Building a 500k Dropship Business in 2 Years | Ethan Dobbins Interview (Part 1)

Written by
Isabel Edwards

Isabel: We've got Ethan Dobbins with us today. He's a pro at dropshipping, he's built his own online businesses, and he's now on a mission to share his knowledge on social media so other people can start selling with dropshipping as well and maybe share a bit of that success which is really cool. He's kindly dedicated some time today to share tips and advice with us. Thank you so much, really grateful for your time.

Ethan: Yeah I'm honestly really really happy to be here just to share my experience, the lessons I've learned, some strategies for the people watching this that they can apply to their businesses today when it comes to marketing, setting up your business, social media. I'm really looking forward to answering these questions today with you.

Isabel: I guess to start things off, could you tell us how you got into the dropshipping and where it all began? Where you first heard of dropshipping and what you thought about it? Just a bit of an intro into your story.

Ethan: Yeah, I'll try to make it quick. So I started when I was about 16 years old back in 2018. And the reason why I got started is because when I was going through school, I always thought I was going to be a banker or a lawyer or something like.

I got good grades, but it's just not something that spoke to me going down that path because we're all sort of pushed down the path that you have to go to college to make it. That's just one size fits all. 

For me personally, I just didn't feel like that was for me. I mean I had no problem getting good grades or anything or working hard because you know, if I'm ever gonna do something I'm gonna try to get my best. I'm very competitive. So I thought okay, I need to think of an alternative. I watched The Wolf of Wall Street movie that sort of inspired me a little bit. I was like man, I want to start my own business. 

So I got into dropshipping just looking up online and going on to Google 'how to make Online as a teenager'. That's literally what I did. I'm sure a lot of people have done that. You just go on to Google how to make money because you know, you're in a situation where you're not doing much. So basically I found dropshipping, I found a bunch of teenagers my own age making thousands of dollars and I was like wow, I don't know if these kids are smarter than me or harder working. They dropped out of high school, but they're making a lot of money so clearly they're doing something I want to do. 

So I got into it and for the first six months, I would say I was really immature and I wasn't very experienced. So when it came to marketing, because when you're first starting you have to be a jack of all trades, you have to master Photoshop, you have to be good at website development and marketing, social media, email marketing. You have to know all this stuff and I just didn't know anything about it. So I did fail, but eventually I hired a mentor, he taught me so many of his great strategies and then the next two and a half years I was able to build up this necklace company, so I sold men's jewelry and I still do it today to over 500k in the last two years. 

So it's been really awesome and recently I decided to just start a new company also in men's jewelry just to see if I could do it again completely from scratch in 2020. I've been able to scale that to about $700 of revenue and $500 in profit a day. So it's been like okay I can actually do this, so I'm going to start teaching others. And yeah, that's basically how I got into it.

Isabel: It's great that more and more teenagers and young people are starting to think in that way and think about all the other options rather than just you know, following the "normal" route of just going to university or college. So the fact you had the initiative to build your own business is really really cool.

Ethan: That's one of the problems I have. A lot of teenagers contact me on Instagram saying they want to get started but my parents won't let me, my parents think it's a scam. It's not real and that's one of the realities and it sucks. 

But a lot of our parents are very antiquated in the way that you know, when they grew up you had to get a degree. If you didn't have a degree, you were not going to make it in the world. So their eyes have sort of just seen that, they're not on social media. They don't get to see that there are teenagers out there making a lot of money. There are 20 year olds making millions. 

They're not exposed to that, so in their mind they're just seeing, okay Warren Buffett, they're seeing Bill Gates, they're seeing you know, Jeff Bezos going to Princeton. That's their definition of success. They don't get to see what we see on social media, so I do understand. For them they want you to go the safe route. But for me, I was exposed to all these teenagers doing it and that inspired me. When you see other people doing it then you're like, okay, I can do it too.

Isabel: Definitely. Yeah, so these young people are, I mean not just young people, anyone looking up to you and thinking of starting a dropshipping store, a lot of people say oh I don't have the money to do it, I don't have the money to start an online business. What kind of, if you could give a ballpark of what budget did you start out with? And was that a challenge for you not having thousands of pounds in the bank to start an online business?

Ethan: Yeah. I actually made a whole video dedicated to that where I calculated the expenses of starting a dropshipping store and what you can get started with, you could set the whole store up for less than a hundred bucks. It really doesn't cost that much.  You just get a logo, your name, website. I mean there's so many platforms out there like Mercarto and then just getting the social media, email. You can set up a whole business in one afternoon. 

The only big cost is your advertising. That's going to be your main cost because you’ve got to get people into your store. So I would say 70 - 80% of your budget is just advertising. Especially when you're starting out and then when you grow your business you already have a customer base, you can just focus on email marketing and retargeting with your Facebook ads, then you don't have to spend as much. 

But in the beginning you have to build a customer base. That's the most important thing. So, yeah, it's going to be mostly advertising but you can get started for less than a thousand. I always do recommend about 800 to 900 dollars. But then again, here's the thing. I also recommend trying to invest into a mentor somebody that can teach you because while YouTube videos are great and all, there's a reason why they're free. It's mostly just a bunch of tips and tricks. We're in a weird place where there's so much information on YouTube, you don't know who to listen to. You don't know what's the right information. So having it step by step and having it structured is much more valuable than bouncing around to different videos and seeing if you can figure it out on your own and putting the puzzle pieces.

Isabel: So when you were building your store, how did you decide on men's jewelry? How did you decide what products you wanted to sell on your dropship store?

Ethan: Well, I always recommend just selling stuff that you already know about and that you already buy. So for me, it was men's jewelry. And if for you it's home decor, maybe it's clothing, a lot of people like getting into clothing, it's really just about what you're interested in because it is hard to make it. 

So try to make it as easy as possible and go down the path of least resistance. For me I knew the thing that I can sell the best is men's jewelry. For you it might be home decor, it might be something else. So that's sort of how I figured it out. It was something that I was interested in and I knew if I was to get into another niche, I mean I could get into cosmetics if I wanted to but I know absolutely nothing about it. It's not something I'm passionate about. So even if I'm making good money, I'm not going to really be motivated to grow it because it's just not something that I care about. So I always recommend going down some sort of niche that you're genuinely interested in and not just for the money. 

You can pretty much find out how to sell any product online with a few simple clicks. Like if I was to sell back braces for instance, that's something that was a huge thing, if you wanted to sell that all you have to do is just go on Amazon, look up other similar products, look at the reviews and look at what people are saying. 

Most people don't know anything about their customer and they don't do any research at all. They make assumptions about it. They assume oh this is what they want. But then really when you look at the reviews, when you look at what people are actually saying that buy this stuff they're going to say completely different stuff and all you have to do is just reverse engineer. Take what they're saying, put it in your marketing, put it in your ads, put it in your product description. That's how you write good copy. 

People sort of misunderestimate how valuable it is just to be a good copywriter and good marketer. I would say that's the most valuable skill in just being someone who sells products. You got to know how to actually write words that sell and in order to do that you’ve got to know your customer. Most people definitely neglect the area of researching your customers which is the most basic way of actually doing your marketing. 

Isabel: Before you launched your business, did you build out a marketing plan? And create steps, allocate budget, how thorough were you with your marketing plan when building your business?

Ethan: Well when I was first starting I had no clue what I was doing. I put up a website, I put on some products. I literally added I think a hundred products just because I thought they were all cool and then eventually when I got a mentor he's like, yeah, you don't need all that. You need like ten because I was adding products just for the sake of having them and that's what a lot of people - oh my door just opened. 

Isabel: I thought it was a ghost or something!

Ethan: It might be I swear my room is haunted sometimes the lights flicker on and off, you never know. But yeah, basically I just didn't have much of a plan. I knew most of my budgets were going to go to advertising. I initially and still to this day have most of my success with influencers because with necklace and clothing and jewelry and all that stuff, it works so well personal influencers and that's why I always recommend it to people. 

A lot of the time I can work with pages that have 20 to 30 thousand followers and I just have to send them a ten dollar product and I get a free promotion. So I get exposed to 10 to 30 thousand people just for ten dollars. So it's a pretty good deal. 

But a lot of people just want to stick with Facebook ads and I love Facebook ads too, but you got to know what your products can do in terms of influencer marketing. But getting back to the question about basically did I have a marketing plan on all that? I probably didn't in the beginning, but nowadays when I started my new company, I do have a customer picture like who I'm going to be marketing to. It's usually 18-24 male, loves streetwear, basically loves these brands, oh, they love this. Nowadays I'm much more laser targeted on who I am going to be targeting and marketing with my products.

Isabel: It's so easy to burn through cash when you do Facebook and Instagram ads, especially when you are still learning it. It's easy to use your entire marketing budget, but I think what you said about sending out products to influencers is great advice for those starting out. A lot of people think I don't have the money to give away free products, but compared to what you'd be spending on paid ads, it probably is more cost effective to just send some free products out and see you know what you get back from that.

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