Election day may be months away, but three local small businesses are hoping for people's votes to win an online contest sponsored by American Express OPEN and Facebook that learn small business owners take advantage of social media. NY1's Money Matters reporter Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
American Express OPEN and Facebook do not just want to give a "thumbs up" to small businesses, they also want to give them a leg up through their Big Break for Small Business Contest. The goal is to help entrepreneurs learn to make the most of an invaluable and free tool, social media.
"Small businesses' number-one need is to get new customers and increasingly we're seeing that social media is helping to level the playing field for small businesses," says Laura Fink of American Express OPEN.
Of the 12,000 businesses that entered the contest, 10 made the finals, including three in New York City.
The grand prize is three-fold. First, there is the cash -- $25,000. Finalist Michael Berl of Kyotofu in Hell's Kitchen says that money would allow him to expand his Japanese dessert business to a larger production facility.
"We've been looking at spaces in Brooklyn and Queens and we really want to go out there. Also we'd be hiring a lot more people, which would be great," says Berl.
Experts from AmEx and Facebook also provide entrepreneurs with a kind of social media "makeover."
Finalist Pearl Chin of the Upper West Side's Knitty City uses her iPad to post pictures of her clients' projects but admits she is no expert.
"I spend hours trying to figure out what pictures to post and what will really make a difference and it would be great if somebody could come in, tweak it, tell us how we can make it better," says Chin.
"We'll be able to have the experts in social media look at what they are doing and say, should they be doing a certain type of advertising? Should they be creating an app for their presence? Should they be using photos more or creating offers more?" says Fink.
The winners get to pay it forward by hosting an event where other local entrepreneurs can meet with and learn from those same experts.
Finalist Cory Schifter of Casale Jewelers sees this as a golden opportunity not just for himself but other Staten Island businesses.
"So if they participate in this and help us win there's something there for our community as well. So it really helps from beginning to end our business, as well as our community, which is important to us," says Schifter.
Of the 10 finalists nationwide, five will win, depending on people's votes. People can vote once a day, every day, for the rest of the month. For more information, visit facebook.com/open.