There's a dreamy little farm in Mooresville, Alabama that exists because Natasha McCrary's 8-year-old son, Gamble, fell in love with a rare, docile, teddy bear-faced breed of sheep during a family vacation.
"For weeks all he talked about was wanting to raise his own," said McCrary, who in turn began to wish she could start a farm.
McCrary knew it would be a serious undertaking. She had no experience raising the Southdown Babydoll sheep her son loved, let alone running a farm. But then she had an idea of how she could make it work: combine a farm with a small business that would help cover the cost of food for the animals. The result was 1818 Farms, a working flower farm that's also a line of bath and lifestyle products.
The three-acre farm soon became home to sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, dogs, and cats. McCrary made the animals the face of the handcrafted products she sells at the farm, in shops, and online. There's Clover's lip smack with a pencil drawing of the chop-licking pig. The Downward Dog yoga mat spray stars Justice, the Great Pyrenees guardian dog. And Farrah is the "cover goat" for Lavender Goat's Milk Bath Tea.
"I have such a connection with the animals and I want to share that with customers. It's like taking a piece of the farm home with you," McCrary said.
Building 1818 Farms was a lot to manage. "There are a lot of times when, especially owning your own business, I think you do hit a wall," McCrary said.
1818 Farms was known in Alabama, but McCrary wanted to continue expanding to other parts of the U.S. "Your product has to be in front of people on that other end of the computer for them to see it. We can't just focus on one customer. We have to really be thinking about how we can build the brand as a whole."
Amazon offered a way to do that. McCrary started listing her products with Amazon Handmade in 2017, an artisan-only community where small businesses sell their handcrafted goods online. "It's the credibility it offers a small brand like ours. It's just a broad base of customers we would never be able to reach without being on Amazon," McCrary said.
Amazon continually works to be earth's biggest champion of small and medium businesses. In 1999, the company opened virtual shelf space in its online store to independent sellers like McCrary. Since then, Amazon has invested tens of billions of dollars to help these businesses grow and succeed.
"Our selling partners are able to reach 300 million customers around the world," said Nicholas Denissen, vice president of small business at Amazon. "Our whole business model is fueled by empowering small businesses to better serve our mutual customers. Their success is our success. And for customers, shopping Amazon means supporting small businesses."
More than half of everything sold in Amazon's Stores worldwide comes from small and medium-sized businesses.
Amazon spent $15 billion in 2019 on infrastructure, tools, services, programs, and people to help its selling partners reach more customers and grow their sales. "And the minute they start using the tools and the programs that are developed at Amazon, it's a game changer," Denissen said. "I've met many who have actually said that they've been able to turn their hobby into their profession. And not only that, but they've been able to create jobs. They've been able to hire people."
Since joining Amazon Handmade, McCrary has seen her sales grow year after year, boosted by Amazon tools and services like advertising and Brand Registry, a free program that helps small businesses selling on Amazon protect their intellectual property and create trusted experiences for customers. Amazon's automated protections remove suspected infringing or inaccurate content. "It's a huge asset because as our products become more popular, it's comforting to know that Brand Registry can help protect us from someone selling knock-offs," she said.
1818 Farms was named Woman-owned Small Business of the Year in Amazon's first-ever U.S. Amazon Small Business Spotlight Awards in 2019. More than 1,300 companies applied for the awards, which were opened to public vote. McCrary said she's grateful "to be recognized for something that I've had to really dig in and learn—with the farm animals, the flowers, making the products. I feel like it's a great achievement."