A business built on a second chance
"I never expected to see 40," said Luna Williams, who survived cancer only to suffer a brain aneurysm. "I couldn't work outside the home. I felt trapped in my body."
She needed surgery, but doctors warned it might erase her memories. So she made herself a video. She told herself how to perform basic tasks like taking a shower and turning on the stove, and she described where she lived, who she was, and who her daughters were. "It was the hardest thing I've ever done," she said. "There's something so beautiful in that lowness, especially when you get that close to death. It's overwhelming. It's scary. It causes you to reprioritize and look around."
Williams found healing in the hills of her family's California ranch. She gathered stems and trimmings from plants, herbs, and trees like roses, lavender, sage, and cedar. She used her harvest to make traditional smudge bundles—a collection of dried flowers and herbs bound together by twine. By burning the bundles, "You're invoking peace, cleaning, and love into your home and into your space. It's really healing."
Williams went on to build a small business around her bundles, Ethereal Zen Creations. In 2017, she started selling in the Amazon Handmade store, a maker-only community where small businesses sell their handcrafted goods online. It's a store within Amazon.com that empowers makers with tools to showcase their products to more than 300 million customers around the world. "When you buy from Amazon, you're supporting artists like myself," said Williams, who still harvests from her family ranch. "I'm able to reach customers on a much broader scale. People think Amazon is so big, and it is. But many of the sellers are small and local like me. And people know that they can buy small."
Amazon recently announced the top 10 states with the most digital entrepreneurs—small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) selling in Amazon’s stores—per capita and California was third on the list with more than 100,000 SMB sellers in the state. Success isn't limited to California as 47 states are home to more than 1,000 SMB sellers and 26 states have more than 5,000.
Williams operates her business from her home in Sacramento. "I'm able to create and provide for my family, but also stay small, intimate, and local," she said.
More than half of everything sold in Amazon's stores comes from third-party sellers—most of which are small and medium-sized businesses—and these sellers continue to grow their sales in Amazon's stores. In the first quarter of 2020, the growth of physical merchandise sold by third party sellers continued to outpace that of Amazon's own retail sales.
Williams has enjoyed steady growth with her business. While her two teenage daughters help with harvesting and packaging, "I'm definitely getting to a place where I'll probably need to bring on an employee. It's exciting."
For Williams, her success from selling in Amazon's stores produced an unexpected side benefit. "My work is my therapy. It is my healing. That's a lot of what this business is about is I make things that I love to make and that I know make other people really happy. And if I can make a livelihood out of it, that's crazy because I didn't expect that, but it's wonderful."