Revolutionizing Main Street

Small Business Revolutions

Small Business Revolution

In 2014, Amanda Brinkman ’00, Chief Brand and Communications Officer for Deluxe, was on a mission to get to know her customer base. Charged with finding a breakthrough solution to change brand perceptions about the company – from a top check producer to a growth engine for small businesses and financial institutions – she hit the road to hear directly from small business owners.

Hearing their stories, their pain points, their purchase decisions, the foundation for “Small Business Revolution” was laid. It started as a documentary series, which told the stories of 100 small businesses across the nation and culminated in a long-form documentary, which focused on the importance of small businesses to communities, to the country, and to the economy.

As the project progressed, it became evident that nowhere are small businesses struggling more than in small towns. From that point on, they took their idea to the next level – ultimately evolving into a new show – “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” – with the idea that they could revitalize small towns’ main streets and communities through their small businesses.

It was during the initial documentary phase that they approached Robert Herjavec (one of North America’s most recognizable business leaders and star of “Shark Tank”) to become involved in the project. They hoped to include him as one of the experts in the long-form documentary, and he was intrigued that a brand was doing something so selfless and good for the small business community. Brinkman says that “he wanted to be more involved, so he started to join me on media tours. When the idea for our movement and documentary series evolved into an actual show, he was all in.” She continues, saying that “Robert is intrigued by the Small Business Revolution because it celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit – and many of these entrepreneurs have the same drive and dedication that helped him get to where he is today.”

In launching season 1 of the show (available on Hulu and SmallBusinessRevolution.org), Deluxe received nearly 10,000 nominations for towns across all 50 states. That list was narrowed down to the two finalists, with the public casting more than 180,000 votes. The winner was Wabash, Ind., where the company infused $500,000 into revitalizing its main street.

“The response we’ve received from season 1 has been incredible,” Brinkman says. “Inc. Magazine named the series one of the ‘9 Top Shows Entrepreneurs Should Watch in 2017’ and it has become the #1 lifestyle show on Hulu!” Viewers are hooked too – Harry from Harry’s Old Kettle Pub & Grill (episode 2) received an email from a man in New York who was so inspired by his episode that he now wants to follow his dream and open a restaurant.

But above it all, it was the people of Wabash that had the largest impact on Brinkman herself. “Witnessing firsthand how the community and its small businesses came together to improve their community – they embraced the process and our advice even when it was difficult to hear. The dedication, resiliency, and passion they have for their town is truly amazing.”

This fall, Small Business Revolution will air a “Back to Wabash” episode highlighting the impact the show has had on the businesses and town. Providing a sneak peak, Brinkman shared that Lisa Ellen Downs, the owner of Ellen’s Bridal & Dress (episode 3), gave herself a paycheck for the very first time this past January. After only selling one dress in January 2016, she set a goal to sell five in January 2017 – a goal she achieved just seven days into the month. Her January sales had more than tripled by month’s end compared to last year.

In addition to the “Back to Wabash” episode, filming for season 2 is also underway. The upcoming season will feature Bristol Borough, Pa., a small town halfway between Philadelphia and New York City. Founded in 1681, it’s a self-described “gritty” town, which Brinkman says benefits “from an East Coast resiliency but is home to incredibly caring residents and leaders with an energy that’s pushing the town into the future.”

She and her team have spent the last few months in Bristol Borough working with small business owners who can benefit from the marketing services Deluxe has to offer. As in season 1, season 2 will feature six small businesses from a mix of industries. The team also works closely with town leaders to determine which projects will benefit their main street district and how they can help attract tourists to the community. As they learned from the results of season 1, the entire community can benefit greatly from the revitalization project, well beyond the businesses that are specifically featured on the series.

Through the experience and success of the show, Brinkman says her main takeaway is that she learned “how passionate small business owners and community members are in small towns, and how resilient they are. Despite the challenges they face, they have found ways to work together and create something greater than if they acted alone. It takes hard work and dedicated people, but small businesses can still thrive in small towns.”

Season 2 of “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” will debut in fall 2017 and be available for streaming on Hulu and SmallBusinessRevolution.org. Until then, news and updates can be found on the website, and on the show’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages. You can also follow Brinkman herself on Twitter at @AKBrinkman and @amandakbrinkman on Facebook and Instagram.

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Sarah DeLano

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