James Khuri has started a "Fulfilled by Walmart" model to compete directly with Amazon.
Thanks to platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woocommerce, its become easier than ever for entrepreneurs with no previous business experience to start an eCommerce business.
For those with some business savvy and knowledge, its even possible to grow those eCommerce businesses to six, seven, or eight figures. But doing it nine times over? That takes not only a strong innovative spirit but real business savvy as well.
Thats what serial entrepreneur James Khuri has achieved over the past two decades. Khuri started out in real estate in 2001, but expanded into eCommerce manufacturing, distribution, and fulfillment as the industry grew. Today, he owns four real estate companies and five manufacturing and distribution companies.
By the time he was 27, hed reached $100 million in sales with just one of his businesses. Now, hes setting higher goals, working on achieving $200 million in revenue with his eCommerce businesses in 2021. Hes also working on an innovative new fulfillment service that is poised to become a direct competitor with Amazon.
I spoke with Khuri to get his insights into the eCommerce world.
Shama Hyder: Can you tell me how you got your start in business?
James Khuri: After I received my MBA from the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester, I got into real estate. Ive been purchasing medical buildings in New York and apartment buildings in Los Angeles since 2001, and thats been a very successful venture for me.
I also got into manufacturing and distributing products to brick-and-mortar retail stores. My focus lies in trading cards from brands like Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Magic the Gathering, and various sports trading cards. I also sell to Amazon globally in 137 countries, as well as Walmart, eBay, and Mercari.
Hyder: What are some of the trends youve noticed that other entrepreneurs should be taking advantage of right now?
Khuri: With real estate, I see office buildings, malls, and retail shopping centers becoming obsolete, especially now due to Covid-19.
At the same time, there is an increased need for refrigerated warehouse spaces due to supermarkets and large eCommerce companies requiring more storage. Consumer shopping habits have dramatically shifted online in 2020 and I dont see this trend reversing.
Hyder: You are one of only ten suppliers in the world for which Amazon has assigned a representative. Tell me about the new fulfillment model youre creating.
Khuri: Weve been able to develop a brand-new distribution model thats unique in the entire system of worldwide distribution. In fact, Amazon just hired an employee specifically for one of my companies to work with us in the 136 countries that we sell to.
Theyve only done this for ten suppliers in the whole world. Amazon is going to help us work with the government to establish an online platform.
In addition, Walmart invited us to start a system called Fulfilled by Walmart which is like Fulfilled by Amazon. We started it three weeks ago, and already are processing 4000 orders a week. Because Walmart is now directly competing with Amazon, this will help create a better atmosphere for consumers.
Hyder: Whats a mistake you made early on while growing your business?
Khuri: When I first started my manufacturing and distribution companies, I was cold-calling brick-and-mortar retailers. This outdated strategy resulted in it taking years for me to connect with the right retailers. However, I soon pivoted to eCommerce, searching out new and updated fulfillment methods, and that accelerated my success.
Hyder: On the other side of things, whats something thats been instrumental to your continued success?
Khuri: One of the keys to my success is that I dont borrow from banks to support my businesses. I believe that lending is how banks control businesses and, as my father once sagely shared with me, Never show weakness. Control everything. Thats why Ive self-financed five of my companies.
Hyder: What would you tell other entrepreneurs looking to expand their eCommerce businesses?
Khuri: Id tell other entrepreneurs that when you analyze and research current trends, you can better position yourself as a leader within your chosen industry in the future. Also, one of the reasons Ive managed to continue growing my businesses is that Ive focused on expanding my brands. Today, I sell health, makeup, and tattoo products, as well as products from Hasbro and Mattel. This has allowed me to grow my revenue in a way that would have taken much longer otherwise. I share many of my lessons on Instagram.
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