Just like their customers, Arjun and Shiv Chopra are on a journey. The brothers own CHAMPS, a Montreal-based company that designs fashionable and functional premium luggage. The family business is now in its second generation, and in 2015 started selling its products on Amazon. The move was transformative.
“Being with Amazon is a huge benefit for us in terms of brand exposure,” says Arjun Chopra. “It also gives us the ability to build a relationship with our end users and get feedback.”
Amazon has introduced the company to millions of customers, while providing tools and insights that the CHAMPS product development team has leveraged to introduce features like added packing capacity, TSA-approved locks for enhanced security, and built-in USB ports to charge devices on-the-go.
CHAMPS is among the 40,000 Canadian sellers, mostly small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), that Amazon Canada helps to prosper. This commitment to SMBs is just one example of the company’s positive contributions to the Canadian economy.
Amazon Canada just released its latest Impact Report, outlining its contributions to local job creation, community engagement and sustainability initiatives. The company reported that it now has 39,500 full- and part-time employees across its Tech Hubs and fulfilment network, an increase from 23,000 in 2020.
This job creation bodes especially well for Canadians looking to build a long-term career. In addition to offering attractive workplace perks (like health benefits, a group RRSP and stock awards), Amazon Canada funds upskilling programs for qualified full-time staff to help them transition into higher-paying jobs.
For instance, Amazon’s Career Choice program covers up to 95 per cent of tuition and fees for full-time operations employees interested in a certificate or diploma in qualified fields of study, leading to jobs in industries like transportation and logistics.
The company also funds training programs for community members (including those without a technology background) looking to develop in-demand skills.
One example is the Amazon Web Services (AWS) re/Start program, which works with partners like Youth Employment Services (YES) in Toronto. In October 2021, the program announced a cohort for Indigenous students across Canada. PLATO, Canada’s only Indigenous-led and Indigenous-staffed IT services and training firm, is working with BMO Financial Group to run the re/Start program virtually in January 2022, adding a six-month internship with BMO.
Additionally, with the support of Calgary Economic Development’s Edge Up 2.0 program, AWS and Mount Royal University have teamed up to bring the AWS re/Start program to Calgary in early 2022.
“Workforce development and reskilling are critical economic drivers,” says Jesse Dougherty, an Amazon VP based in Vancouver. “We’re especially proud of our plans to train thousands of Canadians on cloud technologies over the next three years, helping individuals transition to higher-skilled jobs in the technology sector.”
Revenues for sellers on the rise
Just as Amazon Canada helps people advance in their careers, it boosts the prospects of the SMBs that sell in its store. Amazon has been a boon for sellers like Amandla Bartholomew of Durham Region, Ont., owner of the vegan skincare line Bartholomew Sisters.
She learned how to make homemade body creams in West Africa a decade ago, which she says strengthened her awareness of her Ghanaian heritage and helped her embrace the potential of unrefined pure shea butter. Bartholomew started selling her wares on Amazon in 2017, which allowed her to “get in front of customers that wouldn’t have found my products otherwise,” she says.
She’s not alone. Amazon’s Impact Report notes that for the year ending August 31, 2021, Canadian sellers sold almost 110 million products. Close to 4,000 Canadian sellers had over $100,000 (USD) in sales, up nearly 24 per cent year over year. The number of Canadian SMBs who surpassed $1-million (USD) in sales grew by more than 38 per cent.
For Sacha Whitehead of Kelowna, B.C., owner of Sacha and Co, selling handcrafted gifts on Amazon has introduced her to “more traffic and customers than we can on our own.” Moreover, it has given her access to Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA). Through the service, Amazon stores her products at its fulfilment centres and picks, packs and ships customer orders. Whitehead says that allows her to focus on her core business.
“Being able to store our products at their fulfilment centres gives us flexibility while taking care of logistics that we don’t have the resources to manage as a small business,” says Whitehead.
According to the Amazon Canada Impact Report, more than half of Amazon’s Canadian selling partners took advantage of FBA in the year ending August 31, 2021.
Investing in the community
Amazon Canada’s commitment to doing good extends to investing in causes that address what they call “Right Now Needs”: food, shelter, and basic goods for children and their families.
Last year, the company donated more than $10-million to charities and not-for-profits across Canada. Major partners include childhood hunger charity Breakfast Club of Canada, which has already received close to $1 million since the partnership was announced in October 2020.
“Our goal with community giving is to have a long-term impact on children and families, ensuring they have the resources they need to build their best future,” says Susan Ibach, Amazon in the Community lead for Canada.
Earlier this year, the company launched the Canadian edition of Amazon Future Engineer, which works with charities like Canada Learning Code, Kids Code Jeunesse, TakingITGlobal and FIRST Robotics. The program supports computer science education programs for students from underserved and underrepresented communities. Amazon plans to spend $3-million on this program over three years, reaching more than 1 million youth.
“Amazon Future Engineer is dedicated to helping students develop their computer science skills throughout their educational journeys, from kindergarten to high school, while also funding in-demand professional development opportunities for teachers,” says Ibach.
As Canada continues along the path of post-pandemic economic recovery, Dougherty says community engagement remains a core focus for Amazon Canada. The company is preparing to ramp up its local partnerships for the benefit of all Canadians.
“Our focus is on having a positive impact where our customers and employees live and work,” says Dougherty. “That means creating quality jobs that allow people to build new skills and progress in their career, supporting more Canadian SMBs, and growing a footprint that contributes to the vitality of local communities.”
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Amazon Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.