As “Shark Tank” approaches its $100 million in deals milestone episode, one shark is preparing to once again help one small town in a big way.
Robert Herjavec, a panelist on the hit ABC show, teamed up with Deluxe’s Amanda Brinkman to help grow small businesses as part of “Small Business Revolution.” Not only did their work in season 1 help a small town in Indiana win a $500,000 revitalization as part of the Main Street project, it helped promote the passion small business owners have and shine a spotlight on how much they truly help their community.
“One of my favorite sayings is that the business of America is business. It is still the greatest country in the world to come to these shores and start a small business. There’s a very unique culture that we have in terms of taking risk. We encourage entrepreneurship more than any other country in the world. And when you drive through the small towns or the big towns, you see thousands of little businesses. That is the lifeblood of this country.” – Robert Herjavec, “Small Business Across America” documentary
Herjavec and Brinkman spoke with Business 2 Community about “Small Business Revolution,” the impact it leaves on small towns and the lessons that can be learned in season 2. Take a look at the interview below:
Robert Herjavec and Amanda Brinkman Discuss the “Small Business Revolution”
The transcript appears below:
What first drew you to becoming a “dragon” on “Dragon’s Den” and now a “shark” on “Shark Tank”?
Robert: Well you know, I love being involved with “Shark Tank,” “Dragon’s Den” is the Canadian version of the show and we did the show there first but what I love about is I love helping small businesses. You know, when I was growing up and starting my first business, I didn’t have anybody to go to for advice, my dad was a blue collar worker, I didn’t know anybody who had ever started a business and that’s what I love about “Shark Tank.” What I love about the “Small Business Revolution” is these are really small businesses, I mean these are a single owner operator, husband and wife in many cases, and they’re not just trying to help their business, they’re actually doing it for the community. And that was wonderful. Last year, we got involved with a town called Wabash, Indiana, who had 186,000 votes, they really rallied the community together and Amanda and I and the team went down there and, you know, I think we made a big impact.
What would you say is the most important piece of advice you would give to small business owners?
Robert: The best advice I would give anybody is you’ve gotta be great at something but that means you’ve gotta understand your business. So before I can teach you to sell, I have to teach you who to sell to and that’s the one thing that Amanda and I both found when we work with these businesses is sometimes they didn’t really understand what their value proposition is and I think we went in there and helped them understand who their customer was, help with some of the cost structure, and how to modify and change it.
How would you say the American dream has evolved over the years from your point of view, especially for immigrant entrepreneurs?
Robert: This is still the land of opportunity and we saw that. I mean in Wabash, we met a lot of people who had a lot of hope, didn’t you?
Amanda: Absolutely. I mean this country was built on the backs of small businesses and we love the fact that small towns are really defined by their small businesses and that’s why we love this program—because it really helps that small business community help its town thrive. The two things have to go hand in hand. When you tell someone to visit your small town, you talk about your small businesses. You don’t name national restaurant chains or big box retailers, you talk about those individual businesses that you just have to check out if you come there. And so, that’s what we love about it is it really shines a spotlight on the importance of supporting small businesses.
Robert: Yea, just because you come from a small town or you have a small business, doesn’t mean you can’t compete on a large scale and that’s what we found in Wabash and hopefully that’s what we’ll find in the next town.
Amanda: We really encourage people to go to smallbusinessrevolution.org and watch season 1 and see what’s at stake for these towns that we’re considering for season 2. Because if you’re a small business or you live in a small town, there’s a lot of lessons you can glean about some of the things that we help the businesses with—understanding their numbers, marketing, how to display things in their store—I mean, things that all small business owners are really kind of struggling with and once you’re on smallbusinessrevolution.org, we encourage you to watch the mini documentaries for this year’s finalists and vote for your favorite.
Robert: Well a real testament to the show is Inc. magazine ranked the series as one of the must-see shows on television right now and online around business. And that was against big shows like “Shark Tank” and so even if you’ve never been to a small town but you’re thinking of starting a business, you can learn from the series.
What would you say are the biggest lessons you’ve learned while working on the “Small Business Revolution” project?
Amanda: Well it really just solidified for me how important small businesses are in small towns and how vital they are to the town’s health. But it was also just so fun to see firsthand the passion that small business owners have. I mean, you have to really care about your business to run a small business—it’s hard and it takes a lot of work and it’s a 24/7 job. And I was just inspired by the passion they have for their businesses, how they’re giving back to their communities and we were really inspired by how they work together. I mean, they can create something bigger than themselves when they band together.
Robert: Right, what’s the definition of a small business owner? Somebody that leaves a 40-hour-a-week job so they can work 120 hours a week for less pay typically.
Robert, how would you say the “Small Business Revolution” has left an impact on you personally?
Robert: I think it’s such a great opportunity to give back and meet a lot of people. I mean, I honestly would have never gone to Wabash, Indiana, it wasn’t on my radar, but I’m really glad I did. I met a lot of great people and I’m really looking forward to going to the next town. We’re going to announce the winner on Feb. 22. America has one week to vote and it’s going to be tough this year. We just announced the five finalists a few hours ago and there’s already 21,000 votes so we encourage people to go online, see the documentaries and help a community. Go and vote.
How did the “Small Business Revolution” impact last year’s winner, and where can people watch season 1 to get a sense of what’s in store for this year’s winner?
Amanda: You can see season 1 on smallbusinessrevolution.org and the impact was long-lasting. They were already on this upward swing and we just helped add fuel to that fire. And it’s been so fun to see how that community has continued to band together and make themselves better and make each other better. The small businesses themselves that we worked with are doing exceptionally well, the marketing things that we’ve helped them with and certainly the numbers have helped them run healthier businesses and grow faster. And so it’s been really rewarding to see how Wabash, Indiana has used this opportunity. And that’s why we encourage people to watch season 1 and see what’s at stake for this year’s finalists. And once you’re on smallbusinessrevolution.org, you can watch the mini docs or vote for your favorite small town right there.
Is there anything either of you would like to add about the “Small Business Revolution” or “Shark Tank” or anything?
Robert: No, we just really encourage people to vote and go online to smallbusinessrevolution.org and check out the documentaries and help a community somewhere in America by getting half a million dollars in value.
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