May 22, 2019
Small Businesses + Community Financial Institutions = Main Street, USA
By Cameron Potts, Vice President of Public Relations and Community Management
On Monday, May 20, Deluxe Corporation held its 10th free Small Business Revolution marketing seminar of the year in Cañon City, Colorado. More than 150 small business owners, community leaders, bankers and more attended the seminar in which Deluxe’s marketing team provides insights into better ways to market their businesses. Since 2016, Deluxe has conducted more than 20 free seminars in small towns across the country.
Leaving behind a well-paying job and a steady paycheck, Jonas Janek knew he wanted to follow his dream and open his own small business in Alton, Illinois. Buoyed by his wife, Andrea, who kept her job, Janek went all-in when he opened his custom metal fabrication shop, Henley Forge. And then reality set in.
Like so many other small business owners across the country, Janek had a dream of where he would take his business but getting there proved to be harder than he thought. Unlike other small business owners, he had a background in business, and the financial savings to get him through. But he brought a series of questions with him to a free marketing seminar Deluxe Corporation offered for small business owners one Saturday morning in Alton.
In 2016, Deluxe Corporation launched the Small Business Revolution, an online series where one lucky small town wins a $500,000 marketing makeover from Deluxe. Alton, Illinois won in 2018, and though Janek’s business was not one of six selected for the show, he took advantage of learning from Deluxe experts as part of a series of seminars sponsored by the company.
Janek learned about ways to enhance his website, to market with social media and how designing a better, simpler logo will get Henley Forge better noticed in the marketplace.
Since 2016, Deluxe has conducted more than 20 free marketing seminars in small towns across the country, from Oregon and Washington to South Carolina, Texas, and Michigan. At each stop, both in attendance and as co-sponsors, community banking leaders have come forward to show their support not only for Deluxe’s Small Business Revolution, but more importantly, for the small businesses that make up their Main Streets.
As one of the oldest financial technology companies in America, Deluxe has served thousands of community financial institutions and small businesses, gaining deep, working knowledge of the importance they hold in towns and neighborhoods across the country for over 100 years.
That connection is why officials from community banks in Wabash, Indiana, Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, Alton, Illinois and now Searcy, Arkansas, were among the first to greet the team from Deluxe when we came to town after those communities won the Small Business Revolution. They knew what was at stake for the town and understood Deluxe’s commitment to working with small business owners.
Deluxe’s support for community businesses and community financial institutions is industry leading. In the competition for 2019, more than 12,000 small towns sought to be selected for the makeover, and more than 1.6 million votes were cast. When Searcy, Arkansas won the 2019 Small Business Revolution, more than 4,000 people packed the main auditorium at Harding University for the announcement. Among the crowd was Rees Jones, President of Simmons Bank in Searcy. He witnessed first-hand the enthusiasm in the community for its small businesses and he wanted to help in some way.
Working with a friend and client Mat Faulkner, Jones asked to help sponsor the filming location in Searcy, at Faulkner’s Think Creative Studios. As Jones explained, the outpouring of emotion and support for the town and the businesses is what makes the connection between local banks and their businesses special. New signage out front signified Simmons Bank commitment to the community and the opportunity that the Small Business Revolution brings to Searcy.
In the last two years, local community banks have stepped forward to help sponsor Deluxe’s free small business marketing seminars in their towns, from Alton in 2018 to Marinette/Menomonee in 2019. In fact, in the 20+ free seminars the last few years, roughly 22 community banks and other financial institutions have been in attendance, such as Citizens Bank of Americus, The Stephenson National Bank and Trust, Simmons Bank and so many more.
Asking tough financial questions is difficult for small business owners
A common theme among the thousands of small businesses owners we have talked over the years is a lack of financial acumen. In fact, most small business owners at the seminars shared their fear of working with their local bank, because the business owner worries about defaulting on any loan.
Their fear isn’t because of a lack of relationships. It is more a lack of understanding of what working with a local bank can do for the small business owners. Many small business owners know what they want to do with their business, but they are often afraid to ask for help. They know they need to market, but they don’t know where to start. They know they need to have a website but they don’t know where to turn. They know they need to seek financial advice but are afraid to ask.
Instead, many of the small business owners finance their business on their own, with what dollars they have and credit cards, not clearly understanding the even higher interest rates on those cards. The outcome is often worse in that case, when the cards are maxed out, family can’t help and the business closes. But the credit card debt remains.
Working with community financial institutions can be a revelation for small business owners, since their local institution is equally committed to the community. These institutions help businesses learn what they can afford, what collateral they have and how their institution will be a partner, even when times are tough. These relationships can lead to thinking differently about inventory or just how much debt a business owner wants to take on.
Deep connections make up the fabric of communities
After the financial downturn in 2007-08, it wasn’t big businesses that brought the economy back to life, it was small businesses. And it was the community financial institutions working with those businesses that helped drive entrepreneurship again. Community financial institutions are part of the fabric of their communities. In good times and bad, the personal connection and touch with the small business owners are how they work together to keep these businesses open, and eventually, thriving again.
Since 1915, Deluxe Corporation has celebrated, applauded and encouraged the union between local, community financial institutions and the small businesses that dot the landscape. Traveling across the country to shine a spotlight on those small businesses that help drive the economy, the continued byproduct is the connection that financial institution partners and small business owners have.
From Americus, Georgia, to Washington, North Carolina; Red Wing, Minnesota to Cañon City, Colorado, the common denominator at our small-town marketing seminars are always the business owners and the community financial institutions. Together, they make up the local chambers of commerce, church groups, downtown business councils, and booster clubs.
In communities big and small across the country, small businesses and local, community financial institutions share a common heartbeat that sustains their towns, their neighborhoods, and their cities. The free seminars Deluxe provides were created as a way for small business owners to learn better ways to market and operate their businesses. Deluxe is proud and honored to serve these businesses and financial institutions that make up the heart of Main Street, USA.
To watch recent episodes of the Small Business Revolution, follow the links below: