Share Your Story & Get Listed

Andy Burr Of Burright Lights A Professional Musician And An Importer Of LED lights To The USA Market

How did you start the first time in the import export business?

I have been a professional musician and performer for 20+ years. Early in 2013 I was considering ways to increase the quality and marketability of my musical shows, and decided to add stage lighting. After purchasing a few LED lights from music retail stores (very expensive) and Ebay (not quite so expensive), I discovered Alibaba and learned that most of the lights I was interested in are manufactured in China.

I soon figured out that if I also sold lights, I could better afford to buy for my own use. And I learned that there was an open spot, a hole, in the US market for lower-priced LED stage and deejay effect lights.

I contacted about 30 of the companies listed on Alibaba's website and requested catalogs and quotes. About 20 responded. My research was sporadic and shallow, focusing mainly on price and on the willingness of sales reps to respond to my novice questions. After one such company quoted the best price on a case of an item that interested me (it was selling on Ebay for nearly $100 each; cost to me, including FedEx from Guangzhou, is under $30 each), I jumped in and risked $500.

Just a few months later, selling mostly on Craigslist and Ebay (and occasionally on Amazon), I'm ordering 2-3 times a month and offering 5 different items. Along the way I've made some serious mistakes. The worst was placing a $500 order with an untried company and receiving a product substantially different from what I had been led to believe.

I filed a dispute with Paypal, which I've been using to pay my suppliers. Paypal is not a suitable escrow company when dealing with Chinese manufacturers, but it is an inexpensive way to send money.

To get a refund, I was required to return the product. Have you checked the cost of shipping to China? It's much more costly than paying shipping from China. So I returned the carton. But then the seller refused to accept the product -- customs there apparently charges a lot -- so Paypal refused my request for a refund (because the company never received the return!) and I was out a total of nearly $750. Ouch! I should have accepted the company's advice to sell the items for whatever I could get and then work with them to get whatever satisfaction I could for the remainder. I'll know better next time, I told myself.

But just recently, again with an untried company (I'm obviously a slow learner), I ordered a light that was supposed to be the same as I had been getting from my regular supplier, but was priced $5 per item less. It turned out to be a lesser quality item and the specs were not what was promised. I'll be lucky to break even. Glad I only ordered 12 units.

Same company, same order, different item: the sales rep (with whom I had developed what I thought was good rapport) neglected to tell me his company didn't have the safety certificate required by US FDA for importation of Class IIA lasers. So they were stuck at Anchorage for a couple weeks. I was finally able to give customs a valid cert # from a different Chinese manufacturer of laser lights, and luckily they accepted it. That came very close to being an $800 mistake.

I have decided to deal with the one company I have had good results from, even though their prices seem to be higher on some items I want.

About Your Business

Most of my income is from providing musical services (performances) at community events, fairs, festivals, conventions, and private parties.

We provide several musical specialties, including Louisiana Cajun and zydeco, bluegrass, Irish music, Christmas music, reggae/ska, and '50s-'70s pop. I also give guitar lessons and my wife is a fine artist as well as a musician in some of my bands. I like to say that I'm doing okay because haven't had a 'day job' in 20 years, and I'm almost making a living.

My lighting business is, at this point, merely a supplement. I call it Burright Lights, and advertise "The lowest prices this side of China." My profit margin is not huge, but I hope to increase volume enough to make it more worthwhile. As I slowly increase capital, I will increase the number of items I offer.

I operate with a computer and and a small storage rental space (my wife didn't like all the cartons I was collecting; I don't know why.) I started with a $500 credit card purchase and now have inventory worth a few grand. I'm considering other shipping options -- FedEx Economy shipping often costs as much as the item I buy. If I can get a bit further ahead, I'm thinking about placing an order large enough to last me a few months and having it shipped as a partial container load. I'm currently researching costs and feasibility.

Contact Name: Andy Burr
Company Name: Burr Art & Music, LLC ; Burright Lights
Country: USA
Email Address: andyburr2[+ at +] gmail dot com