Meet Jack Zhou
“Destiny is the push of our instincts to the pull of our purpose”. – T.D Jakes
Where was it that I first read this saying? Was it in a novel? I don’t remember to be honest. But it couldn’t be truer.
Today, when I sit back and retrospect (when I have time to retrospect that is), I believe that it was the ‘pull’ that got me to where I am.
A fervent desire to succeed. A will to make it big, that was stronger than the temporary setbacks that were holding me back.
I am Jack Zhou, the founder of Sourcingbro. I help dropshippers and E-commerce brands grow and scale their business by improving operations and logistics.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me give you a quick glimpse into my backstory and how I ended up becoming a dropshipping agent.
The Struggle Is Real
Most children at a young age considered themselves to be lucky to be born alone in a small family.
You get all the attention you need from your parents. You won’t have to share your bedroom with an annoying elder sibling.
But life isn’t a cakewalk when both your parents are uneducated workers. There’s nobody to guide you or show you the right career path.
The only thing that my mother always emphasized on, was the importance of education.
She would repeat it a hundred times every day that ‘Jack, you need a college degree to get a job’
This was deeply ingrained in my psyche since the early days. ‘No degree = No job’.
I was pretty scared; I tell you that.
What made it worse was that I was pathetic at studies.
Mathematics was a nightmare that I could never figure out. I remember wondering how I would clear the exams each time, at least with the bare minimum grades.
But then, the biggest setback in my life until then happened.
My parents lost their job when I was in high school. Suddenly, life had changed overnight.
We had to rent out our own apartment so that my parents could generate some revenue to help me finish my school education. We moved into my grandmother’s apartment, which was a really tiny place with 1 bedroom and a living room. It had no kitchen.
Winter in those days was a nightmare because I couldn’t even afford a nice downs jacket. I would look at my friends wearing Nike and Adidas jackets and envy them. Oh yeah, even a Nike Jacket back then was a huge deal.
That was one of the darkest phases of my life. I became an introvert and was very vulnerable, which was the complete opposite of how I was in my middle school years.
One day, as I lay on my bed reading a novel during Chinese New Year in 2008, it suddenly struck me. What was I doing with my life? Was this how it was going to be for the rest of my days?
What did I want to achieve in life? What was stopping me from achieving it?
That moment is crystal clear in my mind even now. I know now that it’s called an ‘Epiphany’ moment. That’s when I decided to change my life and do something meaningful with it. It helped me completely transform my attitude towards life.
I would be up at 6am every day. Like clockwork. And I’d be the first one in class in the morning.
I put 100% of my energy for each class. Finally, one and half years later I made it to college.
That was the first time in my life, that I felt that I could do something consistently rather than doing it for a day or two and giving up.
The Confusing Twenties
There’s a reason why they call the twenties, the most confusing decade of your life.
The insane hormonal surge of the teens has just ended. You feel like you are ready to conquer the world.
But surprisingly, the decisions that you make are seldom right.
My first reaction when I got out of college was that I needed to find myself a job.
How would I start my life otherwise? A job seemed like the most logical decision at that point of time.
But when you are born in the countryside in rural china, you have very few choices.
So, I decided to head to where the all the bustle was, Shenzhen.
And within the next few weeks, I landed myself a job.
The First Job
My first job was a sales rep. The pay scale was nothing to write home about. But that was the least of my concerns. I was in it for the things that I could learn. And learn I did, a lot.
In fact, it was that job that introduced me to the world of opportunity that was lying dormant in the online market.
My job was uploading products on Alibaba and sending follow-up emails.
Doesn’t sound simple, does it?
For three months, I just struggled the hell out of myself.
Not a single client. And I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
Finally, I quit.
Yes, I quit my first job out of sheer frustration of not being able to achieve anything.
But the learning stuck with me. And I started to make decent progress in my second job.
A Broken Relationship
The second biggest setback happened when my long term girlfriend told me that she couldn’t be with me anymore because she didn’t see a bright future together.
It scared her and made her feel insecure about her future.
Well, she wasn’t wrong. I was struggling. Not a great pay packet to boast of.
No home of my own.
And owning an apartment is one of the bedrocks of a relationship in China.
I felt lost and in pain.
That was the first time in my life that I desperately wanted to make more money so that I could prove it to myself (or to her) that I could achieve everything I had dreamt of.
I decided to take that first leap of faith and start my own business, so that I could earn faster.
Back then, my idea of a business was that you build a website, you run ads and you magically start making sales.
But soon, I realized that neither the business, nor the universe works the way we expect it to. Everyone has to go through failure, like baptism through fire, in order to taste success.
Yitoye – My Maiden Venture Fails
I jumped head over heels into a business and did what everybody else was doing without having the slightest idea of what I was getting into.
Classic knee jerk reaction!
I had gained some insights into vending machines in my second job. So I set up a business selling vending machines to overseas clients. However, I knew nothing about the market or the customers.
My only focus was to make money.
And when the only thing that you can see is dollars, then you tend to lose focus from everything else.
I didn’t know the market, nor did I know the target audience. Why, I didn’t even have enough knowledge or expertise about the product or have a good supplier.
The business failed in just 10 months. And miserably at that.
Sourcingbro – My Second Venture
After a two-month hiatus where I tried to rethink my decisions, I started my second venture called Sourcingbro
It aims to help “anyone” who wants to important from China. We earn a small commission from the client’s total order value, while imparting our knowledge, contacts and local expertise to help them scale and grow.
The initial business idea was copied from one of my competitors (Sorry Jing!). I thought that if it’s working so well for him, it should work for me too.
But, I was wrong again. Surprise!
I just ended up blindly aping what my competitor was doing, without bringing any USP to the business or the market. There was nothing unique that I had to offer. So, I just became a part of the crowd.
I did make some money from time to time, mind you. But deep inside my heart, I had that nagging feeling that this wasn’t right. It wasn’t what I was looking for.
But there was one great thing about Sourcingbro. It made me realize the demand for E-commerce (especially dropshipping) in the overseas market.
And just out of the blue, I got an opportunity to join a US-based startup, called Italic.
While working in Sourcingbro my main job was to source products from manufacturers in different place, handling logistics for my clients and performing quality control on their behalf.
But most of the suppliers that I worked with were low end factories or middle end ones at best.
Italic gave me an opportunity to work with the best manufacturers in China, who produced products for brands like Parada, Miumiu, Kate Spade, Coach and more.
With that single opportunity, my entire view point about sourcing, operation, logistics, product quality and branding/marketing changed.
I realized that there is a world of difference in a medium-sized factory and a large one. The quality, the service, everything is poles apart.
After a year, I left Italic.
It was a pleasure working with the team and our CEO Jeremy, who showed me the spirit of entrepreneurship and being responsible.
That was a priceless time for me. It was during this time, that I met Carrie the woman who changed my life.
Sourcingbro’s New Venture
After few months break, I decided to restart Sourcingbro. But this time I had a clear picture about what I needed to do and who our target market and audience is.
It was extremely tough in the beginning, because I had to start from scratch for everything. Carrie and I, we used to pick, pack and ship client orders from our apartment.(with no elevator).
After few weeks we set up our first office and we finally didn’t have to sit on the ground while packing stuff anymore.
With more clients on board we rented our first warehouse and expanded the team and operation very quickly.
But after few months, I started to notice some common trends (problems) that keep occurring in our business or the industry.
One of commonest problems that I realized, is that no matter what shipping method you use, some of the shipments always get lost or damaged during transit.
Often, we would just wait in expectation for the client to tell us that the customer is complaining.
Where is their package??? Then, we would fix it.
I always felt bad that despite being aware of this, we couldn’t find a way to avoid this. It was causing frustration in our clients, who I was sure had a lot to deal with already, than chasing shipments.
But for a long time, I just kept wondering how I could fix this and make my clients happier.
It was very similar to the feeling that I had when I was 18. I just wanted to make the current situation better. Only this time, I wanted to improve my clients’ situation and the entire dropshipping business rather than my personal life.
Then one day, the Epiphany moment happened again.
During an introduction call with a client, he told something that hit me.
“I wish our agent ‘CARED’ more about our business”
That was a revelation. Believe me when I tell you this, it was not the first time I was hearing it either. A lot of clients had expressed their frustration after dealing with dropshipping agents who didn’t care enough. I realized that here was the very thing that I was hoping to change. I just didn’t realize it earlier.
The next day I told Carrie and my team.
‘Let’s stop just aiming at growing our business and closing sales now.’
‘Let’s do something different that our competitors and the entire market has ignored for all this while.’
‘Let’s make dropshipping better and let our clients feel happy, secure, and satisfied.’
So we spent an entire month to build our custom dashboard, where the client can have an overview of their business in seconds. Even it’s not a fancy tool, it works.
Meanwhile, we started to help our clients track every single package that we ship. We found out that with proactive customer support and the right shipping method, the customer complaints associated with dropshipping (lost packages, delays, getting stuck) have reduced a lot. That’s solely because we started to spot the problems before they arise.
Finally, we feel that we’re on the right track. Our business now has a different approach and goal as compared to our competitors.
I know that this is not the end. There’s ample room for us to improve and make our service even better.
And I firmly believe that we will, until one day everyone knows that Sourcingbro is
‘A dropshipping partner that cares’
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