Harun Rashid Ridwan Mahmood eCom Empires Academy
We have had several readers recently contact us with regards to emails they have received relating to a joint Harun Rashid Ridwan Mahmood eCom Empires Academy training course that is due to be launched.
An initial quick look suggested the usual online marketing tactics; several enticing emails to get you hooked followed by the usual request for payment to learn more and get started.
However, in the name of fairness and to remain impartial until we do our own homework, we asked Ismail (a marketing guru and PLR supremo) to take a look and offer his thoughts.
Salaam, Ismail here hoping to shed some light on this new training provided by Harun Rashid & Ridwan Mahmood. The course itself relates to PLR (Private Label Rights) products. This has been a growing market for a few years now with still plenty of potential and many (including myself) are making a decent living from it. I will explain what it is but first about the two gentlemen involved?
Ridwan Mahmood is, as far as the online community goes, a fairly new face in internet marketing. He claims he has made a successful career online and through Amazon and I have no reason to believe otherwise neither to prove him wrong. I only know of his link to Profit Phoenix which is a software tool designed to help you market your products on Amazon. He has also been a past student of The Muslim Entrepreneur Network.
He states he has an Amazon business generating six figures but with no real mention of the business name, what he is selling and how much profit he actually makes.
I have known of Harun Rashid for some years now mainly through his success with Islamic Design House, a very successful Islamic fashion outlet which is now both online and in bricks and mortar form too. In fact I was once an affiliate for this company promoting their site and getting paid for it!
Other than that Harun has had various successes working in partnership with businesses helping them to grow and position themselves strongly in the market place. So yes, a proven and established businessman.
Okay back to PLR products. Very simply PLR products are products that give you permission to edit, enhance, amend & package them in your own way and sell as your own. So a factory in China is producing a basic jigsaw puzzle with Private Label Rights. You decide you want a particular picture to go on the jigsaw and it needs to be a certain size. You also tell them which design to put on the box and your own company name too.
You order 100 pieces from the factory at £1.99 each and sell them for £4.99 generating £499 for you. Take off all your overheads (shipping, advertising, marketing etc) and let’s assume you make £2.00 per jigsaw. Multiply that by 100 pieces and you have made £200 profit.
Use either some of the £499 or all of it to buy more jigsaws. You then repeat the cycle and your profit increases each time as you order more and more. Not only that as you order more you should be able to negotiate a better purchasing price from your supplier too.
In theory it should be that simple – In reality it isn’t!
The initial email from Harun and Ridwan talks you through the basic process of setting up a PLR business.
Step 1: Find a Product
This is the crucial bit. Find the right product and you’ll sell shedloads, find the wrong product and it’s money down the drain. Amazon is a good place to start to see what is selling.
My advice is find a product that you are comfortable selling then see what the competition is like on Amazon and the reviews. See how you can modify this product slightly to not only make it stand out from the rest but to also rectify any common complaints found in the reviews of the competition.
That said it is still hit and miss so be prepared to trial and error a few products before finding one that sells and returns a decent profit.
Step 2: Create A Brand
It’s entirely upto you what you call your business however bear in mind a few points. If you name your brand after your own name but are selling to the general public this may work against you. The western world may not be as attracted to Nasreen Cosmetics as they are to a more generic name. However if your target is solely Muslim market then that’s fine.
Also don’t limit yourself to one product name ie The Toothbrush Company unless you will only be ever selling toothbrushes. If you decide to branch out into shavers and nail cutters too then the name doesn’t quite work.
Ideally find a name that is neutral to all markets and can accommodate various products in the future.
Step 3: Find a Supplier
Alibaba is recommended and I agree. It is a vast market place offering every product you can think of. Remember though that when first ordering you will not get preferential rates on any decent item so you have the choice of paying more to buy a few good items or paying less to buy inferior items.
If you have a big budget then yes you will get further discounts on bulk orders but is it a product that is guaranteed to sell? Not an easy starting position.
I would advise start off small and see how well a product does before bulk ordering.
Step 4: Fulfilment
If you decide to use Amazon to sell your products they will also take care of the orders, postage and returns. BUT… they will take a big cut and therefore reduce your profit margin vastly.
If you are using your own website to sell from then the course advises using Shipwire or Dollar Fulfilment to process your orders. This will mean you still retain a decent profit margin, however, you won’t have anywhere near as big a customer base as Amazon does nor the credibility.
Step 5: Website
The course recommends a Shopify website. Shopify is a website that allows you to promote your products with easy payment options included. What Harun and Ridwan fail to mention is that using Shopify involves an additional cost. At the moment it is £29 per month for the basic package going onto £79 and £299 per month for the upgrades.
Although it is fairly easy to set up the website you will still require some computer skills. If you have none at all then don’t worry it isn’t too difficult to pick up the basics.
Step 6: Driving Traffic to Your Website
The course recommends using Google Adwords and Facebook Ads.
” NO! NO! NO! “
No internet marketer who genuinely wants to help their students will ever advise jumping into Adwords or Facebook Ads straightaway. Not unless you have an enormous budget to work with anyway or money to burn.
This is the easy easy/expensive option and by the that I mean easy for them and expensive for you.
To use these platforms you are looking at spending around £200-£500 per month to see any real results i.e. visits to your website. You then need these visitors to buy enough products to generate enough profit that will not only cover your advertising spend but also help further progress your business.
Without a big advertising budget you will need to rely on getting visitors to your site without spending. This takes time and effort correctly using SEO, free Social Media tools and Keyword techniques.
Once you begin selling and generating a small profit then, and only then, should you start experimenting with paid advertising.
Step 7: Scaling Your Business
As with all businesses once you are selling and making a decent profit you will need to think about adding extra products and repeating the cycle. You can’t rely on one product alone to survive. You may even have a second website working independently of the first one if your products are quite diverse.
So you are happy with the above steps and decide to sign up for the course. What will you get for your money?
The course comprises of 8 weeks training with weekly webinars, free software, private (Facebook) community and an Accountability Program. This is a new course so no student will have completed it yet so my review is based purely on similar courses I have done offering the same process and training.
Week 1: Dropshipping
For those that are new to this term here’s what dropshipping basically is. You are the middle man (or woman) selling someone else’s products. So you have a website where you can sell from or an Amazon/EBay shop and you have found a supplier who is offering their products for you to sell.
You promote the products and when someone orders the details are passed onto the supplier who takes care of the shipping meaning you never need to hold any stock or worry about postage. The downside is that the dropshipping market is pretty saturated right now so you will be working on miniscule margins.
The idea with week one is that dropshipping provides you with a token income whilst you prepare your own business. Don’t get too excited though as setting this up and earning anything significant from it is going to be hard work.
I would have preferred if they had just focussed on getting your own business up and running.
Week 2: Your Business
This week is all about finding your niche (your chosen market sector), creating products, finding suppliers and creating a brand.
The course should teach you how to research on Amazon as to what is popular and looking at what competition the product has. You will also look at how you can adapt the product to make it stand out or to improve it.
This part of the business is so important as the product can make or break your business. Think with your head and not with your heart. Work with what sells and not just what you personally like.
Finding a supplier is not easy. The reputable ones will want more money whilst the not so popular ones may have substandard items. You have to decide who to deal with, how much you want to pay and what standard of product you want based on your market and the competitors prices.
Personally I would order a couple of competitor product and then ask for a sample from the Alibaba supplier. Compare them for quality and then decide on the retail price and any amendments to the product.
Once you have found a supplier and paid them they will ship your products to your fulfilment house whether that is Amazon, Shipwire or any other.
NOTE: you will need additional funds to purchase your products and for the fulfilment company.
Week 3: Your Shopify Website
You will be shown how to setup your website; don’t be frightened it is pretty straightforward. You will also realise that there is an additional monthly cost for doing this.
Not only that but to show any real credibility to your store you need to have twenty to thirty products on sale. Just imagine you are the customer and you end up on an online store with just one product for sale, how convinced are you that this is a legitimate outfit?
But to have many products means big capital expenditure. something which is not made clear at the beginning.
If you want to do this then I advise using Amazon initially then building up your own store slowly; and be warned it could be very slowly.
The Shopify website does look good though and with a few tweaks will show your products off to their full potential. You will be able to add your own brand name, logo and product descriptions and really make it your own.
Week 4: Launch Your Website
Basically getting your website live for all to see along with all key features such as shopping cart, payment processing and ordering.
Your website should also be search engine friendly so places like Google, Yahoo and Bing can find it. If it’s not on their radar your customers won’t find it either.
Once all setup the process is quite straightforward. The customer places an order, the supplier is notified and they send the product directly to the customer.
Week 5: Marketing
Although you are told about Pintrest and Reddit the main advertising portals pushed here are Google Adwords and Facebook. Both expensive platforms which offer very little for those on a budget. Even with various research tools provided to narrow down your advertising audience you are looking at spending least £200 per month on advertising to achieve any noticeable results.
Two other advertising sources looked at are Yahoo and Bing. These search engines are not as popular as Google meaning they are a little cheaper to advertise with but they also have a smaller audience.
Finally SEO is discussed. To me this should be a priority. Anything that will generate free traffic should be a topic on its own. After all I would assume most students signing up for this course are looking at setting up an online business with minimum outlay.
Week 6: Growth Hacking
Here the course looks at email marketing, Instagram and YouTube. All great tools for any business looking to grow. Email marketing not only helps grow your customer base but also keeps previous customers informed as to new products and special offers.
YouTube and video is the latest ‘must have’ for websites as search engines love videos. Customers are also more likely to take notice of a video than a text page.
Instagram is the perfect way to get in touch with a younger customer base so depending on what your product is this may even take precedence.
If you are also promoting your products on Amazon (and the course recommends that you do) you will need to make your products stand out from the competition. The course will teach you how to rank your products and get reviews.
You can also link your website to Amazon so people can see all you have to offer instead of just the products you place on Amazon.
Week 8: Scaling & Optimising Your Business
I wouldn’t worry about this one too much just yet. If you find yourself in the position where business is that good that you require additional employees, a slicker process or more products then this means you have already made it so just enjoy it.
There are some software products/tools included which are designed to help you although I won’t go into the products individually here as they are there to assist you and form part of the 8 week training mentioned above.
There is also a Private Community set up on Facebook where you can share your thoughts, ideas and progress along with any questions you may have. Harun Rashid and Ridwan Mahmood also state they will be available on the page although it is too early to comment on how well the page is working.
Finally you have an Accountability Program where you are teamed up with a similar person to basically keep each other motivated and provide a bit of moral support when needed.
My Final Thoughts
So that is the over view of the course and the price? At the time of looking at it the cost was $2000 which you could pay in two instalments. I appreciate a lot of effort has gone into promoting the course but still feel this is a somewhat overpriced.
It is also mentioned this is a discounted price although I fail to see how any new product can be discounted before even being sold at full price! You can only discount something once you have tried selling it at a higher price.
However if you do decide to sign up for this only do so if you are also prepared to put in the time, effort and commitment and appreciate it may be some time before you see any worthwhile return. And when I say some time that could be 1 or 2 years.
Also bear in mind that on top of the course you will still need to budget for extra costs such as advertising, website, fulfilment house and of course paying for your products.
Taking into account the potential of a good PLR product or products this is definitely a market that still has scope to provide a decent income although no results are guaranteed.
In my experience probably 5% of students who sign up for courses like this make a substantial income, about 20% make some kind of income and sadly around 75% make nothing and give up for various reasons. And that’s not solely down to the course but more due to the fact that many signing up either don’t actually realise what the process entails, don’t have the additional funds required or simply just don’t have the commitment.
On a final note the course comes with a 30 day money back guarantee which is fine for those who have signed up in haste without realising what they were signing up for but absolutely no use to anyone serious as it will probably take a minimum of 6 months to see the potential of the business by which time the 30 days is long gone.
On A Lighter Note
There was one thing about the videos that made me smile though and took me back to my first year in car sales way back in the early 90’s. We had this old school manager who although seemed set in his ways actually had a wealth of experience behind him.
Back then it was tradition in car sales (and probably still is) to have some proper bling on your wrist to show how successful you were. Most of the team were fairly new so couldn’t afford expensive watches until a ‘traveling salesman’ came in one weekend with a suitcase full of replicas.
We went crazy buying the biggest, shiniest, trendiest watches and all came in Monday morning flashing our new gear. It lasted until about 10.00am when the boss called us in to his office.
“If I see any one of you wearing that crap on your wrists again you can clear your desk, hand in your car keys and leave!”
He didn’t even explain his reason. However later in my career and some customer psychology courses later it did make sense. Customers don’t want to see you wearing designer gear, expensive watches or driving flash cars when trying to sell them something, they want to deal with someone who is like them. People buy from people.
The psychology behind it was that looking too flash indicated to the customer that either A/ you were making too much money i.e. ripping them off or B/ you were more interested in yourself than them.
I am not implying that Harun Rashid or Ridwan Mahmood fall into either of these categories but I did initially pay more attention to their arm candy first time round trying to figure out what make their over-sized watches actually were. So let me give two brothers some free advice: tone down the watches and allow viewers to focus on what you are telling them.
We thank Ismail for his time and appreciate his busy schedule. So now for our thoughts based on Ismail’s overview and our own research.
Firstly the concept itself is great and if the course ends up providing easy to follow step by step guidance at every stage then yes the course itself is definitely worth looking at. But is it worth the $2000 price tag?
There is no mention at all of the extra spending required once you have signed up or the expected timescale to see any real results. It’s okay having video testimonials of past students claiming they are generating $20000, $50000 or $100000 per month but where are these students when you try to find them.
We would want to know exactly what they have done when starting out, what they are doing now and in-depth details of how every dollar was made. That would certainly get us one step closer to spending $2000.
Also as Ismail mentioned the 30 day money back guarantee does nothing to help the serious student as it will take probably six months to really see if this is working for you or not.
If you really want to convince the Muslim Ummah that this will help them then why not offer it at the lowest price possible, this will attract so many more people, and then let their success be your testimony.
It makes sense to sell 1000 items at a lower price then sell 10 at a higher price to make the same profit because that would be 1000 happy customers telling all their friends and family about your products instead of just 10customers.
In our experience most people signing up to such courses are looking at bettering their current lifestyle. Most are working on a budget and surviving day to day as opposed to having a large amount of disposable income to spend.
If that is you then think wisely whether you are able to commit yourself long-term to this, have additional funds to keep you going and most importantly can pick yourself up if you have a rocky start and even end up losing money initially.
We have to admit our disappointment at Muslim Entrepreneur Network (the organization behind this course) as they have seriously missed a trick here.
This could have been an amazing opportunity to genuinely help as many new Muslim entrepreneurs as possible by offering a great product at an affordable price with ongoing training.
Maybe even spreading the course over four to six months months with a $99 monthly subscription. This would genuinely benefit serious students in turn spread the word on the course generating further students; a real win:win situation.
Final bit of advice if you do decide to sign up why not do it as a team of five. That’s $400 each and then build your business together. Once established help set up the next one until you all have your own business going.