Three Amazon sellers who conquered challenges to achieve success

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting stories of three women business owners who faced challenges that disrupted their operations. Each found a way to triumph as they grew their businesses, expanded product lines, and emerged stronger.

How Angela Stephens survived an email phishing scam

Angela Stephens is the founder and CEO of RE-Focus, the Creative Office, a business that creates products to help people with focus issues. In 2019, she faced a setback when a wire transfer went awry. Discover how she maintained focus on her goal despite the chaos surrounding her.

Angela Stephens BTS
Angela Stephens interviewed with Amazon at Amazon Accelerate in 2022.

Angela Stephens, founder and CEO of RE-Focus, the Creative Office, was baffled when a foreign-based manufacturer claimed it hadn’t received a $12,500 wire transfer she’d sent to cover pill box production.

Angela and her now 22-year-old son Drake founded RE-Focus in 2019, after she successfully created various products, such as calendars and to-do list legal pads, to help manage Drake’s ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). Customers who needed help with focus issues really embraced the RE-Focus mission, fueling Angela’s entrepreneurial spirit and inspiring new ideas.

The pill boxes were the latest addition to the company’s product line, designed to help customers manage their daily medications. The manufacturer, with whom Angela was working for the first time, notified her team that the product was ready, but the money was a no-show.

“They said, ‘You haven’t sent the money.’ I said, ‘Yes, we have,’ Angela recalled. “And so, we showed them the wire details from our bank.” After some back and forth, the manufacturer threatened to sell the product to other clients, leading Angela to send another $12,500 from her personal funds, thinking the first payment was lost in transit.

However, when the manufacturer still hadn’t received the second payment, Angela and her husband Darold Sauber, the CFO of RE-Focus, got on a call with them. Angela says, “We did a video and we said, ‘Look, this is the wire. You got it. You said you got it.’ They said, ‘That’s not our email.’ They showed us our email and we said, ‘That’s not our email.’”

 We lost $25,000. We didn’t lose $25 million. If this company reaches the level of my vision for where I see it going, this will just be a bump in the road.

Angela Stephens, Founder and CEO of RE-Focus, The Creative Office


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Angela creates products, like pill boxes, to help people with focus issues succeed daily.

Turns out RE-Focus had fallen victim to an email phishing scam, where scammers use fake emails or texts to steal sensitive information. According to Comparitech, a pro-consumer cyber security website, as many as 79 percent of US organizations experienced a successful phishing attack in 2021, with business email compromise scams being particularly lucrative. Angela reported the incident to law enforcement authorities, but was informed that nothing could be done unless the amount in question was $100,000 or more.

In order to get the pill boxes, Angela and her team ultimately had to negotiate with the manufacturer through a broker based in the same country. But the money was gone. Angela cautions other sellers who have no prior experience working with overseas manufacturers to use payment methods that reduce risk to the company. She also credits Amazon’s Brand Protection program for helping to protect brands who sell in the Amazon store, as well as their customers, from fraud and abuse.

Did you know?
Amazon invests in brand protection
In 2021, Amazon invested more than $900 million and employed more than 12,000 people—including machine learning scientists, software developers, and expert investigators—to protect customers, brands, selling partners, and stores from counterfeit, fraud, and other forms of abuse.

Despite the setback, Angela remains upbeat, and has put the painful episode behind her. “One of the biggest lessons I learned was really to calm your team because my team was upset and freaking out about what happened. We lost $25,000. We didn’t lose $25 million. If this company reaches the level of my vision for where I see it going, this will just be a bump in the road.”

In 2022, three years after the incident, RE-Focus made over $400,000 in sales selling in Amazon’s store. “That experience could have put many people out of business, but you have to keep going,” she says. “We just had a staff meeting, and we were talking about that, and everybody said, ‘We learn every day in this business. That’s what makes this journey awesome.’”

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