This year, I tried a couple of new things besides investing in stocks.
Well, to side-track, I have not really purchased any REIT stocks at the moment. I felt that having a little bit of exposure to high dividend yield REITs might be good, however I am still undecided given the slowing rental / lease market for the industrial and retail sector. I would like to get into healthcare REITs, but I do not find First REIT and Parkway Life REIT undervalued at the moment. Still, the dividend yields look tempting.
Ok, back to the new things. With all new things, there is always a certain amount of risks.
This post is about the difficulties/failures I encountered. This is not a post to tell you how much profit I made from any particular investment (since I first invest in them).
Ok, the new things I tried this year:
P2P loans and Invoice Financing.
In the case of P2P loans, I have my fair share of loans in arrears. I started investing sometime near the beginning of 2016. The worst case now is a loan from the platform Funding Societies (FS). See below for the recent email from FS.
I reckon the chance of getting back the remaining amount owed to me is very remote. In retrospect, the loan detail sheet did show a relatively high level of liability (however, it has actually decreased significantly from the previous year). Profits have been increasing over the past 3 years. So there is really very little clue of the impending liquidation.
This default has erased a large part of the accumulated interest I have received from the loans and invoice financing I participated in. Overall still a net profit but substantially reduced.
Occasionally, I would receive emails from the platforms informing me that they have been hounding the SMEs to pay up and sometimes they would have some success in receiving a partial payment. They might mention the legal terms in the contract (which they conveyed to the borrowers (and possible litigation route) or if they have engaged money collectors.
Often the SMEs have difficulty in obtaining timely payments from their clients (even statutory boards). Or they choose to pay their employees first rather than settle the loans.
All these do not sound really reassuring if you ask me.
I am still at the “liaising with Chinese Manufacturers/suppliers” stage. Basically, my first attempt at doing a sample (with the private label) is a failure.
The printing done by the Chinese manufacturer has errors. So end up 1000 copies of the package are made redundant (cost courtesy of me). Although the damage is relatively low, still it is an unnecessary waste.
After all the coordination and paper mock-ups, the final printing came up with unexpected errors.
It is pretty time consuming liaising with Chinese manufacturers.
The recent issues encountered:
- 1-week holiday in China (1 to 7 Oct). Halfway through liaising with the manufacturers, I was told by all of them that they will be on leave. So I had to wait patiently for them for approx. 1 week (some of them did start work on 5 Oct though) to reply my queries.
- They don’t entertain small quantities. To lower the risk, I always try to negotiate for lower MOQ (Min. Order Quantity). However, manufacturers typically want higher MOQ for obvious (more profitable) reasons. And some can be quite sarcastic.. and consider you a small fry (when they have bigger clients to go after). Some of them are suppliers and often they come back and tell you that the manufacturing side does not agree with the low quantity.
- Samples: Sample with individualized packaging is not cheap and typically you need to meet their MOQ and agree to the bulk purchase before they agree to do customized packaging or stickers for you.
- Everything is in USD. Sending a sample over can easily cost min USD 40 (just on delivery cost alone). A few dollars here and a few dollars there can add up to a lot, as all these are in USD. After you convert these to SGD (1USD = 1.39SGD), the cost can be quite significant. Sending to the USA also involve duties and freight charges. And if you don’t prep your product properly, Amazon will slap you with a fee to do the prepping for you.
- Getting a good package design and logo design done is time-consuming. Yes, Fiverr.com is a great site, but if you initially reject the first design, the designer typically takes a long time to come back with a revised design (they are after all not paid much). After some time, I gave up and just do simple packaging designs myself (still faster than waiting).
- What was communicated initially with the manufacturer is wrong after you’ve paid. For instance, I asked for 4 different colors of samples, but after I paid, I was told that only certain colors are available etc. And it is not easy getting them to refund you.
- The time-consuming process of getting quotations, getting shipment cost, agreeing on quantity, agreeing on doing packaging with customized design etc… and on top of that, sometimes the agents go on a couple of days leave. And you had to wait for their quotations to complete your assessment (together with the other quotations from the other manufacturers). And after you finally done your assessment, you realized that the profit margin is too low (after you factor in the Amazon fee) and that there are too many competitors selling the same thing.
- Finding the right product to sell — this is really an Art if you ask me. Yes, Jungle Scout and Terapeak are helpful, but still, there is no promise of a great selling product and their services are not free. Oh yeah, another website -Camelcamelcamel is free (although less comprehensive).
- Final sample packaging different from the design you sent — that is a bummer (1000 sets of packaging down the drain). I think it is due to the different Photoshop versions we used.
I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur, but I can understand why entrepreneurship takes so much time. Moreover, I have no mentor and am doing this all alone. What I know is from watching Youtube videos and reading articles online.
I did ask in the Amazon forum. I did get help there, but there were also many remarks which are not particularly encouraging eg. why am I selling such low margin products (probably won’t sell), the bad reputation of the Chinese manufacturers in Alibaba, issues with infringement of intellectual property rights (and get delisted)… There are, after all, more cases of failure than successes.
Yes, they list all the issues and possible dangers — solutions, you have to search yourself. Go read the forum threads they tell you, and you get part of the puzzle solved.
My wife thinks I am bonkers… still looking at the same product packaging design after 3 weeks. Sometimes I think I have two jobs (one full-time day job, and a part-time job that I pay money to do :p).
Currently, I am just trying to do another sample. And hopefully, I am able to ‘open a channel’ to Amazon (just send a couple of products to see if the system works). I don’t expect to make a profit (and don’t intend to) at this stage. In fact, if the product is stuck in Amazon for months, I will have to pay Amazon the monthly storage fees.
I anticipate that unless I increase my investment to produce and send more products and invest more money for advertising (pay per click or pay to get reviews), my product will probably ‘not see the light of day’ (or rather buyers won’t even know it exist, as it is stuck in page 70++ or 100++).
Still, let’s create a link (to Amazon) first. Get the system up.
So far, the latest update is that I expect 2 samples for 2 different products to reach me by next week. Fingers crossed.
Not as passive as some people might want it to be.