If you're considering Sophie Howard's Bluesky courses, this is one article you won't wanna skip.
Word on the street is that when it comes to helping sellers learn how to earn passive income on Amazon, Howard's Bluesky courses go above and beyond the other FBA courses out there.
(The secret is in her unique product branding strategy)
Howard's products sell 10X longer than her competitors while still having low levels of competition.
Teach us your ways, Sophie!
In this in-depth review (with no affiliate links), I'll show you her process and the best two courses she's created: "Product University" and the "Amazon Navigator" (rebranded as "Blue Sky Amazon" back in 2019) as well as the pros and cons of Amazon FBA in light of my own experience.
Does the self-proclaimed "Amazon Selling Queen" deserve her crown?
We'll find out.
And if you're wondering what the Blue Sky Amazon course costs in 2021? Or if Amazon FBA courses are worth it in the first place?
Just keep scrollin'.
What You Need to Know about Blue Sky Academy and Sophie Howard (the Amazon Selling Queen)
Who is Sophie Howard?
Sophie Howard is the brilliant mind behind The Blue Sky Amazon Series--a set of two courses that make up a total of 35 hours of video content.
Sophie is a UK born New Zealander who got fed up with not having enough time with her growing family. She had a job as a transitional CEO for startups, pitching venture capitalists for funding (if you're anything like me, the sound of that makes you cringe.)
But the major downside to all of that was that it had her traveling all the time.
She was looking to stay put and give more attention to the people she loves most in the world.
And she figured out how to do exactly that. 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.
These days, instead of traveling around from city to city in her 9-to-way-beyond-5, 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 (she even brings along some of her coaching students, which is pretty cool), which is a double bonus.
How so? Well, she gets a nice write off on her taxes while enjoying something she really loves--the product selection process.
I already like her style.
But how did she get here?
Well, like many of us, she started brainstorming ways to earn income that didn't involve her sacrificing so much of her time.
As you probably know, there is no shortage of online business ideas, but finally she landed on the concept of making money on Amazon. An Aussie friend of hers shed some light on the immense opportunity to get started on the largest ecommerce platform in the world, process and all.
And she was off to the races.
...well, sort of.
Short on time, she started her FBA business while working part-time from home while also caring for her newborn baby...and she quickly realized that she was going to need some help.
After onboarding a team of high-quality virtual assistants, she quickly established a 7 figure ecommerce business on Amazon within 18 months of starting in 2014.
What are some Blue Sky products?
An organic tea brand called "Higher Tea" is an example of her proven private label system. It's one of her larger brands, so much so that she received an offer from a company looking to acquire it. It sort of serves as a case study in her courses now, where she discusses her thoughts on selling it.
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 or teaching little tips and tricks to "hack" the system (like the "super url.") Recently, she updated her course package to include 6 mentoring sessions with her assistants.
Instead, she's laying on strategies that show how to set your product apart from the competition for years to come by utilizing uncommon product sources and basing your product selection on groups of people with common interests.
After launching Product University, Sophie wrote a book entitled Amazon Jetstream Income on her selling experiences, and 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. While it was reasonable in length (a little under 200 pages), unlike her courses, it was pretty much a waste of time due to the lack of meaningful information.
Here, I'll even give you the CliffsNotes version of Amazon Jetstream Income right now:
It's essentially a very repetitive, extended sales pitch.
But if you want to see what's fondly nicknamed the "Blue Sky Amazon book" and its optional audiobook on Amazon for yourself, click here. (Unfortunately it's not to be found in PDF format.)
Since codifying her amazing wealth systems into digital courses in 2016, Sophie has been featured on a variety of podcasts since 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:
Why it's safe to listen to me
IMPORTANT: I AM NOT AN AFFILIATE
You might know this already, but if not, be sure to look out for this in the future:
You'll see a lot of people writing pretty superficial course reviews, and then putting their affiliate link inside. That's something to ALWAYS be wary of, because it's often the mark of a scam.
So as a reminder: I am NOT an affiliate for Blue Sky Amazon's courses.
So why am I writing this review?
Well, because I know that there are people out there who are struggling to make money online. Back when I first started in 2014, there wasn't nearly the number of "gurus" out there trying to sell courses as there is now. And unfortunately, most of them aren't looking out for your best interests.
But learning to make money online changed my life for the better, and I know it can change yours too as long as you're able to thoroughly evaluate the business you're looking to get into and make the right decision.
That's why, if you look around this 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 that's where I've experienced the greatest long-term success over the years and I really believe in it.
I'll be honest: I'm not completely unbiased (I guess 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 feel like there's somethin of note that I've missed, please drop a comment for me down below, as I definitely want these reviews to be as thorough as possible.)
What to Expect in Sophie Howard's Course
The Blue Sky Amazon Seller Academy is made up of two courses put together by Amazon FBA master 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.
She's got about 50K people following her Facebook page, which ain't too shabby. I have a good feeling that it has a lot to do with the fact that she posts almost daily, so people can count her for fresh, relevant content on the regular.
Her YouTube channel is quite a bit less popular, but it's slowly inching towards the 15K subscriber mark. Her videos, though, have amassed over 1 Million views, which is a huge milestone to hit. You can also find on her LinkedIn as well as a feature in the New Zealand Exporter.
The 14 modules of teaching below cover the entire FBA ecommerce process, but are primarily focused 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.
I'm just going to give you my overall initial impression right from the jump here: An entry level seller can definitely benefit from these courses, but they will probably benefit most if they already have an idea of how the Amazon FBA model works.
Here are some of the highlights of what Sophie offers in her course:
Product University Course Review
Module 2: Product Selection Strategy
In many other courses, this topic is the longest module (i.e. Private Label University's product selection module is nearly 2x longer than its other modules.) But in Sophie's course, education on production selection is the third longest module.
I did find one very interesting way that Sophie's methodology differs from, say, Kevin David's"Amazon FBA Ninja" course when it comes to this topic.
She firmly believes that a high MOQ (minimum order quantity) is actually beneficial to a merchant because it serves as a barrier to entry, which keeps the number of competitors lower.
Kevin, on the other hand, advocates for negotiating for a lower MOQ, helping new sellers jump that hurdle.
When you're searching for the best Amazon FBA course, It's important to make note of the fact that each course creator has different goals.
1. Kevin David simply wants to teach his students how to sell products on Amazon (This is helpful, but shortsighted in my opinion.)
2. Sophie's goal is loftier. She wants to teach her students how to create products that are going to sell for a long time because of their uniqueness and exclusivity. This is an approach I can get behind, because I believe a long-term point of view yields long-term success.
But what makes this such a key difference in perspective?
Let me ask you:
Do you want your product to sell on Amazon for a short time or a long time?
If you're anything like me, you want your product to sell for a long time.
But let's go a bit deeper,
Why would you rather have that outcome?
Before I share with you Sophie's answer, here's a visual of the two points of view:
Sophie realized along the way in her Amazon FBA journey that if she has products that sell for a long time, this will give her 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 according to this source. (So if you're wondering, "what business did Sophie Howard sell?" You'll get a few more details there.)
To see the 6 sources of product ideas that Sophie recommends, click here.
Module 3: Basics of Sales Funnels
Let's cut to the chase here.
The third module has 4 sessions:
Sophie emphasizes 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 that encourages the prospect to continue through the funnel and buy the physical (more expensive) product.
(By the way, for more information on creating digital products, see Cody Sperber's 30 Day Challenge.)
In 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.
See her landing page below, and notice how her Blue Sky Amazon webinar is the lead magnet in this case.
That leads us to the opt-in page, (also called a squeeze page, because it "squeezes" your prospect's contact information out of them) so that they can be followed up with later (reminded of the upcoming Blue Sky Amazon webinar, etc.)
Sophie's sales funnel is a standard funnel, so once you know what to look for, you're going to start recognizing it all over the web.
Module 4: Who will You Hire to be Your Virtual Assistant?
In module 4, Sophie does three sessions that are 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 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 "FBA Ninja," course, 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 oldie but a goodie when it comes to ecommerce websites: 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 Howard 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 talk about setting goals, they bring up a very heavily-referenced Harvard study where it was shown that 3% of Harvard MBAs made 10X as much as the other 97% combined. And based on this, 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 half of the equation.
Think about it--I'm sure that we've all set arbitrary New Year's Resolutions at one time or another. But the fact is that most resolutions fail. Why?
Because while the sentiment of setting a goal sounds nice, it requires 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)
So if setting goals will only get you halfway there, what's going to help you reach your goal?
Sophie conveys 3 simple, yet profound steps to help you reach your goal. To find out what they are, hit the blue button below and read the details of Module 1.
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.
Here's the question you need to reflect on:
How do you want your brand to be positioned in the marketplace?
You'd be competing with the other "private labelers" who basically just put a product from Alibaba into their packaging. There are a lot of risks associated with going this route, such as a trademark infringement lawsuit if you've even remotely copied another seller's registered brand.
Your brand will need to be positioned somewhere between common to the marketplace and unique to the marketplace (yup, you read that right.)
If you check out any of the other FBA course reviews on my site, you'll notice that they tend to give you the basics of branding, like setting up a brand website, putting together a Facebook page, etc. (ASMX is a great example of this.)
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.
How does Sophie Howard manage that?
Well, because every other course teaching the Amazon system shows you how to use tools that are available to the general public on the internet.
For example, Alibaba is a great tool, very helpful for researching suppliers and so forth.
But as time goes on, that source is becoming more and more overcrowded.
And since everyone has access to Jack Ma's creation, any product you buy from there can be copied relatively easily.
But that's just the physical product side.
Let's switch gears and talk about the information side for a bit.
If you rely solely internet tools (Jungle Scout, Google Keyword Planner, Merchant Words, etc.) to determine your so called "homerun products," you'll just end up being copied. Because again, the same information you'll be using will be available to everyone else who has an internet connection.
I mean think about it for a second:
Is the web becoming more popular or less?
And in particular, is Amazon selling 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 1.9 million active sellers on Amazon as of April 1, 2021, 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, international traffic is always a pretty big ordeal.
Here are a few of the places where she's established solid professional relationships.
If I had to give a critique for this module, it would probably be that she doesn't put together any practical tips for interacting with suppliers with the goal of building that professional camaraderie. Someone who did this part well is Tim Sanders. You can learn more about what he does here.
Sophie concludes this short module with a few broad reminders about the importance of treating 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 the perfect listing.
She covers everything from title construction to what to include in your product description.
(To see all 10 points, hit the blue button at the end of this section.)
In the meantime, here’s 3 of them:
That last one is the key to selling to my generation,
And that's "focusing on the story,"
You see, it's not a mile-long list of product specifications in your description that's going to set you apart from your competitors.
It's focusing on the story. The "why" behind the product.
There's no getting around it--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?
Well, I'm assuming that you're here because at the end of the day, you're 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 which audience you're tailoring it to.
You'll need to do research on the interests of your target population, while making 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.