Chase is on a mission.
A mission to help facilitate small business growth.
And to fuel that mission, Chase has concluded its 2015 Mission Main Street Grants program — officially announced last week (Sept. 16) — as a way to reward 20 small businesses with $100,000 grants.
More than 30,000 small business owners across the country applied for this year’s program, and more than 1.7 million public votes were cast for participating businesses. From the eligible group of SMBs, the 20 recipients were selected by a panel of judges. Chase announced the launch of its 2015 Mission Main Street Grants program back in May, which kicked off National Small Business Week, with a plan to provide an eventual $2 million in grants to standout companies.
To qualify for grant consideration through the program, the businesses were required to have fewer than 100 employees and receive at least 250 “likes” on Facebook by June 19. The 20 chosen recipients not only receive a $100,000 grant but were also awarded a trip to LinkedIn’s headquarters in California.
Narrowing the field down to 20 is no easy feat as the program gets 30,000 applications that receive heavy scrutiny from the team of judges. But the net is cast wide, and any businesses that has been in business for two years, and falls within the size restraints, can apply.
In an interview with MPD CEO Karen Webster, Allison Bennett, Chief Marketing Officer for Chase for Business, shared how the program has evolved and what impact it really has on the businesses. Which, if you look at the stats, the numbers speak for themselves. (See chart below).
“The program has really evolved and shaped more fully into something that is even greater than just giving the money, which of course is one of the core tenets of the the program,” Bennett said.
She explained that Chase has added play books to help SMBs grow their social media presences, and they have added a day at LinkedIn to help those businesses get hands-on training on how to expand that social presence in the digital consumer community.
But getting those social media likes are also key to being chosen as a grant recipient.
“It shows they are really passionate about business, which is something we desperately want out of a winner — they’re going to have to jump through those hoops. They are shouting with a megaphone ‘like my business,’ ‘grow my business’ — and that’s the kind of persona that is going to be successful and is going to use the money well because they get the importance of promoting their business,”Bennett said.
“We try to find businesses that are diverse in story, are diverse in ownership,” she later noted. “One of the fun things this year is the family-owned businesses. It isn’t just the higher up and patriarchal. But you’ve got brothers, you’ve got sisters, you’ve got an interesting way your business came about. And then you’ve got an interesting and really compelling story for why this money would make a meaningful difference in your businesses.”
So what is that common thread Chase is looking for when selecting the grant recipient finalists? It’s about the businesses that show off their passion and are highly vested in their vision.
“We’re looking for the breakthrough things where this is going to create a game-changing event in our business,”Bennett said. “The diversity is what makes it interesting. We’ve got manufactures, we’ve got green recycling. There are businesses here that we didn’t even know existed here. People have taken something that was a problem and created a businesses out of it.”