Local marketing services company Deluxe celebrates their centennial with launch of Small Business Revolution to spotlight the importance of small businesses.
As a provider of marketing services to millions of small businesses, Deluxe decided to celebrate our centennial in 2015 by launching the Small Business Revolution to spotlight the importance of small businesses, and to extract lessons that could benefit small business owners in Minnesota and beyond.
We started by showcasing 100 small businesses across the country in short videos and photo essays, and we quickly recognized that nowhere are small businesses under siege like on small-town Main Streets. So we debuted the “Small Business Revolution – Main Street,” seeking one small town most deserving of a $500,000 makeover — a community that would embrace the notion that entrepreneurs and small businesses can be the heart of an economic revival. A Main Street business district that could benefit from marketing advice and needed to hear hard truths of what it takes to run a small business from Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec, who joined us in the program.
Nearly 10,000 nominations were submitted and Americans cast more than 180,000 votes for their favorite finalists, naming Wabash, Indiana, the winner. As Steve Downs, attorney and executive director of Wabash Marketplace, remarks, “Wabash is nearly in the middle of nowhere.” He’s right — it isn’t near a major metropolitan area and if you aren’t paying attention, you may drive right by it. In that way, it’s so similar to many special but under-the-radar Minnesota communities.
Working with Deluxe’s small-business marketing experts and Herjavec, I helped assess Wabash businesses, determine their marketing and business needs, and find the best ways to help them show up in their local, and regional, markets. We captured the transformation in a series (streaming now on Hulu and smallbusinessrevolution.org), and we learned remarkable lessons that can be applied to Minnesota businesses — which we’ll share in a series of articles published here over the coming weeks.
The first episode sets up what needed to be done in Wabash, which is really an amalgamation of Every Town, America, representing the plight small towns face across the country. It was once booming, buoyed by automotive manufacturing jobs that helped prop up small towns across the Midwest. When those jobs left, a void was created, similar to voids left in some Minnesota communities that depend on mining, logging, timber, farming and other big industries. The town leadership is smart — they know manufacturing jobs and big industry aren’t coming back. Rebuilding will rely on entrepreneurs and small businesses to create jobs. Wabash businesses need to reach local customers, but also those in neighboring communities and bigger markets like Fort Wayne and South Bend.
Personally, I was moved by the spirit of the community, people who truly love Wabash and embraced a chance to learn about how to run their businesses better and differently. Still, in 2016, some businesses didn’t have a website, or a social media presence. Many hadn’t put together a business plan and virtually none of the businesses we worked with had a strong handle on their finances. I learned that entrepreneurs are a special breed and there are times when they just need a guiding hand.
As you watch the first episode, I’m sure you’ll recognize Minnesota communities — and maybe even your small business itself — in the story. Each subsequent episode dives into how we helped individual businesses and specific challenges, and I’ll be chronicling those lessons from each individual episode in a series of blog posts here at Minnesota Business. I hope you’ll follow along!
Amanda Brinkman is Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe Corporation, which provides marketing and business services to millions of small businesses and financial institutions. Amanda helped create the “Small Business Revolution,” a movement to highlight the importance of small businesses, while awarding a $500,000 revitalization to deserving small towns.