Amazon just announced that it’s launching a $150 million Black Business Accelerator program for third-party sellers on the site.
Almost all third-party sellers on Amazon are small to medium-sized businesses. Third-party sellers represent nearly 60% of product sales on Amazon, and they enjoyed record sales growth in 2020.
Amazon wants more Black-owned businesses to enjoy that success.
Amazon Launches Black Business Accelerator Program
Amazon’s new Black Business Accelerator provides access to capital, business guidance, mentorship, and marketing/promotion support. The goal is to help Black business owners succeed as sellers with their brands and products in Amazon’s store. The initiative was created in partnership with Amazon’s Black Employee Network and a coalition of strategic partners.
“Selling online, particularly through Amazon, is a powerful economic opportunity for entrepreneurs,” says Brandi Neloms, Manager, Amazon. “This program unlocks the full opportunity of ecommerce success available through selling on Amazon.”
“We’re providing a springboard for Black-owned businesses to participate in and capitalize on the economic engine that is Amazon,” Neloms added. “This has been a challenging time for many small businesses yet selling in Amazon’s stores has enabled hundreds of thousands of smaller companies to sustain and even grow their sales despite the COVID-19 crisis.”
“We want to be sure that Black-owned businesses have access to this opportunity, too,” Neloms said.
How Does Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator Work?
Amazon’s BBA will provide access to financial assistance, strategic business guidance and mentorship, and marketing and promotional support to help both current and aspiring Black small business owners grow their businesses and maximize the opportunities of selling on Amazon. Here’s how:
BBA participants can access services and grants to help jump-start business growth and customer acquisition. Opportunities include Amazon credits and services valued at $3,900 that include free product imaging services and advertising credits.
Cash Grants of $10,000 Available
Amazon will offer an initial round of $10,000 cash grants, in partnership with Hello Alice. Hello Alice is an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses.
“Hello Alice shares our commitment to helping entrepreneurs launch and grow their businesses,” Neloms said. “The company also built its platform on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud.”
Applications for these grants will open on July 1, 2021. The grants will be awarded on September 2, 2021.
Business Education & Mentorship
Participants can access a minimum of one year of free strategic advisory services to get the coaching, training, and insights needed to take their business to the next level. They can also connect with a dedicated network of business mentors, including Amazon experts and small business thought leaders, to continue to accelerate business growth.
“Black entrepreneurs have less access to mentorship and networks that can lead to strategic growth opportunities,” Neloms said. “It’s extremely important that we, in partnership with our strategic partners who have a long history of doing this work, provide these business owners with the educational resources, training, and mentorship needed to grow their businesses.”
Marketing & Promotion
It can be difficult for customers to specifically shop for products from Black-owned businesses. Through initiatives like the Black-owned business storefronts for both consumers and Amazon Business customers and promotions featuring Black-owned businesses, customers can find products from these businesses throughout the shopping experience.
Amazon also recently launched discoverability enhancements that highlight products from minority-owned businesses in related search results, allowing customers to easily find and buy from certified businesses.
Amazon partnered with the Minority Business Development Agency, and U.S. Black Chambers Inc. Those organizations will also assist with mentorship, business development, training, and educational resources to empower their success.
Those partners will also help Amazon create similar programs for other underrepresented populations of business owners. Amazon anticipate welcoming additional partners and advisors in the future.
“Right now, we’re focused on being intentional about empowering Black business owners,” Neloms said. “We look forward to working with our strategic partners to create similar programs for other underrepresented populations of business owners in the future.”
Ron Busby Sr., president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, Inc., said the USBC is excited about the partnership.
“We applaud Amazon’s leadership in responding to the racial inequities that led to a significant number of
Black-owned businesses closing during the pandemic,” said Busby. “The financial, educational, and mentoring resources Amazon will invest through the Black Business Accelerator will enable USBC-affiliated businesses and Black entrepreneurs to not only survive but thrive as they adapt to operating in a post-pandemic world.”
Black Entrepreneurs Face Challenges
Black entrepreneurs have less access to capital, mentorship, and growth opportunities. They are also significantly underrepresented in retail. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 6% of U.S. retail businesses have a Black owner—even though Black Americans represent 14% of the U.S. adult population.
Over the last few months, Amazon has done a pilot program of BBA with Black-owned businesses already selling in the Amazon store. Here’s what some participants had to say:
Toyin Kolawole, CEO, Iya Foods: “Amazon provides an opportunity where everyone is welcome, and the door is open. We gained access to a huge customer base that provided the opportunity to offer our innovative products directly to millions of potential customers. We have depended on honest reviews and feedback from customers to improve, learn more about what our customers like, further innovate, and grow the business.”
Karen Blackwell, founder and CEO, Kanda Chocolates: “Since enrolling in the Black Business Accelerator pilot, I’ve been able to enhance my listings with strategic optimization, imaging services, and building brand awareness using their advertising tools.”
Rodney Marshall, founder and CEO, Aldevra: “Through this program, we have a partner who has helped us better understand how to use Amazon’s tools and analytics to expand our sales and help me connect with business customers.”
Conversation with Brandi Neloms of Amazon
To learn more about the Black Business Accelerator, check out Brent Leary’s conversation with Neloms at 2 p.m. (EDT) today on the Small Business Trends Facebook page.