Small Business and Amazon

Small Business and Amazon

I read an article recently that stated Amazon dominates half of all online sales in the US.  49% to be exact.  That statistic is from 2018, so I fully expect it to be more than that now.  That is mind-blowing but not surprising, at least to me. My husband and I decided to buy a prime membership probably 5 years ago and we still agree it is the best choice we ever made. The luxury of having almost anything you need delivered to your door in 2 days or less (for most things) is pretty awesome!  It was precisely because of our own use of Amazon that we decided to jump into selling products from our little company there as well.

A little backstory on our small business

I think our first online appearance was around 1999, back when we barely new what email was and AOL was all the rage.  Since was already taken, we decided on and purchased that domain name.  Back then it was just one page with a basic title, product photo and description of our business, but most importantly it displayed our toll free number and business address.  This began the era of the “birthday mom” and our little business found a whole new market of consumers besides just bowling centers!  All of a sudden we were getting calls from moms (and dads) who wanted bowling pin sippers for their birthday parties.

Then came the online “shopping cart.”  I think our first website with ordering capabilities was in 2007 and we’ve been through probably 4 different “shopping cart” software programs since then.  The newest (and best) which was just implemented in September 2019.  The invention of the internet has sure been good for small businesses like ours!

Now back to the Amazon part of this post…

To be fully transparent, there is a white bowling pin water bottle that sells on Amazon that is a “Chinese knockoff” of our bottle.  It is smaller by about 2 inches and holds 24 ounces instead of 32.  It also has terrible red rubber bands on it that seem to break easily (according to multiple reviews).  Yes, it is cheaper than ours, but it is simply not good quality at all.  But I digress.

In 2015 we started getting phone calls from customers asking for pricing on the white bottles. Once we gave them the price they would state “Why are they so much cheaper on Amazon?” We would then have to explain that we don’t sell our bottles on Amazon and how they were different.  The fact that they could get 9 different colors was a big selling point (and still is!).  After getting so many calls just like this one I decided to look into selling on Amazon too.

Amazon is complicated

I’m going to be honest with you, taking the leap was not easy.  Selling on Amazon is complicated and requires a lot of research.  We didn’t want to just jump in without enough knowledge to make the right decisions.  I read too many horror stories about small businesses losing money on Amazon!  I had to figure out how to package our products and create UPC codes so we could label them.  We also had to decided between Amazon FBA and Seller Fulfilled.

It wasn’t until late 2016 (after SO MUCH research) that I created our Amazon selling account and created our first listing.  We decided that the 12 pack of mini bowling pin containers was the best item to start with. This was and still is the second most popular item for “birthday moms”. I packaged 42 sets, put them in one large box and shipped them off to the Amazon warehouse.  Then I crossed my fingers and said a little prayer hoping I made the right choice! And it was (the right choice).  They became our most popular item on Amazon!

Product we sell as a Small Business and on Amazon

Example of mini bowling pin candy containers filled with different types of candy

How Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) works

The seller (me), packages and labels the product and sends it to an Amazon warehouse (they will select where it goes and produce labels for you to print and put on the box).  Then Amazon is in charge of everything from that point on.  They send the packages all over the US and also take care of customer service.

It’s important to note that Amazon takes a percentage of every sale.  So, as a small business it’s important to set a price so you don’t lose money!

Those seller fees can get quite high as there are:

1.”Referral fees” (based on product price)

2.”Fulfillment fees” (cost to store, pick and pack the product)

3. “Inventory fees” (extra fees for storage if your product stays in the warehouse too long)

4. Fees to ship your product to the warehouse. You also have to keep an eye on inventory and keep things in stock.

Just last year we started selling some of our items as seller fulfilled on Amazon.  The fees are less but you have to deal with disgruntled customers when/if there is an issue with the order. Luckily we’ve had very few issues, but man people can get downright nasty (that’s a story for another post, ha ha).

The Best Thing About Selling on Amazon

The biggest plus for selling on Amazon is the exposure.  Google used to be the first place people go to find what they want, but now I truly believe it is Amazon. Selling on Amazon has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.

For those who have made it this far and aren’t going to sell on Amazon I want to impart a little knowledge.  When you buy online from a small business website (after finding their product on Amazon) please remember, they are not Amazon.  They do not get special deals on shipping from UPS like Amazon does.  2-day shipping is expensive for a small business!!!!  So when they tell you its $45 extra to get that product in 2 days they are not lying or trying to scam you.  It really is that expensive to ship (for example) from CA to NY in 2 days!

“Free shipping” isn’t free.  Let me say that again: “FREE SHIPPING” ISN’T FREE.  The cost of shipping is built into the price of the product.  That’s why on our website it is $10.50 for one sipper (with free shipping) but it’s only $3.85 each when you order 50 sippers (with free shipping).  I hope that makes sense!

Now, for those who are looking to start selling on Amazon, I’d love to try and answer any questions you might have. I’ve learned a lot in the last 3 years. So post your questions below or shoot me an email. Thanks for reading!

Mini Bowling Pin Candy Containers: The Versatile Party Favor

First let me start by saying I know it has been a LONG time since I posted.  I think I’ll get my feet wet and try to post more regularily. So, please, if you’re reading this will you shoot me a comment?  Just so I know people are actually reading!

Many people ask me: “What is your best selling item?”  The simple answer is the bowling pin water bottles! They have been our best selling item since we started selling them in 1996!  But, the more complex answer is the mini bowling pin containers.  Read on to find out why…

White Bowlng Pin Bottle

Bowling Pin Water Bottle & Mini Bowling Pin Candy Container

While the bowling pin water bottles are a huge seller to bowling centers, the mini bowling pin candy containers are our biggest online seller.  The customers that we lovingly refer to as the “birthday mom’s and dad’s” have really come to LOVE our “mini pins.”

It’s hard to believe that we first started selling the mini bowling pins in April 2006!  It wasn’t until 2013 that online sales started to take off. I attribute this to the first “pin” someone did to our website from Pinterest! And then some great blogs that sell party tags found our mini pins, added them to their bowling party collection and then blogged about them with a link to our website.  From then on our sales soared! Finally in October 2015 we started an Amazon account and made them available on Amazon Prime through our store. It just goes to show with patience and persistence comes great reward.

All of that being said, let’s get back to the title of this blog. Mini Bowling Pin Candy Containers: The Versatile Party Favor. Why did I choose this title? Well, mostly because its true! Ha ha.

Here’s just a few ways customers have used them (all “bowling themed” of course): birthday party favor, wedding favor, baby shower favor, gender reveal party favor, bar or bat mitzvah favor, birthday gift, Christmas gift, graduation party favor &/or decoration, valentine gift, end of the year classmate gifts, bowling league prizes, bowling team gifts, bowling center redemption prize, pro shop sales, bowling center sales, bowling center birthday party package item, and the list keeps growing! Many bowling centers keep them for the year and put candy that matches each holiday.

That leads me to another popular question that customers ask me: “What candy fits in the mini bowling pin containers?” Let’s first give you a visual…

The Mini Bowling Pin Candy Containers can fit a variety of candies

The most important thing I can tell you is: the bigger the candy, the harder it is to get out. The opening is just shy of 1 inch, but the neck is a little smaller than that. So, for instance, when you put hershey kisses in you will need to shake the container to get them back out! The largest wrapped candy I was able to fit was the hershey nuggets, anything larger simply doesn’t fit. None of the “bite size” hershey items fit (like snickers, butterfingers, etc.) Also, its’ important to note that 1 inch gum balls DO NOT FIT. They must be smaller than 1 inch.

In case you can’t see all the candy in the photo above here’s a list:

1/2 inch gumballs, Hershey nuggets, Andies mints, Hershey kisses, tootsie rolls,  jolly ranchers, jordan almonds, jelly beans, popcorn, M&M’s, Rollo’s, wrapped chocolate eggs and conversation hearts.  Not pictured: Mike & Ike’s, Runts, Skittles, Sixlets (so many color options of these at Party City!), Candy Corn and most small candy.

Another important note to make: We do not recommend soft or sticky items such as marshmallows or gummy bears.  They tend to get stuck inside the container especially during warm summer days! The sour patch kids with the sugar coating are probably okay.

Well, now that I’ve written a novel I will try to conclude this post. I spend my days thinking of new and fun ways to promote our products because it brings me joy to make others happy. Who knew when I met my husband 20 years ago it would lead me to business ownership! But, that’s a story for another blog.

I hope this blog has been helpful to you in some way. And like I said please shoot me a comment!

Bye for now!

Shelly – Owner – Sierra Products, Inc.

Novelty Bowling Stuff

Why Bowling is Still a Great Idea for Children’s Parties

It seems as though everywhere you look these days, there’s a new children’s toy coming out that requires batteries or a plug. As technology continues to evolve, there is less of an emphasis on creating games that stimulate the brain and keep children active, and more interest in creating games that are loud and flashy and can double as a babysitter when mom and dad are a bit busy.  That being said, children of this generation are becoming lazier by the day and uninterested in anything that doesn’t involve a built-in screen.


At a time when adolescent obesity is at an all-time high, parents need to be more selective of the types of toys and activities that they introduce to their children very early on. What happened to the good old days where a child’s imagination and active movement were encouraged? If you ask us, days like that need to make a serious comeback!


So the next time you’re trying to come up with ideas for your child’s next birthday party, skip the arcades, videogame marathon parties or anything else that you may have had in mind and consider a bowling party. Not only does bowling encourage a bit of healthy competition, but it doesn’t involve batteries and gets your child and his friends moving.


You may not think about bowling as a truly physical sport, but you’d be surprised to learn otherwise. In fact, according to Sweat Fitness and Frames, bowling not only promotes muscle growth through anaerobic exercises that target the legs and arms, but it helps to improve balance as well. Additionally, the sport has been proven to help stretch muscles and promote flexibility as the swinging motion engages the player’s joints, tendons and ligaments. Beyond the physical benefits, you may be interested to know that bowling can also reduce symptoms of depression and act as an incredibly fun stress reliever.


Best part? You’re kids probably won’t even realize how many benefits they’re really getting from the game – they’ll be too busy just having fun with their friends! So what are you waiting for? Call your local bowling alley for your child’s next birthday party and then be sure to head over to the Sierra Products Inc. website for all of the greatest novelty bowling supplies you need to take the party to the next level. We’ve got everything you need to maintain the bowling theme at the alley, and even a few great bowling-inspired treats to fill goody bags with! Check us out today!


(Posted by: Shelly Berry of Sierra Products Inc.)

Subscribe to Sierra Products Inc by Email



Hello and welcome to our new blog! Check back soon for news and updates.