Norfolk Network stories

Speaking Amazon’s language

Rachel Buck
Digital Marketing Consultant

Amazon has transformed both shopping for consumers and selling for retailers. With more than 350 million products to choose from you’re sure to find what you’re looking for. But as a seller, it’s a bit more complicated than typing in ‘red shoes’ and browsing the thousands of pairs on sale.

Sellers need their red shoes to stand out from the other 69,999 pairs available. Does the customer want heeled, flat, casual or dress shoes? Perhaps they’re looking for a specific make or seller?

Heloise Finch set up Sell Beyond to help entrepreneurs sell more effectively on Amazon in any European language. So how did a self-confessed “history nerd” with a PhD in Anthropology end up helping businesses to sell on Amazon in any language? As Heloise explained it involved “a portfolio career”, also called “trial and error”.

A solitary academic start

Heloise spent her summers in Suffolk with teenagers from around the world, who came to live with her family to learn English. It therefore made sense that she should study English and French at university and then complete a PHD in Anthropology.

But academia proved to be a solitary life for Heloise, despite the exotic locations she spent much of her time in. “I felt like a failure,” she recalled. “I knew I wasn’t suited for academia but felt I had a point to prove that I was good enough.”

So, Heloise moved to Johannesburg to study for a post-doctorate fellowship – the first rung on the ladder to becoming a university professor. “I had a three-year post-doctorate research contract and everything I needed to set up as an academic but no idea why I was there.”

From Johannesburg she moved to London to work at the National Maritime Museum as a curator. A job she admits others would have killed for. But when the museum’s figureheads didn’t talk back, she decided it was time for something more radical.

Time for a radical change

“Just because you’re switching careers, don’t undersell yourself,” Heloise was advised. “Always arrive 20 minutes early. Text your contact and ask what they like to drink and have their coffee ready when they arrive.” Sound advice that enabled Heloise to radically switch careers from academia to financial consulting.

“Part of the reason I succeeded is because I asked for help from everyone I know,” she said. “I wasn’t afraid to get people’s opinion and I learned that when you ask politely for help, and buy coffee, you’re very likely to get the help you’re looking for.”

But employment still wasn’t the same as being a business owner. “I really knew I wanted to have my own company some day. How did I know? It just seemed to be the most fun and creative thing I could be doing.”

Going beyond

To help make SellBeyond a success, Heloise attended a free business growth workshop run by New Anglia business Growth Hub, where she met business coach, Phil Budd. “Phil has been awesome and has helped me get order in my business and a sales process,” said Heloise. She also applied for a grant from the Department of International Trade and was able to get funding for 50% of the costs to rebrand SellBeyond.

She then started to build her own team. When it comes to employing people, Heloise draws inspiration from her time working for F6S, a start-up. “My boss at F6S said he only hired people who are awesome,” Heloise explained. “The first interview question he always asked was what drives you? Because he always hired people on attitude first and technical capability second.”

Like many new businesses Heloise has faced many challenges. She admits she’s had to learn to really listen to people, clients, prospects and employees. “It’s through learning to actively listen that I realised that when young people want to work for me, I have to listen to them,” Heloise concluded. “I’ve got to give them time and find out what they need because listening is the most important part of building this business. That’s how you get results.”

Photography: Paul Macro