A trio of locals have started a successful new business helping people navigate the complex online marketplace that is Amazon. AO2 Marketing, the Amazon management company owned by Jon Fuller, Justin Rapoport and Nathan Neeley, helps clients successfully build their brands and rack up revenue on Amazon using tools, strategies and systems that they developed.
The company was formed back in 2016 by Rapoport. Through a series of mergers, the business began operating under the new company umbrella entity of AO2.
All three entrepreneurs were born and raised in Carmel Valley and Del Mar and reconnected to form the new company.
Neeley and Fuller knew each other from Torrey Pines High School, where they were members of the class of 2010.
Rapoport and Fuller have been close friends since the sixth grade and remained friends throughout middle school, high school and college. Rapoport graduated from Canyon Crest Academy in 2012, making a brief detour to Indiana University before coming home to attend the University of San Diego. Fuller was also at USD, where he graduated in 2014 as the School of Business Administration’s valedictorian with a double major in real estate and finance.
Rapoport was the first to find success on Amazon, although he took a somewhat unexpected route to get there. He had gone to Indiana University to pursue a degree in investment banking but then took a brief pause to explore a career in music. Ultimately music was not for him so he went to USD to get his degree in finance and then started his own business selling smelling salts online.
Rapoport stumbled on smelling salts as his younger brother, a gymnast, used it to psych himself up to perform athletic feats of strength. Watching his brother use the salts, in their basic medical-looking packaging, a lightbulb went off that he could market, manufacture and brand smelling salts for athletes.
“Without any hesitations I jumped into it,” said Rapoport, who went through the process of hiring a web developer, chemist and manufacturer and began “crushing it on Amazon.”
AmmoniaSport took off almost immediately and the product is now in 10 different countries on Amazon and is the number one seller in those countries. The biggest names in professional football and hockey are now all buying his smelling salts.
With AmmoniaSport, Rapoport learned the ins and outs of Amazon—stuff like advertising, reports, search terms and programs. Four years ago, he started a side business helping manage other people’s Amazon accounts.
Still friends, Rapoport and Fuller often worked out together at Bay Club Carmel Valley and would talk business.
Fuller was working in commercial real estate investment and private equity. At his firm he worked with start-ups in finance, design, operations and marketing and he had a lot of ideas for Rapoport to improve and expand his consulting business.
“Jon came to me with the idea to take the side business to the next level,” Rapoport said. “He saw the potential of what I was building.”
Around that time, Fuller had reconnected with Neeley, who had a degree in business management from Brigham Young Hawaii and lots of experience working in the corporate side of Amazon, learning about the algorithm and secrets of Amazon.
An “entrepreneur at heart,” Neeley didn’t like the corporate structure and was interested in striking out on his own when he reconnected with Fuller—Fuller knew they all had to meet.
“I knew we could immediately be a player in the space with Justin’s guerrilla tactics and my corporate structure such as the development of my own software to take advantage of the Amazon algorithm,” Neeley said.
When Rapoport and Neeley met, they talked about optimization, scale and strategies and found they did not have much overlapping processes. Rapoport passed all of Neeley’s tests and Rapoport was convinced: “We need this guy.”
“We complemented each other so well because we all three came from completely different backgrounds,” Fuller said. And all three were willing to work hard.
AO2 Marketing officially launched in September 2019, offering clients their Amazon expertise and technology platform. Out of their office in Hillcrest they develop customized Amazon strategies for their clients utilizing a team of account managers, SEO specialists, graphic designers, professional photographers and Amazon ad specialists. So far, business has been good.
“We’ve had four down days in six months,” said Rapoport.
“Not even,” Fuller supplied.
“It really just clicked from day zero, it was really crazy,” Neeley said.
The company thrives off referrals (“We’re known as the Amazon guys”) and all three now live in the downtown area, where they have found a lot of business in young tech and e-commerce.
While they can help sell any product, they now have the ability to be more selective about their clients as their numbers have grown, to keep their referral rate high and maintain their reputation. They aim to take on bigger brands as clients but still support small start-ups. They are having fun working in a high-energy environment, working long hours with a big vision to ensure all of their clients find success online.
As much as they have become experts in all things Amazon, the guys also have learned a lot about entrepreneurial endeavors. Their advice for those with big ideas:
Fuller: “Start at the end and work backward. Figure out your five-year goals and craft your business plan around it.”
Neeley: “Stay radically open-minded and grind with a Mamba mentality.”
Rapoport: “As Phil Knight would say, just do it.”
Learn more about ao2 https://www.ao2marketing.com/