Amanda Brinkman discusses the new season of 'Small Business Revolution'

Amanda Brinkman, Small business revolution, ty pennington

Small business owners have until October 26 to submit nominations for their town to win a $500,000 makeover

Amanda Brinkman, the Chief Brand & Communications Officer of Deluxe Corp and co-host of Small Business Revolution is passionate about helping small businesses thrive.  She and co-host, Ty Bennington transform the Main Street of a town into a thriving hub for small, yet mighty businesses.  Season 3 of Small Business Revolution premiered on Hulu on October 4.

Small businesses are considered to be responsible for saving small towns in America. The Deluxe team spent the past few years traveling the country and captured the stories of 100 inspiring small businesses and decided to create Small Business Revolution—Main Street to transform these businesses into powerful businesses that give the customers services and products that they need and want.

Amanda Brinkman spoke with Michelle Tompkins for Stars and Celebs about Small Business Revolution, how people can nominate their small towns to win the $500,000 makeover for season 4, what happened to season 3 winner Alton, Illinois, what advice she has for small business owners and more.

Michelle Tompkins:  Now Amanda, please remind me, where do you live now?

Amanda Brinkman:  I'm based on Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Michelle Tompkins:  Can you please tell me what you've been up to since last winter? We spoke in around January or February.

Amanda Brinkman:  Well, we since then the winning town for season three was identified. It was Alton, Illinois. And so we have spent most of our spring and summer in Alton helping transform that town and their main street. And we worked with six key small businesses within that community to really help that town thrive.

Michelle Tompkins:  And what kind of businesses were selected?

Amanda Brinkman:  This year it's really fun. We've got a great variety. A great restaurant called Lovett's which is a soul food restaurant owned by mother and son duo Mary and Brad. We're working with Shampooches which a dog grooming salon. And that was fun, we got to play with some wet dogs. Lighthouse Sounds which is a recording studio run by a couple of young men who have really put all their savings and everything into running this business.

Morrison's Irish Pub which is an incredible community gathering place ran by three incredible women and a wonderful place to spend time. Today's Beauty Supply which is a beauty supply store catering to the African-American community. And the owner is one of those people who is just really invested in his community and his business is really something that helps bring the community together. And then Bluff City Outdoors which is a bait and tackle shop ran by a father and his step-daughter and his wife. And they're doing great things to also bring people into Alton for the great new catfishing that you can do there.

Michelle Tompkins:  I know people choose by voting which city gets the makeover. But how do you chose which businesses? What would happen if you had two competing businesses who want help? How would you choose?

Amanda Brinkman:  Yeah. Yeah, great question. Well, it's very hard. It's the hardest part of the entire process. So you're right, the public determines where we go through voting but then we open up applications for the small business within the community to be featured on the show. And this year we had over 200 applications. So it was very hard to narrow that down.

We went and visited about 30 of those businesses. And then interviewed 12 of them more in depth. And it was hard to narrow it down to those six. To be very honest all 12 of those businesses, all 30, all 200 would have made incredible stories and been stories that were deserving to have been told.

Michelle Tompkins:  What are the criteria for choosing which businesses you take on?

Amanda Brinkman:  Well, we really want to make sure that we're going to be helpful. So at the Delux, we do marketing for small businesses so we really want to make sure we're choosing businesses where our expertise in the marketing space is going to make the most significant difference. You know making sure a small business is findable online, making sure that they have a consistent brand and logo and brand identity. Helping them stay in touch with existing customers. Attract new customers. I mean that marketing piece can be such a big difference for small businesses, we want to make sure that that's something that the business needs help with.

The second thing we look for is really compelling stories. Part of the reason we do this series is that we want the small business audience who's watching it to see themselves in these stories and feel affirmed by the fact that they're not alone in some of the things that the average small business might be struggling with. And so we want to tell these honest, raw stories of how hard it is to run a small business. We look for really kind of compelling stories that we feel like our audience will identify with. Then there's just kind of that "it" quality. There's this piece where we have a connection with the businesses and feel like we're going to be able to have the largest impact with them.

Michelle Tompkins:  Now, what is the newest news with Small Business Revolution this year?

Amanda Brinkman:  Today we are opening up nominations for season 4! We're going to do it again and we can't wait to find out where we're headed. We really encourage people to nominate their favorite small town for a chance to be featured in season 4. At the end of the day, one town will win and be featured in the show itself, but we really have found that businesses that are involved— towns are involved all along the way— in the top 20, the top 10, the top 5 phases— really are on a different trajectory, because they've been a part of something exciting, something that's coming in from the outside and saying ‘we have something special here,’ and that really does rally all these communities.

Michelle Tompkins:  What are the rules for a community or a city to be nominated?

We are looking for towns that are under 50,000 in population and that's about it. Part of what we're really doing, or the criteria of the show, or the thesis that we're proving is really how important small businesses are in our small communities. It's really important for us to tell that within the context of a small town. But that's how we're defining it.

Michelle Tompkins:  Now, how many seasons have you been on?

Amanda Brinkman:   Our third season launches today; we have three seasons under our belt and excited to pursue season four.

Michelle Tompkins:  And now, for the you question. How long have you been involved in this project?

Amanda Brinkman:  From the beginning! I have to say, this has been my baby. This was something I was really passionate about from day one. At Deluxe, we work with small businesses and we wanted to do something special in our centennial, so we're over a hundred-year-old company. I felt very passionate about doing something that was good for the small business community in the celebration of our centennial.

This all started, actually, where we went across the country and told the stories of 100 small businesses through films and photo essays and really tried to create a movement. We're excited to see what a movement it has become. And now it's evolved into a show and we're able to share the education and lessons learned and helping small businesses across the country.

Though it was my idea, I have an incredible team around me making this happen at Deluxe. Our film crew, all of our partners. Ty Pennington's been a great partner and co-host this year, Robert Herjavec was a great partner in season one and two, so it's been really fun to see how many people have really gotten behind this.

Michelle Tompkins:  And made it happen. Now, two seasons have already had their makeovers.  so we've already seen the results from them. How are they faring now?

Amanda Brinkman:  Really well. We developed these personal relationships, so we're in pretty regular contact with the businesses, and quite frankly, the residents of Wabash and Bristol Borough. They're part of our Small Business Revolution family now. But yeah, they're doing extremely well.

For people who are curious about the results, we have Return to Wabash and Return to Bristol Borough Episodes. And in that, you'll see that Annabella's, the Italian restaurant we worked with last year, has doubled their sales.

The childcare center that we worked with, early childhood center, Discover, Learn, and Grow, has gone from only having a third of their capacity filled to not only getting to capacity but having a waiting list, which has propelled them into opening their second location.

The list goes on. It's just been really remarkable to see how well the businesses are doing.

Michelle Tompkins:  Now, where can people see the show?

Amanda Brinkman:  They can see the show at SmallBusinessRevolution.org. It also is on Hulu.

Michelle Tompkins:  And what are some tips you have for small business owners right now?

Amanda Brinkman:  The first thing is really understanding that you can't wear all the hats. I see this with entrepreneurs across the country, where they feel like maybe they can't afford to delegate or bring in partners to help with things like marketing or finances. But, as a business owner, you have to think about your time as a finite resource, just like you think about your capital and your money. And so as a business owner, the best piece of advice I can give is, focus on what you, uniquely, can do to grow your business and then make sure you are allowing yourself to spend the sufficient time to do that. Then bring in partners to do the other pieces.

Michelle Tompkins:  Where can people learn more information?

Amanda Brinkman:  We encourage people to go to SmallBusinessRevolution.org. There you can not only binge-watch seasons one, two and now three, but you can also nominate your favorite small town. We've got a number of incredible small business resources there on the site as well. So right alongside each of the episodes, we've got full cases studies that go into more detail on why we recommended a certain logo or why we addressed price point with this particular business. And so for entrepreneurs and small business owners, there's a lot of learning to be had on the site, too. We've got an entire small business resource center and again, you can get to that through SmallBusinessRevolution.org as well.

Michelle Tompkins:  Now, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Amanda Brinkman:  No. I just want to thank you that you guys have been really great about continuing to check back in on the series and talk about it with your followers and your readers and we truly appreciate it. This is what we're trying to do, is create a movement. The more people who hear about it and see about it, the more that the movement can gain momentum. So I just want to thank you for doing the story.

Michelle Tompkins:  Thank you for your work on this. I think it's an important thing to celebrate small businesses.

Small Business Revolution is accepting nominations through October 26 and Season 3 can be seen on Hulu.

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Michelle Tompkins

Michelle Tompkins is an award-winning media, PR and crisis communications professional with more than ten years experience with coverage in virtually every traditional and new media outlet. She is currently a communications and media strategist and writer, as well as the author of College Prowler: Guidebook for Columbia University. She served as the Media Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the USA where she managed all media and talking points, created social media strategy, trained executives and donors and served as the organization’s primary spokesperson, participating in daily interviews with local, regional, and national media outlets. She managed the media for the Let Me Know internet safety and Cyberbullying prevention campaign with Microsoft, as well as Girl Scouts’ centennial Year of the Girl To Get Her There celebration in 2012, which yielded more than 800 million earned media impressions. In addition to her extensive media experience, Michelle worked as a talent agent in Los Angeles, California, as well contracting as a digital content developer and her writing has appeared in newspapers and online. She is passionate about television, theater, classic movies, all things food and in-home entertaining. While she has lived and worked in NYC for more than a decade, she is from suburban Sacramento and gets back there often to watch the San Francisco Giants on TV with her family.

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