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Season 6 Business

April 6, 2021

Meet the Businesses Selected to Appear in Season 6 of Small Business Revolution

Every year, the team from Deluxe and the Small Business Revolution seek out small businesses that are on a great trajectory but need marketing, operational, technical, and sometimes financial guidance to take them to the next level. In Season 6, we’re excited to apply everything we’ve learned over the last five seasons to six distinct Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota neighborhoods with a focus on Black-owned businesses.

Elsa’s House of Sleep – Midway/Frogtown, St. Paul

As second-generation owner Tetra Constantino explains it, his mom emigrated from Eritrea, Africa, founding Elsa’s House of Sleep “with a credit card and a prayer.” Surviving in a challenging industry for nearly 25 years, and more recently a pandemic, Tetra credits the store’s loyal customers and longtime staff for keeping the business afloat.

But competitive online brands are encroaching, forcing Tetra and his team to rethink Elsa’s business model. The marketing team from Deluxe and its partners will focus on rebooting this beloved furniture store with branding, marketing and tech solutions to help the business stand apart from online rivals.

Gentlemen Cuts – East St. Paul

Terrell Smith, affectionately known as “Mr. Red,” started cutting hair at the age of 18. After a few gigs inside and outside the industry, and tired of punching the clock, Terrell finally opened his own shop along the bustling corridor of Payne Avenue in 2018. Bringing on four additional barbers – J-Slyce, Papi, Jacob, and Ms. Nita – Gentlemen Cuts’ capacity and reputation was ready for growth.

But when the pandemic hit in 2020, barber shops like Gentlemen Cuts were shuttered for weeks until proper safety measures and personal protection equipment were secured. With the shop getting back on its feet, Deluxe and a team of experts plan to strengthen Gentlemen Cuts’ online presence, while helping Terrell add more barbers to keep neighborhood residents looking their best.

Lip Esteem – Lake Street, Minneapolis

After being furloughed as a makeup artist due to the pandemic, Tameka Jones took control of her destiny, launching Lip Esteem— a complete line of plant-based lipstick to complement all skin tones.  Starting out as a vendor at a local farmer’s market along Lake Street, Tameka was amazed at the interest and support of the community, especially since she assumed mask-wearing would deter demand for lipstick.

Despite a growing list of clientele, Lip Esteem has yet to meet minimum quantity orders for more cost-effective packaging and product displays from current vendors. The marketing team from Deluxe plans to bring in a cast of operational, financial and technology partners to give this startup the boost it needs to take Lip Esteem to the shelves of local and major retailers.

Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder – South Minneapolis

Cecil Newman moved from Kansas City to Minneapolis in the early 1930s, believing more opportunity for African Americans existed in this part of the country. Shortly after arriving, he started not one, but two newspapers at the young age of 17, providing a crucial voice for the Black community in the Twin Cities. Nearly 90 years later, Tracey Williams-Dillard sits at her grandfather Cecil’s same desk, running the newsroom with the same fervor for truth and inclusion as her ancestors.

While the newspaper industry as a whole has seen steep declines, the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder has been thriving and continues to seek new ways to curate stories, increase reader engagement and generate revenue. The marketing team at Deluxe and its partners will have one of the most unique challenges ever, collaborating with a longstanding icon to reimagine its future.

Sammy’s Avenue Eatery – West Broadway Ave., Minneapolis

After spending nearly 25 years in the hospitality industry, Sammy McDowell cashed in his personal savings to open his own restaurant with a hyper-focus on customer service. Since 2012, Sammy’s Avenue Eatery has transformed the neighborhood of West Broadway from a “food desert” to a welcoming café featuring fresh ingredients, sourced daily by Sammy himself.

Like many restaurants, Sammy’s was impacted by the pandemic, losing 64% of its sales overnight. With business slowly returning, Sammy is back to his mission of creating opportunities for young entrepreneurs to open their own restaurant.  The marketing team at Deluxe, along with its financial, operational, and tech partners, will provide expertise to support Sammy’s dream of turning his restaurant into multiple, employee-owned locations.

Taste of Rondo – Rondo, St Paul

Charles and Kasara Carter’s vision to open a family-owned establishment in historic Rondo became a reality during the summer of 2020. Despite launching their business during a pandemic, the Carters have faith their restaurant will serve as a beacon of hope for the once vibrant and vital neighborhood devastated by the construction of Interstate 94 during the 1950s and 60s. 

As word spreads about this unique dining destination, the Carters believe they will bring more job creation and economic vitality to Rondo. To build awareness in the community, the marketing team from Deluxe and its partners plan to build a stronger web and social media presence, helping this startup to not only regain its financial footing, but position Taste of Rondo as a landmark for generations to come.

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