Learning from Peers

Amanda Brinkman of Deluxe Corporation brings actionable tips to small business owners.
 
Deluxe Corporation has launched an online service center offering hundreds of free resources for small business owners, including the new “Small Talks” video series, which features advice from successful entrepreneurs across America.

Deluxe’s Small Business Resource Center, which was launched in conjunction with National Small Business Week, is available at Deluxe.com/SBRC. More than 400 free resources include everything from how-to guides to webinars to educational videos from experts at Deluxe. They cover a wide range of helpful tools for starting a business, marketing your business, managing finances and more. Deluxe also features its new “Small Talks” video series as part of the Small Business Resource Center. In each episode, Deluxe’s chief brand and communications officer Amanda Brinkman interviews successful small business owners, who share actionable tips to help small business owners overcome common challenges.

The first wave of Small Talks videos features prominent entrepreneurs from Minneapolis and Chicago, including Salty Tart Bakery owner Michelle Gayer, one of the country’s most lauded pastry chefs, earning nine James Beard nominations and the title of Bon Appetit’s “Best Pastry Chef.” In the video, she discusses how to hire new employees and grow, while maintaining the quality that your business is known for. Several videos are now available at www.deluxe.com/sbrc/small-talks. Additional episodes will be released in coming weeks.

Bake reached out to Amanda Brinkman for her thoughts on this exciting new project and how it can help independent retail bakeries and other small businesses across the country.

Amanda, you bring a ton of energy to the new Small Talks video series. Why are you passionate about small business?

Great question! Throughout my entire career, and especially in my current role at Deluxe, I’ve been passionate about small businesses and the inspiring people who run them. Every day, my team gets to help small business owners with marketing, so that they can get back to doing what they love. In fact, that was what led us to create the “Small Business Revolution – Main Street” series, in which we show how investing in a community’s small businesses helps the entire community thrive as a whole.

Since creating the Small Business Revolution series, we’ve heard time and again that small business owners love hearing advice from fellow entrepreneurs. Small business owners are so passionate about what they do, but they have to wear a lot of hats in order to keep up with the daily operations of running a business, and they like to hear from people who have overcome those same challenges. So we hit the road to create Small Talks, going straight to the source and interviewing successful small business owners to get actionable advice.

What is your background in the business world?

I started my career in marketing agencies, working on some of the world’s biggest, most successful brands, from Sony to BMW. I then carved out a niche in the corporate role as what I call an “intrapreneur,” cultivating creativity from the inside out at companies like General Mills, Allianz, and UnitedHealthGroup.Along the way, I’ve held a philosophy that all companies can “Do Well by Doing Good.” Instead of focusing only on selling products, they can take true “brand action” that improves the lives of their consumers, while improving their own bottom lines. At Deluxe, I’ve had the honor to truly prove that philosophy through projects like Small Talks and Small Business Revolution–Main Street.

What about small business is so important to the future of America?

In 2015, Deluxe celebrated its 100th anniversary by visiting 100 small businesses and telling their stories. We even produced a documentary (starring everyone from Harvard historians to the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration) about the critical importance of small businesses to our national economy. So it’s something we believe passionately. Perhaps most importantly, we realized that small businesses and the entrepreneurs behind them are pillars of local communities. The success of these small businesses and their entrepreneurial spirit is paramount to the future of communities across the country.

As a small business owner, what are the most important things to work on in terms of building a successful brand?

The first step for any entrepreneur is to identify why he or she started a business and what makes him or her passionate about that business. For small businesses, in particular, the owner is inextricable from the overall brand. And that passion they bring to the table should be reflected throughout all of their branding elements.

In terms of getting started with your marketing, it’s critical to ensure you have a website that is easily findable online, that you’re listed accurately on all relevant online directories, that you have a good email marketing strategy, and that you have a strong logo and consistent branding. These are the areas where entrepreneurs will see the most immediate ROI, while setting them up for sustained success.

What resources do small businesses need to survive that may be lacking now?

Between the millions of small businesses that Deluxe works with across America, to the insights we’ve gleaned during our Small Talks interviews, to the small businesses we’ve helped transform on Small Business Revolution–Main Street, we’ve found that the two most common challenges for small businesses are marketing and knowing their numbers. From a numbers perspective, many businesses lack an understanding of fundamental accounting, and by extension don’t have a good grasp on how their company is really performing. Similarly, small business owners are often overwhelmed by the daily trials of actually running a small business that they have a hard time finding time to focus on marketing.

That’s why resources like Small Talks and the rest of the Small Business Resource Center from Deluxe are so important. They are designed to be easily digestable and helpful so that entrepreneurs can quickly grasp marketing and finance concepts, put them to use – and get back to the parts of running their businesses that they love.

What do you think about the current movement in America to support local businesses – how can others help build on this momentum?

I think it’s fantastic — in fact, it’s why we at Deluxe very purposefully focused on creating a “movement,” rather than, say, a one-off ad campaign. We wanted to build momentum and create a ripple effect. Every time people support a local business, that money gets reinvested into their community. Small businesses have such an enormous role in making each community across America special. One thing small business owners can do to keep building momentum around this movement is to support each other. By working together to share experience and ideas, individual owners can add value to their businesses, as well as the local economy as a whole.