- Amazon's new batch of programs aims to help small business owners expand their online presence to grow sales.
- Today's Amazon Small Business Academy event is the first of its kind, with the next one taking place in December.
- Company representatives said the retail giant plans to host more Small Business Academy events in 2020.
Small business owners looking to learn about using the internet to increase their sales will get a chance to learn from the best, as Amazon hosts its first ever Small Business Academy seminar in Southaven, Mississippi.
Launched today as part of an ongoing effort by Amazon to help small businesses better utilize the internet, Small Business Academy is a way to boost the "backbone of [the U.S.] economy," according to Nicholas Denissen, Amazon's vice president of small business.
"We've heard from many [small business owners] that they want help and guidance to take advantage of the power of the internet and digital business, particularly in rural areas," he said. "Amazon Small Business Academy is focused on accelerating small businesses' digital capabilities, whether they are a brand-new company or one that has been in business for generations."
Today's news comes soon after Amazon announced the finalists for its inaugural Small Business Spotlight Awards, which aims to highlight the top entrepreneurs and small businesses that use Amazon to sell their wares. Voting on the finalists is open until Nov. 8.
Local entrepreneurs learn e-commerce best practices
More than 100 attendees will participate in the academy, where representatives from the online retail giant will give local entrepreneurs insights into some of today's best practices for creating an online business. Business owners will be given "how-to skills" to help them expand their real-world companies into the digital realm.
According to Amazon, the push to bring small businesses onto the web could have huge implications for entrepreneurs, since small and midsize American companies with Amazon Storefronts managed to sell "more than 250 million products to more than 70 million unique customers" in just over a year. Furthermore, similar sellers on Amazon sell more than 4,000 items per minute as independent third-party sellers, making up 58% of all physical gross merchandise sold on the site.
Along with today's seminars, Amazon announced that U.S. Sen. Roger F. Wicker will join Denissen on stage as the day's special guest speaker to discuss the impact of small business on the American economy.
"Small business owners and entrepreneurs are the driving force behind economic growth in Mississippi and across America," Denissen said. "The Amazon Small Business Academy will empower more small businesses to succeed, particularly in rural states, through digital tools and broadband access."
Small Business Academy gains outside support
To ensure that the academies can reach a number of communities throughout the U.S., Amazon teamed up with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) to help fund the development and instruction of the program's curriculum. The grant also helps bring digital business courses to community colleges across the nation.
Amazon described NACCE as "the nation's leading organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship through community colleges, representing more than 325 community and technical colleges and 2,000 faculty, staff, administrators and presidents who serve more than 3 million students."
"We're thrilled to embark on this innovative program with Amazon," said Rebecca Corbin, Ed.D., president and CEO of NACCE. "Community colleges provide valuable content and programming for both aspiring and current small business owners. This Amazon grant will help NACCE and the schools foster the next generation of businesses to power the U.S. economy."
The 16-hour curriculum will cover a wide range of topics for all skill levels, including online business strategies as well as marketing and merchandising. Through this collaboration, classes will start in February 2020 at the following schools:
- Lorain County Community College in Elyria near Cleveland, Ohio
- North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
- Bunker Hill Community College in Boston, Massachusetts
- State Center Community College District in partnership with Fresno City College in Fresno, California
- Houston Community College in Houston, Texas
- Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado
While classes will be available at those schools, Amazon is also bringing the Small Business Academy program online through a series of webinars that focus on successfully selling items on Amazon's stores. The online classes will also include live Q&As with experts. Interested entrepreneurs can register online today.