Amazon Small Business Initiative Heads Into 25th Year and Takes Turn as Job Creator

Amazon Marketplace seller

In November 2000 the Nasdaq was at the 6,000 mark, just starting to shed the internet companies that had been overvalued and would eventually lead to the bursting of the internet bubble. Amazon’s stock price at the time was $1.25. And in this environment, it launched an online experience for sole proprietorships and small businesses called Amazon Marketplace, which started as a destination for collectibles and rare items.

But someone saw limitless potential.

“We’re only beginning to understand how Amazon Marketplace can channel that demand to benefit customers, manufacturers, publishers, artists and the industry as a whole,” Amazon founder and then-CEO Jeff Bezos said at the time. “We’re confident that this model will continue to evolve, and believe it has the potential to drive meaningful category growth over the long term.”

Like a lot of things Amazon did at the turn of the century, this move had its detractors and advocates. But its results have been impossible to argue with. As a new report out Thursday (May 9) shows, Amazon’s small business initiative is heading into its 25th year as a generator of small business health, wealth and job creation.

In a press release on the new report, Amazon Vice President, Worldwide Selling Partner Services Dharmesh Mehta said more than 60% of sales in Amazon’s store come from independent sellers — most of which are small and medium-sized businesses. “The small businesses selling and flourishing in Amazon’s store are also at the heart of their local communities, creating jobs and building economic opportunity — and they include many women, military-family, Black, and Hispanic-owned businesses as well as artisans who create handcrafted goods,” Mehta said. “Selling in Amazon’s store fuels growth in local communities around the country and has enabled independent sellers to employ more than 1.8 million people in the U.S., including jobs that are responsible for managing, operating, and supporting sellers’ efforts to sell through Amazon’s store.”

Amazon’s Natalie Angelillo told PYMNTS she has spoken to hundreds of success stories in preparation for the report’s release, and it was job creation that came to the fore as the most impressive part of the data and the anecdotes from sellers themselves.

“What I learned is that we’re creating jobs that are specific to Amazon businesses,” Angelillo said. “These jobs come in a wide range of positions, and so many people I spoke with were excited about their connection to their communities and in building jobs that people can build a career on.”

Partially as a celebration of its success and an update on the metrics that define the program, Amazon has released its annual U.S. Small Business Empowerment Report, which further shows how ongoing investments are manifesting in growth for its sellers. As detailed in the 2023 report, independent sellers sold more items year-over-year in Amazon’s store and hundreds of millions of customers purchased from small and medium-sized businesses, fueling the growth of these businesses and directly benefiting their communities.

Among the key takeaways:

  • Amazon reported strong growth among its independent sellers in 2023, with over 10,000 surpassing $1 million in sales for the first time. The company said it invests billions to support these entrepreneurs, helping U.S. sellers grow sales to more than 4.5 billion items, averaging over $250,000 in annual sales.
  • The eCommerce giant noted that hundreds of millions of customers bought from small and medium-sized businesses on its platform. Features like the Small Business Search filter and Support Small shopping page aim to boost discoverability for these sellers. Additionally, U.S.-based sellers exported over 330 million items to customers in more than 130 countries.
  • Independent sellers on Amazon employed over 1.8 million people in the U.S. across various industries. The states with the most Amazon-related jobs were California, New York, Florida, Texas and New Jersey. Sellers in rural areas, including parts of Alaska, Florida, Kansas, North Dakota and Utah, saw sales growth exceed 60% year over year.
  • More than 100,000 new brands launched on Amazon in 2023, with brand owners growing sales by over 22% year over year. The company provides access to technologies, tools, and resources to support brand growth. Maine, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming had the fastest-growing number of independent sellers.
  • Popular categories among U.S. sellers included Health & Personal Care, Beauty, Home, Grocery and Apparel. Amazon also reported that more than 100,000 independent sellers have used its generative AI listing tools to create product images, titles, descriptions, and attributes.