It’s tough to make it in the food industry these days.
Trends change so quickly and as they do, they’re liable to take a lot of food-inspired startups with them.
Six small businesses in the food industry recently got some help in keeping their mission going. They were named among the 20 recipients of this year’s Chase Mission Main Street Grants program.
Each winner gets $100,000 furnished by Chase and a trip to LinkedIn headquarters later this year for what’s being billed as a Small Business Boot Camp aimed at helping these recipients leverage the power of the social site and its digital marketing.
One of those companies is a startup formed by Ohio State University graduates who happen to be identical twins. Strangely (for some) their business is based in beef jerky and video games. They call it Jerky XP and its mission is to deliver beef jerky to hungry gamers who simply can’t put down their controllers for more than a minute to snack.
So, what got Jerky XP one of the 20 grants awarded this year? It’s passion … passion for their business, their product, and their mission.
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“We’re looking for someone who’s so wildly passionate about their business. They will ask people to carry the water with them. We’re looking for that kind of mentality,” says Allison Bennett, Chase for Business Chief Marketing Officer, in an interview with Small Business Trends.
How passionate are the OSU twins? They’ve even onboarded help of the four-legged variety and named their dog as CEO. Bennett was on hand to deliver an over-sized novelty check to the founders of Jerky XP recently and said the twins’ dog even participated in the ceremony, accepting the check. (If it were really up to the dog, though, Jerky XP might be forced to take the winnings in jerky only!)
Instead, that $100,000 should go a long way for a budding small business like theirs. The significant amount of the award is by design, Bennett says.
“The reason we set that money so high is that they can do something meaningful with it,” she adds.
Here are the other recipients of Chase Mission Main Street grants also in the food industry:
Tilit Chef Goods, New York City: Black-and-white checkered chef pants and ugly, black non-skid shoes begone! This New York company is tasked with making chefs, other restaurant employees, and even the home cook look fashionable — yet practical — while they’re in the kitchen.
Vimala’s Curryblossom Cafe, Chapel Hill, North Carolina: This small business is keeping one corner of the Triangle well fed with some authentic farm-to-fork Asian cuisine.
Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections, Freeport, Maine: Tucked away in northern New England, this business keeps the Downeaster’s sweet tooth satiated but it’s also selling confections online and over the phone, too.
Campbell Cheese & Grocery, Brooklyn, New York: Staying atop the trends in Brooklyn is tough work but this grocery store is keeping up by selling cheese, charcuterie, chocolates, local produce, beer, and more. It also offers a full line of ready-to-eat fare as well as sustaining a catering business.
Real Good Fish, Moss Landing, California: Fresh, local seafood is always popular and that’s where this company shines. It focuses on providing sustainable seafood to part of California’s coastline, sourcing all products from local fishing outfits.
Bennett provides these stats from Chase on how the Mission Main Street Grants program has impacted previous recipients. These numbers show just how significant such a largess can be for a small business:
- 92 percent have hired at least one new employee
- More than 85 percent have increased profit or revenue
- 89 percent have increased consumer traffic
- One-third have opened a new location
- Nearly 60 percent establish new vendors and relationships
- 60 percent purchase new equipment
The benefits of winning go beyond the $100,000, though. Part of the winning package also includes that trip to LinkedIn headquarters.
LinkedIn is the Premiere Sponsor of this year’s Mission Main Street Grants program. It’s aimed at providing for-profit small businesses (with less than a hundred employees) capital for growth. The grant program also arms small businesses with knowledge and tools to assist their digital growth, especially through LinkedIn.
Each of these businesses will get $100,000 from Chase and will be flown from their locations to a Small Business Boot Camp held at LinkedIn headquarters in Mountain View, California. At the boot camp, grant recipients will get to network with fellow recipients and also learn how to leverage the social network for their own business’s growth.
There will also be a special seminar hosted by CNBC host Marcus Lemonis.
The boot camp also shows small businesses how to use other digital content to grow.
Here are all the other 2015 recipients of the Chase Mission Main Street Grants of $100,000:
Azule Staffing LLC, Eagan, Minnesota
Bay Area Medical Academy, San Francisco
Clearly Innovative, Washington, D.C.
Global Disability Inclusion LLC, St. Augustine, Florida
GreenLynx, Sebastopol, California
Guerilla Gravity, Denver
Harlem Doggie Day Spa, New York City
Larry’s Barber College, Chicago
LeiManu Designs, Kea’au, Hawai’i
LuminAID Lab, Houston
Sustainable Lumber Company LLC, Missoula, Montana
Scratch and Peck Feeds, Bellingham, Washington
The Hive Colony LLC, Warren, Michigan
Veterans Green Projects Initiative, San Diego
The grant program has been in place since 2012. To date, more than $8 million have been awarded to small businesses from Maine to Hawai’i (which happens to be the geographic range of this year’s recipients).
Recipients in the Chase Mission Main Street Grants program must pass through several stages of the contest before getting their $100,000 and trip to LinkedIn headquarters for the boot camp.
First, small businesses must apply to become eligible to receive the grant. This year’s application period was between May 4 and June 5.
The application is to specify — among other things outlined in the grant program’s rules — how a small business intends to use its grant money, if it were to be declared a winner. And then Chase requires that any grant awarded be used as the small business intended in its application.
Then, a small business must garner a minimum number of votes to pass through to the next phase of the contest. This year, a company had to get 250 votes from Facebook users by June 19. Small businesses reaching that threshold had their applications passed on to a panel of experts assembled by Chase.
The panel was tasked with whittling down the field to come up with 20 recipients. Chase does not endorse or validate any small business that receives these grants, simply because they’re deemed recipients.
Not all small businesses are eligible to receive Mission Main Street Grants from Chase. For instance, a business must be a for-profit venture. Also, a company needs to be a more established small business. The contest rules specify that a company must be in continuous operation for at least 24 months to be eligible.