Dozens of Tucson-area small businesses are in the running for some big exposure. They’re competing in a contest that will reward the grand-prize winner a national ad to air during the third quarter of the 2014 Super Bowl.
Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks and other business products, will give up its 30 seconds of Super Bowl ad time to one small business through the online contest.
Last year, the cost for a 30-second Super Bowl ad was nearly $4 million, according to the Wall Street Journal.
“The insight that we had was that small businesses are really the heroes of our economy. And what we wanted to do at Intuit was shine a light on these small businesses in a way that has never been done before,” said company spokeswoman Heather McLellan.
“So the idea was ‘What if we put them on the world stage on the biggest game of the year?’ That would give them a chance to really tell their story and celebrate the contribution that they make.”
Round 1 of the Small Business Big Game contest, in which businesses were asked to submit a 600-word statement sharing their story, ended last week, and more than 10,000 businesses have advanced to the next round.
Nearly 50 of those are from the Tucson area.
“I think really anybody can win. That’s the exciting part of this campaign,” McLellan said.
Bakery in the running
For local entrant Trina Samson, who co-owns Green Valley bakery Cayley Cakes with her husband, Michael, winning would be the icing on an already sweet couple of years.
“I’m really blessed and fortunate to be able to do something that I love, because not many people get to say that they get to go to work every day and do something that they really enjoy doing,” Samson said.
Growing up in a family of five kids with modest means, Samson often had to share her birthday parties with her older brother to save money.
She vowed to make her own children’s parties special for each of them, which led her to learn to bake and decorate cakes. Eventually friends started requesting cakes, and she found herself making several each week.
A couple of years ago, when her husband encouraged her to start her own business, she was hesitant and scared, but they pulled money from their 401(k), started their research and in October 2011 she opened a tiny storefront in Green Valley. Within a year of opening and with demand for her cakes, sticky buns and other pastries growing, she had to lease more space in the building. And next month she’s moving into a much bigger space at an old Green Valley firehouse that has been converted to commercial space.
“I just feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster for two years,” she said.
Samson entered the Intuit contest after a local Intuit employee who picked up some cupcakes was so impressed with the sweets that she encouraged Samson to sign up. She’s since been posting daily on Facebook reminding fans to vote.
Since becoming a small-business owner, Samson says she’s been committed to buying local, donating to fundraisers and supporting other local businesses.
“I know how hard it is to get started, and I feel like I have a responsibility to try to help others that are trying to do something to help better their lives,” she said.
Diaper delivery service
Helping others with a difficult and often embarrassing part of their lives is at the heart of Tucson business Personally Delivered LLC, also in the running for Intuit’s big prize.
Owner Lauri Privett started the adult diaper delivery service in 1999 after seeing a TV special about aging and thinking about the needs of an increasing elderly population.
The company started delivering incontinence products to homes in Tucson and now delivers to clients in every state except Alaska.
“Many of our clients are family members who are taking care of a parent. And this is a whole new territory for the baby boomer generation, because since they dealt with their babies, they have not had to deal with this — and now they are taking care of Mom and Dad,” Privett said.
The business offers products not found in stores. Her staff of six is trained to recommend the best products to meet clients’ needs and to make people feel comfortable discussing a sensitive subject.
“It’s not just selling the product. It’s giving them the best customer service,” Privett said.
Though Privett wasn’t sure that her business was the right fit for a Super Bowl ad, she figured she had nothing to lose when she sat down to write her entry statement.
With a not-so-tech-savvy clientele, getting votes will be a challenge, Privett said, but she is giving the contest a shot anyway.
“So much of that age population is not online, so I don’t know if we’ll get votes. But I just thought it would be fun to try and get us out there. And what did we have to lose?” she said.
Helping women succeed
After being involved with several failed businesses, Tucson business consultant Lisa Rehurek decided to figure out what went wrong. “We didn’t have any focus and we didn’t have priorities, and we were just kind of a mess,” she concluded.
She turned what she learned into a business to help other women succeed.
Her latest venture, MissSimplicity, offers products that help female business owners increase productivity, learn to delegate and outsource, and better manage their time. She also offers coaching and consulting services.
When Rehurek first learned of the Intuit contest on Facebook, she dismissed it.
But she soon reconsidered.
“I have a lot to offer the world, and why not me?” she said.
Winning the grand prize would be validation for her company, she said.
“It’s always great when we can get some real validation that what we do is valuable to the industry, and of course it helps financially,” Rehurek said.
Picking a winner
In the next round of the contest, small-business owners will be asked to complete a series of tasks, such as creating short videos and answering questions about what makes their companies unique.
People are asked to vote for their favorites.
Intuit staffers will then pick the top 20 companies, using criteria that include their number of votes, financial stability, how thoughtful their concepts are, and how well they represent the Intuit brand.
Four finalists will be chosen and announced in November, and each will receive a professionally produced national commercial. Experts will help each business with a “mini-makeover” by helping improve their Web and social-media presence, Intuit spokeswoman McLellan said.
Voters will then be asked to choose their favorite business, and the grand-prize winner will be announced in December. Intuit will cover the cost to produce the ad.
“It’s the biggest Cinderella story that we see out there,” McLellan said.