On the heels of last week`s announcement that Chase and Living Social are coming out with a co-branded Visa card – the Chase Visa Rewards card – they are now launching a new program together, designed to help small business owners by giving out up to three million dollars in grant money.
Mission: Small Business(SM) is a grant program that will offer grants of $250,000 each to at least four and up to 12 different small businesses. Companies who enter the program will compete for votes from family, friends, and the public at large, which can show their support for a business by clicking “Support” on a company`s profile at missionsmallbusiness.com. Those who receive at least 250 votes will be considered for the grant money, which will be awarded based on judging from an expert panel including Tim O`Shaughnessy, the co-founder and CEO of LivingSocial, Richard Quigley, the president of Chase Business Card and Innovation, and Candace Nelson, the founder of hugely successful cupcake bakery Sprinkles Cupcakes.
Who Gets a Piece of the Pie?
In order to be considered for the program, companies must meet the following criteria:
- Must have fewer than 100 employees
- Must have been in business at least two years
- Must be a for-profit business; no non-profits
- Must be owned and operated by legal residents of the US who are over 18 years of age
As part of the application process, each company must submit an essay outlining their business – what they do, how successful they are, how they are unique, and what their community involvement is like. They must also answer questions such as “What types of challenges can you identify with your business plan and how will you overcome them?” and “describe the talent on your team and how they make your business successful?”
After the voting is over and the field of eligible businesses has been established, the panel of judges will decide who gets the grants, looking at factors such as:
- Business and management skills of owner(s)
- Likelihood of success over the next two years
- Solid business plan and ideas for managing growth
- Energy, enthusiasm, passion and creativity
- Community impact and positive influence
How Much Pie Will There Be?
The number of businesses, who receive grants, and the total amount of money awarded, will be determined by public participation in the program. For every vote that is cast on missionsmallbusiness.com site by clicking “support” for one of the competing businesses, at least five dollars will be added to the grant pool. People may vote an unlimited number of times, but only once per business. At least $1 million is guaranteed to be given away, but if enough clicks are made, the pool will be increased to a maximum of $3 million, allowing 12 small businesses to receive $250,000 in grant money.
Big Support for Small Business
LivingSocial has always been supportive of small businesses, offering daily deals meant to promote small business growth and drive consumer traffic to local merchants. LivingSocial discounts often help small businesses build their consumer base and spread the word about their products. Chase, too, makes an effort to support small business. Richard Quigley of Chase Bank, one of the judges, says of the program, “Small businesses are invaluable to the growth of our economy, and the ‘Mission: Small Business’ grant program is designed to provide small businesses with the solutions they need to grow and thrive.”
Tim O`Shaughnessy, also one of the judges and one of the creators of LivingSocial, says that “LivingSocial`s goal is to help energize their connections with people seeking new and exciting experiences in their communities. We`re proud to be supporting the ‘Mission: Small Business` program to help small business owners grow and become the next great American success stories.”
The contest voting period runs now through June 30, and winners are expected to be announced by September 15 of this year. Grant recipients will be notified of their selection prior to public announcement.