We’ve had a great day today hosting hundreds of small businesses from across the North West of England at the Amazon Academy in Manchester.

Small business owners heard from experts including: Emma Jones MBE, the founder of Enterprise Nation; Damian Waters from the CBI North West; Grace Blakeley from think tank IPPR North; and Michael Taylor from Manchester Metropolitan University - all about how the North West can become the UK’s export capital for SMEs by embracing the digital economy.

One of the highlights of the day was the ‘Meet the Entrepreneurs’ session, where three dynamic sellers; Creative Nature, RDX and Love2Sleep, from Manchester talked about how they have grown their business on Amazon. The Alexa team also took to the floor to show how small businesses can develop voice skills to grow. They were joined by Laundrapp, a laundry business using Alexa to transform a 150 year old industry through the power of vice technology.

In the afternoon, small business owners also received practical advice on how to use our suite of support tools and services to boost their productivity, revenue, and reach. In fact, last year UK sellers achieved £1.8bn of exports through Amazon Marketplace, which is 29% year-on-year growth.

There’s a real buzz and sense of growing confidence from SMEs today at the Amazon Academy, and judging by the latest quarterly SME Growth Tracker report (also published today), it seems to reflect the same sentiment of thousands of SMEs around the country.

The SME Growth Tracker report by Capital Economics, and commissioned by Amazon UK and Enterprise Nation, assesses SME growth prospects and views on the broader UK economy. The research is based on a YouGov survey of over 1,000 UK SMEs.

The Q1 SME Growth Tracker found that SMEs have raised their revenue growth projections for the third quarter in a row – and overall are now forecasting +2.3% revenue growth over the coming 12 months.

When looking specifically at SMEs that use e-commerce compared to those that don’t, e-commerce SMEs forecast greater growth of +2.5% compared to non-e-commerce users who forecast +1.9%. SMEs that use e-commerce also forecast greater employment growth of +1.1% over the next 12 months, compared to those that don’t use e-commerce forecasting +0.6% growth.

Simon Johnson, UK Director of Seller Services at Amazon, who revealed the latest SME Growth Tracker quarterly findings at the Amazon Academy today, said: “Small businesses are optimistic but do see potential risks, and that’s one of the reasons we’re running the Amazon Academy programme – with our event in Manchester today – to help them boost growth, productivity and exports by using digital tools and services to better serve customers.”

For more information on our Amazon Academy programme, click here.

For more details on the latest SME Growth Tracker, view the infographic here.