What does it take to succeed as a small or medium-sized business (SMB)?
More than a good idea, more than passion, more than hard work, long hours or even good luck: As with many ventures, you’ve got to spend money to make money, and SMBs don’t always have the resources or the time to determine where those resources are best spent.
Mastercard and Bank of America know it’s not easy. That’s why these industry giants make a point of giving the little guys a leg up whenever possible.
Mastercard’s “Grow Your Biz” contest for SMBs in Boston, Massachusetts, concluded in December. The purpose was to identify SMB owners who were planning to use innovative tactics to grow, then provide financial support as well as expert guidance to drive that growth.
Four finalists will enjoy extended mentorship by the industry experts who judged the contest, and one winner, Somerville-based, plus-size yoga studio More to Love, will receive $25,000 to grow its business.
More to Love Founder and CEO Rachel Estapa told PYMNTS that the business was rapidly outgrowing the solutions she’d implemented — partly because she hadn’t meant to build a business in the first place.
Estapa explained that, when she began her yoga journey, it was a personal project to lose weight and change her body image. She said she didn’t see herself reflected in the fitness world and was largely on her own as she set out to accept and love her own body.
She was far from alone in feeling this way. After completing her training and beginning to teach, Estapa quickly found herself surrounded by other plus-size women walking the same road, all of them in need of guidance and encouragement — both of which weren’t for sale on the mainstream market.
More to Love became an official business in 2013 and only continued to grow from there. Today, although Estapa is still based in Boston, she has clients all over the world, and while some of them occasionally drop in on a class while traveling through town, it is her goal to be there for those clients all the time, wherever they may be.
Estapa said she does that through email. It’s one key way that she is able to share her story with others to inspire and motivate them. She said people resonate with her struggles and triumphs, so she shares both candidly; she wants to facilitate a sense of intimacy and personal closeness no matter how many people sign up for those emails.
But the more people sign up, the less her tools have been able to handle the volume effectively. Estapa doesn’t just want to send around blanket emails; she wants to meet clients where they’re at with more customized messages, and the basic features left her managing a growing number of lists.
Thanks to the investment by Mastercard and Bank of America, Estapa can now update her email marketing tool to drive that intimate experience with easier tagging and segmenting of subscribers. Now, she said, she’ll be able to hone messages to what each person is looking for.
Estapa also plans to use the funding to rebuild her website over the next six months so that it’s easier to find, both locally and nationally. Whether visitors are looking for an upcoming yoga retreat, a class or personalized support, Estapa wants those resources to be accessible when visitors are looking for them.
As More to Love prepares to grow, so, too, does the Grow Your Biz campaign. Mastercard hopes to take the program on the road to help SMB owners in other locations soon.