Thursday, September 24, 2009

Shining a Light On Shine a Light Program

This summer and fall, American Express and NBC Universal is sponsoring a "Shine A Light" competition as part of their program which supports small businesses. They have invited online submissions of stories about small businesses that adopt an innovative approach to surviving tough times, set customer service as a business priority, and give back to their community.

This is their explanation and description of their contest: "What is "Shine A Light"? "Everyday small business are leading our country and their local communities to a new and better way of working and thinking. Through good times and bad, their resilience and entrepreneurial spirit can serve as an inspiration to us all." The small business winner of this competiton will receive marketing support and a grant of $100,000.00 to further their business mission.

I learned of this competition too late to nominate two small businesses in my area that I have written about and that meet the competition criteria: In Her Shoes, in Palo Alto, which donates all of their profits to the Global Fund for Women, and Mission Street Food in San Francisco, which donates all of their profits to weekly designated charities.

My congratulations to the three finalists of the competition: Sacred Wind Communications, Beacon Paint and Hardware, and Happy Baby. I would like to "shine a light' on the particular ways each of them is contributing back to their community.

Sacred Wind Communications (SWC) is a for-profit telecommunications company that employs 40, mostly Navajo people, in New Mexico. Many of their customers have never had a computer or even owned a telephone and now are able to search for jobs and to have access to educational resources. SCW also funds the non-profit Sacred Winds Communications Community Connect program, which provides computer training programs and scholarships to the Navajo community.

Beacon Paint and Hardware, in Brooklyn, NY, is an integral part of their community by sponsoring local paint and cleanup days, supporting the local public schools with paint and materials for events and new school buildings. They also are the primary sponsor for an annual fundraiser for the Xeroderma Pigmentosum Society. XP is an illness where children cannot be exposed to daylight.

HAPPYBABY organic baby food, in addition to being the first baby food company of its kind using organic, sustainable ingredients, and has expanded its product line to include toddler snacks and meals, has created a local Community Marketing Specialist Program which educates parents about the importance of organic, fresh, and healthy foods to the development of a baby's health and well-being. The company supports Project Peanut Butter, that helps feed a starving child in Africa for an entire day for each unit sold by HAPPYBABY.

The Shine A Light business directory also contains a list of all the nominated small businesses. This directory was developed to help customers connect with and support the small businesses in their community. I have read the stories of some of the 432 nominations, all of which are very deserving of their nominations as they have contributed to their communities in so many ways.

In addition to hosting this competition, Shine a Light hosts an online support site with a discussion board for small businesses and an expert advice forum.

I haven't decided which of three nominations I will vote for-it's a tough choice. Certainly all three deserve to receive the economic boost and marketing help to their venture.
You can find more information about each of the finalists and have a chance to vote at: http://shinealight.ivillage.com





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