Candid Conversations With Our FBA Sellers
A conversation with Tony Charmley, founder of Bonza
We sat down with Tony Charmley, the founder of Bonza, a seller of high-quality pet products. We discussed his journey founding the company, early lessons he learned selling on Amazon, the process of selling his business to Forum Brands, and why he would work with them again.
Tell us a bit about your entrepreneurial journey and the history of your company.
My entrepreneurial journey started when my sister got into Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) in 2015. At first, I was unsure about whether I wanted to get involved. But the more I looked into it, the more I thought it could be a great career opportunity. Back then, I was working full-time in a corporate role, so I had to juggle selling on Amazon as a side hustle. I initially fell into selling pet products because of the high demand before realizing, due to my son’s learning disability, how family-friendly pets and emotional support animals can help ease symptoms for a wide range of conditions. That’s how my passion and purpose for Bonza began.
After just a couple of years, I resigned from my full-time corporate position to a part-time job that gave me more time to spend on my Amazon business, Bonza. About a year later, I saw an opportunity to go all in with Bonza. The major benefits of this was having the flexibility to manage my own time and being able to work from any location. It was at this point that we decided to move from Melbourne to Bali, and I hired a personal assistant, making it easier to focus on Bonza’s strategic growth.
What motivated you to sell Bonza?
My business experienced a big increase in sales in 2020, partly due to the pandemic. I also noticed a lot more competition from sellers joining the platform. I realized then that I wanted to sell my business while it was still on the rise instead of after it peaked. I was getting a lot of attention from organizations looking to buy Bonza, but I was not ready to sell until Forum reached out.
I wasn’t quite in the mindset of selling Bonza at first because we were just entering the biggest sales period yet. However, Forum’s representatives were personable and showed genuine interest in my brand. One of the things that convinced me that Forum would be a good fit was their willingness to be flexible with my requirements. For example, Forum was willing to buy the entire company, not just the assets or account. It was a nerve-wracking decision, but in the end, I’m glad I went for it.
What was the selling experience/process with Forum Brands like?
The selling experience was very professional and well-organized. Forum did most of the heavy lifting, I just had to give them access to the systems they requested. It was minimal effort and allowed me to continue living my life. In the beginning I was a little concerned about the 12-hour time difference with me living in Bali, but that didn’t seem to be an issue as they always accommodated my schedule.
What should people consider when looking to sell their Amazon business?
Look at the timing. You may not be ready to sell, but really think about what you want to do. How long can you keep running the business before you’re not able to scale it further? If you’re alone or on a very small team, it’s very difficult to continue growing your business with limited resources. Selling your business is probably your best option to take your business to another level of growth. When it’s time, don’t fall into the traps of selling to a large organization where you’ll just be one of hundreds of brands. You want a partner that's a good fit and shares your passion for your brand to take it to the next level.
What have been the main benefits of selling your business?
Since selling Bonza, I’ve been able to pay off my mortgage, which was a significant personal achievement. I also have a lot more free time, which has afforded me the opportunity to dabble in crypto and other investments, which may not have been possible prior to selling my brand to Forum.
Would you sell to Forum again?
Yeah, certainly! I've even recommended other seller friends to Forum. From first-hand experience, I know that Forum will not only buy your brand but grow it.
What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to start a business?
My first piece of advice would be to set your expectations. You’re going to experience setbacks, so don’t go into it thinking it’s easy. Secondly, you really have to be willing to put in the time. Make sure your family and partner, if you have one, are on board. Be sure to understand the costs associated with starting and running a business so that you’re prepared. There are initial costs of starting a business, in addition to ongoing expenses such as inventory and advertising to account for.
Lastly, focus on building a great customer service experience because that's really what makes a brand successful on Amazon.