Job-seekers and career professionals often search for a way to stand out from the crowd. Well, have you considered selling bamboo sheets on Amazon?
That probably sounds crazy. I hope it does, at least a little bit. But it’s a real-world example from a student I met just this week while guest speaking at a university class.
Of the 60 students I met, he’s the one I remember.
While we’re all trying to stand out and show a unique initiative to our boss or our peers, the bamboo sheets reminded me that the solution is often a simple one. That is, sell something that interests you online.
It does not have to be a full-time business. This isn’t a startup you are going to go raise money for on Angel List. The marketplaces that exist today keep making it easier for all of us to sell a product. eBay, Etsy, and Amazon are all dead simple platforms that only require you to have a product to sell. Design it, name it, and price it. Take some pictures and setup your store online.
This also isn’t a career change. It doesn’t have to be more than a passing hobby. Simply pick a product, and figure out how to sell it. In doing so, you immediately gain a unique story and experience to stick alongside your name.
Again, selling a random product probably seems far from a strategy to improve your personal brand. It only seems worthwhile to me because I’ve met (and hired) numerous people over the years that’ve done it. To me, it sounds unique and shows a certain initiative that I appreciate as an entrepreneur.
This kid sells bamboo sheets? I immediately know he had to come up with a product, source it, store it, price it, market it, sell it, fulfill it and deal with customer service. That’s a lot to handle. It’s impressive, and it’s certainly unique in a crowded room full of students, or job candidates.
Selling your own product also shows you have hustle and can get things done. That’s the type of person we all want to work with, or hire. You’re a problem solver. You’ve dealt with the challenges of running a business, albeit a small one.
Your personal brand aside, it’s hard to argue the experience of selling a product is anything but worthwhile. I sold t-shirts in college. My partner sold trucker hats on eBay. I know we both learned a lot about the basics of incorporating a business, keeping proper financial records, paying taxes, and managing cash flow from our mini-businesses. More importantly, they became part of our resume and our story as entrepreneurs.
Of course, there’s also always the chance to strike gold. Ask Ryan Mulvany, who co-owns a company called Quiverr. I’ve met Ryan and it’s fascinating how he’s turned simple products into full-fledged brands by selling through Amazon. Amazon’s feedback loop via customer reviews and their visible data on top-selling products have produced a breeding ground for serious business to be done right on top of Amazon’s marketplace. While manufacturing your own skateboard line used to require you to build your own website and market it, Amazon and the other platforms already have the customers standing by.
The young student I met is simply having fun. Ryan has built a real business, but essentially started in the same place. Both of them are now in a more powerful position as professionals because of the experience they’ve gained.
It may not be the traditional way to beef up your resume or impress your boss, but I suppose that’s the point right? Slugging along to an MBA, or working extra hours may help you stand out. Turning bamboo sheets into a business that pays your rent and then some? Now that’s unique.