Managing a Small Business
Directions to Main Street: How Grant Recipients Found Their Way
Past Mission Main Street Grant Recipients on the Path to Opportunity
Seven years ago, Aurora Anaya-Cerda was selling books out of a suitcase. Today, she is the founder and owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore in New York's East Harlem, which has hosted more than 500 events since opening its doors in 2012. When the entrepreneur learned about the Mission Main Street Grants® program at a local Chase branch last year, she says, "I decided to take a chance."
Carlos Menendez deletes a lot of emails, but the one about Chase's Mission Main Street Grants program caught his eye. Had he not opened that email and submitted an application, he would have never been in the running to receive a grant for his small business, which designs, handcrafts and manufactures a strong, durable yet lightweight paddle for paddleboarding enthusiasts. "The timing was perfect," says the co-founder of Titan Paddles in Dania Beach, Florida.
La Casa Azul and Titan Paddles are two of 20 recipients of last year's Mission Main Street Grants, which aim to help small businesses take the next big steps to achieve their goals. This year, Chase will award a total of $2 million in grants to small businesses across the country. Recipients will also receive a trip to LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, California, for a Small Business Bootcamp.
Mastering the Voting Process
Before a business can be considered for a grant, it must secure 250 unique votes.
To accomplish this, Anaya-Cerda posted the voting link on her company's Facebook page and Twitter account and on her own personal pages, asking friends, family, staff members and authors to vote for her business and share the campaign with others.
"I made it very clear what I wanted," she says. "On social media, you only have a few seconds to make your case."
Similarly, Menendez relied on his company's workforce to spread the word. "Our employees and our team reached out to their circles of influence and asked them to cast their vote," he says. “It was not just one person or two people; it was everyone."
Writing a Winning Essay
Once a business has secured social media support, the outcome is in the hands of the judges, who will review the essays the business owners submitted with their applications.
Anaya-Cerda advises applicants to think carefully about their audience when crafting responses.
"I remember a moment [I was] in the store by myself, reading the essay questions," she recalls. "I was thinking about who was going to be reading these essays. Have they been reading hundreds of these already? What will make my application memorable?"
Her advice: Assume that the judges have never heard of your business and make the responses clear, concise and complete. "You are competing with hundreds of other businesses who are also doing wonderful things in their communities," she says.
Community impact is important to both La Casa Azul, which serves as an East Harlem gathering place with programs that celebrate Latino traditions, and Titan Paddles, which creates jobs for local craftspeople.
"When you're in business in a community, you need to bring value to that community, and not just with your product," says Menendez. "You have a responsibility."
Vote for your favorite eligible small business by June 19, 2015 at MissionMainStreetGrants.com.
Robyn Tellefsen is a New York City-based freelance writer, editor and blogger whose work has appeared on MSN, AOL Jobs, Parent Society, OurParents, The CollegeBound Network and others.