Last February , Alton, Illinois won a half million dollar revitalization prize package from Deluxe Corp. Giving Alton’s Main Street a facelift was part of the project, but don’t be mistaken. The transformation was also about revitalizing business and community going beyond mere physical appearances.
Now in its third season, “Small Business Revolution ” (the TV series Deluxe created to document this transformation) gets into the struggles faced by local businesses and how the experts at Deluxe help turn things around for them, a process affecting the entire town.
Small Business Trends sat down with Amanda Brinkman, Chief Brand and Communications Officer at Deluxe, and Ty Pennington, TV personality and this season’s co-host, at the Next Millennium media studios in New York City for an on-camera interview about season 3. The video and transcript are below.
Season 3 is streaming on Hulu and YouTube. You can watch all eight episodes in full — even back-to-back if you want to. The series is also available to stream right from the SmallBusinessRevolution.org website. For a limited time, the public is invited to nominate the town they believe should win Deluxe’s next $500,000 Small Business Revolution revitalization.
Small Business Trends: Amanda, for the folks who haven’t watched Seasons 1 or 2, what would you tell them the Small Business Revolution is?
Amanda Brinkman: Small Business Revolution is a show where each season we ask people to nominate their favorite small town and then Deluxe Corporation invests half a million dollars in revitalizing the winning town’s Main Street and small businesses. With previous seasons in Wabash, Indiana and Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, and now with Season 3 in Alton, Illinois, the entire town is truly transformed through the Small Business Revolution because it’s more than just a show, it’s truly a movement. We’re trying to inspire people within these communities to support the small businesses that are making their town so unique.
Small Business Trends: Is Alton, Illinois like a junior St. Louis or is that not accurate? How would you describe it?
Ty Pennington: I think the cool thing about Alton is that it’s a unique town because of the history. It was certainly industrial at some point. It’s right next to the Mississippi River so at one point this was a thriving town of lots of business because you’re basically on the river that’s bringing all this material through. But times have changed, so now you have the structure, the skeleton of what used to be. But the spirit of the people who still live there know the history, they know how unique the town is, so a lot of people are moving back in who are artists and creative and really cool. And I think what surprised me is how cool and how interesting the people were and how proud they were of their town. But clearly they’re in need of a little help in letting other people realize how amazing this town is to help their business survive. What you find out about Alton is this show is about not just helping business, it’s about helping families that run businesses do it better and survive. While the dream of owning your own business works, it works because of Amanda and the team at Deluxe; the camaraderie is what made me want to get involved.
Small Business Trends: Ty, you’re no stranger to highly emotional show participants…
Ty Pennington: Yes, I came because I wanted to cry on this show…
Amanda Brinkman: He’s good at making people cry too! He made me cry daily!
Ty Pennington: And my mom too in early years. It’s a gift, it’s a gift.
Small Business Trends: That was the question, how many tears were shed this season?
Amanda Brinkman: So many tears of joy and realization. One of the things we do for the small business owners is just that we see them, we affirm them, we say “We understand how hard it is to run a small business. You wear so many hats as an entrepreneur.” Just having someone come in from the outside and saying “You got this. You can do this.” We help them with the marketing that’ll help them grow their business, and their finances — not only understanding their numbers but what the numbers are telling them so they can make better-informed decisions. We help with physical transformation, wish list items that perhaps they might’ve not been able to afford until then, so we help them bolster their business operations so they can get back to doing what they love. So few businesses start a business because they couldn’t wait to build a website or to figure out how to do their annual taxes. They did it because they have a passion or a love for either the craft or service that they do or providing something unique to their community. We love being able to come in and just love on them and help so that they can continue providing for their communities.
Small Business Trends: Let’s talk about the role of Deluxe as the brand behind Small Business Revolution. For anyone who doesn’t know Deluxe, can they learn about the company by watching the show?
Amanda Brinkman: Absolutely. Deluxe for over 100 years has been working with small businesses to help them through business forms and checks to be successful. What you see in the series is really the marketing services side of our business. So we can help a small business design their logo, print their business cards, build their website, social media, email marketing, promo apparel – anything you need to market your business. And you see that come through in the show in a very authentic way. You can’t do a makeover for a small business and not help them with their marketing because it’s one of two problems businesss struggle with, the other being their finances. And so you learn a lot about Deluxe, and you see our heart for the businesses. We’re trying to reach small businesses through the series but instead of advertising at them like our competitors do, we’re actually out there helping them, standing alongside them and trying to create a movement to get more people to support them.
Small Business Trends: For non-brick-and-mortar businesses, is it worthwhile for them to watch? Because the show’s focus is on brick-and-mortar.
Amanda Brinkman: Absolutely. We feel whether you’re running an exclusively online-only business or brick-and-mortar, what you really see in this series is a couple of key messages. One is, you can’t do it all as the business owner. There’s too much to do; you have to rely on outside help, whether it’s for your marketing or your finances or your operations, whatever happens, you need to rely on a support system. The second thing you really learn through this is entrepreneurs feel affirmed by watching this series. They see that small business owners are struggling with the same things they are, because it can be very lonely to be an entrepreneur. You don’t have that infrastructure that’s in a larger company. You can sometimes feel isolated and alone, so there’s something about watching another business owner struggle with the same things that’s very affirming. A third thing is that viewers can be inspired. The whole reason why we do this is because we love telling the stories of small businesses. When you see how hard it is to run a small businesses and how hard these businesses are working at it, you feel compelled and inspired to support them.
Small Business Trends: How can people nominate their town for Season 4?
Ty Pennington: Go to SmallBusinessRevolution.org 
Images: Alex Yong