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As a big business, Amazon is definitely keen on the small businesses that sell in its online stores. To show just how much, the tech giant announced the U.S. winners Tuesday of its Small Business Spotlight Awards — and Bellevue, Wash.-based nutpods was among those honored.

Introduced in September, the awards are meant to honor “inspiring, unique, and customer-obsessed small businesses” across the categories of Small Business of the Year, Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year, and Small Business Owner Under 30 of the Year.

More than 1,300 American small businesses nominated themselves for the awards, according to a news release. On Oct. 15, 18 finalists were chosen across the three categories and customer voting was then used to select the winners.

The Small Business of the Year award went to nutpods, the Bellevue startup founded by Madeline Haydon, which began selling its plant-based creamer on Amazon in 2015. Amazon said that nutpods has a team of 24 employees today and has grown sales 5,500 percent in Amazon’s stores.

At No. 13, nutpods was the highest-ranked Seattle area company on Inc. magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States in August. And Haydon was among those honored in June at Ernst & Young’s annual Seattle gala for the Entrepreneur of the Year Awards for the Pacific Northwest region. Just a few days before Father’s Day, Haydon said at the time that she was inspired by her father’s journey to the U.S. from Saigon, Vietnam, at age 35, with a wife and six kids.

Madeline Haydon, CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based dairy-free coffee creamer maker nutpods, at the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Awards in June. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

“My dad taught me everything I needed to learn as an entrepreneur: determination, out-working all of your challenges, and not letting things stop you,” she said.

Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year winner is 1818 Farms from Mooresville, Ala. Natasha McCrary started the business in 2012 and the handcrafted bath and lifestyle products business evolved quickly after the launch of Amazon Handmade, Year-over-year sales have doubled.

Michael Ahdoot of Los Angeles-based Habit Nest is the Small Business Owner Under 30 of the Year. Inspired by the idea of helping others, Habit Nest started in 2017 with journals that help people build better habits quickly and effectively. The business has seen 300 percent year-over-year growth since listing on Amazon.

“We are honored that inspiring and diverse small businesses continue to choose to sell in our stores in the U.S. and around the world,” Nicholas Denissen, VP of Small Business at Amazon, said in a statement. “1818 Farms, Habit Nest, and nutpods exemplify what small business success in our stores looks like, and we celebrate them as models for other aspiring small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos touted the power of Amazon’s third-party platform in his annual letter to shareholders in April.

“To put it bluntly: Third-party sellers are kicking our first party butt. Badly,” Bezos wrote, saying that from 1999 to 2018 third-party sales on Amazon have grown from $100 million to $160 billion, or a 52 percent compound annual growth rate, while eBay’s gross merchandise sales grew from $2.8 billion to $95 billion, or a 20 percent compound growth rate.

Amazon noted in its release Tuesday that, on average, U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses sell more than 4,000 items per minute in Amazon’s stores. Independent third-party sellers — primarily small and medium-sized businesses — made up 58 percent of all physical gross merchandise sold in Amazon’s stores in 2018, and their sales far exceeded $2 billion on Prime Day in July this year.
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