. 

Okay, so let’s actually talk about some negative aspects of borrowing money to scale your Amazon business.  Well, number one, it’s risky.  You will incur risk on yourself or your business depending on how you borrow money by borrowing money, basically.  If you want to take that risk by kind of putting yourself at risk – no, hang on.  If you want to put yourself at risk with this method of scaling, I mean honestly for some people it’s worth it.  It’s worth the risk.  For others it’s not quite worth risking that much money.  For example, if you are not in a very good spot financially and you’re borrowing something like $50,000 or $100,000, being in or putting yourself in the position to take on that debt, really you basically as a seller, you should be okay with the amount of money that you’re taking on and the risk that you’re incurring.  And if you’re not financially stable wise, then I would maybe reconsider borrowing money. 

Now you also cannot count on every product succeeding.  So just because you’re – if you’re borrowing money and are funneling all of that money into sourcing new products you can’t count on every single one of those products being successful.  You need to count for – you need to take into consideration the fact that the money you’re borrowing to put towards products might not be successful.  So you also should know what you’re doing.  You should know – you should kind of explore these options before you jump into them, and also you should really know what you’re doing on Amazon.  I’ll touch on that a little bit later.  But also, kind of a negative aspect, depending on how you take money, if you’re taking a lot of money you could potentially have less control of your business.  For example, if you’re giving up something like equity in order for, or for an exchange of cash flow or cash. 

So there are really a couple questions that I would consider asking yourself before you kind of jump into or dive into the entire arena of borrowing money for your Amazon business.  So kind of a first question to ask yourself is have you done everything that you can to increase sales in your current situation?  I know a couple sellers who were just about to borrow – it was about $50,000, small sum, but for them it was a lot.  It was a big amount.  And they had enough cash to really pay it back over time, but they were encouraged by a friend of theirs to actually kind of dive into each of their processes and optimize everything that they could.  They ended up not borrowing the money after they took a step back, analyzed their Amazon business and realized that their processes really weren’t optimized in terms of just their inventory flow, shipping and importing products into Amazon, and also the current cash they had on hand.  So they optimized everything, and actually after optimizing everything they just chose to ride it out organically and ended up scaling fairly quickly.  So it can be done.  You do not absolutely need to buy – or borrow – sorry, borrow money, in order to scale quickly. 

So are you on Page 1 for your primary keywords, for example?  That’s an easy one.  That’s one that a lot of sellers know, but also it’s important to take into consideration.  Do you also know your primary keywords?  Do you know your high opportunity keywords?  Are you taking full advantage of all of those?  I’ve said this before, and you’ll hear Casey and I talk about this, too, but keywords really are the [underpriced attention 0:08:18.5] of Amazon right now, and if you’re not taking advantage of that you really should consider taking advantage of that before taking a large sum of money. 

Are your listings optimized?  Do your listings include both sets of the high opportunity keywords and your primary keywords?  Are your photos incredible for your high-earning or high-potential products?  Do you have inventory management locked down?  Many sellers downplay the necessity to honestly optimize the heck out of inventory management.  So before borrowing money, knowing how and when to reorder units to take advantage of the money you already have is going to honestly be one of the best things that you can do for either when you borrow money in the future to really scale your business, but also in the time being before if you haven’t even borrowed any money at all yet.  Sometime sellers don’t even need to borrow money if they optimize inventory management enough, like those friends that I talked about just a little bit ago.  Now this might be a little bit slower of a method to scaling, but having this in place honestly could help if or when, again, you really do choose to borrow money. 

Another really big thing to consider is if you’ve negotiated payment terms with your supplier.  So a standard payment with suppliers happens within 30 days typically of reordering, and you could potentially negotiate to increase this to something like 90 days.  So this is worth asking.  Honestly we’ve had, or we’ve talked with, I’ve talked with a lot of sellers who have negotiated pricing and payments with their manufacturer, and honestly all it takes is a simple message, really, if they’re communicating with their rep over Skype, even just shooting them a message asking hey, can we expend this to 90 days?  They might not agree flat out to the 90 days, especially if you have some sort of contractual agreement already.  However, they probably will counteroffer with something like, oh, maybe we could do – we could work this out.  So it’s worth a shot.  It’s worth a shot asking your manufacturer to negotiate payment terms, which will kind of open up your ability to use cash flow in a – to use your cash flow in a smarter way, in a more optimal way. 

So we talked about this a little bit before, but another question you really should be asking yourself is how much risk are you able and willing to take on?  So a lot of the methods of – some of the methods of borrowing money incur risk on you, and really kind of the more money you borrow the more risk you bring on yourself.  Let’s say if you borrow money and the product does not work, that could put you in a bad position.  It could put you in debt, which ultimately will be just bad for you and bad for your dreams of freeing yourself as an Amazon seller. 

A fourth and last kind of thing to really consider before borrowing money is that you should have a plan to allocate capitable – whoa, capitable  – you should have a plan to allocate capital, any capital, cash that you bring on hand, that you borrow from somebody or something, you should have a plan for that cash.  You can’t just borrow $50,000 and then not have a plan.  You could do that, but that’s not going to make the most of your time.  If you have a plan, you can borrow that money and have something like a payment period for that money starts when you borrow it, then you’re not wasting time.  You know exactly what you’re going to do with it.  Sometimes even a plan is necessary in order to borrow money.   So for example, are you going to invest in your current products?  Are you going to invest in new products or a mixture of both?  What exactly are you going to put that money towards?  Again, just make sure that you have a game plan for how and where and when you are going to use this cash. 

All right, so we’re going to break down kind of the – again, these are the most, probably the most popular methods of borrowing money that we’ve seen Amazon sellers use.  But again, if you have experienced anything else or something else very useful, go ahead and message me on Facebook because I want to hear.  I want to know.  You’ll be – your question or your – not your question, but your input will be put in the next episode.  So if you want to be on an episode of Follow the Data, then go ahead and shoot me a message, all right? 

So okay, kind of breaking down, I’m just going to summarize everything.  I would encourage you really to – if you’re listening to this for guidance in which method you should pick to borrow money, I would really encourage you to do more research on all of these.  Really, if you do a quick Google search for any of these or just like ask if you have financial advisor or anything like that you can talk to them in depth about all of these.  But, all right, the options.  So you could – option number one, again, is a pretty typical one, but dipping into personal assets or your savings.  So kind of some – or a quick benefit of dipping into your personal assets or your savings if you have them, again, is that it’s quick and it’s easy.  Most sellers, however, run into the fact that it’s limited capital.  But many sellers also [discredit 0:13:31.5] really their ability to kind of just take a little bit more of a risk.  I know a couple young sellers who are in a position to take a bit more of a risk, and because of that – just getting out of college and scaling pretty quickly – because they are able to take more risk they have really dipped into their personal assets, and they’ve taken away their – they’ve kind of taken away that money from, from spending that money on things that are really fun.  Again, they’re young so something like vacation or a trip, they’ve taken the money away from that and put it towards the business.  And granted, they aren’t able to do as many things that they want to do, but even in that they are growing their business because that’s actually what they want.  That’s actually what they want.  It’s actually what they’re looking for.  So personal assets, quick, easy, but limited capital would really consider –  or really consider this, but also really think about the position that you’re in. 

Another one is friends and family, borrowing money from friends and family to scale your Amazon business.  Again, the risk with this is that you’re putting your relationship with your friends and/or your family at risk here.  However, if they are okay with that, then this not necessarily something that I would fully, fully recommend just because, again, it can really put your relationships in a tough spot.  However, there is – however, this method really is quick and potentially easy, depending on your relationship with your friends or your family.  But again, the risk comes with the relationships. 

Now you can also, however, kind of with borrowing money from friends and family, just be in a position to negotiate well.  So you can negotiate your terms pretty well with a friend or a family member.  And of course you would want them to benefit, too, so in the end if you do it and you do it well, this can really end up benefiting both you and your friends.  But again, if that risk of the relationships is worth it to you really consider this. 

Another option that’s really popular are loans or small business loans.  So there is also a lot that goes into borrowing or getting something like a small business loan, something like great credit score, a business that’s been running for years, a detailed business plan.  These are all factors that could go into consideration for actually being able to obtain small business loans.  I’ve heard of a lot of Amazon sellers kind of having difficulty getting a small business loan.  That’s just the word that I’ve heard from the sellers that I’ve talked with.  However, if you have any tips or good experience getting a small business loan, then again, shoot me a message.  I’d love to hear about it. 

Another option that a lot of sellers honestly do – another option that a lot of sellers honestly don’t really take into consideration are utilizing credit cards.  So credit cards can be good, again, depending on the card and the line of credit.  Some cards, for example, have 0% APR for the first year depending, again, on the card or the terms specifically.  A lot of them have rewards that you will get if you’re spending –  if you’re spending or you’re using this card toward something like inventory.  And also it’s a pretty quick method of kind of just increasing your cash flow by a little bit.  The negative aspects of using or utilizing credit cards – hang on.  The negative aspects of kind of utilizing credit cards is that honestly it’s really unlikely to be enough to effectively scale your business.  It’s kind of – credit cards give a good bump, again, depending on I guess how many credit cards or lines of credit you open here.  But this can be enough to give a small bump for the small things if you’re a small seller, the small things around your business.  However, it is a really good method, can be a really good method depending on what you’re looking for.  Kind of also another negative aspect is that the interest here can really be – can be a killer if, depending on, again, the terms of the card, having something like 0% APR for the first year really helps.  However if you are unable to pay kind of the credit back, then it really can kill – this can end up turning around quickly to kill the business.  Also, this does kind of put a risk on you for your credit score, or with your credit score.  Overall, credit cards, I would say pretty considerable in terms of small things that you can do to give bumps in cash flow as a seller who is kind of just starting out. 

Another option is Amazon Lending.  Okay, so Amazon Lending has low interest rates.  And it’s accessible if you’re chosen.  Honestly, if you’re chosen, Amazon Lending is a great option to consider.  The negative aspect of Amazon Lending is that you have to be chosen.  It’s a program that you are chosen for, you’re selected for based on certain metrics for how your products are performing or how long you have been selling.  So Amazon lending basically is Amazon giving you a loan for your business.  And like I said before, it has low interest rates, and it’s really accessible, but you really don’t control the terms.  You either accept or deny what is being offered, and many sellers in the space, at least in the past, will say that they encourage other sellers to just kind of accept the Amazon lending if it’s offered.  Really, in the end if your business is doing well and Amazon offers you kind of this loan or this format for a loan, it makes sense.  It does really make sense to kind of take it, even if you don’t control the terms.  Accepting this will give you kind of that influx of cash that then you will be able to pay off pretty easily through Amazon directly. 

Now another method that a lot of sellers, or some sellers utilize is or are lending websites.  So there are a lot of – there are a wide range of loans that are available on something like different websites.  And there are varying interest rates as well.  Lending websites are typically better for bigger sellers I’m going to say.  However, smaller sellers do end up utilizing these lending websites.  Hang on.  I’m going to look up the website.  I forget the name.  What is it?  Dang, I can’t find it.  Well, all right, can’t find it.  Edit all that out, that pause.  But okay, we’ll continue from here. [0:21:50.7] 

Really these lending websites, depending on what you’re looking for, might be the best option for you, again, as a bigger seller.  However, also Amazon Lending seems to be kind of just one of the best options.  Again, considering the fact that you are given access and that you are chosen, sorry.  In the end there are, again, I’ll just go over these methods real quick.  So saving personal assets, friends and family, loans, small business loans, credit cards, Amazon Lending or lending websites.  Now there are, of course, more options.  I just wanted to kind of outline the main ones that sellers have used and are using, and just some quick benefits or negatives to each of these.  I would encourage you, if you’re interested in any of these, just pull up Google and do a quick Google search.  Really I would consider – hang on.  Really I would encourage you to know what you’re capable of.  Ask yourself what you’re capable of in this moment as an Amazon seller.  Really a lot of sellers haven’t actually considered borrowing money simply because they just haven’t looked into it, or they don’t like the idea of borrowing money from somebody.  However, a lot of sellers that I do know that were able to scale so quickly and that are huge now borrowed money pretty quickly, pretty early on in their business.  Now again, they took a risk by doing that, and some took that risk and kind of, it bit them in the butt, but – hang on – 

Some took that risk and it ended up not working out.  Really, though, I would encourage you to consider taking risks.  Consider being aggressive.  But again, be just flat out aware of the risks that you are getting yourself into.  Borrowing money or financing honestly might not be the answer for you.  Really weigh the options.  Just like those friends that I talked about towards the beginning of this episode.  They chose not to borrow money.  Instead they chose to just optimize all of their processes, optimize the heck out of their listing, get some good photos, take advantage of the keyword opportunities that are out there right now, and it ended up scaling their business quicker than they anticipated.  So really, financing might not be for you.  Borrowing money might not be for you, but it also might be.  Really weigh the options, have a game plan and track profitability. 

Again, this episode was really created to just outline the basics behind funding on Amazon, but I really do want – I created this episode, we created this episode, to hear from you.  I want to know your questions about funding on Amazon, what questions you have, if you’re looking for advice, and/or if you have different options that we did not go over today because there are a lot of options that we did not cover, but I’m curious what you as a seller are using or have considered using to just scale your business, whether that’s borrowing money or optimizing your processes.  I want to know what you have done and what you’ve used.  So thank you all so much for listening.  I look forward really to hearing from you on Facebook.  Also, if you haven’t yet, check out our YouTube channel.  We’re really starting to pump out some content on there, so subscribe to that.  We also just put a video out – I’ve talked about this before, but we talked about reviews a little while back on the podcast.  If you haven’t heard, we now have a video and a blog post out covering kind of the results of our study on what’s happening with reviews on Amazon right now.  So if you haven’t yet, go check out that video.  I’ll see if I can put a link in the description of this podcast.  So thank you, again, so much for listening.  I look forward to hearing from all of you.  Just remember, the data is out there.

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