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Seller Stories: The Inspiring Journey of Curio Press

Today, I am excited to launch a new series within NetChoice’s Retail Is Everywhere campaign called Seller Stories. This project seeks to amplify the voices of sellers, featuring small business owners or entrepreneurs operating on their own, on e-commerce marketplaces by telling their stories and explaining how regulatory action impacts them—in their own words. 

In my work on this project, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with many small business owners who have found entrepreneurship and success through e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, Target Plus, and more. One of these truly profound and moving stories is from Alexis Austin, the Founder and CEO of Curio Press.

Curio Press is a thriving stationery and personalized goods business based in St. Louis, Missouri, but its origins are humble – stemming from a time of personal hardship for Alexis. Back in 2013, while in graduate school, Alexis became severely ill and had to take a leave of absence, losing her scholarships and on-campus job. With a family to support, she drew upon her skills as a graphic designer and boldly launched her own business, creating custom stationery to sell online.

“I…just jumped in the deep end and figured it out as I went.”

Alexis in her interview with Krista

Those first few years were a grind, with Alexis cutting out each card by hand with an Exacto knife. However, her tenacity paid off when Amazon unveiled its new Handmade marketplace in 2015 and invited Curio Press to be one of the first sellers on board. This exposure on Amazon’s marketplace was transformative for Alexis, allowing Curio Press’ revenue to double almost overnight.

From that pivotal moment, Curio Press experienced exponential growth year after year, ultimately enabling Alexis to hire a full team of employees, all women – something that fills her with immense pride and fulfillment. As she recounted during our interview, providing stable careers with benefits like health insurance and 401(k) plans has empowered her staff, many of whom are now having children and purchasing homes thanks to the benefits offered by their jobs at Curio Press.

“Now, we have eight employees—a team of all women—and we still do all of our production here in house in the studio in St. Louis. So I have come a long way.”

Alexis in her interview with Krista

Alexis also spoke glowingly about the partnership experience with Amazon Handmade. She highlighted the platform’s commitment to quality control by carefully vetting sellers to ensure their products are genuinely handmade. This builds trust with customers seeking authentic, personalized goods from independent artisans and makers.  

Additionally, Amazon Handmade has provided valuable resources like dedicated account representatives, personalized advertising assistance and platform navigation help so sellers like Alexis can optimize their visibility. These supportive services have played a pivotal role in fueling Curio Press’ expansion. Perhaps most importantly, Alexis emphasized the sheer scale and reach of the Amazon marketplace, which has allowed her small business to connect with an exponentially larger customer base. 

“We were able to reach people where they were shopping and make them more aware of the goods that we had, and that we’re a small handmade seller because [Amazon] really presented that in a nice way.”

Alexis in her interview with Krista

Understandably, regulatory crackdowns from politicians and ideologues at agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could impair Amazon’s services, and this fills Alexis and her employees with serious concern. Access to the platform’s powerful selling tools and vast customer networks is utterly vital for Curio Press’ continued prosperity. A loss of those tools could force harsh cutbacks and layoffs – a painful outcome after the years of progress and life-changing opportunities Alexis has been able to provide her family and her employees.

“If something were to happen, we would have to seriously rethink everything, and all of my employees would be just as afraid as I am as for what would be coming next. It would definitely be a big hit to us as a small business, and it could be the end of Curio.”

Alexis in her interview with Krista

Curio Press’ narrative encapsulates why facilitating small business success must be a policy priority as discussions around the e-commerce landscape evolve. Independent artisans and makers rely on the scale, visibility, and value-added services of online marketplace to transform their passions into thriving enterprises that create real economic opportunity and reach customers from all over the world.  

Behind the polished products we purchase online are human stories of perseverance, imagination, and the arduous pursuit of sustainability. Dismantling tools that power that entrepreneurial journey could derail livelihoods and extinguish hard-won dreams. As Alexis’ own humble journey shows us, a bit of perseverance, some creativity and the reach of online marketplaces can help forge unprecedented successes for the determined. 

“It’s just been really fulfilling to be able to help [my employees] build their career and give people a stable place to go, knowing that we’re making sort of a small but noticeable difference in our community here in St. Louis.”

Alexis in her interview with Krista

Watch NetChoice’s interview with Alexis Austin for Seller Stories here.