Running a business is hardly glamorous. Except, of course, when it is.
This week, Chase announced the winners of its Mission Main Street Grants program, an annual contest recognizing small businesses. The 20 businesses chosen this year will each receive a $150,000 grant and a visit to sponsor Google's Mountain View, Calif., campus, where they will take a comprehensive small-business marketing workshop.
Google is also furnishing the winners with a Chromebook laptop and a $2,000 coupon to cover the cost of commissioning a Google Consumer Surveys market research study.
Three years into the program, this group of 20 is the largest to date, up from 12 last year and 11 in 2012. "This is a game changing experience, we wanted to give that experience to more business owners this year," said Jennifer Piepszak, Chase's CEO of business banking.
The businesses owners range from toy makers in Florida and chocolatier brothers in New York, to skateboard designing military veterans in Colorado and lab supplies distributors in Texas.The contest was only open to U.S.-based, for-profit companies with 100 employees or fewer.
One of this year's winners, the well-regarded New Orleans School of Cooking, sees the grant as a way to make the company's 35th anniversary even more special. CEO Greg Leighton says that because the business is so predicated on visitors to the city, it took six years following Hurricane Katrina to get back to their pre-storm revenue levels. But with the grant in hand, Leighton wants to give back to the community, in particular through the charitable efforts of the New Orleans School of Cooking Foundation.
"It's not very often that you get a chance to write a short story about your business and what it means to you, and what you hope it means to the community, and have it picked up in a national program and then recognized with a grant of this size…it's an opportunity to fulfill dreams that we've had," he says.
Previous winners of the grant have also been able to make good on their dreams. Angelle Albright, breast cancer survivor and co-founder of Chemo Beanies, which makes head scarves for women going through chemotherapy, says that winning the grant last year was an integral part of scaling her and sister Danielle Fournier's business -- so much so that they received their first patent in December. "The grant was a catalyst; it propelled us into another stratosphere."
This year's applicant pool was narrowed from 25,000 businesses to 20 over the course of two months, with help from the voting public and a panel of 15 seasoned business leaders. The decision was ultimately made at the end of a several-hour conference call among the panelists.
Piepszak says that in choosing the panelists, they looked to small business experts, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups and non-profits who support entrepreneurs. “Diversity and expertise were the most important qualities," she says.
Check out the complete list below to learn more about the winners
- Blue Oven Bakery, Inc.
- Cuevas Distribution Inc.
- Dat Donut
- Fortified Bicycle, Inc.
- GroundWork Renewables, Inc.
- JC’s Pie Pops
- KOTA Longboards LLC
- La Casa Azul Bookstore
- Mast Brothers Chocolate
- New Orleans School of Cooking
- Pallet Wrapz, Inc.
- Portland Meat Collective, LLC
- Qubits Toy, Inc.
- The ReWall Company, LLC
- SOLOSHOT, Inc.
- The Root Café, LLC.
- Titan Paddles LLC