October 12, 2017
Look below the surface to find the true small business story
Even when a small business looks successful, there can be challenges unseen by the regular customers
By Amanda Brinkman
I have a confession to make: The newest business featured on the Small Business Revolution – Main Street season 2 almost didn’t make the cut.
It is true: the Annabella’s episode released on Oct. 12 featuring owners Bobby and Alison Angelaccio came close to not happening at all. Why? Because our team thought they were doing too well.
After two seasons of the Small Business Revolution – Main Street, our team has determined a few biases that we needed to work past to tell even more compelling stories. One of them is the “how well is this business doing” bias.
In this year’s first episode about Bristol Borough, as we gathered as a team to choose the final six businesses that would benefit most from the $500,000 makeover, Damon Fieldgate, our vice president of small business services rightly challenged our assumptions. When we talked about a business, we said, “well, this one is doing well, they don’t need our help.”
Damon thought otherwise. “Every small business can use our help. Just because they might be doing well, doesn’t mean they can’t use some help.”
On one of our first visits to Bristol, our entire Deluxe team and video crew had dinner at Annabella’s. The place was packed and the food was amazing. Chef Bobby is a master and we left having all overindulged in his amazing Vodka Rigatoni and Veal Parmigiana and other stellar dishes. When we looked at his application, we thought, no, this guy is doing great. He doesn’t need our help.
Thankfully, we reconsidered and invited Bobby and Alison to be among the 20 businesses we interviewed. His story was compelling as he shared his love of cooking and how he believes in his food. What we couldn’t see from the outside was the fact that his business ebbs and flows when the Bristol Riverside Theatre is in session. We couldn’t see how the economic downturn almost forced him to close. We couldn’t see his need to try something new.
From the outside looking in, you can never tell the health of a small business. As we learned with Annabella’s, Chef Bobby needed not only marketing help, but the helping hand of a fellow chef to look at his menu and pare it down. He needed a hand updating his décor and he needed a hand to believe that take out should be a viable option in a working-class town.
Even more importantly, Bobby needed to share his love of his business and his love for Alison with a wider audience. Alison was a customer who caught his attention. They have been together ever since and their devotion to one another shines through in this episode. He credits Alison with helping him stay afloat the last 10 years.
As my co-host Robert Herjavec from Shark Tank says, Bobby is an incredible chef who is immensely lucky to have someone like Alison in his corner, someone so positive and affirming.
Running any small business must be a labor of love. What we saw from day one in Bristol was an amazing couple providing exceptional food and service. We saw a business that was thriving on levels beyond monetary, but with the right help, could take the next step and re-invent itself.
I’m glad our team challenged our assumptions and biases. We are a better company for choosing to help Annabella’s, and the small business community will be better for sharing this episode.