- Matt Rollens is an e-commerce entrepreneur in Sacramento, California.
- He sells glassware via Amazon, a Shopify store, and Walmart.
- Rollens shares how he got started on Amazon and the advice he would give to others.
This is an as-told-to essay based on a conversation with Matt Rollens, a Sacramento, California-based entrepreneur. Insider has provided documentation to back up his earnings. The following has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
As a marketing and advertising professional before starting my own glassware company, I assisted other companies in developing their brand. But I’d always wanted to run my own business. E-commerce appeared to be a good place to begin. I decided to concentrate my efforts on Amazon’s fulfillment operations after reading blogs and watching YouTube videos about them.
First, I had to choose a product. I settled on glassware in 2016. I got the idea while using a tea-infuser bottle and realized that, while I liked it, it could be better if it had more features. I then set out to find a manufacturer to create a prototype that would be superior to the bottles I had previously used.
After I found a manufacturer, I began looking at other products in the glassware category and noticed a lack of innovation. It’s a highly commoditized product category, and I saw an opportunity to design glasses for a variety of beverages, including craft beer, bourbon, and whiskey. At the time, interest in those drinks was growing, so it made sense to try to create a glass that was both innovative and cool.
Dragon Glassware is the name I chose for my company. I’ve learned a lot about design in the years since I started. I no longer make the tea bottle, but I now have five patents for drinking glasses, with a few more pending.
Amazon is used for fulfillment and logistics.
Getting our supply chain in order was the most difficult learning curve of the entire process. Our manufacturers are in China, so I had to learn everything I could about importing products and preparing them for customers.
Selling a physical product on Amazon costs money. I began small, with pallets delivered to my garage, where I labeled the cartons and shipped them to an Amazon fulfillment center. As the company expanded, the demand for inventory grew to the point where I was having full containers delivered to my house, which was a little out of control. I used to rent a warehouse space, but now my inventory is delivered directly to an Amazon fulfillment center. In the beginning, the job required a lot of manual labor from me. Now that the process is streamlined and digital, I barely touch the products on my end.
My company makes extensive use of Amazon’s fulfillment and logistics services. I was a beta tester for Amazon’s new Supply Chain by Amazon product suite. I use Amazon’s Multichannel Fulfillment program, which means that all of Dragon Glassware’s orders are fulfilled from an Amazon warehouse, whether they came from the Amazon Marketplace, our Shopify store, Walmart, or Etsy. I also stopped using a third-party logistics service and now use Amazon for that as well.
I was also an early adopter of Buy With Prime, as well as the new Shopify app. I launched my Shopify store a few years after I launched on Amazon. We still get the majority of our sales from Amazon, but I’ve been putting more effort into growing the direct-to-consumer site recently. Having your own Shopify store allows you to collect more data in order to remarket to existing customers.
The brand has benefited from Buy With Prime. It provides shoppers with two-day shipping, whereas our standard shipping time is closer to five days. I also believe it attracts shoppers who may be hesitant to try a new brand but are familiar with Prime and feel at ease making a purchase once they see the logo. Plus, I was already using Amazon Multichannel Fulfillment, so adding Buy With Prime as a channel made sense.
On Amazon ads, I collaborate with an agency. It’s a critical component of Amazon success, but it’s easy to blow your advertising budget if you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ve always been concerned with profitability, so working with an agency to ensure that my advertising dollars are spent wisely is beneficial.
It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme
I now have a full-time team of three people working on Dragon Glassware with me, and we’ve been profitable every year since we started. My products are also available at Barnes & Noble, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods.
This year, Dragon Glassware has generated more than $2.1 million in sales, with an additional $2 million to $3 million expected before the end of the year. Because of the holiday season, we typically get 50% to 60% of our sales in the fourth quarter.
The company has done particularly well this year as a result of our partnership with Mattel in 2021. The deal was to create a set of pink, Barbie-branded glasses and coasters, which have been extremely popular this summer due to all of the Barbie madness. A few of our glasses appear in the film as well. It was a stroke of luck because we didn’t know the movie was coming out when we first discussed a deal.
Overall, my advice to new Amazon sellers is to conduct preliminary research.
Before you begin, it is beneficial to have a solid business foundation. Take it slowly and with patience.If you’re starting an e-commerce business with no outside funding, like I was, you have to be careful with your money.
On Amazon, I see a lot of content about becoming wealthy quickly. The guys on LinkedIn with the Lamborghinis are simply unrealistic. It’s going to be a grind, and you never know what’s going to happen.
Update: October 11, 2023 — An earlier version of this story stated that Dragon Glassware was on track to make $5 million solely through Amazon. The company generates revenue through a variety of websites and stores.