From L to R: Prakash Somasundaram of Amazon Launchpad interviews Wisconsin small business owners Dr. Ronak Mehta, Ming Hwong, and Sherri Yonkel during Amazon Small Business Academy panel. (Photo by Confidant Co)

Nerdbugs is a novelty line of plush toys shaped like body organs. Its owner, Dr. Ronak Mehta, was a finalist in the 2019 Amazon Small Business Spotlight Awards. She was nominated under the Women Owned Small Business category.

Mehta, a Madison based family doctor, said that the idea for her business stemmed from the time she was completing her residency in medical school. She said she never imagined that she would gain the success she has today.

“I thought it would be a great way to teach others about the human body and also a neat way to gift these items to people in need that are having an illness or surgery to cheer them up,” she said.

Mehta was one of three Wisconsin small business owners that spoke in the 2019 Amazon Small Business Academy panel. The second Amazon Small Business Academy took place in the Milwaukee based Miller Room, 901 E. Michigan St., on Friday, Dec. 13. The event brought together current and aspiring small business owners.

According to Amazon Small Business data, 58 percent of gross merchandise sold on Amazon comes from small and medium size businesses. About 7,600 of these small and medium sized owners are based in Wisconsin.

“Combined, those companies have sold a total of 28 million products to 16.5 million customers,” said Nick Dennisen, Vice President of Amazon Small Business.

Dennisen said that apparel, auto, and home are currently the top seller categories from Wisconsin small and medium sized businesses on Amazon.

The discussions during the keynote and panel largely focused on how a small business owner can build digital presence for his or her brand via Amazon.

Shari Lava, Research Director of SMB Business Program at IDC, said that there are 30.2 million small and medium sized businesses in the United States alone and 58.9 people are employed by them. Furthermore, two of three small and medium sized businesses create jobs in the economy.

When it comes to branding, Lava said that the multichannel approach to selling is an up and coming trend. IDC research from 2018 also shows that Digital Transformation is becoming critical to a small business’s success.

“Organizations making an effort to digitize were almost two times more likely to see double digit revenue growth compared to their counterparts doing status quo,” Lava said.

Amazon currently has hundreds of digital resources available online available to sellers. These tools make it possible to sell to other countries.

Sherri Yonkel, owner of Big Dot Happiness, started her business in 1999 when she was a stay at home mother who wanted to support her shoe addiction.

“I was frustrated asking my husband for money, and I started my own business,” she said.

She said that it has taken as little as 42 minutes to gain a sale after creating a product listing on Amazon.

“Amazon has completely changed our business and allows us to play in many different party sectors that we never would have,” she said.

For newly established or aspiring business owners that want to sell on Amazon, Ming Hwong says that you don’t have to get it “perfect” right away.

“Just take action and get your listing up right away. Don’t think about making it perfect or getting into analysis paralysis,” she said.