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Leo Lei, Import/Export

How I got my first 3 customers and the steps for you to do the same.

Leo Lei

Import/Export

For the majority of my college experience, I didn't know what my true passion was until I studied abroad in Australia. I made it my mission to discover myself and experience everything. I eventually found my love for architecture and industrial design. I decided to start a design blog called Leibal (www.leibal.com) soon thereafter.

After a few months, the blog was receiving a lot of attention, and I was getting emails requesting information on where to buy the designs I was posting. Most of these designs were from countries outside of the United States, therefore it was hard for most people to track down where to buy. I would always refer the customer over to another website or retail store, never thinking that I could be selling the product myself. After a few months of doing this, I finally decided to start my own online retail store (http://store.leibal.com), and stocked the products that received the most attention from my blog.

It was difficult to get the first few manufacturers to sell me their products, but once I had a legitimate and functioning e-commerce website up and running, I was able to slowly grow my product offerings. I eventually grew the store to a few hundred SKUs.

After running the online store for a year, I began to see a pattern in which 90% of my revenue was coming from only 10% of the products. I decided to focus solely on those products, and reached out to the CEOs of the manufacturers asking if they had a distributor in the United States. There was a total of three manufacturers that I wanted to work with, and none of them had distribution. Their offices were located in China, Japan, and Korea, and I planned all of the meetings within the same week. After buying the plane tickets, I hired translators and lawyers, drafted the exclusivity contracts, and became the exclusive North American distributors of all three companies within 10 days.

The Tip

To whet your beak

Don't wait to take action. A plan without execution is worse than execution without a plan.

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