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Op-Ed by Melissa Horvath of Sweet Water Decor: Why is Pennsylvania’s Attorney General suing one of small businesses’ best partners?

[Note: This opinion piece was initially published by the Butler Eagle on May 2, 2024.]

I’m a small-business owner who employs 40 people in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, policymakers in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., are considering new regulations that would seriously disrupt my business. 

Here’s the back story. In 2014, I started a home decor business, Sweet Water Decor, from my basement while still working a corporate job. After just nine months, the business grew into full-time work — and now it’s a thriving company. Our scented candles — of which we’ve sold over 2 million — are poured right here in Pittsburgh, and our local team helps make, market, and ship products like candles, reed diffusers, mugs, and home accessories. 

But our success isn’t just from selling beautiful products. It’s also from partnering with leading online marketplaces, including Amazon, Etsy, and Target. We benefit from those businesses’ state-of-the-art e-commerce platforms, which show our goods to interested buyers and ensure they can buy them easily and securely. 

What’s worrying our team is the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit — filed in fall 2023 and joined by Pennsylvania Attorney General Michelle Henry — targeting one of our most valuable partners and the source of the majority of our sales: Amazon. If the government breaks up Amazon or forces it to change how it operates, my small business, along with thousands of others, will face huge disruptions and challenges. 

Government officials seem to think sellers are coerced into selling their products through Amazon. But sellers choose Amazon because it provides access to millions of potential customers. And customers choose Amazon because of its choices and prices. It’s a win-win. 

Ultimately, we advertise on Amazon because we believe it allows us to compete with big-name brands. The government’s lawsuit says Amazon puts out “junk ads” that waste consumers’ time and sellers’ money — but sellers have control over their ads, including what keywords are used. If the lawsuit succeeds, Amazon’s ads will likely become less effective and more expensive. 

Finally, Amazon’s shipping and logistics services make it easy to deliver our products to customers. Fulfillment by Amazon offers an efficient, low-cost shipping option and also covers warehousing, inventory tracking, and customer service. If the government dismantled the service, it would disrupt our entire operation, result in slower, more expensive shipping and higher warehousing costs, and force us to find other solutions for customer service and processing returns. That would be terrible for us and our customers. 

As a small business, we would, of course, prefer that ads cost less and seller fees were a little lower. But we receive tremendous value in exchange for what we pay. 

I hope politicians realize that Amazon offers products consumers like and services that help small businesses thrive. Why disrupt small, all-American businesses like ours? I urge Henry and the FTC to abandon their misguided lawsuit and instead focus on ways to make local businesses stronger. 


Melissa Horvath is the CEO of Sweet Water Decor in Cranberry Township. 

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