How a New York entrepreneur built her global business from scratch by selling globally on Amazon
Elena Castañeda, CEO and Founder of Bling Jewelry, built her jewelry company by selling globally on Amazon. Bling Jewelry sells on Amazon across North America, Europe, Japan, and China. “We were able to double our sales selling internationally,” Elena says. The New York-based entrepreneur began selling on Amazon.com in North America before expanding to other marketplaces. “I was motivated to sell internationally on Amazon because they made it very easy,” she explains. “They have an amazing platform, they give you the information, they give you all the tools.“
As of November 2016, Elena’s business had grown year to date 160% in Japan and 70% in Europe. “We were able to create great brand awareness selling internationally on Amazon,” she explains. “Without [Amazon], we probably would have never ever even tried international sales.”
Today, thousands of Amazon shoppers around the world are familiar with Bling Jewelry, the multimillion-dollar online retailer of affordable, high-quality jewelry. But few would guess the inspiration for the company’s founding came from gingerbread houses.
Back in 2000, Elena Castañeda, Founder and CEO of Bling Jewelry and a serial entrepreneur, was trying her luck in the bakery business. Although she ended up selling the business to return to her lifelong interest in jewelry, one experience would have a major effect on her future business strategy. “With $50 in ad spend, we sold $50,000 worth of gingerbread houses within six weeks,” explains Elena. From that moment on, she was hooked on internet retail.
“I started in my one-bedroom apartment in New York, and I built Bling Jewelry into this amazing company on Amazon,” she gushes. Today, her company sells across 10 Amazon marketplaces spanning North America, Europe, and Asia.
We couldn’t have done international sales without Amazon… They made it very easy.
Going global: from one Amazon marketplace to ten
After Bling began selling in the US on Amazon.com in 2008, it soon expanded to the UK in 2010. Elena learned quickly that selling internationally poses many challenges versus selling domestically. “There’s a lot you really have to think about before jumping into these markets,” Elena notes, including currencies, languages, returns, shipping and logistics, and customer service.
“I was motivated to sell internationally on Amazon because they made it very easy,” Elena explains. “They have an amazing platform, they give you the information, they give you all the tools. We were very familiar with the US platform, so it was an easy transition.”
“We couldn’t have done international sales without Amazon,” she continues. “Building your own platform is basically out of the question, so we decided: Why not try it? It’s not a big investment and the returns are well worth it. We doubled our sales selling internationally.”
After the UK, Bling’s international expansion accelerated, launching in Canada in 2013, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Japan in 2014, and China and Mexico in 2016, with plans to launch in India in 2017.
Finding European tax guidance through the Solution Provider Network
Before launching in Europe, Elena was sure to do her due diligence. She reviewed Amazon Global Selling’s Solution Provider Network, which connects sellers to experienced third-party experts in areas ranging from international tax and shipping to translations and advertising optimization. “We feel very comfortable choosing Amazon’s resources because we know that they vet these people fully," she says.
Regarding the tax consultant she sourced via the Solution Provider Network, Elena remarks: “They’ve been helpful in navigating all the different tax regulations in all the different European countries. They’ve really helped us to move to the next level with our international sales."
Overcoming international challenges with AGS tools
Bling uses a variety of Amazon tools that make selling internationally simpler and easier. These tools range from account management and listings translation to international logistics and promotion. One important tool for its success in Europe is Pan-European Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
, which simplifies its international shipping and logistics process for its European fulfillment.
“Pan-European FBA is an incredible resource,” Elena says. “We’re able to ship everything into one warehouse as opposed to five different countries. It’s really streamlined the process for us and has made managing our inventory simpler and more efficient.”
Fast growth across multiple regions
While Bling Jewelry, like many Amazon sellers, first established itself on Amazon.com, international sales are what have enabled its sustained rapid growth.
“Our international sales equal our US sales, when we exclude China,” Elena explains. “We have seen year to date 160% growth in Japan, and in the European countries we have seen a 70% growth year to date.”
Elena has some simple advice for those sellers considering selling internationally: “Do it! It’s well worth it.” However, she lays out a variety of steps for those first entering a new market:
Elena’s tips for entering a new market
- Do your homework.
- Go through the Amazon provider list.
- Pick your best-selling products.
- Research what’s selling on Amazon in international countries, and see if your product is competitive.
- List, but list slowly. Test the logistics. Make sure you’re in compliance.
We’re really positive and gung-ho on selling internationally. It’s been fabulous.