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Podcast

Episode 141: How To Purchase An eCommerce Business with Kenna Craver

Jun 17, 2021

In today’s episode, we meet Kenna Craver, an investor who specializes in purchasing e-commerce businesses.

If you’ve ever wanted to skip the overwhelm of launching and go straight to owning a business that gives you revenue right away, maybe you should consider purchasing one.

During our conversation, Kenna walks us through all the steps we would need to take in order to purchase our own businesses. From where to find these opportunities, to what to look for so we select the right businesses, how to navigate the relationship with the seller, the logistics of getting the business transferred and so much more!

Listen on Apple Podcast

You’ll learn:

  • The best places to find a business to purchase
  • How to confirm a business is a good buy
  • The players you will need to interact with during the purchase
  • What the transfer process looks like
  • The risks to be aware of before purchaing

Mentioned in this episode:

Business Website:  thebizbuyer.co
Business Instagram: @thebizbuyer
Kenna’s free list of e-commerce business marketplaces: thebizbuyer.co/free

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Episode Transcript

Kenna

Buying a business is probably the best performing asset class there is, compared to stocks and real estate, because when you acquire a business, you get revenue and cash flow coming in immediately. You know, real estate and things like that are a long term game, right? With buying businesses, as soon as the business is transferred over to you, sales are coming in, you're generating money. So investors love to hear that

Serwaa

Hi Off-Scripters! It's your host, Serwaa Adjei-Pellé and welcome to episode 1 41 of the She's Off Script podcast. This is a show where we hear and learn from women who have created unique blueprints for their business success. My hope is that you'll hear their stories and translate their gems into a unique path for yourself.

Serwaa

In today's episode, we meet Kenna Craver, an investor who specializes in purchasing e-commerce businesses. If you've ever wanted to skip the overwhelm of launching and go straight to owning a business that gives you revenue right away. Maybe you should consider purchasing a business. During our conversation, Kenna walks us through all the steps we would need to take in order to purchase our own businesses from where to find these opportunities to what to look for. So we select the right business is how to navigate the relationship with the seller, the logistics of getting the business transferred and so much more

Serwaa

before we hear the rest of Kenna's episode, I would love it. If you could subscribe, rate and review our show on itunes or wherever you listen to podcasts, this will help to spread the word about our show. So amazing stories like Kenna's can continue to inspire women looking to launch their own Off-Scripters journeys with that. Let's go off script with investor and the ceo of Kamel Capital, Kenna Craver

Serwaa

Kenna Craver, Welcome to She's Off Script thank you so much for being here.

Kenna

Thank you so much for having me. I'm a fan of the show and I'm so happy to be here.

Serwaa

Oh great! So for anyone who hasn't come across you before, could you share who you are and what you do?

Kenna

Absolutely! So my name is Kenneth craver and I am an investor i by e commerce businesses and I teach other people how to acquire existing profitable e commerce businesses,

Serwaa

so why

Kenna

do you

Serwaa

Choose to buy businesses as opposed to building one on your own?

Kenna

So many people are even aware that they can buy an existing business um and I kind of just fell into it myself um and we can talk about that later, but I like to buy businesses because when you buy an existing business you get a business that is already operating and it's already profitable, it already has systems and operations in place.

Kenna

It already has employees in place, like everything that you need to run a business is already in place. And it's literally just, I like to say it's like hopping on an already flying rocket, so if you want to be a business owner, but you want to skip the process of starting a business from scratch, buying an existing business is a great way to go.

Serwaa

Is there something to be said though about the journey and what you learn along the way

Serwaa

as opposed to jumping right into something operational and you may not have the skills required to grow it to the next level.

Kenna

Absolutely, because I think the journey is the most important part right? Because you develop the skills that you need to be able to operate a business successfully. So there's absolutely something to be said about the journey. And even when you acquire an existing business you still are learning skills, like you still are refining skills, you're still developing skills because once the businesses transferred over to you, you then are operating it, so you don't necessarily skip that process, but you get to operate the business from a perspective of profitable and sustainable instead of frustration and delay. And sometimes that, you know all the, all the issues that come with being a founder, founder of a business, you get to kind of skip that struggle is what I like to say and be able to operate the business from a place of sustainability.

Serwaa

So how did you enter this whole world of purchasing businesses?

Kenna

You know what, I just kind of fell into it. So I spent the beginning of my career in the tech industry and I basically would work with all these Fortune 500 companies to develop and design mobile applications and software. Um and so just working on digital products and and just that whole process of building something for customers to use, which is really exciting for me. But I got to a point where I was, you know, like most people you get that itch, you want to just kind of go off on your own and you want to do your own thing and have more autonomy and more freedom. Um and so I took the leap into entrepreneurship knowing that I wanted to start an online business

Kenna

and I, you know, I tried so many different things because I didn't necessarily have an idea, like I didn't know exactly what type of business I wanted to start or even how to get started, so I just started trying a bunch of stuff, like I just, I just tried anything. Um and you know, I had a couple of wins, but I had many what I call failures, but I put that in quotes because nothing is really a failure, right? Because you learn a lot along the way. Um but

Kenna

in that process of trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I discovered that I could actually buy a business that was already operating. And so that just blew my mind because I wasn't even aware that individuals like you and I can purchase existing businesses.

Kenna

Um That's something that you hear about on Wall Street or investment banking, you know, things like that. I thought that you had to be, you know, a billionaire and and be working for some huge company to be able to invest in businesses or acquire businesses.

Kenna

So once I learned that it's possible for me to do it, I pivoted to searching for a business to buy and that's how I fell into this whole thing,

Serwaa

interesting. So what are some of the common reasons that people are looking to sell their e commerce stores?

Kenna

You know what? There's a few reasons? And I like to use the analogy of real estate because people who uh people understand how to invest in real estate, right? You understand that you can acquire or buy a house and maybe rent it out and have rental income or you can maybe buy a house and flip it for profit, buying a business is very similar to that, like you can also acquire business so that you can have that cash flow coming in. And so the people that sell their businesses are either, I mean many reasons. So think about the reasons why people would want to sell their home, you know, usually it's life changes, right? Maybe they're moving,

Kenna

maybe they just got some things going on, you know, in their, in their life where they don't have time to, to, you know, operate or living that maybe they can't live in that city anymore. So with the business, it's the same way just life changes, that could be burnt out. You know, maybe they started their business and they got it to a point where it's profitable and successful, successful, but they're ready to move on to something new or they're just, you know, they're tired, they want, they want to retire or it could be, you know, life changes, maybe they just had a baby and they no longer have time to operate it. Um but also some people actually build businesses so they can sell them, that's actually a market, people actually established businesses and then sell them to others so that they can scale them from there. So there's so many different reasons why someone would sell a business.

Serwaa

I've also heard of business brokers, word of mouth and just business sales marketplaces in general as

Serwaa

great avenues to find these opportunities. So could you share what your preferences are for finding businesses to purchase and then maybe what the pros and cons of those different avenues are.

Kenna

Sure. So I'll start with brokers, brokers are great. They usually work with sellers similar to a real estate broker. Um if you want to sell your house, you'll call, you know, your brokers, they find someone to buy this house for me. So they do the same thing for sellers. Um and they're great because they managed the seller's expectations right? Like they let them know, they educate them on the process of the cell, they make sure they have all their paperwork in order. Um and they basically are the middleman or middle woman between the buyer and the seller. So they facilitate the communication between both of you and they just, you know, make for a smooth transition. Um So those are the pros are working with a broker

Kenna

Akane of working with the broker is they are working on behalf of the cellar. And so what that means is it's good for the seller because they're going to work to get them the highest price possible for their business, which is good for them right before you as a buyer. You know, that may not necessarily work out for you. I have actually gotten outbid

Kenna

on offers to acquire businesses because working with the broker, you know, they have their their job is to get multiple offers for the business, right? So

Serwaa

that's

Kenna

a common as a buyer to working with the brokers that you are actually working with someone who is trying to get competition. Marketplaces are great and that's actually my preference because, you know, you basically get to work one on one with sellers. You get to just have

Kenna

conversations just like you and I are having right now, um, and get to know each other without someone being in the middle and just kind of, you know, passing messages back and forth. And that's good because you get to build report

Kenna

and that comes in handy when if, if the business is good, which is what I teach my clients to only buy good businesses. Um there probably is still competition, but if you built report with that cellar, there's a great chance that they will sell it to you over someone else because a lot of times sellers, you know, when you build a business, they, it's like a baby, right? Like they really put their heart and soul into it. They love it. You know, they raised it and so they actually care about who they're passing it on to. A lot of times,

Kenna

not all the time, but a lot of times they really want to know who's going to take this on and what are they going to do with it? So when you work with, or when you look for businesses on marketplaces, you actually get to have that, that one on one conversation with the seller and actually build that report with them. And also you get to get a lot of the information that you need to perform due diligence

Kenna

um, right there on the listing. So if you were to go on a marketplace and you see a listing for a business for sale, you actually get to see specifically for an e commerce business. How much traffic does that store get? How much revenue do they make per month? Um, what marketing methods are they using And you get to get a lot of that information up front so that you can see if this is something that you actually want to pursue.

Serwaa

I definitely want to dive into due diligence, but before that, are there any other places that you would recommend looking to purchase businesses?

Kenna

You know what, I would just say, you're gonna, you're gonna be on social media anyway and you're going to be scrolling if you come across a store or business of brand that, you know, not something that's publicly traded, of course not some fortune 500 company or some huge company. But if you see an independently owned boutique or some type of anything, any kind of brand that you come across, you might reach out to that owner and say, hey,

Kenna

just, just curious if you'd be interested in selling your business a lot of times, they haven't even thought about it, but you never know, timing is everything and they might have gotten to a point,

Kenna

you know, in the business where they are ready to move on. But what's funny is that so many sellers have no idea that they can actually sell their business, They have no idea. I talk to people all the time on social media, on clubhouse and they have no idea that they are sitting on an asset that they can sell and this happens not just online, but brick and mortar businesses as well. People will just close down their business when they're ready to move

Serwaa

on

Kenna

instead of selling it. And so I just say, you know, another way is to just cold reach out to people. The worst thing that are going to say is no,

Serwaa

exactly, but if you catch them on the right day, when something's not going right with the business,

Serwaa

you increase your chances. So that's definitely a good tip there. So now you talked about all of the things that you need to look into to make sure that you are getting the right business. So what numbers are you looking at or what details about businesses are you looking at to make sure that that is the right business to purchase.

Kenna

So for e commerce businesses, everything is digital, right? So the primary thing that you want to start at is of course financials, you want to know how much revenue is that business generating months, a month annually, depending on how long the business has been operating um and not just revenue, but you want to know how much income, cash flow profits that that business is generating, um Revenue is great, but how much money is the owner taking home? We want to know that number as well.

Kenna

Um And also just expenses. So um actually teach my clients how to read a P. And L. Statement of profit and loss statement. And trust me, you don't have to be an accounting whiz

Kenna

to do this. A county was not my best, my best class in school. So trust me, if I can do it, anyone can do this because you really just understanding money coming in and money coming out. So you want to know, you know what expenses is that business have Because you as the buyer may be able to eliminate some of those expenses. If that's something that you can do yourself. For example, maybe they have an employee that handles social media, but maybe you love social media and so that's something that you can take on for yourself. So you want to look at the financials with e commerce businesses, you also want to understand traffic and how they're actually getting visitors.

Kenna

So visitors to the store. So what marketing methods are they using? Are they using organic marketing methods? Do they have a really large and engaged following on social media to where if they just post something, then their customers are going to click on it and go by. Well, that's free, Right? That's free marketing.

Kenna

Um, but if they are spending maybe thousands of dollars a month on facebook ads or some type of paid advertising, that's actually not a bad thing. As long as it's profitable, right? But you want to understand that as a buyer because that's an expense that you'll need to take on, um, once the business is transferred over to you. So just understanding how, you know, the financials, what revenue are they generating and then how are they getting, what marketing methods are they using to actually get that revenue coming in to get traffic to that store. You also want to pay attention to brand value. So google the brand name and just kind of maybe going their social media and read the customer comments and see what people are saying about the brand because you don't want to acquire business that has a really bad reputation. You know, people are complaining all the time and you know, that's something you don't want to take on. But if you see that their customers are happy, people are raving about their products

Kenna

and you google the brands and you're seeing good press about them, then that's something, you know, obviously that's, that's valuable, so that's definitely something you want to look into

Kenna

And also you want to look at the operations. So a lot of the people that I work with actually are working in 9-5 and they're ready to kind of move into that full time entrepreneurship role or they like, they like their job, they love what they do, but they want to establish another income stream, right?

Kenna

And so um they need to know how much time will they need to put into actually managing his business,

Kenna

because they already have, you know, a lot of time spent elsewhere, and so you want to actually learn about, and this is something I teach to talk to the seller and find out the day to day, you know, how much time are you spending

Kenna

operating your business, what are the day to day tasks, you know, so you want to know if that's something that you can actually take on once the business is transferred over to you.

Kenna

So those are just a few things that you want to look into as you're performing due diligence,

Serwaa

That sounds like a lot, and especially for someone who is new to the field or someone that does have a 9-5 and they're doing this on the side, who would you recommend we bring on board to help us do it? So I know a broker is more on the side of the seller, but

Serwaa

should we get an accountant, should we have a lawyer, other other people that we need on our team to help us make sure we're making the right decision.

Kenna

Absolutely. Like I actually teach my clients how to perform due diligence themselves, but I highly recommend having an accountant who can actually look at the numbers and let you know um if this income, if this revenue is actually sustainable, if it's predictable, you know, is this a good investment for you? And definitely as you proceed in the process and you perform due diligence and you and the seller have agreed on a price in terms of acquiring the business, um bringing in an attorney to actually look over the contract or any documents related to that transaction to make sure that everything is in order is definitely a good idea.

Serwaa

I

Serwaa

now I hear people saying that e commerce is a very

Serwaa

difficult business to succeed in. Would you agree with that? And if so once you acquire this business, how do you make sure that you can maintain it?

Kenna

You know, I actually would disagree with e commerce being a difficult business and that's simply because once you actually have a product market fit, you know, once you have a product that people actually love and find value in, it's simply a matter of

Kenna

establishing the right operations and systems to be able to sustain that business and to be able to get those products to your customers and make sure they're happy. I mean e commerce, just like any other business is a matter of providing a product or service to a customer. So I don't see it as any more or less difficult than any other type of business. In fact, especially with, you know, where we are today, um in 2021 we saw how all these businesses have pivoted online,

Kenna

so there's more opportunity than ever. And people are used to, customers are used to shopping online, you know, they're used to the convenience that comes with buying online. And so I think currently e commerce is just, this is why I'm in the space and why I highly recommend others to actually get into this space on

Serwaa

top of that. So once you've kind of done all your due diligence and you're clear on the business you want to purchase, you've done all of the research that you need to do. How do you get the money to actually purchase the business?

Kenna

So there's actually a few different ways. Um and it really depends on what your budget is and the size business that you're actually looking to acquire. So I can start on the high end, which I would say high end would probably be the businesses generating at least, you know, maybe 250,000 annually in revenue or more. There's actually government funding S. B. A. Loans that you can actually used to acquire a business. So um in addition to that, there's actually a marketplace that currently offers acquisition financing and they do that for smaller sized businesses as well, as long as the business is in good standing. So there are definitely different ways that you can acquire it using what I like to call other people's money. Um, If you have an investor, if you know someone that is looking to put their capital to work, you can partner with an investor and say, hey, here's a business opportunity. Um you know, if you want to invest in this business and we can work together to grow it and these are the returns that you can get and buying business is probably the best performing asset class. There is as compared to stocks and real estate because when you acquire a business, you get revenue and cash flow coming in immediately. So, you know, real estate and things like that are a long term game,

Kenna

right? We're buying businesses as soon as the business is transferred over to you, sales are coming in, you're generating money. So investors love to hear that, right? They love that. Um

Kenna

Additionally, another way to acquire business, I would say is of course with, with any investment savings, credit cards, things like that, investment accounts, like if you have a four oh one K. Um life insurance, if you have the ability to pull out money from something else to invest in the business, I would say that's a great way to go

Kenna

because again, investing in businesses, you start getting a return on your investment immediately. So the people like myself by businesses for a living. This is what we do.

Kenna

They are always trying to find ways to use other sources of income to acquire assets and then using that cash flow to acquire more assets. So those are a few ways that you can get the capital you need to acquire business.

Serwaa

So once you have the business, what does the transfer look like? And how do you make sure it's as smooth as possible

Serwaa

because quite frankly, after I sell something, I may not want you coming back and asking me questions about it. So how do you

Serwaa

get the on boarding and transfer right, so that you're setting yourself up for success

Kenna

definitely. So I would actually recommend in the deal as you are negotiating with the seller to ask them to provide support

Kenna

um for a specific amount of time. And most sellers will do this because again, many sellers want to know that their business is going to still be operating and then get standing even once their hands are off of it. So many sellers will offer training and support as a part of the deal,

Kenna

But if they don't, I would ask for it. Um, if only for maybe 30 days because I think, you know, 30 days you should be able to as a new buyer get all the information that you need, um, just day to day, be able to shadow the seller um, and have them train you on everything that they do have them introduce you to suppliers. Um, the employees, if there is any employees in the business

Kenna

and just be able to basically transfer all the accounts and everything over to you. So definitely get that support and as far as the ownership transfer with e commerce businesses is actually really easy. And the platforms that many people use, which is mostly Shopify, they actually do that on the back end. So Shopify actually facilitates the transfer of a business on the back end. So you as a buyer don't have to worry about that. Part of the process is actually very simple. And again, it's similar to real estate in that once you agree to the price with the seller and you guys um you know, work together to actually, you know, lockdown are scheduled training and support. You guys agreed to a price and terms and things like that.

Kenna

You as a buyer within wire funds to an escrow account. And then once those funds in an escrow, the seller then begins the process of transferring all the assets over to you. So the store the social media accounts, any facebook, ad accounts or anything along those lines inventory. If there's any inventory, you know, everything that that's involved with operating that business then begins to be transferred over to you and then you as a as a buyer are protected because then you can go in and basically just kind of check off everything.

Kenna

Um I actually have an asset transfer checklist so you can check off everything and ensure that you're getting everything involved. And once that happens then the funds are released to the seller and now the business is yours. So the process for e commerce businesses is actually fairly simple and I highly recommend working with the seller to schedule that training and support. And again, this is another reason why it's good to build report with the seller in the beginning because you want to make sure that this is someone that is going to actually keep their word and not just run off with the money and not not help you at all. It's possible, but I have not heard it happened yet. Um but it's good to build that relationship with the seller because you're going to need that training, you're gonna need to understand how to operate that business once it's transferred. So um you want to get to know them a little bit and make sure that they're going to actually keep their word and help you.

Serwaa

So give us an idea of what timelines look like from the point where you're selling to or searching rather to the point where you've received the transfer and it's fully yours.

Kenna

You know what, it can vary because it depends on how fast you as a buyer looking to move really. Um I have had clients, you know, I offer one on one coaching in the in the process for training the client

Serwaa

on how to actually

Kenna

perform um are actually complete. The process of acquiring a business is about six weeks. I've had clients acquire business before that period was even done before we even finished the training. So it can be a matter of weeks. Um, but if you, you know, maybe you're only devoting maybe an hour or two a week

Kenna

to searching for a business, then it can take a little bit longer, you know? But it really depends on the buyer and how fast you're looking to move.

Kenna

I'd like to recommend to make sure that you are very clear about what you're looking for. So have your criteria and that way you can just kind of eliminate all the noise because there's so many opportunities out there, there are so many businesses available for sale that is easy to get lost. So if you know exactly what you're looking for, you can narrow that down and actually be able to search just within that criteria. So I like to say, keep an open mind because you might come across something that, you know, that's a little bit outside of what you were looking for. Maybe you're looking to buy a fashion brand, but maybe you come across a really great beauty brand while you're searching. So definitely keep an open mind. But having that criteria allows you to be more efficient with your time as you're searching,

Serwaa

Once

Kenna

you found a business and you've actually contacted the seller, you guys have started to meet and you agreed on a price and you've made an offer and all that. The transfer process can be as little as a week,

Serwaa

wow, okay, so that's not too bad

Serwaa

in a lot of things though, I like to know what the upside and downside is of

Serwaa

the industry I'm in. So what would you say is the biggest downside of being a an e commerce store purchaser? And then what's the biggest upside you can think of?

Kenna

Mm for a downside?

Kenna

I would say

Kenna

there is, as with most investments, risk involved, right? When you are investing. So I would say probably the biggest downside is the possibility that you might acquire a business that doesn't perform post acquisition.

Kenna

So if you, you know, you bought a business, you know, having all these high hopes and and it was generating revenue with the previous owner uh and everything, you know worked well with them. But then once you acquire it may be that revenue drops or something else goes wrong, maybe the supplier, you know,

Kenna

I don't know, goes out of business or something and now you have to find any supplier. So there's definitely risk inherent and you have to that's why due diligence is important because you want to make sure that you're kind of protecting yourself against

Kenna

as much as possible against all the possible, what if um So that's that's the biggest downside, like with any investment, there is risk involved, but there are ways to protect yourself to ensure that you are actually acquiring a profitable business that's in good standing,

Kenna

so um and then the upside I would say is just simply like I said earlier skipping the startup struggle because you get to just acquire business that's already working. Um So if you don't want to go through the whole process of just trying to basically throw stuff against the wall and see what will stick. Um if you don't want to try to find products and find suppliers and try to figure out your branding and your marketing strategy and all that stuff and you just want to dive in, you just, you want to own a profitable business. Buying a business is a great way to go is I think the most

Kenna

um under undervalued process or opportunity there is because so many people are unaware that is even possible um that you can actually just buy something that's already working and then take it and just, you know, put your own personal touch on it. So that's definitely the upside.

Serwaa

So for those people who have been aware and have been working in this

Serwaa

area for a long time, I know people have portfolios of businesses that they have acquired.

Serwaa

How is that manageable? What is the process for starting to build that portfolio of businesses that you own?

Kenna

So there's a few different ways, a lot of people actually build out a team. So I have actually have some investor friends who actually have a team of people who managed the portfolios for them. So if they have multiple brands in their portfolio, or multiple businesses in their portfolio, then they will actually hire a Ceo for each of those brands

Kenna

or businesses. So that Ceo has been responsible for managing everything involved with operating that business. And so the investor can just focus on looking for more deals. Um, So that's one way to do it. Another way is to have basically an in house team where you have the marketing expert, you have the customer service

Kenna

representative, you have the person that handles order fulfillment and working with suppliers. So having your own team, and basically when you acquire business, you just pass it on to them and let them handle the day to day. So it's definitely possible to have a portfolio. But then, like I said, you definitely need to have a team that's actually helping you manage the day to day of each of the businesses in your portfolio.

Serwaa

That's good to know. So for anyone who's listened to this and their interest is piqued, they're ready to go out and buy their first business. Where can we find you, Where can we get more help with this journey?

Kenna

Absolutely. So I go by the biz buyer on social media and business B I Z.

Kenna

Um and I love to actually share a resource with your listeners because the first question that people ask me is where do I find these businesses for sale? Right, there's business is available for sale uh, e commerce businesses specifically. So where do I find them? So if you go to the biz buyer dot co for slash free, I will actually send you a listing of the different market places that sell e commerce businesses.

Kenna

So that's a great place to start just to kind of get an idea because sometimes people don't even believe me when I say that you can buy an existing e commerce business and so I was like, oh look at him, just go look and see what's available and it will blow your mind. So, um, definitely go check those resources out um, and I'm here to help, so please feel free to reach out to me. You can find me at the biz fire.

Serwaa

Well kenya, you have shared so much and you probably opened a lot of our eyes to something we did not know existed. So I really appreciate you for sharing your knowledge and your time with us today.

Kenna

Absolutely. That's what I'm here for. I'm happy to help and thank you again for having me. Of

Serwaa

course, High

Kenna

Off-Scripters I'm so

Serwaa

glad you made it to the end of this episode. If you found this show helpful, please pay it forward by sharing us with your network and leading us a review on Apple podcasts between episodes. You can find us on instagram are handle is at She's Off Script

Serwaa

or you can catch up on past episodes at She's Off Script dot com. Alright with that. We'll see you right back here next thursday for another episode by

hey there!

I'm Serwaa, your new business strategist.

I’m a digital business strategy expert, headstrong high achiever, mom of two girls and wife to a strapping African man.

Embracing these facets of my life has been the key to breaking through my plateaus!

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