My name is Caroline and I’ve been an inpatient pharmacist at a hospital for 13 years. My story as it relates to this post picks up in March of 2021. We are 1 year into the pandemic and I have become increasingly disillusioned with how things are being handled in the healthcare systems across America. I work 10 hour shifts overnight and with every passing day I’m creeping closer and closer to the conclusion that I cannot keep working as a pharmacist for the rest of my life due to my lack of trust in our healthcare system. Additionally, the harder I work, the more my work seems to be taken for granted so I decided to do something about that.
In April of 2021, I started watching YouTube videos about how to start a business and make money online. I go down the rabbit hole and decide to try my hand at digital marketing and e-commerce. Later that month I purchased an online course on how to start a digital marketing agency. I followed the course and launched my agency as a Facebook ads agency for e-commerce brands because I had some experience running Facebook ads back in 2018. At this point in time, I did not realize the most recent iOS update had now made it extremely difficult to be profitable with Facebook ads, but I digress. I found a contractor to white-label my fulfillment and I started marketing for clients by running Facebook ads for myself and by prospecting on LinkedIn using an automation-prospecting software. In September 2021, through my LinkedIn prospecting efforts, I stumbled across a guy that had a relationship with an Amazon e-commerce automation company and was looking to partner with people to launch multiple Amazon stores. (As a side note, Amazon only allows 1 store per owner so as an industry workaround, people are known to partner with others to scale profits by having the partner be the owner of record for the store while brokering a deal for a share of the profits from the store owned by the partner). After speaking with him at length over the next 3 to 4 months and researching some of his other business endeavors, I decided to partner with him on creating and scaling 2 Amazon stores initially. He would be the owner of record for one store, I the other. The plan was to launch 2 stores to start and he would continue launching and scaling more stores as he brought on more people to partner with him and the Amazon automation company he already had a relationship with. To do what we set out to do, we would need capital. I decided to borrow $75,000 via personal loans to pay for the launch of my store and the fees associated with using the Amazon automation company’s services. We launched our 2 stores in February of 2022 and things were going well at first. We started to see profits from the stores at the end of April 2022. Shortly afterwards things took a turn for the worst.
On May 18, 2022, my business partner and I received news from Amazon that both our stores were “under review” and all of the profits ($108,000 total) was being held until further notice. At first, we weren’t really that worried and we simply provided all of the documentation requested by Amazon. At that time, we were very optimistic that this was just a misunderstanding and things would be settled quickly and our funds released. To say that we were wrong would be the understatement of the century. As it turns out, the automation company we were working with violated Amazon’s terms and agreement with regards to drop shipping and Amazon refused to release the $108K in revenue in addition to permanently disabling our 2 stores.
We continue to try and sort things out with Amazon, but I now have to service the $75K of debt I took on with the income I make as a pharmacist since I cannot make the loan payments with the profits from my store as originally intended. I make payments from June 2022 to April 2023 when I find out that my husband has been unfaithful to me. I am now going through a divorce and have incurred legal fees associated with that. After carrying the loan payments, divorce attorney fees, and my normal living expenses, I am close to running out of savings while being over leveraged month over month. As of today (September 16, 2023), Amazon still has not released the $108K of revenue produced from our stores. My business partner has hired an attorney to sue Amazon on our behalf. This will likely be a lengthy process because of course my partner and I versus Amazon might as well be David versus Goliath. The one beacon of hope is this attorney has a 100% success rate when it comes to suing Amazon for holding funds generated by stores on their platform. I hope that we will come out victorious, but only time will tell.
I stopped making payments on my loans in June 2023 to stop the financial hemorrhaging, so I am currently 4 months behind. I’ve always been overly conservative with money mainly because I was simply too scared to bet on myself prior to trying my hand on Amazon. I believe the silver lining in my story is that I CAN make money to enrich myself instead of making money that primarily only enriches the board of trustees at the hospital where I work. Our stores were becoming profitable, we just made a mistake by not properly vetting the Amazon automation company we were using. My partner has apologized many times for this because he was the one that brought them on board. I have taken accountability on my end because I should have done more research on the automation company myself in addition to being more familiar with Amazon’s terms and agreement regarding drop shipping.
If you decide to donate to me, the money would be used to pay back what I owe on the personal loans so I can save my personal credit. I must say that going through this has not scared me away from entrepreneurship but has poured gasoline on the fire that was already lit inside of me. I refuse to wallow in victimhood and I am determined to pick myself up off of the ground and press on towards financial freedom.