Independent sellers in Pa. sold more than 81 million products last year on Amazon

Amazon has released its Small Business Empowerment Report, detailing how independent sellers in Amazon’s U.S. store sold more than 4.1 billion products in 2022 – an average of 7,800 each minute.

More than 60% of sales in Amazon’s store are from independent sellers, most of which are small and medium-sized businesses. Those sellers averaged more than $230,000 in Amazon sales last year and exported 260 million-plus items.

Pennsylvania is home to over 14,000 independent sellers selling in Amazon’s store, according to an Amazon spokesman. They sold more than 81 million products in 2022 through Amazon, with average annual sales of $170,000.

The most-shopped categories from U.S. independent sellers in Amazon’s store, a release said, are health and personal care, home, beauty, grocery and apparel.

Selling in Amazon’s store has also enabled independent sellers to create an estimated 1.5 million jobs in the U.S.

“Small businesses are the heart of our local communities and the backbone of the U.S. economy,” said Dharmesh Mehta, vice president of Worldwide Selling Partner Services at Amazon. “Amazon invests billions of dollars annually to provide entrepreneurs with a constantly improving set of valuable tools and resources to help them gain access to capital, quickly launch in our store, build their brands, and rapidly scale and reach more customers. Amazon is committed to the success of small businesses, and we are excited to continue innovating on their behalf and help them grow into thriving success stories.”

According to the report, brand owners in the U.S. grew sales over 20% year over year in Amazon’s store.


Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Rising Tide lifts local small businesses

Since 2001, the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund has been helping small and startup businesses in the Greater Lehigh Valley. The fund not only offers them loans when traditional banks won’t, but also provides them with the technical support they may need to succeed.

A subsidiary of Community Action of the Lehigh Valley, Rising Tide serves five counties out of its Bethlehem office — Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon Monroe and Upper Bucks counties.

Officially, it is a U.S. Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institution.

Christopher Hucock, executive director of Business Development for Rising Tide, has been with the lender since 2005 and has helped businesses from barber shops to day care centers get the funding and help they need to get started or expand.

He said the typical client is a small business which isn’t able to get a traditional loan from a bank or credit union.

Rising Tide makes loans generally in the range of $10,000 to $150,000, which are generally smaller than most traditional lenders take on.

It could also be because the business is in a sector that banks don’t like to lend in, like restaurants, which have a high failure rate.

On Bethlehem’s South Side alone, Rising Tide has made loans to a number of bars, restaurants and microbreweries. Among them – Bonn Brewing, South Side 313, The Flying V and Molly’s Irish Grille & Sports Bar.

Chaz Patrick, owner of Molly’s, said the Rising Tide has helped him build his business a number of times.

“I was pretty aggressive going to them to get a loan,” he said.

It helped fund the bar’s expansion into a vacant space next door, which allowed him to open a six-pack shop.

A loan also helped Molly’s stay afloat through the COVID-19 shutdown, until Patrick was able to secure PPP funding.

And while Patrick said all of the loans he’s taken out from the fund have been paid back in full, he is considering going back to Rising Tide for more funding for a new business venture he’s considering.

But it’s not just money, Hudock said. He said Rising Tide also offers technical support, especially for businesses that are just getting started and might not know how to do such things as register with the state.

Staffers have also helped businesses set up a web presence and develop a business and marketing plan.

“The goal is to get them to the point where they can do things on their own,” Hudock said.

He said some people come to Rising Tide for help, because they lack the credit to get a traditional loan.

He said banks generally want to see two to three years of profitability before they make a loan, which is something a startup can’t offer.

They may also have a lack of collateral or bad credit.

One of his favorite success stories was the help Rising Tide gave to Rick Nauman of Catasauqua to start AFab Hauling.

Nauman was working in heavy highway construction when he had heat stroke on the job.

While he could no longer do that sort of heavy labor, he was unable to get workman’s comp, disability or unemployment after the incident.

He went in debt, nearly losing his home as he tried to look for work that he could still do.

A friend told him about opportunities hauling sludge from a canal project in the Philadelphia area.

If he could get his hands on a dump truck, there was money to be made.

With his debt, he couldn’t find anyone to loan him the money he needed to buy a truck – until he got in touch with Rising Tide.

With Rising Tide’s help, Nauman not only bought the truck, but expanded his business to include services such as lawn maintenance, snow removal and waste hauling.

“I always try to hustle, but there were quite a few times that if it wasn’t for Chris and the Rising Tide, I would probably be homeless, or even worse,” he said.

Both business owners said the services Rising Tide offers were key to their success.

“I recommend them to anyone who is trying to start out,” Nauman said.

But Hudock is quick to point out that while Rising Tide is there to help, it is still a serious lender. They also demand collateral and loan payback like any other lending institution.

“It’s only been a handful of times, thankfully, but we have had to go after clients for collateral because of non-payment,” Hudock said. “If a business doesn’t pay, the owners are personally responsible.”

Like any other lender, Rising Tide needs to have its loans repaid in order to keep lending to other businesses and, if loans aren’t repaid, it can’t pay back its own loans.

With an average loan in 2023 being around $40,000, Hudock said Rising Tide is the right size lender for many small businesses in the region and continues to serve the businesses that need it.

America’s Top Small Business to be honored by U.S. Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will award $25,000 to the 2023 “America’s Top Small Business.” 

The awards program celebrates the country’s small business owners who are contributing to the economy and job creation and embody the spirit of entrepreneurship, initiative, and innovation. 

Small business owners can apply online for the awards beginning today through July 7. 

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Suzanne Clark said in a statement that small business owners contribute to local communities and the nation’s economy. 

“In addition to serving small businesses through policy advocacy, convening entrepreneurs to strengthen their networks and share best practices, and providing valuable resources to help people start, run and grow their business, the Chamber is also proud to recognize and celebrate their accomplishments and inspire the next generation of America’s entrepreneurs,” said Clark.  

Ten small businesses will be named as semifinalists for each of seven U.S. regions – Eastern, Great Lakes, Midwest, Northwest, Southeastern, Southwest and South Central, Western. Pennsylvania is in the Great Lakes Region. 

The highest-scoring business in each region will be named a regional finalist and go on to compete for the title of “America’s Top Small Business” and win $25,000. Small businesses will be evaluated on their answers to 10 questions about their business growth, contribution to the local economy, innovations, successful business strategies, and community engagement. 

A one-year paid membership to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be made to each of the 70 regional finalists. In October, the finalists will be celebrated at an award ceremony at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. and America’s Top Small Business will be announced.

Underserved small business owners to get boost from new USBA rules

Two rules to address persistent gaps in access to capital impacting small business owners have been finalized by the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

The rules impact small business owners in underserved communities and grant permanence to SBA’s program for nonprofit mission lenders, remove outdated limits on non-depository lender participation, increase opportunities for employee ownership, and modernize the credit criteria and underwriting standards to incentivize a wider distribution network and small-dollar loans. 

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement that modernizing and expanding SBA’s lending programs will open new opportunities to entrepreneurial but underserved communities that have been denied access to the funding needed to create jobs and grow the economy. 

“Equity has been a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration since day one as our economy needs all of our great ideas and talented entrepreneurs,” said Guzman. “These rule changes demonstrate that commitment by providing government-guaranteed lenders with all the tools they need to close the gaps that still exist for small businesses who need capital.” 

SBA’s rules will help new entrepreneurs grow their businesses by addressing capital access market gaps in underserved communities and expanding the number of participating SBA lenders.

To increase the number of credit-worthy business owners who can access SBA loans, particularly among underserved communities like women, minority, veteran, and rural entrepreneurs, SBA is modernizing the lending criteria and conditions for its business loan programs and reducing red tape for SBA lenders. SBA is achieving this by updating lending criteria for its 7(a) and 504 loan programs, including by:

  • Allowing lenders to make SBA loan decisions based on their existing credit policies for similarly sized non-SBA loans. 
  • Providing additional flexibility for loans under $150,000 to reduce the cost and complexity of small-dollar lending. 
  • Streamlining paperwork required of lenders, enabling them to spend more time with applicants and make loans more efficiently. 
  • Simplifying and clarifying affiliation standards to ease the burden on small business owners and lenders and make clear who qualifies for an SBA loan.

SBA will expand the number of lenders who can offer SBA-guaranteed loans, providing small businesses with more options for meeting their capital needs. The rule will expand the number of Small Business Lending Company (SBLC) licenses, which promote responsible small business lending through non-depository lenders backed by SBA loan guarantees.

SBA is addressing capital access gaps by granting permanence to SBA’s program for nonprofit, mission-oriented lenders by creating a new Community Advantage SBLC license. Community Advantage lenders have lacked long-term certainty about their participation in SBA programs due to the pilot status of the program.

Despite these limitations, SBA said the Community Advantage Pilot Program has demonstrated success with higher rates of lending to Black, Hispanic, women, and veteran-owned businesses.

SBA’s rule will achieve the following:

  • Lift the moratorium on new regular SBLCs and allow for additional licensees, enabling them to make loans to small-dollar borrowers with government guarantees, reducing risks and broadening opportunities. 
  • Provide certainty through permanence of Community Advantage, encouraging current and new nonprofit lenders to invest in and expand SBA lending operations. 
  • Utilize modern technology to make lender oversight and borrower protection stronger and less resource-intensive than was possible when the SBLC moratorium was put in place.

These rules build upon a previous announcement on the Community Advantage Pilot Program that increased the maximum loan size from $250,000 to $350,000, lifted the four-year lender moratorium, enabled the SBA to expand the lender network, and allowed lenders to offer lines of credit, interest-only periods, and other loan modifications that meet the needs of small business borrowers.

Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, said it’s imperative that entrepreneurs from underserved communities have access to stable and affordable capital to grow and expand their businesses.

“With these new rules, the SBA is taking steps to invest in credit-worthy entrepreneurs and mission-oriented lenders, which will build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s progress to date,” said Kelley.

Reading’s small businesses supported by Shapiro Administration

Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis met with Reading’s small business owners Tuesday and shared Gov. Josh Shapiro’s plans to boost investments, affordable child care, and revitalization in the city. 

“When I was growing up in McKeesport, my dad worked as a union bus driver, and my mom was a hairdresser,” said Davis, who took a walking tour of downtown Reading to discuss the community’s needs with small business owners. 

“I saw firsthand how small businesses, like hair salons, child care centers and restaurants, were the lifeblood of our neighborhood. But many women-owned and minority-owned small businesses often struggle to access capital to get off the ground. The Shapiro-Davis administration wants to help support our small businesses, so our communities can thrive.” 

The recently released Shapiro-Davis budget puts for the first time, sustainable state funding into the Historically Disadvantaged Business Program. The state Department of Community and Economic Development helped provide nearly $100 million in relief payments to historically disadvantaged businesses during the pandemic. 

An additional $20 million in federal funding followed, and the Shapiro-Davis budget proposes investing $20 million in state funds to make certain minority-owned operations have access to capital to sustain or expand their businesses. 

State Rep. Manny Guzman (D-Berks) said in a statement that he is focused on helping small businesses grow and boosting the workforce. 

“I am thrilled about this collaboration with Lieutenant Governor Davis as he will be able to feel the pulse of our economy and get feedback from underserved entrepreneurs of our community,” said Guzman. 

Early Beginnings Day Care Center in Reading was one of the businesses Davis visited Tuesday. Child care centers are important businesses and are often owned by women. As affordable child care is a workforce development issue, the Shapiro-Davis budget increases child care services funding by $66.7 million to allow 75,000 low-income families to continue to be enrolled in subsidized care. 

State Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D-Berks) said that as a Latina businesswoman, she believes the governor’s budget plan will provide the support entrepreneurs and small business owners need. 

“Governor Shapiro’s proposed injection into the Office of Transformation and Opportunity shows a real commitment from his administration,” she said. “This is a fair budget that will provide long overdue funding to women- and minority-owned businesses.” 

The Shapiro-Davis budget also invests $8.6 million to expand the Keystone Communities Program. This marks an investment in communities already on a path to revitalization and communities that are smaller, rural, and lower income.