I was sitting across the conference table from my client, a manufacturer of posters. It was 2014, and I was wearing a suit because I was a business banker at JP Morgan Chase in Brooklyn.
I was there because I was supposed to be renewing a commercial loan for them. But the focus of the conversation turned away from their financing needs and toward another topic: their Amazon sales channel. “We just can’t figure it out,” the owner said. “We don’t know why we can’t generate more sales.” I had a flash of insight. I thought I understood a little bit about Amazon through growing my side-hustle Amazon business (a little ecommerce called Makely that’s still around today). But I realized in that meeting that I knew a lot more than this company and that I could help them.
I also was unsatisfied in my corporate job, where I felt somewhat like a cog in a machine. I craved an opportunity to have a real impact in the world, and to create a place where I myself would love to work.
So I quit my corporate job and hung out my shingle as an Amazon consultant in February 2015. Hastily needing a name for the company, I looked around my living room for inspiration. My eyes landed on a snow toboggan. Something about the teamwork and forward momentum required in bobsled racing crossed my brain. “We’ll give your brand a push on Amazon, then hop along for the ride,” I thought. “Or something like that. I’ll just come up with a good tagline later.”
And that’s when Bobsled Marketing was born. Though I never came up with a punchy tagline.
The toboggan in our living room (turned into an artsy light fixture at the time)
Initially, my main clients were brands who’d hit their funding targets on Kickstarter for new, innovative products. These were generally tough clients as they were pretty small and were starting from zero on Amazon, so there was a lot of upfront work. If that wasn’t hard enough, I made getting paid for my work almost impossible: I only charged a percentage of their sales. I learned some tough lessons about client selection and pricing that year!
After a few months of grueling but usually satisfying work, my husband joined the company and agreed to pitch in wherever needed. Then the hustle really kicked in, as we needed the consulting work to pay our rent. We were both working furiously from home, with our tiny 1-bedroom apartment taking on a ‘boiler room’ vibe. He would be making a sales call in our lounge room/kitchen, while I was taking a client check-in call in the bedroom. The bobsled now had 2 drivers and was picking up speed.
That year, the company scraped in a scant $37,873 in revenue. But amidst the chaos, I made a couple of crucial decisions that make Bobsled what it is today. Firstly, I started hiring a team remotely. In all honesty, this was largely a financial decision at the time. Bobsled had minimal cash flow and was still being funded from my meager personal savings, so taking out an office lease and hiring staff in New York was not an option. The relatively new model of remote working led me to hire Julie Spear as one of Bobsled’s first employees, a few states away in Ohio. I didn’t meet her in person for 2 years after I hired her! Today, we have a remarkable fully-remote culture and Julie is Bobsled’s President.
Another investment I made was in building Bobsled’s brand through content marketing. Back then, much of the educational content and training around Amazon read like get-rich-quick schemes: ‘How to buy cheap products on Alibaba and sell them for a few extra bucks on Amazon, while living on a beach in Thailand’. At the other end of the spectrum, there were a small number of agencies that worked with enterprise brands, building their A+ content (back when this was only available for Vendors at a couple of thousand dollars per page!).
There were very few credible voices in the mid-market space, helping companies to navigate FBA, launch products effectively, and scale up advertising. So I started blogging and filming videos about Amazon topics, based on what clients were asking about. It was time-consuming and it took a long time to build momentum - I really had no credibility in this space when I first started out. But this type of marketing fit my budget, which was in the zero-dollar range! And eventually, this investment in educating our industry led to Bobsled becoming one of the most trusted names in the space. In the past year, we were ranked one of the top 18 Amazon firms by Business Insider and placed in the Marketplace Pulse Top 100.
There are many things I’m proud of at Bobsled. We were pioneers in building a rich company culture entirely online. Bobsled has been a platform for personal and professional growth not only for myself but for dozens of past and present Bobsledders. We are a trusted and respected company in our industry. We punch above our weight.
And we’ve also had to evolve a lot over those 7 years. Today we’re more than 40 Bobsledders who work from home in 13 different countries! We have over 100 clients who trust us to manage and grow their Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart sales channels.
In 2021 we finally cracked the Inc 5000 list of America’s fastest-growing companies. We only arrive in this fortunate position by delivering value to clients and being true partners in their ecommerce marketplace journey.
We’ll need to continue to adapt to meet the needs of our clients in the future, but that’s what Bobsled’s history is grounded in - thinking big, being different, digging deep, and serving our industry.