International Women’s Day: women founders are flourishing with Amazon and AWS
For International Women’s Day (IWD), we’re preparing a month-long celebration dedicated to business owners, makers, entrepreneurs, authors, artists, charity leaders and more.
Around 40% of the independent businesses selling in Amazon’s UK store are women-owned – and we think that’s worth some recognition.
Our theme for IWD this year – “Champion. Challenge. Change.” – celebrates innovative leaders who uplift other women to reach their full potential, including the extraordinary women behind small businesses and independent brands that sell on Amazon or use Amazon Web Services (AWS) to propel their businesses.
To find out more, we spoke to four business leaders who are paving the way in their industries.
Join us in celebrating all the women owning it this #IWD2021. We’ll be spending our week with some wonderful women business owners, entrepreneurs and maybe even a few famous faces. So check back here tomorrow and discover women who Challenge, Champion and Change #AmazonIWD pic.twitter.com/9mVinygoqD— Amazon.co.uk (@AmazonUK) March 7, 2021
Former Public Relations Officer, Sophia Procter, founded her business Munchy Play as a way to bring her fussy eater toddler son to the dinner table and help keep him there.
After developing her prototype, a makeshift bowl with a built-in track for trains and cars, Sophia knew this was something that could benefit more parents. She decided to invest her time and effort into refining and developing the products in her UK based factory.
Sophia faced several difficulties when launching her business last summer – starting a new business during a pandemic is a challenge and doing it with a five-year-old son in lockdown is even harder.
To help kickstart the business, Sophia participated in the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, launched by Amazon to support small businesses in response to the impact of the pandemic.
“Starting on Amazon and participating in the Accelerator was a real gamechanger for me,” says Sophia. “When you can’t get out and network, it’s really valuable to see how other small businesses tackle challenges and where they once started.”
Amazon has been super supportive of my business and the Accelerator came just at the right time.
Munchy Play has had a great start to life, and their products have even been used by celebrities including Sally Wood, JB Gill and Joe Wicks. Sophia’s product range was also recognised by Theo Paphitis, winning his Small Business Saturday initiative in August 2020. To add to this, the business was named one of the ‘most promising start-ups of 2021’ in The Sunday Times recently.
“Amazon has been super supportive of my business and the Accelerator came just at the right time,” Sophia explains. “It helped me to revise my advertising strategy and understand the techniques for selling online successfully. I’m so proud of how far the business has come, and we have a very exciting new product launch coming soon!”
Erin Graybill launched her beauty company, Niré Beauty in 2015 and has gone on to achieve huge success with the popular make-up accessories line.
Having moved to the UK from America to study at university, Erin had struggled to find makeup products for her particularly sensitive skin. She found that makeup brushes were either too abrasive and irritating, or too expensive, and she quickly identified a gap in the market for high-quality, cruelty-free and reasonably priced makeup brushes.
“Makeup isn’t something that all people find easy to apply and I wanted my brushes to not only be accessible, but easy and functional for my customers. My first product was a brush bundle which contained all of the tools any makeup beginner could need,” says Erin. “The business has grown exponentially since first launching, but when we started on Amazon the brand skyrocketed and we have sold millions of brushes worldwide across all of our channels.”
Selling on Amazon means we are tapped into the most customer-centric marketplace in the world.
“Customer experience has always been at the heart of our business and despite our rapid growth, we have kept this ethos,” Erin adds. “Selling on Amazon means we are tapped into the most customer-centric marketplace in the world, and we are able to consistently adapt and improve our service and product range based on customer feedback and reviews.”
As Erin’s business was digital-ready when the pandemic struck last year, she was able to keep all sales and distribution fulfilled.
Although the brand constantly adapts to meet customers’ evolving needs, Erin’s core philosophy remains unchanged: “The customer is our boss. I believe that’s one of the most important things to remember if you want to be successful in business.”
Lifebit is one of the fastest-growing genomics businesses in London. Founded by Dr Maria Chatzou Dunford, a biotech innovator and self-proclaimed “geek”, the business is connecting and democratising the world’s clinicogenomics ‘big data’.
Dr Dunford’s lightbulb moment came while working as a biomedical researcher, gathering and analysing genomic data. She considered that too much time was spent collecting data, and not enough time was spent analysing it. For example, in a 12-hour workday, only four hours were spent analysing data.
Her team started to develop tools to innovate in this sector, and she quickly saw that there was a gap in the market for more efficient clinicogenomic data access and analysis tools. Lifebit kickstarted officially in early 2018.
The business has maintained the ethos that progress in more effective and personalised medicine is enabled when we can better generate and understand data. By creating more advanced, intelligent and accessible tools, Lifebit is able to help healthcare and pharmaceutical companies to more quickly develop better medicines and treatments.
We need technology providers that innovate alongside us. AWS is always working at the same pace.
“We used cloud computing early on, and AWS was the only infrastructure available that could provide us with the functionality and scale we required at the time. They were and still are the most innovative cloud provider,” says Dr. Chatzou when discussing how Lifebit makes their services easily accessible to their clients. “We need technology providers that innovate alongside us. AWS is always working at the same pace.”
When asked about the challenges in her career, Dr. Dunford explains: “In my industry, I feel that there are some people that are not comfortable working with a woman in a senior position. I don’t see that as a setback – I simply do not work with those people. At Lifebit, we work only with people that help us recognise and jump at opportunities. This is one of the big success secrets of Lifebit.”
Advising women who want to launch their own businesses, she says: “Just do it! If you are passionate and know creating a company is the best way to make an impact, go ahead and dive in headfirst.”
Having had an extraordinary career history, working with legendary physicists such as Stephen Hawking, to explore the mysteries of space and black holes, Sasha Haco launched her business, Unitary to make a difference a little closer to home.
“I became interested in the world of startups and wanted to find a way to have a meaningful impact,” says Sasha. “I had recently come across the problem surrounding content moderation on the internet and I wanted to bring light to some of the darkest corners of the internet.” She was surprised to find that most online content moderation was done manually by humans: “We have millions of hours of horrible content online, and good people have to sit, watch and take it down!”
Sasha and her co-founder James Thewlis, an expert in video content, put their heads together and built the first concept. They launched in June 2019, helping small businesses tackle the issue of content moderation using AI and computer vision.
They came across AWS while attending the Entrepreneur First startup accelerator and started using it to support their business’s infrastructure: “What we do relies on the cloud and we needed something robust for storage and processing, AWS gave us just that,” explains Sasha.
“We use AWS for almost everything, from computational processes to hosting our infrastructure. Having a dedicated manager for our account has been hugely beneficial.”
I am excited to have a tangible impact in the domain of online safety and develop technology that can be a measurable force for good.
Looking to the future for Unitary.ai and its potential, Sasha says: “I am excited to have a tangible impact in the domain of online safety and develop technology that can be a measurable force for good.”
For anyone looking to start up their own business, Sasha advises building up a strong network: “I have been lucky to have a good support system and network of founders to help me find and access the tools to be successful.”
In addition to activities and events, we’re also supporting the #ChangeAGirlsLife campaign by The Prince’s Trust. Amazon will pay £5 for each Kindle, Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and Echo device sold, and 15% of the purchase price for certain products from selected women owned small businesses, from 8th – 31st March (subject to capacity) to The Prince’s Trust, a registered charity in England and Wales (1079675) and Scotland (SC041198).
Find out more about International Women’s Day 2021 at Amazon.