WASECA — Waseca has been named one of 10 finalist cities in the nation for the fifth season of the Small Business Revolution television show out of thousands of applicants.
Sitting at the Pheasant Cafe for a Chamber Ambassadors breakfast, Waseca Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ann Fitch and chamber members huddled around her phone to watch Waseca be named as a top 10 finalist, all erupting into joy at the announcement.
“It’s so exciting. It’s super humbling because I know that Waseca has unlimited potential and for someone else outside of Waseca to see that just is amazing,” Fitch said. “It helps validate everything that the people in the community work so hard to accomplish.”
Each season showcases one town to help rejuvenate the town using $500,000 for business education, community investments and to invest in specific businesses in the winning town, that apply.
Moving forward, an informational conference call will take place on Thursday, November 21 with Deluxe. Following the call Deluxe will make a visit to Waseca, which will determine if Waseca gets to continue to the top five finalists.
“It’s a great honor to have Waseca chosen to be part of the Top 10 for the Small Business Revolution,” Economic Development Coordinator Gary Sandholm said. “It shows that the hard work done by a lot of people is paying off. We need to celebrate now for what we’ve accomplished and strive to do even better in the coming competition.”
The top five will be put to a public vote on social media that is open for one week. The ultimate winner is chosen in mid-January and will be announced in a live video. Waseca is the only town in Minnesota in the top 10.
“We have already had different entities in the State reach out to us and ask what can they do to help, which is really nice and if we do get to the top five we will need the help from our entire state,” Fitch said. “We’ll need the help from the Iron Range to the River Valley, completely.”
Small Business Revolution was started by Deluxe, a small business financial services company, located in Shoreview, Minnesota. Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe was at the forefront of the creation of the show, who has a goal to help entrepreneurs, small businesses and financial institutions with customer relations.
Brinkman in Waseca
Brinkman was a keynote speaker at the Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities Conference, which was the first of its kind in Minnesota held in Waseca in September.
The conference was designed to help communities create environments and pathways that support entrepreneurs across Minnesota.
“I mean I applied, I was really encouraged and excited after I heard Amanda Brinkman speak at the entrepreneurial conference, and I thought why not Waseca,” Fitch said. “You know I’ve watched the Small Business Revolution and I see their communities and I see Waseca in their communities, so why not us.”
At the conference in Brinkman’s presentation she shared she is the creator, producer and co-host, with Ty Pennington, of Small Business Revolution. She went on to share with the attendees her passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses and how the show came to be.
The show is streamed on Hulu, Amazon Prime and the Deluxe website.
“We do the show because we do believe wholeheartedly that small businesses make our towns unique, so it’s about focusing on our small businesses,” Brinkman said in a Waseca County News interview in September 2019.
Getting to the top 10
In order to reach the top 10 finalist position there was an application process that started with a 500-word essay. Fitch shared that the very next day she received a phone call from Deluxe asking for more information.
In the application she spoke of things at the request of Deluxe about the strengths and weaknesses of Waseca. She relied on one point of where the town struggles telling the story of the small businesses and the town itself.
“We have a hard time telling our story. Telling a story is so important for your town, your business, because it connects people to you and your business and it makes them want to support you when they know your story,” Fitch said. “Part of that is being from the Midwest and not being boastful and we need to work on that because we have some great things to shout about. So I think that was a key point in the essay.”
Another point in the application Fitch focused on was Waseca’s being proactive with continuous investments in the community and not waiting to be bailed out.
“One of the big strengths that I talked about is the fact that we’re not waiting for a savior,” Fitch said. “We have a vision and a plan, Waseca Vision 2030, so I just wanted to let them know that we aren’t on the brink of destruction and without their help we will never make it, their help we will be absolutely terrific, we will be so thankful if we are chosen, but we are not in a do-or-die situation.”
She went on to speak about the continuous investments throughout the community such as new infrastructure, newly renovated high school, new performing arts center along with numerous other examples. Fitch also spoke of incidents that happened in Waseca from flooding to major businesses closing such as Quad Graphics and how Waseca responded to each event. Waseca was able to bounce back each time.
“What I hope to come from this is to re-energize our community,” Fitch said. “To win or not to, just re-energize our community and make people believe we are worthy of good things.”