cargo ship leaving port

Importing products from China to America

If you're new to importing, Amazon FBA, or white-labeling, then you're in luck! Below is a simple guide for learning how to import products (white-labeled or otherwise) into America. By reading this, I hope to save you and your company time, stress, and money. Learn from my mistakes!

Opening notes

  • Fair warning: this article is a bit dry and technical 
  • This post is NOT a comprehensive guide to importing
  • For my example, I am exporting from China and importing to America
  • I took a relatively hands-off approach. So, while the article is widely applicable, it doesn't dive into the intricacies of international shipping.

cargo ship leaving portImporting: The shipping headache

International shipping is a gift that just keeps on giving. A more relevant metaphor is a box that always has another box inside. It's like cardboard Matryoshka dolls!

On the surface, shipping seems straightforward. "How much will it cost to send my product from A to B? Ok, done."

If only it were that simple! There are 5 main reasons that importing isn't so simple: 

  1. Amazon has all sorts of requirements for carton sizes
    • Example: no box side can exceed 25"
  2. Amazon has all sorts of requirements for importing directly to their warehouses
    • Example: Amazon can be the Ultimate Consignee but not the Importer of Record 
  3. Amazon has all sorts of requirements for how less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments be handled 
    • Example: your freight forwarder must schedule an appointment with Amazon prior to arrival 
  4. Freight forwarding options (and where your liability starts for each forwarding option) 
    • The pros and cons of EXW vs. FOB vs. DDB etc (see link above for differences)
  5. Coordination and communication
    • It's unlikely that the factory knows all this information
    • The requirements must be clearly communicated to the factory and freight forwarders
    • The process needs to be coordinated between the factory, the freight forwarders, Customs, and Amazon, or else your products might be rejected anywhere along the route and sent back to China. Bye bye, $2,000!

How to import products

I'll try to briefly summarize the steps you can take on importing your first product.

Note: the number of steps you must handle depends on the forwarding method you chose. I don't want to mess up my first few imports, so I'm taking a relatively hands-off approach. For more specific and thorough information, Google will be your ultimate savior. 

  1. Know Amazon's requirements
  2. Communicate these requirements to your factory
  3. Make sure they can handle it
  4. If they can, find out how many cartons and pallets your factory will use
  5. Convey this information to your freight forwarder
    • At the same time, ask the factory to get a quote from their preferred freight forwarder
    • Make sure to ask the forwarding method (EXW, FOB, DDP, etc)
    • Keep track of all this info 
  6. Compare freight forwarders
    • Remember: compare forwarder 1's FOB to forwarder 2's FOB, NOT to forwarder 2's DDP
  7. Decide whether you want to use the factory's forwarder or your own 
  8. Make sure you have all the paperwork for Customs in order (example: your company or forwarder has a bond)
    • Depending on the forwarding method, make sure you know what will happen when your product arrives at Customs 
    • This is where your level of involvement can change dramatically. For example:
      • With DDP, you're paying your forwarder to handle basically everything
      • With FOB, you resume responsibility the moment your products are at the port in CHINA (not America)
      • With CFR, you jump in when the shipment arrives in America
    • Example of differences
      • If you're doing a more hands-on approach (like FOB), you must alert Customs that your product is coming "at least 24 hours PRIOR to the vessel’s departure from origin through Importer Security Filing (ISF)"
      • If you're doing a more hands-off approach (like DDP), you do nothing
  9. Make sure you have an appointment set up with Amazon 
    1. Depending on your forwarder, you may or may not do this part on your own 

Closing notes

  • It's VERY important to know what method your forwarder is using. Not only will it affect your shipping price, but it will affect your level of involvement. 
  • There are MANY potential steps missing from this article
    • Example: if you chose FOB, this article doesn't tell you how to handle your freight once it arrives in America
  • I'll continually update this article as I learn more 

By this time in July, I hope that my products are already on a cargo ship bound for America! Check back on August 1st to see how the project is progressing. Think you'll forget? Sign up to receive 1 short weekly update!


international trade cargo ship

June Recap: White-labeling and Importing

international trade cargo shipJune was an incredibly busy month. I was wholly absorbed in its tasks. That said, it was also an admittedly boring month. After all, who wants to spend a week learning about crate sizes and pallet placements?! Thankfully, there's a silver lining to June: now that I know these things, the next time will be exponentially easier and unimaginably faster. In the future, an hour of emailing will accomplish what took me 10 days to learn by trial and error. 

January to June

Through these first 6 months, I've learned a few very important lessons: 

  • This learning curve is steep, it flattens out pretty quickly, and there are only a couple major spikes along the way 
  • I wasted too much time researching products because I didn't have enough capital to take more frequent risks
  • Taking baby steps (see April recap: First FBA Success, Second Phase) is comfortable, but ultimately unnecessary. If you know where you want to be, then do your due diligence and take the leap.

Reference articles

The entire month of June revolved around getting my first branded (white-labeled) product off the ground and shipped. Instead of my usual post dedicated to summarizing the month, I've decided to link to 2 articles that detail the overarching themes of June.

  1. A general description about white-labeling products: what they are and how you can get started
  2. Importing, shipping, and freight forwarders: 1 particular issue I've had in the white-labeling process

Have any questions about white-labeling or importing? Add your comments below!


5 simple productivity hacks

5 Simple Productivity Hacks

Now that you understand how to use "productive chunks" you're ready to take your productivity to the next level!

Mnemonics to the rescue: A short guide to easy productivity hacks

D.E.T.E.R. distractions and bad habits by always using these 5 simple tricks. Use them to boost your productivity and gain hours of fun time with friends, the free time needed to plan your first business, or cuddling time with your Corgi. You create the time, you choose how to use it! 

5 productivity hacks infographic

Using your Do Not Disturb mode is your new secret weapon. Most smartphones have this feature pre-installed. Turning it on stops your phone from ringing, vibrating, and lighting up. Macs also have this feature by default. Need to get some work done? Activate this mode and crank out an hour of pure work. Control your phone; don't let it control you! Pro tip: set your phone to automatically enter this mode around bedtime.

Using earplugs will change your life. Crying baby on an airplane? Earplugs. Noisy coworkers yammering away all day long? Earplugs. Have a problem in life? Earplugs! Pro tip: buying in bulk is much cheaper. 

Using a timer is a great way to divide up your tasks and stay on track. My personal recipe for success? 50 minutes of work followed by 10 minutes of rest. Don't think you can get away with a 10 minute break? You can now that you're getting your work done in less time! Pro tip: using voice assistants (like Siri) is quick and easy.

Using your energy wisely is a critical but often overlooked component of increasing productivity. First, work hardest during the parts of the day where you're naturally more productive. I'm a morning person, so I cram most of my productive chunks in before lunch. Second, work in the place you feel most productive. Third, if you know something is going to wreck your chunk, then reschedule it. It's often better to save it for a time with less intrusions. If you're going to do it, do it right! Pro tip: if you can, do your productive chunks in the same place each time.

Using your reminders app will help you remember what has to be finished and when. Check and make sure you have one installed. If you don't, download a free one. Pro tip: use 1 list for repeating items (like "update financial records" every Friday afternoon) and a different list for one-time tasks (like "respond to Cathy's quote"). 

An example of my productive chunk 

I can learn new vocabulary better in the morning, so I always schedule my Chinese review early. This is one way I use my energy wisely. At 7:45am, my phone reminded me that I have 15 minutes before I should begin. I grabbed a glass of water and headed to my desk. I lazily checked my email and Facebook for a few minutes. I put in my earplugs, set my timer for 50 minutes, and put my phone on Do Not Disturb mode. I did only one thing for 50 minutes: focus on Chinese vocabulary. 

At 8:50, I took out my earplugs, stood up to stretch my legs, refilled my glass of water, and relaxed for the next 10 minutes. 

Productivity Challenge

Give it a try! Choose a good time and a good place, pop in some earplugs, set your timer, and turn on Do Not Disturb mode. Try it a few times and see if it helps. Share your experience in the comments below!



hour glass with red sand

Hack Your Routine: Productive Chunks

Want to catch up on the latest season of Orange Is the New Black but can't find the time? Fear no more! 

Strained mom juggling an online business and two kids? I've got your back. Student buried nose-deep in his books? Absolutely! 9-to-5er trying to balance work duties and Facebook Messenger? You bet!

Whether you have full autonomy over your schedule or not, you can achieve greater efficiency and free up more time to do what you enjoy! 

"Productive chunks"

You can use "productive chunks" to get more work done in less time. What can you do with your extra time? Anything you want! 

"Productive chunks" are times that you will designate for working with MAXIMUM efficiency.

"Unproductive chunks" will be any other time (even if you're working).

hour glass with red sandExamples

Example 1:

Let's say you spend an hour talking on the phone, cleaning up the house, occasionally responding to emails, stirring tonight's chili, texting coworkers about tomorrow's meeting, listening to music, and organizing your work papers. Which kind of chunk is it?

Perhaps to your surprise, this would be an "unproductive chunk." 

While you might have felt productive, in all likelihood you probably wasted a lot of time and energy. In the end, you gave your friend only 1/2 your attention, the house still isn't clean, you have misspelled words in your emails, the juice in the chili is almost dried up, you don't remember what your coworkers said about the meeting, the music started to give you a headache, and your papers are anything but orderly.

If you had focused on just one of those things, you would've done it faster, better, and been less mentally exhausted at the end. Multi-tasking and being productive are FAR from being the same thing. 

Example 2:

Let's say that it's 10am (your most energetic hour) and your phone dings to remind you about tomorrow's presentation. You decide to work on it from 10:15 to 11 o'clock. You grab your coffee and head to your home office. Sitting down, you set a timer for 45 minutes and then put your phone on silent. For these 45 minutes, you will focus on 1 thing: preparing your speech for tomorrow's meeting. When the timer is up, you're free to go! Take a short rest and then decide what your next chunk will be. 

Which do you think led to a better result? Which will leave you tired at the end of the day? 

A challenge

Now that you have a basic idea about "chunking times," I want to challenge you to try it. Choose 1 task that takes about 1 hour to complete. Focus solely on that task, doing whatever you can to eliminate distractions and maximize efficiency. 

Once completed, add your comments below! How did it go? What was difficult about it? Did you finish the task? 

Read on learn some simple hacks that can help you maximize your productive chunks!

Orange Is the New Black, here we come!

cast of orange is the new black


Energy to Succeed: How I Do It

laptop on deskDays of Business and Nights of Study

I'm quickly approaching the halfway point of my year-long project. My days are increasingly full (but NOT busy). 10-hour days are the norm and 12-hour days are totally acceptable. I'm drawing closer to my first branded product each day, and the inquiries, negotiations, and research are picking up in proportion to the added complexity. 

Daily business habits

As I mentioned, my schedule is "full" but not "busy," and, "Not only am I doing whatever building my company directly entails, but I'm also studying Chinese, reviewing Japanese and Spanish, helping my mom fix up her house to sell, traveling, and taking classes on finance, importing, photoshop, marketing, web design and Excel (just to name a few)."

The fact that I'm not "busy" is particularly obvious in my level physical inactivity. 90% of my work time is spent quietly at my desk, working through the tasks and minutiae of the day, planning my next move, and thinking up ways to capitalize on my business ventures. But it's not just work. Need to study Chinese? Language exchange via Skype. Have to replenish inventory? Check Amazon and then order more on Alibaba. Got to write a new post? Take care of that at 1:15. My computer is my company's lifeline; I rarely leave my house, hardly use my car, and spend virtually no money outside of necessities and travel. Driving costs time, and basically everything except the library costs money. A shoestring budget makes for an interesting business companion!

blue skies

A bit of insight

After reading those few paragraphs and my article about not being busy, you may ask, with tears ready to roll down your confused face, "But why punish yourself like this?! "Don't you want to have some fun in life?!" 

Before we get into the thick of this subject, there are some things you should know about me. First and foremost, I'm a very optimistic person. Not the kind of "beaming-sunshine-light-up-a-room-with-smileful-energy" kind of optimism, but rather the optimism that comes from recognizing a simple fact: "I've made it this far intact and I'm fine. QED: life is good!"

Second, I can have a fantastic amount of focus. Before you get too far into thinking that I have some preternatural ability to block out distractions and work on a task with laser-focused attention, I must confess that my attention span isn't any longer than yours. Rather, I've learned through trial and error what works for me (e.g. setting my phone to "Do Not Disturb") and how to use it to my advantage (e.g. use this mode during all working hours). Case in point: if I'm bored, I will NOT pay attention. Won't happen. End of story. 

Third, I DO enjoy this! Dedication, focus, and pursuing an interest are interconnection and self-reinforcing. The more you do it, the better you become at it, so the more you want to continue doing it. I never feel like I'm suffering from this venture. Besides, if it's were so terrible, I could walk away at any minute. No one is holding a gun to my head! 

The nitty gritty: penchants, personality, and the past

"That's all good and well," you may say, but still wonder, "Where does all your energy come from?!"

I'll be the first to admit that I'm about as far away from the "active, outgoing, mega-socializing ball of energy" that people often associate with entrepreneurs. In fact, I'm quite possibly the polar opposite; I'm usually so relaxed that I can fall asleep anywhere and anytime in under 5 minutes. At my most stressed times, you might still need a doctor to check my pulse to make sure my heart is still beating! 

I could go on all day about this, but here are a few of the reasons I think I can handle this workload with ease:

  1. Truth be told, I've had a pretty easy life--no sob story here.
    • I'm not even close to being considered well-off, but I've had everything I've ever needed (including a supportive family).
  2. I was blasé about school until university (e.g. not accepting the relevance or importance of grades)  
    • Read: my report cards look like a rollercoaster at Six Flags.
  3. But I love learning, especially self-directed learning!
  4. I never bend over backwards to make it to the #1 spot. Rather, I just do my best, fulfill my responsibilities, and do what I can to help people, companies, etc. move forward in the best way I can. 
    • Competition may be extant in the world, but not in my mind. If I make it to the #1 spot, great; if not, oh well. 
  5. I've had a borderline-obscene amount of leisure time (mostly due to my interest in traveling).
  6. In general, I only do things that make me happy.
    • If something makes me unhappy, at the least I'll adjust it, and at the most I'll remove it from my life.
    • I've only got one life to live, and while there are things that occasionally I must do, I refuse to live an unhappy life.
  7. I can get frustrated, but I very rarely feel stress.
    • I think this is related to optimism (mentioned above). Why feel stressed when I know I'll make it out ok?

No stress + doing what makes me happy + actively seeking leisure time = plenty of energy to use as I see fit!

Real-life application

There are some things a person is born with. For example, I have naturally brown hair. Most things, though, are amenable to change--so long as you're willing to work toward it. My relaxed demeanor, unrelenting focus, and love of self-directed learning weren't things I was born with; they're things I've cultivated (mostly by accident). These things have conspired to provide me with the energy, the know-how, and the interest to pursue a job that is in line with my interests. Right now, that happens to require a ton of work, and I'm totally ok with that. 

If you have some deeply concealed goal that you've always wanted to pursue, there are plenty of encouraging blogs to read out there. I mean, check out this video of a guy climbing Mount Kilimanjaro without legs or arms! This video highlights the importance of my first step: stop making excuses. If Kyle can scale a mountain on padded elbows and knees, then I can chill at my desk and crunch numbers for a few hours. My lifestyle is likely wholly unsuitable to you--and that's ok! Find out what you want to do, what it will take to get you there, and how you can make it happen. And while you're at it, throw away the idea that you're "just not that person." If you want to be that person, you can be.

Coming full circle 

full chargeSo, in conclusion: when it comes time to actually get to work and keep my nose to the grindstone, I have decades of energy reserves to use at my disposal! And why shouldn't I use them now? During the 4.5 years since graduating university, I have collectively worked full-time for only 2 of them. The other times were spent studying (on my own), traveling, planning, or (admittedly) relaxing. I'm ready and willing! 

My energy comes from many places. I've set myself up for success by cultivating good habits, training myself to be positive and calm, and being mindful of my goals, strengths and weaknesses. This makes my life smoother and easier. I've thought long and hard about what makes me tick. This means my life is more inline with my interests. I've tailored my job around those interests, as well as the strengths that I've built up over the years. This has allowed me to create a job that's a good fit for me.

My happiness, success, and energy meet at the confluence of my personality, habits, interests. All of these things were learned, practiced and reinforced. While my life might seem drastically different or odd on the surface, I'm actually just a normal person like all of you. As I affirmed in my article about traveling with a skill mindset, I'd like to repeat my main takeaway here: if I can reconfigure my life to achieve my goals, you all can too! How we get there and where we're going are the only differences.



Map showing percentages of an Alibaba manufacturer's global distribution

Intro to “AliWorld” (Part 4) – Plunging into Product Pages

Part 1 - Sourcing from Abroad and Selling Domestically

Part 2 - Basic Ways to Protect Your Money

Part 3 - Filtering Results at a Glance

Product Page

Now that we've seen how to handle the search results page, let's take a quick turn to an Alibaba product page. We used "small battery-powered bluetooth speaker" as the example in Part 3 , so let's continue with that. 

 small battery powered waterproof bluetooth speaker alibaba product page


Just like the results page, we are given a lot of information. Taking a step back for a second allows us to notice that we've already seen a lot of this information. We've seen some of the product information (like price per piece) and supplier information (like the number of transactions in the last 6 months) in the search results. That's all repeated here.

We do, however, have some extra details. We now have access to more photos (below the main photo), a description of the product (below), and a clearer look at the manufacturer. 

"Response time"

Clicking here shows us more about what that means:

alibaba product page message response time


Once there, we can click through the menu on the left side.

"Trade capacity"

Shows where their products are going:

alibaba transaction geographic map foreign trade


"Production capacity"

Shows me how many they can capable of making, the location and size of their factory, the types of products they can make, and much more: 

product research alibaba production capacity


"Transaction Level"

What "transaction level" means for this manufacturer:

transaction level on Alibaba

Stick around for part 5 if you want to see how I organize all this information into a useful Excel sheet!

Intro to “AliWorld” (Part 3) – Filtering Results at a Glance

Part 1 - Sourcing from Abroad and Selling Domestically

Part 2 - Basic Ways to Protect Your Money

Flipping Through Product Pages on Alibaba

Now that you know the difference between Alibaba and Aliexpress and the basics of protecting your money, you can start to really dig into the results. 

But there are soooo many! If you thought having an entire aisle for cookies at the grocery store was dangerous, just wait till you dive into the wonderful and overcrowded world of Alibaba. Searching for something like "bluetooth speaker" turns up 830,000 results, "kitchen utensils" brings up 300,000 results, and "car parts" reveals 600,000 results. This can quickly turn into a headache.

Pro tip: browse general categories, write down ideas, specify those ideas, and think of useful keywords to locate those ideas.

Now that you have some direction, it's time to start the real searching!

Let's try "bluetooth speaker." Quickly flicking through the first page of results gives me some ideas. I decide to look for "small battery-powered bluetooth speakers." 830,000 results immediately drop to 611. 

Next, check the boxes for "Trade Assurance," "Gold Supplier," and "Assessed Supplier." Results drop to 30. With 3 extra words and 3 clicks, we've narrowed down our search by 99.99%!

Let's take a look at the first 4 results

Alibaba - product search results Alibaba - search results products


Useful Listing Information

Looking at any of the results, we can immediately see: 

  • MOQ (minimum order quantity)
    • For these 4 products, 1 manufacturer will let you order just 1, 2 require you to order at least 1000, and 1 requires you to order at least 2000. 
    • Note: this can be negotiable, but don't expect something with MOQ=2000 to drop to 5. A reasonable expectation might be a 50% reduction. 
  • Price per piece 
    • Note: this can also be negotiable 

Looking farther to the right, we can see some useful information about the supplier. 

  • The number of years that the manufacturer has been a "Gold Supplier" (read more about that in Part 2 - Basic Ways to Protect Your Money)
  • "Transaction Levels" are "based on an accumulated score awarded for total online transaction volume and amount"
  • The number and dollar value of the transactions they've had over the last 6 months 
  • "Response rate" tells us how often they respond to customer inquiries 

For all of these, higher is generally better. If a company has been on Alibaba longer, handles more transactions, processes a higher volume of sales, and responds more frequently to customer inquiries, these are usually good things for us buyers. 

Compare that to a product that I found by randomly clicking around on Alibaba and then selecting page 23:

Alibaba - search results - machine

Here, there's only 1/2 diamond for transaction level, 1 transaction in the last 6 months, worth only $5,000. This is not necessarily a bad product, but you better know what you're looking at and who you're talking to if you plan to make a purchase from them. Less information is generally riskier. 

Check out Part 4 - Plunging in Product Pages to learn gain a fuller understanding of some of Alibaba's product pages and available data! 

May Recap – Making Money and Jumping Ahead

The Money Keeps Rolling In

After months of endless work, I can finally start complaining: "Another day, another dollar." Well, maybe not a dollar, but at least a dime. And I guess my days aren't really that boring, but they can have their moments. Anyhow, the point is that I made money! Which is pretty great news. 

swimming in goldGranted, I had imagined that I'd be rolling around in a vault full of precious gold coins bearing the outline of my empire-building face by now, but hey, I'll also gladly take that $100 check with a smile! 

Now that I'm well on my way to being a multi-hundredaire, optimism should reign supreme! Well, almost.

storms on the horizonReality isn't always so kind. Like so many other times during this learning experience, things haven't always gone as I'd expected. For starters, I made incorrect pricing assumptions on my first products (incorrect AMAZON FEES!!), which ultimately caused me to lose a little bit of money on each sale. On a positive note, I can completely accept that my first foray into e-commerce resulted in a mere $40 loss. After all, exchanging $40 for learning how to import, build a website, manage inventory, market products, and build up a customer base isn't a bad deal. 

E-commerce disaster strikes

But that was last month's problem. This month things become a whole lot rockier. Amazon, without warning, changed a boatload of rules that govern the way sellers can use their platform. Titles like "Is this the end of retail arbitrage?" don't exactly inspire confidence. Plenty of articles out there discuss the pros and cons of these new restrictions, as well as potential ways to deal with them. 

The summary is this: a TON of sellers are going to be negatively impacted by these rules, but they're not doomed (so long as they are willing to adapt). The upside is that customers will (hopefully) benefit in the end. 

So, after spending weeks (if not months), building up a list of products to sell, in one fell swoop my future armamentarium of goods was cut by 85%. And most of my products with the highest profit margins were part of that cut. Crap.

mental gymnasticsFacing the winter storm

In response, I did what I always do: immediately calmed my worry through incredible feats of mental gymnastics. "That's ok," I told myself. "I never really wanted to do this anyway." "I was only curious, but I'm glad to quit now." Of course! And just to make sure to add some positivity, "Oh well, it was fun while it lasted! Good thing I'm ready for something new." Mr. Positivity never misses a beat!

Then, 5 minutes later, I tumbled my way right back to the original path. Forgetting everything I just thought for the last few minutes, I told myself, "Naawww, just kidding. I can totally work with this. Heck, this is probably an advantage! Now back away from the Doritos (GREAT comfort food by the way), sit back down, and figure out what it is..."

Looking at the 6-step plan of action I blogged about previously, I realized that I still had a (relatively) easy way to overcome this: jump directly from step 2 to step 6! Easy squeezy lemon peasy (or so I'm hoping). Amazon's new rule changes directly affect steps 1 through 5, but step 6 is mostly excluded from these new restrictions. While I was hoping to dip myself in more slowly, learn the ropes a bit better, and maybe build up some money along the way, I've decided to just go all-in and see what happens!

It's not that Amazon has made it impossible for people selling via steps 1-5, but that: 1) it has become more difficult and 2) it has become even more burdensome and time-consuming to learn the ropes as a beginner. 

crepuscular rays

Staying positive

There's a silver lining to all of this. Namely, that I was never really interested in steps 1-5 anyway...and that isn't a lingering fragment from my mental gymnastics. The truth is that I only wanted to take baby steps on the way to my final destination. Throwing those extra months of work (and learning) out of the window is a bit worrisome, but I'm already loving step six 20 times more than the first 2 steps. I'm remembering why I got into this in the first place, discovering a clearer plan for future business development, and feeling re-energized by the possibility of opening my own e-commerce store full of my own line of products. 

Check back at the end of next month for a recap of how I defeated Amazon's restrictions and came out ahead!  




Intro to “AliWorld” (Part 2) – Basic Ways to Protect Your Money

Part 1 - Use Alibaba to Source from Abroad and Selling Domestically

Retail Arbitrage 2.0

The idea of purchasing products at a low cost from China and selling them for a high price in America seems simple. It's that simplicity that has lured many people into "AliWorld." Alibaba and Aliexpress have a product selection that is incomparably larger than almost anywhere else. The potential to lower your product prices while simultaneously increasing profit margins is an unmistakable draw. But I'm sure for many a sinister thought remains: how can I trust that my money won't just disappear into the hinterlands of China, never to be seen again? 

There are many things you should do to protect your money, from using a credit card (better fraud protection), setting up a PayPal account (low risk payment option), and doing your due diligence (proper research, requesting samples, etc). 

There are also some quick and easy ways to narrow down your search to the (likely) safest results. 

When searching for products on Alibaba, you can immediately see curious-sounding some check boxes. 

Alibaba - search result

  • "Trade assurance" helps buyers in the event of shipping and quality-related disputes
    • If a supplier does not meet the requirements for shipping time or product quality agreed in your contract, you can open a dispute. If you can't reach a solution with the supplier and the supplier is found to be at fault, will provide you with a refund for your covered amount. 
    • Can protect your pre-shipment or post-shipment amount (depending on what you choose) 
  • "Gold supplier" is a premium membership for suppliers. Ultimately, being a gold supplier on Alibaba doesn't mean too much to you as a consumer. 
  • "Assessed suppliers" are those factories that have been inspected by top global agencies like Bureau Veritas.

Narrowing Alibaba Search Results

By selecting all 3 of these, the number of results in our search dwindles significantly. 

Alibaba - search result

With 3 simple clicks we dropped from 13,535 products to just 1,277 (a 90% reduction). While this will undoubtedly remove many perfectly good products and suppliers from your search results, the added safety and reduced options can certainly be helpful, especially for beginners! 

Stay smart and do everything you can to protect your money. Happy product hunting!

Continue onto Part 3 - Filtering Results at a Glance to learn some easy ways to separate the trustworthy suppliers from the riskier ones. 

For more details about supplier assessments, see below! 

Assessed supplier info

alibaba logo in english and chinese

Intro to “AliWorld” (Part 1) – Source from Abroad and Sell Domestically

AlibabaAlibaba vs. AliExpress - What's the Difference?

It's no secret to the FBA world that Alibaba and AliExpress are excellent places to source your products. For the unacquainted, here is a brief introduction: Alibaba, a Chinese company, owns Aliexpress. As early as 2012, Alibaba was handling more than $120 billion a year in sales, and has only grown since. With more than $20 billion in revenue, $70 billion in assets, and 50,000 employees, it has become a huge name in international trade. 

That's all fine and well, but what do they do? And how are they different? The simple answer is this: 

  • Both allow manufacturers and third-party vendors to list their products online and sell them all over the world
  • Alibaba is good for LARGE orders and most are manufacturers (cheaper price)
  • Aliexpress is good for SMALL orders (include 1-item purchases) and many are third-party vendors (middlemen)

Here's an example.

  • Alibaba: Product A
    • List price = $2-$4
    • You can negotiate
    • High minimum - you must buy at least 500
  • Aliexpress: Product A
    • List price = $9
    • You cannot negotiate (at least not as obviously or easily)
    • No minimum - you can buy 1

Alibaba is like contacting the factory, whereas Aliexpress is like contacting a store in a mall. 

You're now well on your way to making your first purchase!

Note: these rules are not perfectly set in stone. You may be able to negotiate with someone on Aliexpress through direct messaging (unlike the negotiation process on Alibaba) and can lower the minimum on Alibaba (though it usually remains high). These remain, however, the overarching trends on the two sites. 

Part 2 - Basic Ways to Protect Your Money 

Part 3 - Filtering Results at a Glance