This week, Amazon has revealed that more than 150 entrepreneurs from across rural Britain generated more than £500,000 selling on Amazon alone in the past year – with more than 80 reaching sales in excess of £1 million. Here we find out how two of them did it.
Naissance, a natural and organic health and beauty business, based in Neath Port Talbot, in Wales, is one example of a rural business that has seen success selling more than £1 million of products in the course of a year on Amazon alone. Naissance was recently announced as the Exporting Small Business of the Year in the inaugural UK Amazon Small Business Awards,
Jem Skelding, Managing Director of Naissance, set up the business in a spare bedroom in 2005, selling a collection of ethical, sustainable and organic health and beauty products. He now sells to customers in 90 countries, with packaging in five languages.
“I’m hugely proud of how our team has grown Naissance from a spare bedroom enterprise in the heart of Wales to a busy manufacturer and retailer employing over 100 people and shipping products not just to UK customers but also to customers all over the world,” says Skelding. “Digital technology has really opened doors for us as a rural retailer, allowing us to reach and serve a huge number of customers worldwide. Our ability to make the most of peak trading opportunities, kick-started by Amazon’s Black Friday sales, is really only possible for us because of the opportunity created by having a strong digital presence combined with slick internal and outsourced operations.”
Another rural entrepreneur who has grown a thriving business, generating in excess of £1 million sales on Amazon in the past year, is Joey Foster, Founder of Roseland Furniture, in Cornwall. A former Formula 3 racing driver by profession, Joey started Roseland Furniture following a major injury, and in six years has grown the business to a team of 30, including his brother in-law and father in-law.
Commenting on his experience of growing and running a business from a rural location, Foster says: “Cornwall might not strike most people as the best spot to start a national business – but it’s easy to underestimate the power of the internet, especially with the improving digital infrastructure. Having started very small scale selling excess furniture stock online from home, we now have multiple warehouses, exclusive production lines and have even expanded into bricks & mortar stores. The goal has always been to balance a successful, high growth business with the coastal lifestyle and Amazon has helped us achieve this.”
More than 10,000 rural businesses across the UK currently sell on Amazon to grow their business online, and since opening its sites to smaller, independent sellers nearly 20 years ago, Amazon has been a growth engine for millions of small businesses around the world.
In 2000, 3% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon came from third-party businesses. By 2018 this increased to 58%, following years of investment in technology, infrastructure and selling tools to help them grow their business. Sixty per cent of UK businesses selling on Amazon now export, achieving over £2bn in exports last year.
“We already know the enormous extent to which rural businesses contribute to the UK economy from ONS data and our own research commissioned from Rural England and Scotland’s Rural College,” explains Simon Donegan, Head of UK Seller Services, Amazon. “It is fantastic to see that rural businesses selling on Amazon are succeeding in growing their sales at this impressive scale, boosted by the power of technology.”
Taking this further, Amazon is headline sponsor for the Rural Business Awards, which recognise and celebrate successes of businesses operating in the UK’s rural economy.
Jemma Clifford, co-founder of the awards and the Rural Business Group, explains: "Digital technology has transformed the way rural businesses operate. Rather than being limited to the population of the surrounding area, even the smallest rural businesses can now connect with consumers across the globe. Digital marketing and social media give businesses with physical premises the tools so that they don’t have to rely on passing traffic, but become a destination in their own right, attracting customers from far and wide.”