Erik Frankel, ecommerce entrepreneur from Brooklyn, who lives 15 years in Vietnam
Erik Frankel is a maker and mogul of online sales. He established a kind of Fab Lab space in Saigon — VietsWay, where employs local crafters, who sew bags, knit toys, melt jewelry and hand craft all sorts of trinkets. And he sells this stuff online over numerous accounts on Amazon, eBay, Etsy and own Vietsway.com. His listings include 100 000 goods, and most of them are produced only after customer places an order. Erik ships several thousand packages per month to the warehouse in New York, from where the goods are delivered to the customers in the US and all over the world.
Erik discovered the power of online trade in the late 90-s, when he put up for sale vintage clothes from the warehouse of his father, who owned a shop in New York and couldn’t get rid of old stuff in retail. But everything was sold online. When Erik have been to South-Eastern Asia he visited Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok and was astonished by diversity of goods and opportunities for online sales. He still has suppliers in Thailand.
Erik lived in Thai and Myanmar, and moved to Vietnam almost 15 years ago. Sometimes he sends his employees to Thailand to hunt for new designs, because Thai masters always try to innovate, unlike Vietnamese crafters, who are used to make the same things over and over again for many years. He organized knitting courses for disabled people and at some point fired teacher, who tried to headhunt the same employees, whom she taught for Erik’s money. Now several people with disabilities work at workshop and from home.
Erik dreams to shift his business toward a platform where any crafter from Vietnam can sell her goods. He also invites others to come to his place and use equipment for tinkering and crafting. He is eager to sell goods from other makers through his channel without a fee — he claims that increase of shipment volumes can lead to discount form UPS and payments will buff up his cashflow until he makes payout.
Erik is sure that drop-shipping business model is bullshit. The only way to earn on it — sell online courses to naive people, who dream about “passive income”. But authors of those courses don’t tell about usual 15% of turn backs — expanses on logistics and shipments of turn backs eat up the margins of this business. Erik believes in selling real physical things, which he creates on site or buys from suppliers. But this business demands patience, as even with a hundred thousand dollars turn over, the margin could be not impressive. Erik jokes that the best business model in online sales is to buy a house and lease it to somebody, who tries to earn money in online sales. But for sure he is not going to quit after 20 years in ecommerce, in the end he has fun not only with managing online shop accounts, but also melting jewelry in a wax form by his own hands.