Alumna creates TV series to boost small businesses

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

Winona  State University alumna Amanda Brinkman has produced a new TV series focused on helping renovate small businesses and main streets.

Brinkman graduated from Winona State University in 2000 with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communications and was appointed the chief brand officer at Deluxe in 2014.

Deluxe is a company that works with small businesses to help them do everything they can to be successful. However, Deluxe had been working with small businesses and financial institutions for almost 100 years, leaving customers forgetting what services Deluxe offered.

“We were about to celebrate our 100th anniversary, and instead of using it as an opportunity to talk about our past, we really needed to use this an opportunity to talk about our future, where we’re headed and change those perceptions and raise awareness of what we do,” Brinkman said.

To celebrate their 100th year, Deluxe went across the county looking to hear 100 small business owners’ stories. To tell those stories, the company published films and photo essays in a documentary style.

After celebrating the 100th year through the 100 stories, Deluxe decided to take the next step and  offered help to small businesses across the United States.

“That’s when the Small Business Revolution Main Street as a series was born,” Brinkman said. “My vision for beginning was to get more people inspired to support small businesses.”

Small Business Revolution Main Street has been airing for four seasons with the fifth season in the making right now.

“Each season, we ask people to nominate their favorite small town, and each year, we get thousands of nominations,” Brinkman said. “We’ve had over 35,000 nominations over the course of five years. We then narrow it down, and then go and visit the top 10 communities, then we narrow it down again to the top five and then we put that up for public vote.”

Deluxe’s goal is to not only help the small businesses in the winning town, but also to bring as much attention as possible to as many towns as possible.

“The reason we don’t just pick and have people nominate and vote is because every town involved in each of those stages also gets to come along for the really positive ride of media attention and social media attention,” Brinkman said.

In season two, Red Wing, Minnesota came in second place and thrived from the attention.

“They [Red Wing] say that even though they didn’t win, they still won because throughout the whole process during the top 10 and the voting and everything, all the major news station through the Twin Cities were down there covering and talking about Red Wing,” Brinkman said.

Once the winning town is identified, Deluxe invests half a million dollars into six businesses to be more successful.

Brinkman described Small Business Revolution as a make-over show but with heart.

“We never change the passion or the skill set of the business owner, we just walk alongside them and help provide them with the resources, so they can get back to what they love,” Brinkman said.

Brinkman explained that she oftentimes forgets that what she does is even for a show, as it remains a passion for Brinkman and her team.

“For my team and I, this is our life’s work. We just, we love doing it,” Brinkman said. “It’s so rewarding and you’re so heads-down in truly doing the work, doing the filming, doing the editing in a really beautiful way that honors their stories that you kind of forget other people then go and watch it.”

Brinkman may forget that people watch the show, but many people have been affected by her work on television. One Winona State University student watches Small Business Revolution.

Amanda Grober, junior majoring in business, watches the show and has been inspired by the finding that a Winona State graduate is creator and host.    

“It makes me feel like doing big things after college is within reach,” Grober said. “I used to always think that you had to go to a huge school to do things like have your own show but now knowing that a WSU graduate has her own show makes me change that thought.”

Brinkman’s dream job was not to have a show of her own nor was it her goal coming out of college, but she said it has become something that matters to her.

“I really enjoy it, not because I’m on camera but what I enjoy about it is that we’re truly changing these people’s lives and it’s just a blessing,” Brinkman said. “Pursue something that you think matters in the world.”

Brinkman said that not many students graduate and instantly land their dream job, so putting in hard work and getting experience is the best way to get there.   

“I think that life is one-part hustle and showing up and saying yes, and putting the work in,” Brinkman said. “Just keep showing up, keep saying yes and volunteer for things, get involved; that dream job isn’t going to suddenly call you, you have to you have to kind of put the work in and pursue it.

Brinkman changes the lives of many small businesses owners, but also has an impact on the viewers of Small Business Revolution.

“I think this shows me and everyone else here [at Winona State] that we can do anything we set our minds to,” Grober said. “Nothing is holding us back and having real life stories like this just proves anything is possible after we graduate.”

Brinkman left with one piece of advice to her viewers, and to her fellow Winona State peers.

“If you work with the right intention, and you’re responsive and responsible and accountable, the right things will start to come your way,” Brinkman said.