Today you're going to see why Sophie's Bluesky courses have gone above and beyond every other FBA course out there in helping sellers in their efforts in earning passive income on Amazon.
(She has a unique product branding strategy)
The Best Part?
Her products sell 10X longer than her competitors.
In fact, most of her products still have low levels of competition.
And in this in-depth review (with no affiliate links), I'll show you her process and the best two courses she has created: "Product University" and the "Amazon Navigator" (recently rebranded as "Blue Sky Amazon" as of November 3, 2019) as well as the pros and cons of Amazon FBA in light of my own experience.
Wondering what the Blue Sky Amazon course costs in 2019?
What You Need to Know about Blue Sky Sellers Academy and Sophie Howard (the Amazon Selling Queen)
Sophie Howard Who?
The Blue Sky Amazon Series is a set of two courses that make up 35 hours of video content created by Sophie Howard.
Sophie is a UK born New Zealander who got fed up with not having time with her growing family as her job working as a transitional CEO for start ups that pitched venture capitalists for funding had her traveling all the time.
Currently, Sophie (aka "The Amazon Selling Queen" and creator of the brand "Aspiring Entrepreneurs") lives in Wanaka, New Zealand with her husband and two daughters.
Today,when she's not facilitating the development of her many different online businesses, she enjoys horseback riding and traveling to different tropical destinations.
She often combines these vacations with business by scheduling them to coincide with local product fairs (often bringing along some of her coaching students), which is a double bonus as she relishes the product selection process and she gets a nice write off on her taxes.
Wondering how to make money on Amazon, Sophie learned from a Aussie friend about the immense opportunity and the process to get started on the largest ecommerce platform in the world.
Short on time, she started her FBA business while working part-time from home and having a newborn child, Sophie quickly realized her need for help.
After on-boarding a team of high quality virtual assistants, she quickly established a 7 figure ecommerce business on Amazon within 18 months after she started in 2014.
An evidence of her proven private label system is one of her larger brands, an organic tea brand called "Higher Tea," which is still being sold as of November 13, 2019. Having received an offer from a company looking to acquire it, she discusses her thoughts on selling it throughout her courses.
While she created these courses in 2016, most of her content still applies to today's sellers (Americans and Kiwis alike) primarily because she's not advocating for and teaching little tips and tricks to "hack" the system (like the "super url"). This year, she's updated her course package to include 6 mentoring sessions with her assistants.
Rather, she is laying on strategies that show how to set your product apart from the competition for years to come via the utilization of uncommon product sources and basing your product selection on groups of people with common interests.
Sophie wrote a book, Amazon Jetstream Income, on her selling experiences as well as offers ways you can get started on Amazon.
After getting the kindle download (it's not free, but $4.95 on her website), I read the book and was really disappointed because, while it was reasonable in length (a little under 200 pages), but unlike her courses, it was pretty much a waste of time because of the absence of meaningful information.
A super-summarized Amazon Jetstream Income review would be that it's essentially a very repetitive, extended sales pitch. To see the book and its optional audiobook on Amazon for yourself, click here. (Unfortunately it's not to be found in pdf)
Since codifying her amazing wealth systems into digital courses in 2016, Sophie has been featured on a variety of podcasts in 2017.
The podcast that Sophie and Orange Klick creator Augustus Kligys did together was informative and provided a lot of helpful advice to aspiring Amazon sellers.
Sophie share the reasons why she's chosen to stay away from sourcing her products from Chinese manufacturers as well as few guiding principles to her unique branding strategy that she covers in depth in her courses, which happens to be the main way you can really make money on Amazon. #recurringincome
Additional podcasts that Sophie has been featured on are:
NOT An Affiliate (Why you should listen to me)
A lot of people selling courses write superficial reviews and then put their affiliate link inside. To me, that's something I watch out for, because it's often the mark of a scam. I am not an affiliate for Blue Sky Amazon's courses.
I decided to write this review because I know that there's people out there who are struggling to make money online and I want to help them make their lives better by being able to thoroughly evaluate the business that they are looking into.
That's why, if you look around the site, you'll find thorough reviews of a lot of different courses for a variety of business models, from lead generation to dropshipping. To be honest, I do advocate quite strongly for the lead gen biz because I've experienced a lot of success in it and I really believe in it.
Although I am not unbiased (nobody really is), but I have actually gone through all the courses I've written reviews for, and, having established 7 figure income using the internet myself, I consider myself thoroughly qualified to review the courses.
(Btw, if you see something I've missed, I ask you to leave a comment, as I want these reviews to be as thorough as possible).
What to Expect in this Course
The Blue Sky Amazon Seller Academy is made up of two courses put together by a Sophie Howard.
While she hasn't reached the popularity level of the English Model from England, this Sophie Howard has become pretty famous in the Amazon teaching world because of her friendly, student-oriented teaching and fascinatingly unique content.
Sophie is moderately popular on both Facebook and Youtube, having 2,500 subscribers on the video sharing platform and 8,576 followers on Zuckerberg's social media platform as of November 3, 2019. You can also find on her LinkedIn as well as featured in the New Zealand Exporter.
The 14 modules of teaching below cover the entire FBA ecommerce process, but are focused primarily on helping the mid-level seller create long-selling products and then scale with the help of virtual assistants, sales funnels and online services such as Feedback Genius.
Don't get me wrong, an entry level seller will benefit from Sophie's courses, but they will benefit most if they already having an idea of how the Amazon FBA model works.
Sophie will cover the following and much, much more:
Product University Course Review
Module 1: Foundation
This module has four sessions and covers introductory concepts, like
Sophie does a nice job laying a solid foundation for the course, talking about both practical daily action questions and eliminating shiny object syndrome, grass-is-greener-in-that-other-business-model doubts.
She is super supportive of the development of digital products as well as helping other businesses through joint ventures.
One of the unique pieces that Sophie adds to the course is a discussion around sales funnels.
Now, she herself had just finished a course instructing her on the ins and outs of funnels, so she was pretty pumped about the efficient mechanism.
Later on, she'll dedicate an entire session to explaining how she would set one up and walks through how you can build a funnel exponentially faster. #insidersecrets
Module 1 Critique:
The number one thing that Sophie needs to improve upon in this module and the following 3 modules is her level of organization.
She is pretty sparadict and jumps from topic to topic and back and forth and up and down, all over.
So basically, she shares all this high quality content, but it's not structured in a way that makes it easy to take notes and then utilize later in your own business.
Module 2: Product Selection Strategy
While in many other courses this topic is the longest module (i.e. Private Label University's item selection module is nearly 2x as long as its other modules), Sophie's education on production selection is the 3rd longest (aka as close the middle as is possible with 6).
One interesting thought of Sophie's that differs from, say, Kevin David's item selection in his "Amazon FBA Ninja" course, is her view that a high MOQ (minimum order quantity) is actually beneficial to a merchant because it's a barrier to entry, which keeps the number of competitors lower.
Kevin advocates for negotiating for a lower MOQ, helping new sellers jump that hurdle.
It's key to notice the different goals of the course creators.
1. Kevin simply wants to teach people to sell products on Amazon. (i.e. helpful, but shortsighted)
2. Sophie's goal is higher, to teach her students how to create products that are going to sell for a long time because of their uniqueness and exclusivity. (i.e. long-term point of view leading to long-term success)
Why is this difference in perspective key?
Let me ask you,
Do you want your product to sell on Amazon for a long time or a short time?
Obviously, you want your product to sell for a long time.
That answer seems pretty instinctual.
But let's go deeper,
why do you want that?
Before I share with you Sophie's answer,
here's a visual of the two points of view:
Sophie's answer is to have a large cash windfall after she sells the Amazon seller account she's built up.
At the time of Product University's creation, Sophie had recently sold one of her accounts for over a million dollars and had received an offer on her line of tea products (Source).
To see the 6 sources of product ideas that Sophie recommends, click here.
Module 3: Basics of Sales Funnels
The 3rd module has 4 sessions.
- The 1st session gives an overview of sales funnels and their components (Ads, Lead Magnets, etc.)
- The 2nd session sees Sophie giving a complete walkthrough of how to set up a funnel using Russell Brunson's Clickfunnels as well as introducing a helpful mid-grade graphic design tool called Canva.
- The 3rd session has Sophie setting up a funnel for a student's chosen product as well as setting up a Facebook ad campaign to drive traffic to it using Merchant Words for some of her keyword research.
- The 4th session is made up of 3 subsections:
- Evaluate student's funnel that she set up the week before (session 3)
- Update course takers on her new product's funnel and supply chain
- Facilitate 30 minutes of Q & A.
Sophie emphasized the simplicity of funnels, saying that they are pretty much the slimmest business around, scoped-in and custom-built to a really narrow audience (which is why Steve H, creator of Marketing Funnel Academy, recommends pairing them with FB ads).
One of the helpful tips that she dropped was the idea of bundling a physical product with a digital one. The digital product can be the lead magnet, encouraging the prospect to continue through the funnel and buy the physical (more expensive) product. (for more information on creating digital products, see Cody Sperber's 30 Day Challenge)
Over the years since she created Product University, Sophie has incorporated sales funnels into her digital product sales. She has built landing pages for her courses on her own website as well as on the Freedom360 au group's site where she is listed as a property investing mentor.
Here's her landing page: (notice how her digital webinar is the lead magnet)
Which leads to the opt-in page, (also called a squeeze page, because it "squeezes" your prospect's information out of them), which asks for your name and email so you can be followed up with later (reminded of the upcoming webinar, etc.).
Sophie's sales funnel is a standard funnel, recognizable all over the web once you know what to look for.
Module 4: Who will You Hire to be Your Virtual Assistant?
In module 4, Sophie does 3 sessions all about VA's.
The first session is basic and introductory, answering common questions like when did she start outsourcing work, what tasks to hire for and what the most difficult part of onboarding a generalist was for her.
The second session goes deeper, getting to the meat of the matter: recruiting and training new VA's. She covers topics like
The third and final session is filled with Sophie's commentary on managing her high quality team. At the time this course was made, Sophie had already outsourced every task save two: supplier negotiation and product selection.
Here's an 6 step summary of Sophie's hiring funnel:
After explaining her process in theory, Sophie navigates to Upwork where she evaluates prospects to a job ad she posted about a week earlier.
She has a lot of applicants and only 1 job opportunity, she narrates, voicing her thought process as she sifts through cover letters and resumes.
Several characteristics she wants in her virtual assistants are:
Best Training on Virtual Assistants
To conclude this module on VA's, I have to say that Sophie's explanation of how she handles virtual assistants is the most comprehensive out of all the courses I've been through.
A course running the middle between them would be Tim Sanders' Private Label Masters, which offers more on VA's than ASMX, saying that they are most often hired to cover customer service, data entry and managing weekly PPC tasks.
Tim also includes a helpful pdf in his course to help you get started hiring.
But blowing both of them out of the water, Sophie offers the whole package: what tasks to hire for, who to hire, where to put up job applications, how to bring them onboard and more.
Hit the button below to see more of what Sophie includes in her sessions on Virtual Assistants, or scroll down to see what Module 5 entails.
Module 5: Behind the Scenes: Selling On Amazon
In this module, Sophie tells how she got started on Amazon, some pros and cons of doing business on the largest ecommerce platform of the world and then goes over a lot of the basics like doing a walkthrough of setting up a seller account and gives advice on which business license to set up to protect your personal assets.
If you are new to the FBA platform, this is the module to start with, to get an idea of how everything works from start to finish.
This is one of Sophie's most organized modules (she starts using presentation slides here, which really helped her have more structure).
It will really help you get a grasp of the foundational elements of Seller Central, Keyword Research, etc.
These are the topics in which ASMX really shines. If you feel you really need a lot of help with the basics listed above, you really should check out the 10th edition of the Amazing Selling Machine.
Module 6: Forgotten Product Sourcing Places
In this module, Sophie demonstrates 8 different ways you can unearth unique product sources.
Here’s 4 of them:
Sophie does a great job of covering a lot of different ways you can get uncommon product ideas. But she's not the only course maker to include a section featuring how to get ideas.
Kevin David, in his course the "FBA Ninja," features a video in Module 1 where he walks through the process of getting unique product ideas using Watch Count: a website research tool that monitors an older ecommerce website, Ebay.
Making a long story short, Kevin looks up the best sellers on eBay and then sees if they are selling well on Amazon. Often internet shoppers will be looking multiple places, so there's a good chance that if there's demand on eBay, there's demand on Amazon.
(By the way, if you are interested in a comparison between selling on Ebay vs selling on Amazon, check out David Vu's course.)
One product sourcing method that appears to be unique to Sophie is her combining business and pleasure when she goes on vacation.
She spent three months in Bali in 2015 after she sold her first Amazon account, part of her time was spent getting away from it all, but some of her time was invested in looking into future business opportunities in the area. She came back with several ideas, one of which comes up regularly in the course.
Smart Business Moves
Throughout the Product University Course, Sophie regularly gives updates on how her new product line is developing.
She found a monastery that made high-quality incense sticks (which are consumables, thus very profitable as they are in constant demand).
While vacationing in Bali, she worked out an agreement with them to purchase their incense in bulk to sell in the United States on Amazon.
Notice how she cut out all the middlemen by traveling to the source herself, enabling her to achieve a greater profit margin since she didn't have to deal with the markup of a broker or distributor.
Now that's smart business.
Thank you for reading my review of Sophie's Product University. I'll now transition into my review of her Amazon Navigator course, which came as a bonus when I invested in Product U.
Amazon Navigator Course Review
Module 1: Welcome
In this module, Sophie covers a lot of foundational concepts after introducing herself.
Here’s 5 of them:
Sophie was smart to start her course with mindset. She knows from having her own business that the first months are rough and new FBA sellers will have a lot of ups and downs. What will propel them through the valleys is their strong knowledge of why they began in the first place. Self-knowledge makes all the difference.
As she was wrapping up her points on goal-setting, Sophie said something interesting: make sure to keep your goals in front of you.
Most of the time when course instructors speak of setting goals, they bring up that common study of Harvard's, where 3% of Harvard MBAs made 10X as much as the other 97% Combined. And from it, the instructors urge their course takers to set goals.
But if you look closely at that study, you'll see that setting goals is only the first part. To see the second part, hit the blue button and read the details of Module 1 below.
I am sure that we have all set arbitrary New Year's Resolutions at one time or another. But most resolutions fail, why?
Because while the sentiment of setting a goal sounds nice, it requires a commitment to the process, the everyday rigor of feeling energized, then exhausted, passionate, then depressed, or, as the famous Darren Hardy put it, The Entrepreneurial Roller Coaster.
Sophie conveys a simple, yet profound 3 steps to reaching your goal.
See her whole goal setting process by pushing the button below.
Module 2: What You Don't Know About Branding
**Pay close attention to the content of this module, because this is what sets Blue Sky Amazon's courses apart from every other FBA course.**
In this module, Sophie divulges her branding strategy, the set of tactics that enable her to discover and put products in the market that are difficult to copy or compete with.
Sophie's Definition of Branding is foundational to the entire discussion that will be had from this point onward.
There are three factors that must be considered when developing your products branding:
They can be visualized in a triangle.
The question you need to reflect on is this:
How do I want my brand to be positioned in the marketplace?
You'll compete with the other "private labelers" who just put their packaging on a product from Alibaba (not to mention risk a trademark infringement lawsuit if you've even remotely copied another seller's registered brand).
The way you brand your product will position it somewhere between common to the marketplace and unique to the marketplace.
Most of the FBA courses you'll find reviewed on my site will give you the basics of branding, like setting up a brand website, put together a FB page, etc. (ASMX is a great example)
But only Blue Sky Amazon's will show you what it means to position your brand in the marketplace in ways that are hard to copy and difficult to compete with.
Why is this?
Because every other course teaching the Amazon system shows you how to use tools that are common to everyone, ie. available to the general public on the internet.
For example, Alibaba is a great tool, it's helpful to research suppliers and so forth.
But more and more that source is becoming over-crowded.
And since everyone has access to Jack Ma's creation, any product you buy from there can be copied relatively easily.
That's the physical product side.
Now to the information side.
If you only use internet tools (Jungle Scout, Google Keyword Planner, Merchant Words, etc.) to determine your so called "homerun products," you will end up being copied, because again, all the information is available to everyone else who has an internet connection.
Is the web becoming more popular or less?
According to Hosting Facts' latest report on internet statistics, the internet is becoming more popular.
If you have sole access to proprietary information, that gives you an edge.
Similarly, if you have sole access to an excellent product, that also gives you an advantage.
With over 2.5 million sellers on Amazon as of November 1, 2019, there's a high chance of being copied.
So it becomes a question of market share.
And the only way you can defend your market share is using the following two advantages:
- Exclusive Information
- Sole Access to Products.
In the competitive space of Amazon, it seems you're either on the offensive or you're in retreat.
So then, how do you bring all this together into a repeatable process?
Sophie's common phrase throughout this module is "learning to follow your nose."
Learning to trust your instincts when selecting products is difficult, so Sophie offers a 4 phase process to get a sense of how to go about it:
Here’s the 4 of them:
For more meat on Sophie's 4 phases, hit the button below to check out the details.
Module 3: Finding Products that Sell for the Long-Term
Sophie's gone far and wide, putting on many miles to find long-selling products, but as with the lead-gen business, you put in a lot of work up front to find a long-term profit-generating machine.
In this module, Sophie shares where she travels to build relationships with off-the-path manufacturers, google queries that can help you discover suppliers that are out of the public eye.
Some suppliers have put elementary websites (like those made in 2005) that work, but barely and the suppliers could care less about SEO, so they are not popping up on the first few pages of Google.
That's why Sophie says bring your shovel, because you really have to bore your way through the pages like Elon Musk's "Boring Company" tunnels under southern California.
Since she lives in New Zealand, going anywhere means a pretty long flight.
Here's a few of the places she's established solid professional relationships.
One of the critiques of this module is that she doesn't put together some practical tips for interacting with suppliers that build professional camaraderie. Someone who did this part well is Tim Sanders. You can check out what he does here.
Sophie concludes this short module with a few broad reminders on how to treat suppliers with respect, guided by the ancient principle of the Golden Rule.
Module 4: Are Your Listings Pristine?
In this module, Sophie walks through the process of creating a perfect listing.
She covers everything from title construction to what to include in your product description.
(To see all 10 points, hit the blue details button below.)
Here’s 3 of them:
That last one is the key to selling to my generation,
Focusing on the story,
the why behind the product rather than the product specifications in your description is what will set you apart from your competitors.
It's important to adapt your business to suit the desires of millennials because of their growing presence in the marketplace.
Why am I telling you this in a review of an Amazon FBA course?
Since you are here, I assume you are interested in building a business on Amazon.
A key part of doing that successfully is creating your listing the right way.
And to really get the most out of your listing, you have to know to whom you are curating it.
You will do research on the interests of your target population, but also be sure to consider the age demographic of the population you are writing to.
Module 5: Don't Get Samples, Order the Entire Shipment
This is the shortest module in the Amazon Navigator course.
Sophie offers tips on three topics:
This module is super practical, giving actionable advice to to make the overall shipping process go super smooth.
The biggest issue with shipping is not getting every detail put in and correct.
If you don't have the numbers, dates and order numbers put in, your shipment is likely toast and it is very difficult to track down and routed back to the right location.
There are three main ways you can ship your product to Amazon's warehouses:
To decide which one to use, you need to consider two classic factors:
Time and Money
If you need to get your product in stock fast and have the extra cash, send it via air.
You'll bypass a lot of the delays that happen at seaports and customs.
And your product can be in-stock on Amazon in 10 to 14 days after your products are finished being made at your manufacturer.
But if you are tight on money and long on time, take the slower shipping route: sea.
While it takes more time, the bright side is that putting your products on a freightliner means a lower shipping cost.
Another advantage is you can ship larger amounts of products so you won't have to order products as often.
One vital piece of the process that Sophie hardly mentioned was the process of setting up a freight forwarder so that you are not paying a ton of storage fees to Amazon's warehousing services.
A course that covers the intermediary party well is "Private Label Masters." Tim really does a great job giving an introduction on the subject of freight forwarding and how it fits into the process.
It's really an important step and will save you thousands of dollars.
For those who already know what a freight forwarder does but are looking for recommendations, Sophie and I both have had great experiences with Freightos.
Two Primary Benefits of using Freightos:
They provide accurate estimates (i.e. inbound shipping cost) and timely customer service.
These are crucial when arranging for items to be moved from their warehouse to Amazon's.
Module 6: Promoting the Sh*t out of Your Product
As some students have been in her course for over 3 months by the time this module was created, some had chosen their products, created listings and had their first sales come through.
When you first start on Amazon, your first sale is monumental!
Your Seller Central Account is set up to notify you every time you have a sale, which Sophie says was fun for the first few days her products sold, but then she turned off the notifications because they became so often that she was distracted.
In this module, Sophie covers 5 of the ways you can propel your product in the market as well as does a fast overview of 7 Key Metrics to monitor each day.
This is one of the modules that could really be huge if Sophie wanted it to be, which is always a struggle when creating a course (what to include and what to leave out).
Coupon Code Warning
One warning that both she and Kevin David include is a caution when setting up your coupon codes, be very, very careful to make sure that there is a limited number of them and make sure that the codes are not posted on the listing itself.
If you make this mistake, your inventory will drop like a stone.
And you'll lose a lot of money.
Module 7: Maintaining Your Account (The Dry Stuff)
In this module, Sophie covers a lot of the dry tasks that must done, but are much more data oriented than creatively focused.
The 5 main dirty jobs that Sophie focuses on are
Seller Central offers you as a seller the ability to generate a ton of different business reports.
- Sales Report
- Inventory Report
- Payment Report
- Customer Concessions Report
- Removal Report
- FBA Business Report
As a business owner, you have to know your numbers.
And that only comes through tracking certain metrics consistently, be it monthly, weekly, etc.
For example, you need to check your Sales Report to see what profit margins each of your products have, seeing which products are selling better than others and more.
Because how else are you going to make the decisions necessary to grow and scale your business to reach your goals, be they to create a million dollar business or simply to create the ability to quit your 9 to 5 and work from home.