March 19, 2019
Speed Dating: Small Business Revolution Style
Written by Cameron Potts
They come into the room holding photos, or sometimes food, other times notes they want to share. You can see their hands shaking, hear their voices crack. Sitting in front of four strangers, trying to describe their business and their need for help in a scant 45 minutes.
After the hoopla of winning the Small Business Revolution cools down for the successful small town, it is time for business owners to step up and seek an opportunity to be one of the six featured on the show. Now in Season 4, the Deluxe team will interview 12 small business owners on camera this week to determine the final six.
In the last few years, since opening up nominations to businesses throughout each of the towns, we have had the daunting task of choosing six that represent a cross-section of the community, but also have compelling business stories to share with the rest of the country, the millions of viewers of our show.
This year in Searcy, more than 220 nominations for the six slots came through. We combed through the applications, selecting 31 to interview in person. From there, 12 were identified to have their stories shared on camera in front of a panel of Deluxe experts.
Last year in Alton, Illinois, Benjamin Golley, owner of Today’s Beauty Supply, likened being chosen for our show as winning the lottery. And he isn’t wrong. Out of 12,000+ nominations from small towns, there are hundreds of businesses in each town that would be eligible to be on the show. To be one of the six selected, to receive a marketing and physical makeover from Deluxe, well the odds are long.
Put yourself in that small business owner’s place. You have 45 minutes to share your hopes and dreams. The stories can be heart-wrenching as inevitably tears flow when they share just how difficult it is to keep the doors open. Nearly every business owner we have interviewed over the years has shared that they have put their life savings into the business. Some are not only living check to check or week to week but even hour to hour.
For our team, we know the stakes are extremely high when we make our final decisions on which businesses we will help. Main Street can be a gift and a catalyst, but we also require sweat equity from the business owners themselves. They have to work at the process, accept feedback and criticism and understand that what happens when the work is done, and the cameras stop rolling is really up to them.
For speed dating week, as we call it, the business owners have to bring their stories and their struggles and their aspirations to the table. And to a person, every business owner we have interviewed in the last three seasons have left nothing out. Some have shared how they only stayed open for a chance to be on the show. Others talked about taking themselves off payroll. Still others trembled as they talked about being in abusive relationships and finding a way out and a new lease on life by starting their own business.
For 45 minutes, each business owner sits and wonders if they are saying the right things, if they are able to convey the need their business has. This year, among our top 12 are businesses that serve their communities, that are seeking to grow and expand and those that are trying to find their footing as a new business. We have also chosen those that have been in business several years and need to rekindle the spark that got them going in the first place. Every story is different and unique.
From thousands of potential businesses down to six; the owners that will represent small business in America and give insight into what it is like to be a small business owner. Their willingness to tell us their stories – without varnish – goes a long way toward how other business owners across the country will learn to run their businesses just a little better.
Follow along on all of our social media channels as we chronical this journey with Searcy, Arkansas.