President Donald Trump and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have certainly had their clashes in recent years, but it was a different tone when the head of the Small Business Administration, former WWE CEO Linda McMahon, was in town Wednesday to meet with local businesses as well as Amazon.
At a small news conference on a fourth floor deck of Amazon’s new Day One building, McMahon praised the Amazon Marketplace, the platform that allows businesses to use Amazon’s platform to sell their products, saying it gives small companies access to a huge audience and quick online setup.
“I think small businesses have an opportunity with Amazon to get their products to market, for growth of their business,” McMahon said. “We all have to work together to make sure we create as many opportunities for small business as possible.”
Peter Faricy, vice president of Amazon Marketplace, said at the event that small businesses selling on Amazon now make up the majority of units sold. Small businesses sold 40 million items during the company’s Prime Day shopping holiday, Faricy said.
Opinions are mixed on the marketplace’s effect on small businesses, but Faricy said Amazon wants to take the heat off companies trying to deal with things like shipping, online commerce and customer service and free them up to build products.
“These services help remove bottlenecks from small business and help small businesses focus on what they do best, and while they are doing that, we are working on their behalf 24/7 to grow,” Faricy said.
McMahon made her name in the world of professional wrestling, where she and her husband Vince built then WWF into a $1.6 billion company. According to its most recent annual report, the company employs 870 people, excluding the wrestlers, who are considered independent contractors and must carry their own insurance.
McMahon said Trump tapped her for the SBA leadership position because she has a strong pedigree in business and she has seen it all, from the highs of going public and building a billion dollar business, all the way to rock bottom.
“Early in our career we went bankrupt and lost everything,” McMahon recalled. “My car was repossessed in my driveway, I was seven months pregnant with my second child, so I get what entrepreneurs go through. I can talk the talk and walk the walk when it comes to starting a business, because I’ve been there.”
McMahon even tapped into her inner Jeff Bezos, saying that failure doesn’t have to mean end of days for an entrepreneur or a company, and setbacks can lead to breakthroughs.
The visit to Amazon, as well as stops at several small businesses in Seattle, is part of a nationwide tour McMahon is embarking on, known as Ignite. The purpose is to learn from small business owners what they need to succeed, educate them about the services SBA offers and encourage them to continue creating jobs.
McMahon was in Portland yesterday, and other stops on the Ignite tour include Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, Anchorage and Puerto Rico.
Also in attendance at the event were a handful of small businesses that have done well selling their wares on Amazon. Hardmill, a Seattle business that manufactures and sells leather and canvas goods focused on the kitchen, is an example of how much the business world has changed. The company started online only, selling on Etsy and later Amazon. Michael Barrie, the company’s COO, said Amazon has been a boon to the business, and it recently opened a brick-and-mortar store and showroom in Seattle’s University District.
“Starting online first and then going in to brick and mortar, it’s been nice because we haven’t been reliant on brick and mortar, so we are really able to do what we want with it and allow people a cooler experience to come see us,” Berry said.