- M&A Tax Practice at Big 4
- Insight into Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) business model
- COVID Challenges and Obstacles
- Growing a Bitcoin Community
Mitch began his career with KPMG in the tax practice. Since then, he has started his own online wholesale business while still having time to grow a local Bitcoin community in his free time. Enjoy the read!
I went to school at the University of Missouri and did the five-year accounting program with the Master’s degree built in. I went to work at KPMG in Kansas City where I worked for close to two years, mostly in the tax department. I did a small rotation in the M&A tax practice toward the end of my time, but I still knew I didn’t want to be in public anymore.
I started trying to figure out what the heck I wanted to do. I had a passion for the intersection of sports and statistics, so I tried to explore that route. I got an interview with the Yankees, but the opportunity didn’t pan out. I kept going down the rabbit hole and it so happened that a buddy of mine was returning from the Peace Corps and was trying to figure out what to do as well.
We started brainstorming what kind of businesses we could start with limited capital. I had built up enough of a runway financially and was still young enough to take a shot like that, so we decided to go into business in October 2018 and have been building that ever since.
We had a guy in the Kansas City office who was linked with the M&A practice in Chicago and trying to build out the practice in KC, so I was able to do a short rotation with him.
From a high level, transactional view, we would dive into an M&A deal and provide consulting services around how they could structure the deal to either avoid or minimize taxes. We would also provide some due diligence work on the target company to provide comfort over something like have they paid their sales tax correctly over the past five years and what’s the potential exposure. You work with the other M&A team members providing more of the valuation and advisory services to help give the full picture of the deal.
We landed on buying products wholesale and selling on Amazon because it scales to whatever size you want to and there were prep services available where we never had to touch the inventory. With the prep services, we can buy the inventory and ship it to a prep center in Illinois, where they would put the Amazon stickers on it and ship it off on our behalf.
It was simple to start. However, the first three months was us just in an office together, trying to figure out what the heck to do and going through all these different business ideas by taking in an obnoxious number of hours of YouTube and podcasts and trying to understand how the business model worked.
Once we decided to go for it full force, it was just a matter of cold calling all these different manufacturers and brand distributors in the US and just saying, “Hey, we're this company out of Kansas City. We want to sell your products.” You could start this business from your parents' basement. It's very low barrier to entry. So, lots of cold calling, lots of denials, and lots of tailoring our pitch to kind of show how we're different than these other calls that they're getting all day.
And that’s still what we do today with Ohm Commerce. Our first supplier was a pickleball paddle supply company. We sold some of their stuff and then we just took that and expanded towards the outdoor patio lawn and garden type sector where we sell things such as grills, grill accessories, and patio heaters.
The beauty of Amazon is just the sheer amount of data that you have access to. There are all sorts of browser extensions and tools that you can use that will estimate the monthly sales for any product on Amazon. You can look at a product from the past three years of its sales, and you can see how many other people are selling it.
From there, you can easily calculate your estimated sales on a product. Then it’s just a matter of getting a price list and seeing if it's profitable. We would run a bunch of different filters and scenarios such as “products that sell for $50 or more retail price and that can sell at least 30 units a month.”
We would then gather a massive list of these brands, look up their contact info, and give them a call or shoot them an email. We didn't have a target industry at all at the beginning. We were just targeting profitable products. Once you’re able to get one distributor signed on, then it's easier to call up another one and say, “Hey we’ve worked with X company, and we’d like to sell your stuff too.”
We went into a bit of a panic mode and wondered how long it was going to last. Amazon shut down the ability for us to send any new shipments for a while because they were trying to reallocate their priority to be PPE and health-related items.
We didn't sell anything that would be considered critical by Amazon, so we had to scramble fast. We found a couple of food distributors in the Kansas City area, so we started to dive into that realm, and let’s just say it was a long couple of weeks. Of course, food has expiration dates, in addition to all these other requirements with Amazon, so we had to figure out how to deal with all of that on the go. Turns out food is not a great thing to sell on Amazon, at least for us. We were able to get by so that when Amazon opened back up to let us ship anything, sales and demand skyrocketed since people still weren’t going out to buy things but were just increasing their online purchasing.
Recently, the supply chains have been a huge pain. Some of our grill suppliers have a 5-7 month lead time. One of our pickleball suppliers back in October had to just cancel accepting new orders because they couldn’t get any raw materials. Once you can get access to the products it does turnaround and sell fast because nobody else has it. It’s been an interesting business model to operate in.
We started with offerings such as paid advertising on Amazon, improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or taking our own professional photos - all to improve their performance with the Amazon algorithm, but we noticed those were all common in the space.
Where we started to find success was by offering to find complimentary products and bundling them together to increase sales. For example, we would get a distributor selling a top brand pickleball paddle and another distributor selling the top-rated packs of pickleballs and pair them together as a joint product offering. That increased the visibility for each distributor as well as helped us create some of our own real estate in a specific market because it made it harder for someone else to come in and compete against us.
Our goals are to increase website traffic (PremiumOutdoorGrills.com) and reduce our reliance on Amazon because I do think long-term a lot of these brands will figure out that they should just be selling themselves on Amazon because they have the warehouse infrastructure to do it. We're also working to find a bigger warehouse so that we can really go full force into selling bigger items such as grills and vent hoods.
In the short-term, I wouldn't want to exit right now. But when I think longer term, I could see either an exit or reaching a point where my business partner and I are completely passive. That's one of the things that we're working hard on right now is to outsource as much as we can so that if we do want to exit, it's an attractive business.
This was around the time COVID started and was very intrigued by the Bitcoin craze. I saw the government reaction to the pandemic, that I was getting “free” money from somewhere, and it all just didn’t make sense to me logically. I knew Bitcoin was somehow loosely related to it all, so I went down the Bitcoin journey of listening to absurd amounts of hours of podcasts and YouTube videos and whatnot.
I came to the conclusion of thinking that Bitcoin is the real deal. It had the capability to solve the problems that are inherent in the current system. Eventually I got to the point where I felt pretty educated on the topic and thought it was important to educate others on the topic if they’re interested. I started up YourBitcoin.Expert, which is basically a consulting site where I hop on a call with you and help you learn about Bitcoin. If you're a beginner, I help you figure out how to buy it, figure out how to properly secure it…things like that.
About seven months ago, I also started the Kansas City Bitcoin meet-up. You can find us on KCBitcoiners.com. We do one meetup a month in Overland Park and one meetup a month in Kansas City, MO.
We started off with 5-10 people showing up. Now we're getting 20-40 people on average, so the interest has really grown. We're going to start bringing in some guest speakers and try to revamp a little bit from what was just a social gathering to provide some more value to everyone involved.
Back in college when I heard about it, I thought it was a Ponzi scheme. Then in 2017 it came back up again, so I bought a bit and held it through the bear market when it got destroyed but ultimately put it on the back burner again.
What kickstarted it for me was everyone getting the stimulus checks. I just didn’t think that process could be sustainable and what the potential consequences were because as we know, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Learning that Bitcoin was decentralized, and no one had any really control on its monetary policy or an ability to manipulate it helped me believe it was a solution to the current system. It seemed like a simple solution, which is how I will always prefer things to the complex and opaque current system that nobody can really figure out.
I would call it mostly a side hustle at this point. I make a little bit of income off it, but the reason I started it was mostly intended to be educational. I feel strongly about the topic and thought it was important enough to help people if they want the help.
I figured if I’m good at it, it’ll monetize itself naturally. I’ve started writing some newsletters and blogs for a company called CoinBeast. I get paid a little to do that, but it’s not enough to pay the bills.
My business partner and I have a quarterly meeting where we kind of talk about our 1-, 3-, and 10-year goals and make sure that what we're doing in the short term aligns with that.
I would say my overarching long-term goal career wise is just to have the freedom to do whatever I want to do. Some people would call that like retirement, but I don't. I don't know what I would really do in retirement, but I would like to have the extra time and financial freedom to be able to kind of do whatever I want, whether that's exiting the business or just being completely passive in it.