Fin­gers crossed

Watch party for top-5 re­veal set for Tues­day

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THREE RIVERS EDITION - BY TAMMY KEITH Se­nior Writer

Amy Bur­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Main Street Searcy, wants res­i­dents to “think big” to help Searcy win the Small Busi­ness Rev­o­lu­tion-Main Street con­test.

Searcy made the cut to the top-10 cities from about 12,000 en­tries — the only one in Arkansas — and is in the run­ning to win $500,000 for six small busi­nesses and be fea­tured on the eight-part on­line and Hulu se­ries.

The top-five cities will be an­nounced Tues­day; then on­line vot­ing will be­gin im­me­di­ately and con­tinue through Feb. 19.

“It’s a wait­ing game, and it’s killing us,” Bur­ton said, laugh­ing.

A watch party is sched­uled from 7-8 a.m. — yes, in the morn­ing — Tues­day at the Rialto Theater. Sa­vor + Sip will have cof­fee and break­fast op­tions avail­able, Bur­ton said.

“What we need now is for peo­ple to text Searcy or MySearcy to 484848,” she said.

A text will be re­ceived in re­turn, thank­ing them for opt­ing in.

“If Searcy is cho­sen for the top five, you will be alerted the day vot­ing starts. You can vote ev­ery day Feb. 12 through 19,” she said. “It is one vote per day per email per de­vice. That means if I voted from my MainStreet Searcy email from my lap­top, I could turn around and vote from my per­sonal email on my phone.”

Bur­ton em­pha­sized that it will take sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand votes to win.

“We need peo­ple to vote ev­ery day as many times as they can; we need them to reach out to friends, fam­ily, co­work­ers. I’ve al­ready reached out to my fam­ily in Ok­la­homa and Mis­sis­sippi.”

Bur­ton also said that she’s con­tact­ing her Main Street­di­rec­tor coun­ter­parts in Mis­sis­sippi and Louisiana, which have no cities in the run­ning for the sweep­stakes.

“The win­ner has to take it by sev­eral hun­dred thou­sand votes. We need more than the 23,000 peo­ple who live in Searcy to vote. We need peo­ple to think big.

“Ul­ti­mately, some­thing this pow­er­ful — we’re talk­ing about half a mil­lion in­vested in small busi­nesses — can im­pact the state. Healthy busi­ness grows healthy busi­ness. You never know how many busi­nesses that one busi­ness im­pacts. It goes be­yond the bricks and mor­tar.”

Bur­ton said 200 Searcy busi­nesses signed up to be con­sid­ered for the $500,000. Busi­nesses can use the money for ev­ery­thing from chang­ing their lo­gos to ren­o­vat­ing phys­i­cal lo­ca­tions.

The on­line se­ries, in its fourth sea­son, is hosted by tele­vi­sion per­son­al­ity Ty Pen­ning­ton and Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer with Deluxe, the na­tional mar­ket­ing com­pany that spon­sors the project. Read­ers may re­mem­ber that Pen­ning­ton was the host of Ex­treme Makeover: Home Edi­tion.

A team from the show, in­clud­ing Brinkman, vis­ited the city for two days in Jan­uary, and Searcy rolled out the red car­pet, Bur­ton said. The team vis­ited small busi­nesses through­out the city.

Mat Faulkner, owner of Think Idea Stu­dio, said Searcy saw the on­line con­test and en­tered “on a whim,” he said in an ear­lier in­ter­view.

A so­cial-me­dia cam­paign launched for the con­test in Novem­ber was suc­cess­ful in get­ting Searcy in the top 20 be­fore it made the top 10.

Once Searcy made the top 20, res­i­dents got or­ga­nized and pro­moted Searcy with a video. Com­mu­nity and state lead­ers and en­ti­ties got in on the act. The Searcy Re­gional Cham­ber of Com­merce has been at the fore­front, as well as the White County judge, the Searcy mayor — even Gov. Asa Hutchin­son helped by hold­ing a poster of #MySearcy for a pro­mo­tion.

Faulkner said Searcy and the sur­round­ing area “just did an ex­cep­tional job” of pre­sent­ing it­self when the pro­duc­ers came to visit.

“We didn’t get any firm feed­back. They’re keep­ing ev­ery­thing close to the vest. I don’t know what else we could have done to show how much sup­port we had in the state. We need the en­tire state to sup­port Searcy [in vot­ing],” he said.

“The pep rally had a fan­tas­tic out­pour­ing of sup­port and a large crowd, even though it was the same night as the Justin Tim­ber­lake con­cert,” Faulkner said, laugh­ing. “We still had sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple come out.”

He said the food was great at the in­door event for the

show’s pro­duc­ers and crew.

“We had a lot of busi­nesses par­tic­i­pate in help­ing set it up and pull it off,” he said. “Yar­nell’s Ice Cream came up with a cus­tom fla­vor, Com­ing To­gether, for the event. It had cus­tom pack­ag­ing with Small Busi­ness Rev­o­lu­tion on the ice-cream con­tainer, so that was re­ally cool.

“I think we showed how sweet our peo­ple are and how de­serv­ing we would be to make it to the top five,” Faulkner said.

And then, Searcy res­i­dents are hop­ing, on to No. 1.

STACI VANDAGRIFF/THREE RIVERS EDI­TION

Amanda Brinkman, cre­ator of Small Busi­ness Rev­o­lu­tion-Main Street, an on­line and Hulu se­ries, ad­dresses a crowd in Searcy when a pro­duc­tion team vis­ited in Jan­uary. Searcy, which en­tered an on­line con­test and made the cut to the top 10 cities from about 12,000 en­tries, is the only Arkansas city in the run­ning to win $500,000 for six small busi­nesses and be fea­tured on the se­ries. The top­five cities will be an­nounced Tues­day at a watch party from 7-8 a.m. at the Rialto; then on­line vot­ing will be­gin im­me­di­ately and con­tinue through Feb. 19. Also pic­tured are Searcy Mayor Kyle Os­borne, left, and Mat Faulkner, owner of Think Idea Stu­dio.

PHO­TOS BY STACI VANDAGRIFF/THREE RIVERS EDI­TION

Ja­son Cole­man, owner of Beau­ti­ful Noise Mu­sic, per­forms at the mixer fol­low­ing the pep rally on Jan. 17.

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