What do you think about using third-party suppliers like SaleHoo?
That's a good thing. I always recommend people go through third-party suppliers, especially once your store becomes successful. The worst thing that could happen to you is your product getting taken off AliExpress or experiencing super big delays and getting a ton of chargebacks.

Ethan King was only 15 years old when he sold his first product and made a couple of thousand dollars. Since then, he’s been able to dropship organically through Instagram marketing (Reels), TikTok marketing, and YouTube Shorts where he has a total of 1.3 million subscribers. In this interview, he talks about how he became successful with dropshipping and what you need to do if you want to follow his same path.

Sean: Hey everyone, it's Sean again from Salehoo, and in today's video, we get to interview a seven-figure dropshipper, Ethan. He's also a YouTuber, and he basically goes through on his YouTube channel how to get started with dropshipping. He produces a lot of dropshipping content, and today we get to interview him. Ethan, thanks for accepting the interview.

Ethan: Of course, man. Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Sean: Nice. So, first...  Can you give us a bit of background on your eCommerce journey?

Ethan King: The first time I ever started eCommerce was four years ago. Basically, I would start Instagram theme pages when that was a huge hype on YouTube and social media. I would make a page on dogs or survival and start posting there, like, three times a day. Eventually, I was able to grow these pages to 10,000–20,000 followers. Then, I saw some other pages that were selling things, so I started researching how they were doing it and making money. That led me to create my own Shopify store on Instagram, where I would sell products.

The first product I ever sold with Instagram marketing was a travel bracelet that had a fire starter and a window breaker on it because my biggest page at the time was a survival and camping-related page. I sold that and was able to make a couple of thousand dollars at 15 or 16 years old. That was the first spark I ever saw in eCommerce.

Ethan's Biggest Successes and Failures

Sean: What were your biggest successes and setbacks when doing dropshipping?

Ethan: "So my biggest success ever with dropshipping was in the last two years. When I started doing dropshipping organically through Instagram reels, YouTube shorts, and TikTok, we had three YouTube channels, me and my partner, with a total of 1.3 million subscribers just on the YouTube shorts channels. We also have about 100,000 to 200,000 followers on TikTok.

We started a dropshipping store for this channel and ended up making about three hundred thousand dollars in revenue just from this one YouTube source channel without spending any ads. That was by far my biggest success without spending anything.”

Sean: “And how about TikTok marketing? Did you dabble with that, or is this focused on a personal source?"

Ethan: "The source channels are with me and my partner because it's easy for us to work together. He handles some stuff, and I handle some things. However, my personal dropshipping stores are usually run organically or through paid TikTok ads. I love TikTok marketing, so I just run the classic dropshipping stores myself. I'm able to make a few thousand dollars a month by posting three to five videos a week on TikTok pages and then finding a winning product.

As soon as you find a video that blows up and starts doing well on TikTok, you're able to scale that into TikTok marketing ads and start running it up. So, the easiest way to test products is just by posting TikTok videos and figuring out what does well through that and then scaling it up through ads."

Sean: "Perfect, that's cool. How about your biggest setbacks? Surely there were challenges along the way that really held you back."

Ethan:  "So, whenever I first started dropshipping, I wasn't 18. But now I'm 18. The biggest problem for me was that you have to be 18 years old to sign up for the payments. Probably my biggest setback ever was convincing my parents to help me with that.

When I first started, they weren't requiring you to enter your social security or anything, so I was able to do it myself. But then I had three of my stores lock me out, and I wasn't able to receive any payments. I had around $500 to $1,000 on hold for a few months until I was able to convince my dad to help me out with the business, sign up for my payments, and get that money back."

How to Find Winning Products

Sean: "Can you let us know what type of products you sold if you're comfortable with it or at least the category?"

Ethan: "Yeah, so personally, my favorite criteria for products is that they have a 'wow' factor and a use case. On TikTok, people are just selling cool little gimmick products, and they'll do well for a little bit. But my personal favorite criterion is something that has a shocking factor that's cool but also solves someone's problem. Something that helps people out with their day-to-day lives but also has that viral factor, something that if they're scrolling on TikTok, they can see, and it catches their attention, but it's also useful.

My favorite niche for that is usually beauty products because there's a huge audience to market them to, and there are so many little products like teeth whitening kits. I used to sell this beard filler pen where you draw in your beard, and that's just something that can go viral because people haven't seen anything like it before but also solves people's problems. It's something they can use in their day-to-day lives."

Sean: "And did you only look at trending products? Because I know you mentioned viral products, that's something that you look for as proof of concept. But do you only look at those trending products, or do you look at products that are untapped winners, for example?"

Ethan: "In the past, as a proof of concept, I looked for products with some virality. But now, I feel like I have the eye to know whether a product is viral or not. So, I can kind of just scroll on AliExpress and see what's going to do well. But the main way I would do product research myself is by going on TikTok. You can just type in 'TikTok made me buy it, or My personal favorite keyword is 50% off' on TikTok. You can see all the most viral videos in the last few months of people selling a product for 50% off. It gives you a strict-down keyword list of what's for sale on TikTok.

You're able to scroll through that, see a bunch of our products, and then you can go on Google Trends, see what's trending right there, and find a product that's related to that. Or you can pay for an extension like Mania that does winning product research and ad spying and find things through that as well."

Scaling a Dropshipping Store

Sean: "Let's say your product does well; it is a winner. How do you scale your store?"

Ethan:  "If I have a product that's starting to be a big banger and I want to fully automate it and get it ready, what I'm going to do is go through a 3PL. There are a lot of 3PLs you can use; just search for the best ones local to you. Basically, what you'll do is, instead of using AliExpress, get a good bulk deal for a cheaper price, usually a lot cheaper than AliExpress.

You order like one to three thousand units at a time, and you order and ship all those to your 3PL supplier. That's what's going to ship people the products whenever they order from your store. It'll be automatic. You can hire people for that, and it can be up to a two-day delivery for your China-sourced product."

Sean:"That's totally something we recommend at Salehoo. We always recommend that dropshippers start with dropshipping to test the product and then move on to buying wholesale and working with a 3PL or any other sort of fulfillment center so that they can scale their store, lower their costs for goods sold, and increase their profits.

We have the SaleHoo Dropship product, which allows you to integrate AliExpress products into your Shopify store seamlessly. We also have the SaleHoo Directory, which allows you to find wholesale suppliers from all over the world. We have 8,000+ suppliers worldwide, and they allow you to buy wholesale products locally and get them shipped quickly to yourself or your 3PL or fulfillment center. You can scale your store quite quickly. But what do you think about using third-party suppliers like SaleHoo?"

Ethan: "That's a good thing. I always recommend people go through third-party suppliers, especially once your store becomes successful. The worst thing that could happen to you is your product getting taken off AliExpress or experiencing super big delays and getting a ton of chargebacks. You definitely want to make sure you're able to secure fast shipping times in the long run.

Top Marketing Tips

Sean:"Now let's talk about marketing. What were the most useful things you did to market your store?"

Ethan: "The most useful things I ever did with marketing were probably having good creatives. You always want to make sure you have the best criteria for a winning creative. You want to make sure you have good audio, either by using a good microphone or being in a quiet room.

You want your lighting to be on point. You want to make sure you always show the product within the first second of your video. Whether you're doing organic TikTok marketing or ads, you want to start off the video by immediately showing your product. People's attention spans are so short that they're not going to sit there and wait for you to talk about the product and show what it does. You want to immediately get into it, and that's what's going to keep people's attention."

" Because With the TikTok algorithm, the most important thing is watch time and engagement. If you can get people to watch your video for as long as possible or even loop it over again, that's what's going to cause it to go viral. So you just want to make sure you have good audio and lighting and show your product quickly. That's what's caused my videos to go viral.

It's a big misconception for a lot of people that they just think having a funny or meme video is going to make it blow up. But if you want people to actually buy your product, you have to engage them, whether it's through ads or organic."

Organic vs Ads

Sean:"Do you recommend beginners start with ads, or do you recommend they go organic?"

Ethan: "I always recommend going through organic channels first, such as TikTok marketing, Instagram marketing, and YouTube, just to test the waters. I usually do it for about two weeks to see how it performs. Even if you start seeing a few sales, even just one or two, that's proof of concept that people are wanting to buy your product.

There's no point in spending $500 on ads to test your products for a week and get no sales when it's so easy to use TikTok marketing and Reels to test the waters and get sales. I know people who make $100,000 a month just from organic channels alone. So there's no reason why you shouldn't test that by itself first."

Fixing TikTok shadow bans

Sean: "Right, right. But have you heard of these shadow bans on TikTok? So, when a person's TikTok page gets shadow banned, they can't seem to get out of that shadow ban. How do you work around that?"

Ethan: "I actually just talked to someone today who was getting zero views on all their TikToks. I feel like that could have something to do with it. In my experience, I already have a personal TikTok that's gone viral. But if I make another TikTok, I've noticed that they don't always go viral after that. So, I have a second phone that I use for TikToks.

I just have a complete second phone that I use. It might be expensive for a lot of people, but you can also use your computer, an iPad, or another device you have and create your new TikTok accounts on a different device.

Then, after the fact, you can log in on your other phone. The idea is to create the account on a different device first, so it doesn't think you're making multiple accounts to spam and flood people's feeds on your own phone.

I don't know how true that is, but it's something I've tried, and it's worked for me in the past. So, that's been my advice—to use or at least create the account with a different device."

TikTok Experiments That Worked

Sean: "What type of experiments did you run in terms of marketing the new thing that I've been trying for the last couple of months?"

Ethan: "I've been going live on accounts. So, as soon as I post a new video promoting my product, I'll go live on the TikTok account, showing off the product and getting people to chat in there. If people ask questions, I'll start responding to them and showing more about the products.

I've noticed on other people's TikToks that when you go live, they push your videos to try to get people onto the live stream. So, if you're live as soon as you drop a video, your video is going to get more views because your account is getting pushed. TikTok is trying to utilize their live stream feature and push it to more people. It has always helped out my videos."

"Another thing that I've done is respond to comments. If people comment on your video, you can respond with a video that has the comment on it. You want people to ask questions about your products because if one person has a question, there's probably a hundred more that are thinking the same thing and just didn't comment on it.

So, if you can make videos responding to cool or funny questions and showing off your product, that's something that can go viral. A lot of people are thinking the same thing, and it will answer their question."

Sean: "Yeah, that's definitely something worth testing. Even though I think a lot of dropshippers sometimes don't want to enable comments because they're afraid of the negative feedback, it's something worth testing."

Budget Needed to Start Dropshipping

Sean: "If you were starting over and you only had $500, what would you do? Or would you recommend not even starting with $500?"

Ethan: "I started with zero dollars. I think $500 is more than enough to at least get started. What I would do is have a free course, obviously, in my Discord. You can watch that. You can create a store just like I would. It's a free theme. You can make your entire store for free. It's about $2 for a domain on Namecheap. And then I would order my product on Amazon. It would be like $20. And then one of my favorite platforms is Viral Ecom Ads.

Basically, you can purchase split test packages or UGC packages, and you'll ship off your product to one of their actors, and they'll film a set of videos for like $150. And those are videos that you could run on TikTok marketing ads. So, I would spend probably $20 getting the website set up, ordering the product, then probably $100 to $200 just getting the ads ready, and then spending the remaining $300 on ads, running TikTok marketing ads with that just to test it out."

"Because if you have professional ads, a professional store, and a good product, there should be no reason why, with all of that, it shouldn't be at least somewhat successful. And if it's not, you already have your product in your possession, and you're able to make free videos on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. So, if you use $500, you can at least use the remaining of your income to just make free videos."

How is Dropshipping changing?

Sean: "Last question: how do you think e-commerce will change over the next one to two years, and how do you advise adapting to that change?"

Ethan:  "A lot of people think that dropshipping is oversaturated or that it's going to keep getting saturated, but I personally think buying stuff online is something that's just going to keep growing. I think overall, the e-commerce business is going to keep getting bigger and bigger, just like Amazon. But I think, as you said, you are going to have to adapt to it in a certain way."

"I think how it's going to change in the next few years is that you're going to have to really start focusing on creating a brand. Just these TikTok marketing pages showing off some five-dollar product from China isn't going to work the same. You want custom packaging and a good, useful product, and you want to have it through a 3PL or local warehouse. You want to create a high-quality website, a general store, something that's a true brand, and that's something you can even automate."

"I feel like that's even going to be better for the e-commerce space because it's going to have higher-quality products and faster shipping times. It's just going to be bigger people building brands that they can exit in the future. Because right now, when dropshipping stores, you pump and let it go forever. But if you build a brand, that's something you can exit and sell for a lot of money in the future if you grow it the right way."

Ethan's Challenge for You

Sean: Is there anything you would like to mention about your challenges or any other information you would like to share?

Ethan: Yes, currently I have the Shopify Gauntlet, which you can find more information about in my recent YouTube video or by visiting shopifygauntlet.com. It's a 90-day challenge where anyone can participate for free. You'll be working on a dropshipping store for three months, and the person with the highest profit at the end of the challenge will win $10,000. There are also $5,000 prizes for others who don't achieve as many sales, and we have a raffle with $500 for 20 people. We are sponsored by three companies: Media, Zendrop, and Viral Ecom Ads, which are providing the funding for this challenge. It's a fun game to get paid for doing dropshipping and starting a business. If you've been on the fence, I think it's a great opportunity. I'm excited for it to begin!

Sean: Thank you for accepting the interview. I'm sure our viewers will gain valuable insights from your experiences. Have A great day