In this article, we interview eCommerce entrepreneur,Peter Pru on how he built a million dollar eCommerce subscription business that he scaled with the correct sales funnels and the power of subscription models. He reveals the blueprint to these funnels while also talking about his biggest successes and challenges during the journey. Watch the full video especially if you're interested on how to transition your business into a consistent money generating subscription business!
Sean: “In today's video, we get to interview a seven-figure dropshipper, Peter Pru, and he's going to give us some insights on how to start and scale dropshipping stores. Peter, thanks for accepting the interview.”
Peter: "Yeah, absolutely. I'm happy to be on, and hopefully, I can share some insights on the 10-plus years we've been doing eCommerce. For those people just getting started and those who might be struggling to scale, so thanks for having me.”
Sean: First, can you give us a bit of background on your eCommerce journey?
Peter’s eCommerce journey from the beginning
Peter: "Yeah, I'll try to make this really, really brief because it's been, you know, quite the journey. Basically, got started with the whole 'make money online' space about 13 years ago when I was in college. My roommate at the time was doing affiliate marketing. Basically, we were doing these top 10 blog posts and lists, ranking them on Google putting our affiliate links in them, and making commissions, making about like two to three hundred dollars a week. And in college, that was a lot of money for us. Ended up graduating college, but I still had to go work full-time. I was still doing the affiliate marketing on the side to make a few hundred bucks a week, but it wasn't enough, obviously, to be able to do this full-time. And around that time, I learned about Amazon.
And Amazon was really my first kind of step into eCommerce, specifically selling my own physical products. To make a long story short, over the next year, maybe two or three years, I built an Amazon business that was doing between eighty thousand dollars a month and a hundred thousand dollars per month. I thought I was the king of the world. I was like, 'This is absolutely incredible. I finally figured out this entrepreneurship thing.' However, a competitor came on our listing at the time and said, 'Hey, we're infringing on patents that they have,' and there were no patents at all, right? But the thing about Amazon is they're not going to get caught up in legal battles between sellers. They shut my account down, pulled all my listings, suppressed all of them, and they made the sellers then cash it out and figure it out, which took us almost a year just to get our account back, to prove that there were no patents and that this was just purely a malicious attack on our company.
So their listings now get pushed to make sales, and it really felt like a kind of depressed hole in my life during that time. Because it's like you lose something that you've worked so hard towards. But I learned a really valuable lesson I think is very valuable for everyone listening. When you're selling on Amazon, you're only building Amazon's business. You're not getting customers. Like, there was no way for me to contact my customers, let them know what happened. The business was literally shut down. There was nothing else. I didn't have my own website or funnels or anything like that back then.
And at that time, probably a year or so went past, or I kind of was just like, you know, I just got into a rut. I just wasn't really starting anything, and it just kind of, you know, had all my money tied up in this Amazon business. All there was a mess with all the inventory that was stored with Amazon. It was a whole, whole mess. But then I started getting into, you know, building my own websites, and my own stores, I started a subscription box business in the fishing space. I was selling a subscription for fishing lures on the front end. A lot of you guys probably know Dollar Shave Club and BarkBox; they sell a subscription on the front end of their offers, and I was like, 'I'm gonna do the same, that's awesome. I want recurring money.' Now, the problem with the subscription box business, and this is what I quickly found out, is a lot of these companies because people don't like being subscribed to things, right? It's difficult. It's difficult to sell subscriptions because people don't want... It's like another bill. Nobody wants to pay their bills, right?
What I realized at that time was that I had to basically give away my first or first-month box for free. I was doing like a five-dollar introductory box, you know, and I was losing money. You see Dollar Shave Club, and BarkBox doing the same things, like, 'Hey, get the first month for, you know, ten dollars.' They're losing money there after product costs, and shipping costs. They're not making money. They just know that they're delaying gratification until like month six, seven, where they're then recouping their money, and now they're making money because they know what their churn rates are and all that, right?
So I was like, 'I'm gonna do the same strategy,' but I didn't understand how that worked, and I was losing a ton of money. And this works for these big subscription box businesses because they have a lot of money. They usually have some investors for their venture-backed already, so they can withstand basically losing a ton of money for months on end. But the small guy, really, it's tough for. And I know I'm kind of ranting…
But I think this will be valuable to everybody. And then at that point, I started learning about funnels. I was in a mastermind at that time. I never understood what a sales funnel was. I was like, 'That was so foreign to me. I had no idea what direct response marketing was.' I was just that run-of-the-mill eCommerce seller, loading a product on a store, selling it on a store, selling the subscription, right? Just basic stuff. But when I learned about funnels and stuff, it was like, 'I can sell the same products, but I'm just selling them differently.' So again, lots of testing during this phase of learning funnels, but what really blew us up to get to that seven-figure level? At that time, for that business, instead of selling the subscription on the front end, we started running free plus shipping offers and deep discount funnels. We were saying, 'Hey, get this premium fishing lure completely for free, just pay a small shipping fee so we can at least cover our initial costs on the front end.' Then we would send them through a funnel, right? There are one-click upsells, one-click down sells, and the key, the one-click subscription. So now, we were getting basically free monthly subscribers. Previously, we were paying $40, and $50 to get that monthly subscriber. Now we were breaking even on the front-end product. We were doing free plus shipping on fishing lures, and then we made our money back through the average cart value and lifetime value through the upsells. Plus, now we're getting a free monthly subscriber if they join the subscription plan. It was just a different methodology of selling online. That's when things really, really took off.
I was in a subscription box mastermind at the time, and I was showing pictures from our warehouse every month. I was like, 'Look at the stacks of boxes going out every single month.' They were like, 'What the hell did you do?' Because I was there when I only had like 50 subscribers, showing them 50 boxes. And then there were like 600 every month, a thousand, fifteen hundred, three thousand. It was just blowing up really, really quickly. I was sharing them, you know, just in that group. I was like, 'Let me show you.' And I was just using YouTube as a place to upload some tutorial videos of how I was doing funnels. You could look at these to this day. They're not polished or anything. I was just in a mastermind sharing it. One of the guys was like, 'Hey, you know what, man? Just do this for me. Just do this for me.' And he was like, 'I'll give you 500 bucks.' I was like, 'Really? You'll give me 500 bucks to build a funnel for you?' I already loved doing it. That's kind of how eCom Empire Builders started about like six or seven years ago now. Sorry for the rant, but that's kind of condensing 13 years down into a few minutes.”
Sean: “Oh yeah, no worries. So eCom Empire Builders is more like a community, would you say?”
Peter: “So it started as a community in the beginning, and then we kind of sold courses and stuff because people were asking because it's different. But we kind of stopped doing the courses and stuff like that. We're more of an agency now, I hate to say that, but we are. We build funnels, we manage ads, we manage social media, and we manage your email marketing. Pretty much a one-stop shop for all things eCommerce as far as marketing is related. And that's kind of where our entire model has gone for eCom Empire Builders."
Where Peter is at now in eCommerce
Sean: "Oh, perfect, perfect. Yeah, I'll leave a link over here, guys. You can check out eCom Empire Builders if you want after you finish this video.
Peter, do you still continue doing that subscription box business, or have you transitioned away from doing it?"
Peter: "Yeah, so that one I kind of had to transition away from. There's a long story over here that I can't get into right now. I ended up starting another subscription box fishing business, but the first one that had hit seven figures, you know, I had some bad business partners at the time. Yeah, I can rant about business partners, you know, they've over-promised, under-delivered. I was still doing pretty much all of the work in it. So, I shifted my role and I kind of abandoned them. I started another fishing business; fishing is my passion. That's usually where I recommend people start with their business. I always loved doing it as a kid.
So, I started up another fishing business that I grew to the seven-figure level. Not currently running it right now because we're heavily involved in our supplement company that we're running. There are great margins in the supplement business. It really shifted probably six, or seven years ago. During that time, eCommerce Empire Builders started to focus more on supplements, as opposed to fishing lures."
His biggest successes over the years
Sean: "Could you tell us what your biggest months were and what your biggest successes looked like?"
Peter: "Yeah, so our biggest successes as far as eCommerce are concerned or our biggest months actually, I might say. I'll tell this story; this is a good story. I think it will help people. We did probably $130,000 in one week, which was with one single product. And I want to kind of hit on this: why you want to be passionate and enjoy your niche. So basically, what happened a few years ago was I was in these Facebook groups. I was always in the groups, just lurking. I wasn't posting, but I was watching. What are my people buying? Because those are your customers in these Facebook groups. They're congregating. And there was this fishing lure that came out. It was basically like a frog, but it had these things on the back of it, and then it had this other thing on the front of it that spun on top of the water. Nobody was selling something like this, ever.
One of the guys posted, he said, 'Where can I get this fishing lure? One of my friends had one, and he made it.' This guy made this fishing lure, so nobody could get it. And I took this picture, and people were freaking out about it. They were in the comments, like, 'Where do I buy them? Where do I buy them?' There were thousands of likes on this. It was going viral in the Bass Fishing World.
So I sent a picture to my supplier, and he was able to make it for me. And this thing just absolutely took off. We did a test order of it for like a thousand units, just to make sure it sold. I don't remember the exact number of units we sold, but I think of just that product, at least a hundred thousand units over the lifespan of that product. I ended up getting knocked off a ton by other competitors and stuff. It's a very popular product even to this day. But that week was just the most insane week of business that we've really ever had for one single product."
The biggest challenges he faced (and how he overcame them)
Sean: "Amazing. How about the challenges that you had when selling that type of product or even other products that kind of beginners or even sort of intermediate eCommerce entrepreneurs can expect?"
Peter: "Yeah, when you're getting into it, it's just logistics at that point. We didn't expect, you never expect to sell that much, so there were a lot of emails that we had to send out to customers because we kept selling out of it over and over and over again. So we would have, there was a lot of customer service. We're just honest with people. A lot of people drop ship, beginner dropshippers, you know, they're slow shipping times, all the common stuff. But just be honest with your customers. We were telling them, 'Hey, like, hey, your lures and your fishing stuff is on the way, but there are going to be some delays.'
One thing that always worked for us is we would show the behind-the-scenes of the product being made. I can't tell you why it works, but it works so well. People are more willing to wait for their products if you show them behind the scenes of it actually being made. Be like, 'Hey, your product is now in production here. I wanted to show you some pictures of our factory.' You can get all this stuff from your supplier as well.
So, those were the biggest challenges. Logistics, obviously, sales was not an issue there. It was just mainly just logistics and production."
So should you start dropshipping?
Sean: "Right, yeah, you mentioned logistics and production being a major hurdle. So, would you recommend that people start with dropshipping in the beginning to get started with eCommerce, or do you recommend they buy products in bulk?"
Peter: "Yeah, I wouldn't do inventory unless you kind of understand what you're doing, right? Because you don't want to risk it. Dropshipping is nice because it is an easy business model. All it really takes is your time and a little bit of money. It really isn't an expensive business model to start. That's why so many people start it and so many people fail at it.
I would recommend doing something like SaleHoo. There are so many different suppliers that you can use as your dropshipping source. Personally, right now, we don't really source much inventory, even for our supplements. We can do them on demand. It's not like we have to buy inventory. I hate risks like that personally because you don't know necessarily how well a product is going to continue to sell. You can look at Google Trends and past data from your business, but you don't know for 100% certainty that it's going to continue to sell. So, everything right now, we really heavily leverage the dropshipping model. We manage hundreds of client stores for them, pretty much all dropshipping related, that we focus on with them."
Sean: "Actually, with SaleHoo, we recommend that dropshippers or eCommerce entrepreneurs start with dropshipping just to test the market. Once they need to scale, then they can transition into buying wholesale. You want to make sure there's that proof of concept that the product you want to sell is something that is in demand. We have a few products for SaleHoo dropship to allow you to integrate pre-vetted AliExpress suppliers' products into your Shopify store. When you're ready to scale, you can proceed with the SaleHoo directory, which has wholesale suppliers. We have 8,000+ pre-vetted wholesale suppliers from all over the world. So, you can find a local wholesale supplier to you, get fast shipping times, get your product to your warehouse or your 3PL, and have it shipped quickly to customers. You can even lower your cost of goods sold and increase your profits by buying in bulk with SaleHoo."
What he thinks about SaleHoo
Peter: "Yeah, and I actually have used SaleHoo in the past. I love the directory side of it because, again, that's the model that we also recommend as well, as you grow your business skills. And as you want to do custom stuff, custom branding, things like that, you're going to want to shift into working with a supplier directly. Right? I know it's funny when I was using SaleHoo, a lot of the suppliers that I used for my fishing business, in the directory, were in there. Like, it was funny, they were actually in there as well. So, it is a great tool, especially for somebody that's just getting started. The progression, right? Because there is a progression. You're starting with, you know, the just the on-demand kind of just normal dropshipping model, figuring out who your winners are. And then you want to add some character to your brand and start really focusing on the brand. And that's when you could start shifting into, you know, buying some inventory."
How to find winning products
Sean: "How does a dropshipper differentiate between what's a good product to sell and a bad product to sell? How would you go about doing your product research, figuring out whether it's something you can or cannot profit from?"
Peter: "Yeah, I mean, there's so many tools right now. I'm not going to mention any paid ones, but you can use tools like Facebook Ads Library, TikTok Creative Center. You can use a lot of those tools to see. As a beginner, I'd say this: if you're a veteran and you kind of have a gut feeling that this product will work, but you're not seeing anybody selling it, go for it. Because you kind of understand your niche a bit better. It's like me with that fishing lure. I had no idea, but I had no sales data to back up my decision that this was going to work, besides a bunch of likes and comments onto a Facebook post, right?
But yeah, I would recommend going and seeing on short-form content like TikTok and Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and see which ones are getting a ton of engagement socially. That's usually a good indicator of a product that should sell well. That's what I want, some sort of data to back up the decision."
How to test a product to see if you should scale it
Sean: "Right, and once they found the product, how do they go about testing it? So, let's talk about testing and scaling. How will they go first about testing the product?"
Peter: “Yeah, so personally, we use a software platform called storefunnels.net that we've developed. It combines stores and funnels because every eCommerce business needs funnels. Even Shopify released articles stating that every eCommerce store needs sales funnels, but it's very expensive to build on their platform.
For product testing, if you have an email list already of non-buyers, this is key – non-buyers. You could do a simple product page promotion, like 50% off or free plus shipping, just something simple. Send it to them. Now, the reason we're sending it to non-customers is that if you send it to your customers, of course, they're going to buy. They're your customers. The second yes is way easier. The first yes is the hardest. So, usually, we like to test on our email list of non-customers to see if this product will get that person over the edge to finally become a customer.
That's where we usually like to start. If you're a beginner with no list, no assets, no nothing, then yeah, you kind of have to put some money behind something. If you're on a budget, you can go with influencer shout-out pages. They work well. I've done a lot of challenges on our YouTube channel doing that and had some decent success. It's harder to scale, but you can scale it, just harder due to the logistics of communicating with all the influencers and such.
Or you could go with TikTok ads, Instagram reels, or YouTube shorts. As a beginner, I'd recommend these platforms because they involve short-form content. It's punchier and user-generated content (UGC) style ads have been really well and are probably going to be working really well for a while.”
How to scale with sales funnels and subscriptions
Sean: "Right, and then once they've found out that a product is a winner because it's been getting a lot of sales and gaining traction, and people are buying it, how do they go about scaling their store? What are the steps you would advise?
Peter: "Yeah, so you need to have a good foundation in place. Number one, and you'll hear lots of different things from lots of different people - this is just my recommendation - you need to make sure you have a proper sales funnel in place. All your cold traffic needs to go to a funnel, not a product page. If you're sending them to a product page, you only really get one touchpoint, maybe two. Think about this, right? When they go to a Shopify store, you send them to a product page, right? They have to click 'add to cart,' then they have to go to the checkout page, and they have to fill out their shipping information, then they have to fill out their billing information, and click 'complete order.' There are like six or seven buttons that they have to click to buy. With a funnel, it's two, right? I send them to a funnel landing page where I show them one specific offer, and I ask them for their email address and phone number. I've now created an asset.
I can follow up with this person, text, email, right? Have their name, I can put them through different email automations on the backend and text automations on the backend. Then they go to the order form checkout page. This is where you will present them an opportunity to purchase. Whether they buy or not, though, you've already got an asset in your business. So we do quantity break discounts for the product. Always do quantity break discounts. We always do one, two, four, six, eight. It works amazingly. Put a nice highlighted box around the four options; you will immediately make more money that way it just works. Order bumps, pre-purchase upsell, it's like a little checkbox that they would click to add in. And then obviously proper upsell and downsell sequences. You could split-test this; I always like to have at least two upsells. If your product leans towards being more of a consumable or something they need more of, I recommend selling more of the same thing that they just bought on the front end. A lot of people make this mistake and they often ask, 'Why would I sell them more of what they just bought?' Because that's what they're sold on. They saw an ad for a specific offer; sell them that offer and then sell them more of it. That's what's already sold on. If you introduce a whole new product in your upsells, you now need to restart the selling process over again. They're already sold on this, so sell them that on your upsell. So I usually like to do quantity break discounts on the first two upsells, down-sell sequences, and then we'll do the subscription upsell. You need to have a subscription in the business, right? So you're not starting every month at zero. It's a terrible place to be because then you're just fighting for new customers over and over again. Like that's not what you want to do.
Imagine I sleep so much better at night knowing that we have rebuilds coming in each and every single month. So whether it's a slow month or not, I don't really care because I'm going to be making money anyway, right? So it helps your business tremendously having your subscription in it as well. You need a proper sales funnel, obviously scaling. Whatever your ad platform of choice is, try to maximize it the best you can. I usually recommend before going on to another platform is of choice, try to maximize it the best you can. I usually recommend before going on to another platform, at least be spending close to a hundred thousand dollars a month on that platform. You could probably start looking at different ones. If you want to just do retargeting, right? So if you're selling on Facebook, right, you could start... You could kind of toss Instagram in there as well. And the reason I say that is because if you go in there and you're not... if you haven't hired somebody around your ads, which I definitely recommend like that's a scaling key. Don't try to do all these ads yourself as a CEO, right? Like, what CEO is running their own ads? No one. And today, that's not happening. Um, but yeah, you, I do recommend once you start getting closer to 50 to 100,000 per month in ad spend, you can start looking at different platforms and, more importantly, hiring somebody to manage your ads. Our ads managers that we have here, they live and breathe this stuff. How are you going to compete against them that are constantly taking courses, training, everything, right? These ads managers all day, because that's what they're passionate about. Absolutely critical. Um, so yeah, there's the answer. I know I kind of went on a little... I don't know. The automation of this is key. Like me personally, I don't do much every single day. My focus is ideas. I come up with ideas and then if an idea takes me to actually be the one to do it, I won't do it, right? I need to be able to have people or, you know, different AI tools that we're using to be able to do this stuff, right? Because you're the CEO. You need to free up your time. Um, and not be focused in on, like, the nitty-gritty details of working in your business.
This is a concept that you're gonna have to grow into. I, you know, everybody's read like The E-Myth and heard, right? Don't work, you know, in your business, work on it. Terrible advice for a beginner because you have to work in your business. Really, only the last, like, six, seven years that I've really started working on my business because I had the money to be able to hire people. Like, you don't have the money as a beginner to hire people to do all these ins and outs of your business, right? Especially good people at that. So, um, that's a key to scaling. For me, it's ideas. I love coming up with new ideas and then seeing that come to fruition and building teams around an idea and watching them execute and just advising. That's what you should be doing as a CEO anyway. You should really just be the one kind of making sure the project is going according, kind of, to your vision."
Sean: "Yeah, so that's the end of this interview Peter, yeah, we really appreciate it, um, and I think our viewers would have gotten a lot of value from this interview. And just want to say thank you again for hopping on the interview. Is there anything you want to mention?"
Peter: "No challenges right now. Again, a lot of our stuff is just AI-related. If you guys want to check out some of the other things we're doing, you know, we buy and sell eCommerce businesses, we have software, we have training. You can check it out at peterpru.com or check out eCommerce Empire Builders. I think especially if you want to learn more about funnels for eCommerce, that's what we've been talking about on our channel for basically ever. Just straight-to-the-point content, you know, no Lambos, just occasionally, but yeah, it's there to help you guys. So go check it out, and I'm thankful that you had me on this podcast, and I'm hoping I can shed some value with everybody."