I just learned about an interesting social media-driven grant opportunity for small businesses being sponsored by Chase  and Living Social . Metro Lighting , a retailer in Berkeley, CA, reached out and asked me (and all of its Facebook faithful) to vote for the store in the Mission: Small Business  initiative as a first step toward earning a $250,000 grant. Metro was a winner in our Showroom of the Year Awards  last year, taking home the honor for Exceptional Community Involvement . The store’s unwavering commitment to sustainability includes rooftop solar panels that generate all of its electricity, an emphasis on local artisans, recycled designs and LED technology. In Metro’s plea for support, the store explained how the grant could enhance its website and promote its products and message to a wider audience.
Metro went on to say that all of the Showroom of the Year finalists should consider applying for the grant, too. I checked it out, and I have to agree (and not just for award finalists, but all independent lighting retailers). The aim of the program is to increase awareness of the role small businesses play in local communities — so far, so good. Applicants submit a 500-word essay online about their business and they become listed (by city and state) for others to select and vote for them to get the grant. Any business that receives at least 250 valid votes by midnight on June 30 will be eligible for judging.
Finalists will be judged on these criteria: a solid business and management team/ownership; a well thought-out and feasible growth plan; likelihood to succeed within a two-year timeframe; positive impact on the local community; and energy, enthusiasm, creativity and passion for your business. Consumer participation in the voting will determine how many grants will be given in total, but it will be at least four and up to 12.
I would love to see some of that $3 million end up in the lighting industry. So go for it! Or, if you’re so inclined, vote for Metro … or at least thank them for the great tip.