I recently attended the Mastercard/Bank of America “Grow Your Biz” contest finals in New York City. It was the 3rd year of the event that recognizes and celebrates small business owners and entrepreneurs from around the country. The winner, Wanderstay, received a $25,000 check to help achieve their business goals while all four finalists will receive mentoring from top experts in entrepreneurship.
Bonin Bough is one of the expert mentors involved in the program as well as a judge for the contest. I had the opportunity to ask Bonin a few questions about the program and what he’s learned about small business owners.
Brian: What are some of your key takeaways from meeting the small business owners who’ve entered the Mastercard “Grow Your Biz” contest
Bonin: I firmly believe that good ideas can come from anywhere and everywhere. I love listening to entrepreneurs who are just beginning their journey in starting their small business. Having a portfolio of 18 startups, I can relate to their passion and their drive, as well as their questions about growth, success, and how to get there. Throughout the “Grow Your Biz” contest, I met so many inspiring business owners who are benefitting from the contest. It’s important that we continue to share the message amongst small businesses that there are other companies out there with similar hurdles, and there are people ready to offer help and guidance.
Brian: What are the 1-2 most common issues keeping these business owners up at night?
Bonin: They worry about the success of their business, and the success of those they employ. These small teams must work harder, faster, and longer to drive success—and the owners and leaders value that beyond measure. Small business owners depend on the few talented individuals around them—and a big worry is losing key people or not being able to reward them for the outstanding work they do.
Brian: Are they using social and digital media properly as business tools to connect with customers and prospects while building brand awareness?
Bonin: Most small businesses rely heavily on social and digital media as the fastest, most direct connection to customers. These platforms allow businesses to have 1:1 conversations, build brand equity, and win new customers every day. Social is certainly one of the quickest wins for a small business, if it’s done correctly and with a lot of thought. It’s not about the volume of content, it about the quality and timeliness. There are many social tools available today to small business owners that allow them to amply their brand awareness without spending thousands on advertising.
Brian: Did you see much diversity in the businesses applying to the contest? Inner City vs. Suburban/Rural, Men vs. Women, Startups vs. Established? Older vs. Younger?
Bonin: YES! And I am thrilled about it. Across the board, the contest has received and overwhelming response from all demographics. Entrepreneurship has no bounds—I even had a 13-year-old young man tell me that he wished he could apply, but he was too young. I told him to keep working, and we would see him on stage in a few years!
Brian: After three years of running the “Grow Your Biz” contest, what are 2-3 key things that Mastercard and Bank of America can share with business owners interested in applying to next year’s contest? Additionally, any words of advice as we enter 2020?
Bonin: This contest offers small business owners a chance to win not only cash but mentoring and strategy sessions with marketers and business owners like myself. Becoming a part of Bank of America’s small business program means joining a community of like-minded entrepreneurs who are constantly sharing tips, industry knowledge, and ideas to hack growth. If you are a small business, you have much to gain by participating and becoming a part of the Grow Your Biz family. I have met some of the most inspiring people throughout these years, and I can’t wait to meet new ones this year.
In 2020, I challenge business owners to think differently and approach your hurdles with an open mind. Growth can come from unexpected places, and sometimes you must break something to make it better. Don’t be afraid to take risks and always trust yourself.
Brian: Love it! Thanks Bonin, for all that you do to help small business owners succeed!
For more information on Mastercard’s programs for small business owners, click here