Small business and small towns are what built America, but they are both experiencing some worrisome issues adjusting to the 21st century.
Many small businesses are falling victim to the advance of e-commerce and other technology, while younger people are leaving their small towns and moving to the live/work/play environments of urban areas.
Still, small businesses and small towns matter big time. They continue to employ half of America’s workforce, servicing more than 60 million people living in communities outside major metropolitan areas.
Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec, along with Deluxe Corp.’s Amanda Brinkman, are stepping up to help small towns and small businesses find their way. Deluxe Corp. assists small businesses with logo design, website development, email marketing and more. And we all know about Shark Tank.
Their web series, Small Business Revolution on Main Street, debuts its second season, awarding one lucky small town’s Main Street with revitalization, guidance and money (more about this later). The show runs on Hulu as well as its own website.
The ultimate goal: to shine a spotlight on the vital impact that small businesses have on our economy, our communities, and our daily lives.
The competition is conducted by nominations and majority votes (how American is that?). In its premiere season, more than 180,000 viewers voted to award Wabash, Indiana a revitalization worth $500,000.
“It’s been really exciting to see how the businesses have thrived after we’ve worked with them,” Amanda says. She’s Deluxe Corp’s chief brand and communications officer, with a wealth of experience in internal marketing, brand management and interactive development.
Of the nature of the series, she says, “Each of the businesses featured in the show had a different, unique problem, but they also all had to struggle with some of the same things. It’s exciting to see them get a better handle on their numbers that they struggled with, and really what an impact the marketing has made for all of these businesses.”
Following the show’s finale, people from all 50 states nominated 14,000 towns that they believe deserve a Main Street revival for season two.
The money is surely sweet, but even more valuable: useable advice from real businesspeople.
“That’s the great divide in America today, isn’t it?” Robert tells Three Commas. We all know and love Robert from Shark Tank; as an entrepreneur, he’s built and sold several IT companies to major players like AT&T. In 2003, he founded The Herjavec Group, and it quickly became one of North America’s largest technology companies.
He says, “If you don’t know somebody who has run a business or knows marketing, where are you going to turn to for advice? Most businesses don’t fail because of lack of money. Most businesses fail because they don’t have guidance. When I was younger, I didn’t need more money. You could always go get money. I needed somebody to show me the way. In a small way, that’s what we are trying to do for these people.”
The eight-episode series highlights the transformation of Wabash, Indiana, thanks not only to the financial investment, but also from smart business guidance and team spirit.
Robert adds, “One of the reasons that Wabash won is that they came together as a community, but through the process, they bonded even more.”
Amanda adds, “It was so fun to see them come together as a community like that. When small businesses work together, rather than trying to solve it on their own, you really see that come through. That’s what so beautiful about small towns. They have a real sense of community and they really rally around small businesses.”
Of course, Robert’s helping hand is extremely valuable, from his years of experience working with and understanding small businesses and entrepreneurs.
“It’s great to be involved.” Robert says. “It’s very near and dear to my heart. This is what we do on Shark Tank, but in some ways, this has even more impact. The numbers on Shark Tank have to be bigger, but these are entire communities. It has a much greater impact, not just on one business, but you see the entire community come together. And that’s been great.”
In fact, this series and Shark Tank do share a commonality. Everyone loves a good backstory, especially if it’s about an underdog.
“We’re all hungry to support brands where we know the story of the owner,” Amanda says, “where we can see that the purchase that we make can make an impact on someone’s life. We live in a world that is so isolated now. We have so much technology, but when you go to a small town and people look you in the eye and say hello or you go to the local restaurant and they know your name, there is something really great about that. I think this country is hungry for that kind of connection again.”
True for sure, and Robert agrees, but he adds that the story – even if it’s amazing – is still not enough.
“It’s a great time for that message, but people still want it at a great price, great service,” he says. “That’s the thing we’ve learned – it’s not a slam dunk. You’ve got to provide value.”
The value, from what the series showcases, does comes through.
“We feel like this [series] is a resource,” Amanda says. “It’s certainly impactful for the businesses we work with, but we feel like if you watch the season one episodes, you can get a lot of different insights and advice we gave around finances and margins and certainly around marketing. We definitely want this to be a tool that small businesses can rely on.”
Click here to watch past episodes and vote for your favorite finalist.
Voting is open Feb. 9-16, 2017, and the winner will be announced Feb. 22!