There has been a hype on Amazon FBA since the pandemic Convid 19. If you are one of the aspiring entrepreneurs who’d like to jump on the bandwagon, you might be wondering which Amazon program you should join.
One of the most popular courses is Sophie Howard’s Blue Sky Amazon. She claims that this course can provide you with a blueprint that has been proven to work and easy to duplicate.
But what is Sophie Howard about? Is she really the “Amazon Selling Queen” or just a scam? Is it possible that she is just a con artist who somehow gets to feature herself on podcasts?
To start with, let me make it clear that I’m not affiliated to Sophie or paid to write an article for her.
To give a review that is comprehensive, I actually talked to some of her students in private.
Below is what I’ll be covering on the review of Sophie and her course Blue Sky Amazon.
- What is Sophie Howard About?
- What is Blue Sky Amazon Course?
- An Overview of Product University Course
- An Overview of Amazon Navigator Course
- The problems with Sophie Howard’s Amazon FBA business model
- Is there an Easier & Better Alternative to Sophie Howard?
What is Sophie Howard About?
Sophie is a New Zealander born in the U.K who started her Amazon FBA business while working from home in 2014.
She began with selling tea products with a team of virtual assistants and quickly scaled up the eCommerce brand to a 7 figure business in 18 months. All along the way, she still had time to take care of her newborn baby.
Is she a genius? Or is this scam?
Whatever it is, Sophie is now dubbed as “The Amazon Selling Queen” and creator of the brand “Aspiring Entrepreneurs”.
There is indeed evidence of her proven private label system i.e. her organic tea brand called “Higher Tea”. The brand later received an offer of acquisition from a company, which is a feat she repeatedly brings up throughout her courses.
In 2016, Sophie wrote a book titled Amazon Jetstream Income which promises to share with people her unique selling experiences on Amazon.
I naively bought the book on Kindle but it turns out to be an extended sales pitch. There is no useful information for experienced Amazon vendors or even novices.
Having said that, she has been appearing on podcasts since 2017. One of the most famous podcasts feature Sophie and Augustus Kligys, the creator of Orange Klick can offer you some advice on Amazon FBA but most of the content is available on Youtube.
What is Blue Sky Amazon About?
Now, let’s dive into Sophie’s course Blue Sky Amazon Seller Academy which is made of two courses.
It comes with 14 modules of teaching that cover the Amazon FBA business model. The major focus aims at helping the mid-level seller create long-selling products and scale their business with help of virtual assistants, sales funnels and other online services such as Feedback Genius.
If you are a novice to the FBA business, you can still learn something from Sophie’s course. But you will get the most out of her course if you have some experience with the Amazon FBA model.
An Overview of Sophie Howard’s Product University Course
Module 1 – Foundation
Video Duration: 5 hours, 37 minutes and 50 seconds
This module is a foundation for the course. It is broken down into four sessions and covers introductory concepts, including:
- Sophie’s resume
- The positive mindset to help you build a successful FBA business
- Planning for the coming year
- Exploring the Pros and cons of other business platforms e.g retail arbitrage.
Apart from that, Sophie discusses how to build a sales funnel and shows you how to create a funnel at a much faster pace than she did some years back.
Overall, this module can provide you with some useful information. But the course is not well-structured since Sophie always crisscrossed the ideas and concepts, making it hard for students to take notes.
Module 2 – Product Selection Strategy
Video Duration: 5 hours, 16 minutes & 41 seconds
Sophie’s business strategy is different from other Amazon FBA coaches in that she discourages you from selling the popular products. She thinks that a high MOQ (minimum order quantity) can be your unfair advantage over other sellers as it creates a much higher entry barrier. This can reduce the number of competitors.
Simply put, she is teaching you to create highly exclusive products that can sell for a long time. But if your product is too unique, it might take a long time for people to discover it. I’d rather go to fish where the fish are.
Module 3 – Basic of Sales Funnels
Video Duration: 5 hours, 24 minutes & 19 seconds
This module is divided into four sessions. To start with, Sophie will give you a walkthrough of sales funnels and their components including ads, lead magnets, etc.
When it comes to the second session, Sophie will show you the process of setting up a funnel using Russeell Brunson’s Clickfunnels.
This follows by the third session in which Sophie demonstrates to you how to set up a funnel for her student’s chosen product and a Facebook Ad campaign to bring in traffic.
The last session is an evaluation on her student’s funnel and a 30 minutes of Q&A.
Module 4 – Who will you hire to be your Virtual Assistant?
Video Duration: Time: 4 hours, 28 minutes & 20 seconds
This module is broken down into 3 sessions with a focus on how and where to hire the best virtual assistants (VAs). Sophie tells you how she successfully outsourced tasks to VAs and the hurdles she bumped into.
Since it is difficult to manage a team of VAs, Sophie also shares with you her experience. For instance, Sophie outsourced the tasks of supplier negotiation and product selection to her VAs.
Module 5 – Behind the Scenes: Selling on Amazon
Video Duration: 5 hours, 16 minutes & 41 seconds
In this module, Sophie tells you how she began her business journey on Amazon and both the pros and cons of Amazon FBA.
Afterwards, she walks you through some basics such as the steps to set up a seller account , business license and how to use tools (LSI Graph, Keyword Inspector, Google Keyword Planner, etc) to find out converting keywords.
In the following section, she shows you how to create product listings, from title to description and utilize Amazon PPC to launch products.
Overall, this is a module that covers the basics of FBA and can be helpful to sellers of entry level and mid-level.
Module 6 – Forgotten Product Sourcing Places
Video Duration: 42 minutes & 8 seconds
This module covers 8 different ways to discover unique product sources, including
Amazon Catalogue Technique, Amazon Scroll and Search Technique, Browsing the Local Classifieds, Visiting Markets and Bazaars, etc.
In the end, Sophie tells you a personal story about how she combines business with travelling to create unique product ideas. This gives me a feeling of romantic entrepreneurship.
An Overview of Amazon Navigator Course
CourseDuration: 9 hours, 42 minutes and 16 seconds
Module 1 – Welcome
Video Duration: 32 minutes & 46 seconds
Sophie is aware of the fact that most FBA novices will experience ups and downs in the first year. She tries to start this course by teaching you a positive mindset to overcome the hurdles.
This begins with a task of goal setting in which her students were asked to keep their goals in front of themselves and use a method of 3 steps to reach their goals.
She concludes this modulus with some FBA basic tasks, such as how to calculate Amazon fees, product costs and profit numbers as well as registering a business license and a professional Amazon seller account.
Module 2 – What you don’t know About Branding
Video Duration: 1 Hour, 35 Minutes and 7 Seconds
In this module, Sophie shares with you the branding strategy that helped her to build multiple 7-figure stores on Amazon. This is what sets Sophie’s course from other FBA programs which focuses on selling hot products. But with this strategy, can you really differentiate your products from other similar ones in the marketplace and charge a higher margin? There is no guarantee.
But Sophie said her concept of branding can help a product be positioned in a way that creates higher values in the eyes of customers. Really?
While most FBA courses also teach you the fundamentals of branding e.g. setting up a brand website and Facebook page, Blue Sky Amazon promises to teach you how to launch a brand that is hard to copy and compete with.
The thing is most products are sourced from Alibaba, the biggest platform of Chinese manufacturers, and a logo is what makes the difference.
Module 3 – Finding Products that Sell for the Long-Term
Video Duration: 21 Minutes and 2 Seconds
Sophie said the reason why she successfully created multiple 7 figure FBA businesses on Amazon is her ability to discover products that can be sold for a long time. But does it work in 2020? After all, you can find out everything from Google…and every vendor is sourcing their products from Alibaba. Can you really replicate her success?
To answer this question, Sophie tells you how she finds out unique and long-term products from the suppliers who are out of the public eye. She reveals a number of developing countries such as Indonesia, India, Bali and India where you can source “special products”.
But Sophie doesn’t point out the risks of dealing with vendors from the developing countries.What if the vendor suddenly disappears after you have paid the manufacturing cost and shipping fee?
On the other hand, if you source your products from Alibaba, you can have buyer protection and report to Alibaba for any illegitimate action.
Module 4 – Are your listings Pristine?
Video Duration: 1 Hour, 36 Minutes & 25 Seconds
In this module, Sophie will give you an overview of creating a product listing that is appealing to Amazon visitors. This covers the areas of sales copy, such as title construction, product description and so on.
Some of the topics include:
- Keyword research
- How to create titles that appeal to customers
- How to to create offers that are irresistible
- Product descriptions
Sophie focuses on the importance of creating a product message that can draw the attention of millennials who constitute a majority of the online population.
Module 5 – Don’t Get Samples, Order the Entire Shipment
Video Duration: 19 Minutes & 19 Seconds
This module covers the topics of shipping, samples and labeling. Sophie tries to provide you with some tips to streamline the shipping process.
But if you listen to her advice and source “unique” products from developing countries such as India, the logistics will become a big headache to you .
That said, she moves on to discuss the challenges with shipping and provides you with solutions to deal with them.
Overall, you will learn about three ways to ship your products to Amazon warehouse. All the details can be found in this module.
Module 6 – Promoting the Sh*t out of your Product
Video Duration: 28 Minutes & 2 Seconds
This module covers 5 proven marketing strategies that can help you launch your products. Sophie gives a hint on 7 key performance indicators to keep track of the sales performance.
Besides, she holds your hand to walk through the process of setting up coupon codes. For example, Sophie suggests you create a limited number of coupon codes and hide them from the product listing.
Module 7 – Maintaining Your Account
Video Duration: 40 Minutes & 12 Seconds
To be successful with Amazon FBA business, you need to learn about data-driven decisions and stay in good control of your business.
In this module, Sophie shows you how to generate business reports from Seller Central, optimize customer support, process international payment and seek help from Amazon.
Seller Central provides a variety of business reports including sales report, inventory report, customer concessions report, payment report, removal report and FBA business report.
As the owner, you must keep track of these numbers and metrics on a routine basis. For instance, to find out the best-selling products, you need to know the profit margins of your listed products.
Module 8 – Scaling Beyond Amazon and Hiring VA’s
Video Duration: 1 Hour, 9 Minutes & 17 Seconds
This is the last module in which Sophie teaches you how to outsource the dry tasks to virtual assistants in order that you can focus on scaling up your business. She suggests you build a team of VAs who can free you from the hassles.
In the end, she encourages her students to prepare an exit plan to enjoy life. But if you really can automate the operation of your Amazon business, why bother about an exit plan? Isn’t that what you can build is a brand that generates sales for a long time?
The Problems With Sophie Howard’s Amazon FBA Business Model
By now, you should know what is Sophie Howard about. I can’t really say Sophie or her course is a scam. After googling for some time, I found that she did have a brand selling tea products. But I’m not sure whether the sales figure is real or fabricated. After all, she didn’t tell you the net profit.
From my observation, the profit margin of most Amazon vendors is, at best, slightly higher than 10%, due to the intense competition.
In fact, Sophie makes it clear that starting an Amazon FBA business requires persistence and relentless focus, which is definitely not suitable for the faint of heart.
Below are the reasons why I don’t recommend FBA business model:
FBA business needs a large upfront cost
To launch a business on Amazon, you will need $15-20k, at least.
Besides, since you can’t get started without any knowledge, you have to pay for an FBA course. Sophie’s Sky Blue courses, for example, cost around $3500 or four monthly payments of $995.
Moreover, you have to spend money on product samples and inventory, labeling and shipping costs, product launch services/pay-per-click advertising and Amazon Marketing Services. The first $10k will be quickly exhausted once you start selling on Amazon.
In one word, it is very time-consuming and costs a lot of money to just get started. So, you must think carefully if you really want to risk your hardly earned money.
FBA Business model is complex
Although Amazon has organic traffic, it still requires a lot of work to get a product listing up and optimized.
Apart from that, you have to deal with numerous tedious tasks on a daily basis. For instance, you have to negotiate with suppliers, make comparisons on shipping companies, freight forwarders and comply with the regulations of Amazon and local governments, etc.
Sophie said you can employ a team of VAs but in reality, most VAs are incompetent and can bring you a lot of trouble. It takes much time to train a team of VAs to help you. And it’s not cheap to hire VAs especially when you have tight budget at the beginning.
This process is too difficult for beginners who might be just looking for a side hustle or a stream of passive income that requires little time and investment.
There is no quick cash flow
Cash flow is the lifeblood of a business. However, in the Amazon FBA business model, mostly sellers have to invest a considerable amount of money to purchase inventories from suppliers in China.
If you want to create a unique private label product, the costs will be even higher. For example, most manufacturers in China charge you a few hundred dollars just for creating a prototype. If you don’t trust me, you can ask for a price on Alibaba.com.
In most cases, production may take 1-2 months depending on the nature of the products and quantity. Afterwards, it takes 2 weeks in shipment and custom clearance before arriving at Amazon warehouse. You also have to pay a lot of tax for importing into your country.
This process indicates that it can take up to months before you can sell actually your products on Amazon.
Price war reduces profitability
Price war is very intense on Amazon. Whenever a seller tries to attract more customers by lowering the prices, other sellers will be forced to cut their prices as well. Your profit margin will squeezed, making it hard to just break even.
To avoid a net loss, you might have to cut the product costs. So you need to negotiate for discounts from supplier. But usually suppliers only give you discount if you buy in bulk. That means you’ll have more inventory cost and bear the risk of not selling out the products. Moreover, lower product cost usually means lower product quality, which would lead to negative feedback from customers and hence a drop in sales.
Apart from the intense competition, you have to deal with changing sales tax laws, category restrictions and Amazon policies.
In the worst case, Amazon might even ban your account permanently if you mistakenly violate some rules. And all your efforts will be wasted. That is a nightmare of every Amazon seller.
Is There an Easier & Better Alternative to Sophie Howard?
If you’re new to online business, you might wonder if there’s a better business model that doesn’t need initial capital and can do it as a side-hustle.
I’ve tried and tested different online business models. My finding is that affiliate marketing is the easiest and most rewarding.
In affiliate marketing, you can get started with almost zero cost. Most importantly, you don’t need to invest a penny in creating and developing any products.
Also, it is less time consuming since you don’t have to manage inventory or handle customer service.
You can enjoy a steady stream of passive income while travelling or working a full-time job.
If you’re new to online business, you should definitely choose a low risk business model. And affiliate marketing is the best for beginners.
But How Much Can You Earn in Affiliate Marketing?
A 21-year old student from my #1 recommended training platform of affiliate marketing was able to earn $7,395 in just 1 week. In other words, he made more than $1k a day…For many people, even a full-time job cannot pay you $1k day. But affiliate marketing does.
Wealthy Affiliate has existed for more than 10 years and there are many success stories over the years.
To give you more examples, here you can see some of the inspiring success stories of Wealthy Affiliate members.
Where to Join Wealthy Affiliate?
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After that, you can get access to everything and start building your affiliate marketing business.
If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will respond as soon as possible.