Deluxe Surprises Four Small Businesses with $25,000!
Four different times this fall, I was blessed to wake up knowing I was about the change someone’s life that day.
In our 100th anniversary, Deluxe launched an incredible documentary series called the Small Business Revolution (www.smallbusinessrevolution.org) celebrating the importance of small businesses in our country. As a part of this celebration, we asked the public to nominate their favorite small business to receive a $25,000 Small Business Revolution award from Deluxe. It was my honor to represent Deluxe when surprising (and delighting) each deserving owner with this windfall.
The response to this contest was overwhelming. We received more than 3,000 entries, inspiring stories of unique and passionate small business owners. Giving away the first Small Business Revolution award was such an incredible experience that we decided to reward three additional $25K prizes to make it an even $100K (get it…100th anniversary?) and have the opportunity to bless three additional small business owners with a boost from Deluxe.
While we would have loved to honor every business nominated, the four that won really stood out in their commitment to their business, to their customers and to their communities. Here is a little bit about why we choose each business AND the fun ways we cooked up to surprise the owners…
At Hudson Pool Management in New Jersey, owner Jamie Gordon continues his father’s legacy of providing jobs and a needed service in Jersey City. The company not only employs local students as lifeguards throughout the summer, they also take in exchange students in the summer to provide employment opportunities. Earlier this year, Gordon’s father died suddenly, leaving him with the task of keeping the company going forward without their founder. Gordon’s wife nominated him for the award, knowing that this boost will help make his transition to owner much easier.
In Jersey City, we snuck up behind Gordon, his mother and his office manager, “photo-bombing” a fake photo shoot we arranged outside their home and office. Nervously, they refused to turn around to see the woman standing behind them with a giant check for $25K. It took a few minutes for Gordon and his family to realize what was happening, but when they did, they were very moved by the award.
Just outside of Atlanta, Jim Schmelzer runs his own unique business, Big Note Music. Schmelzer, a lifelong musician, takes his music company on the road to schools and colleges in the area, providing repair services to marching bands who have little public funding for the arts. With vans that travel throughout Georgia and North Carolina, Schmelzer helps school music programs keep their instruments in fine tune.
We tricked Schmelzer into coming to one of the high schools he serves in Atlanta, but instead of servicing the instruments, the school’s marching band played his favorite song with great fanfare in the gym where Malcolm McRoberts and I waited behind the band with his surprise.
A quiet, understated man, Schmelzer was almost embarrassed by the attention, but was moved by the nomination, which came in from many of his supporters and his wife. Upon winning his $25,000, he said he will be donating the money back to the schools he serves, ensuring their music programs continue to thrive.
Last week in Denver, one of our most moving experiences occurred in a restaurant that serves people and their pets. Over the course of our contest, OrthoPets received the most nominations, nearly 80. This unique company provides prosthetics and orthotic braces to help animals recover from broken limbs or loss of limbs.
Working with a member of their staff, we invited past patients and their owners to help surprise OrthoPets owner Martin Kaufmann and his family. OrthoPets was chosen not only because they received the most nominations, but because their mission is so moving, helping animals across the country recover from what could otherwise be life-ending injuries.
Our very first surprise in Minnesota featured some high-powered help. Deluxe CEO Lee Schram was joined by Shark Tank star and Small Business Revolution advocate Robert Herjavec to award Debb Masterson at Minnesota Nice Spice. Schram, Herjavec and I, joined by a phalanx of media members, strolled into Masterson’s shop where the owner stared at us in disbelief for a few moments before jumping and leaping her way across her store to celebrate with her sister, cheering “we won, we won!”
Masterson touched our hearts because she started her business to donate money to an art program that supports adults with disabilities. By winning our $25K prize, she is now able to hire more help, so in turn, she is able to donate more of her profits to this worthy cause.
As you can see, the selflessness of these business owners really stood out to us. To a small business, an influx of capital of this sort can be game-changing, especially at the end of the year. To our great surprise, each business owner shared their intention to use the money to continue to make a difference in their communities.
Throughout our year-long Small Business Revolution campaign, I have been consistently moved by the motivations of America’s small business owners. For this driven, passionate and inspired group has truly shown me what dedication and perseverance is all about. I have been struck by their desire to help their communities, by donating money, employing their neighbors, and by sustaining and growing our economy.
These small businesses make their communities better. It is incredibly inspiring and I was humbled to be a part of it.