For Jack and Corri Sundell, the owners of The Root Café in Little Rock, Arkansas, running an independent farm-to-table restaurant is hard work. But that hard work is paying off as the couple embarks on an ambitious expansion plan for their popular eatery, bolstered by a $150,000 grant from JPMorgan Chase (Chase) awarded in January.
The Root Café, which opened in 2011 with a focus on serving dishes prepared from locally sourced products, is one of 20 small businesses across the United States benefiting from Chase’s Mission Main Street Grant program. The new funding will be put toward expanding the restaurant’s kitchen and dining areas and adding dinner service, the owners say.
“My wife and I have always felt that what we’re doing is important and we’re always trying to share that message with the community,” Jack Sundell said in an interview after the award was announced. “It’s really an incredible feeling to have this kind of support.”
Chase established the Mission Main Street Grants program in 2012, with the aim of increasing awareness of the important role small businesses play in local communities and helping those small businesses grow. Since the program’s launch, Chase has distributed $9 million in grants to 44 recipients. Any for-profit business that’s been in operation at least two years and has fewer than 100 employees is eligible to apply.
It’s a highly competitive program, with nearly 25,000 applications submitted for this year’s program. Applicants are listed online and the public is given the opportunity to vote for their favorite business— more than 1.6 million votes were cast for this year’s applicants. All applicants that receive at least 250 votes are assessed by a panel of business experts and entrepreneurs on four essential criteria: the strength of their growth plans; quality of management team; positive impact in their communities; and business knowledge.
“The Mission Main Street Grants program is a way for Chase to say ‘thank you’ to companies that mean so much to their customers and communities,” said Jennifer Piepszak, CEO of Chase Business Banking and a member of the grant selection panel. “We were inspired by scores of business owners who are following their dreams, and exude such passion, commitment and dedication.”
Along with the $150,000 grant, recipients also attend a small business workshop hosted at the Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., (the company is one of the program’s sponsors) and receive $2,000 in market survey support from Google along with a Chromebook laptop.
The 2014 class of Mission Main Street Grant recipients (see below for full listing) represents a cross-section of American entrepreneurship, including restaurants, retailers, small manufacturers, education providers, wholesalers and more.
And it’s a program that’s getting results as the recipients of Mission Main Street grants put the funds to work to take their businesses to the next level. A survey of the 2012 and 2013 grant winners conducted by Chase found that:
- Over 90% hired new employees;
- Over 85% boosted their revenues and profitability;
- Over 80% opened a new location or acquired new equipment; and
- 21 of 24 forged relationships with new vendors.
Indeed, getting “bigger and better” is at the top of the agenda for many of the 2014 grant recipients:
- “With that money, we will be able to invest not only in expanding manufacturing capability, but also increase marketing spending,” says Carlos Mendendez, co-founder of Titan Paddles LLC in Sunrise, Fla., a manufacturer of paddleboarding equipment. “Without them, it would have taken us at least two or three years.”
- “The grant could not have come at a better time,” says Aurora Anaya-Cerda, owner of La Casa Azul, an independent bookstore and community center in New York City, which hosts a variety of educational programs. “We had been planning to expand the programming we have with local schools as well as universities.”
- “I can’t even tell you how excited I was for a huge financial institution to look back into the community and say, hey, folks are saying you’re doing something right,” says Darryl Townson, owner of Chicago’s Dat Donut, who plans to expand his doughnut shop with additional locations and double his number of employees. “That’s huge.”
The Mission Main Street Grants program is one of several community development initiatives sponsored by Chase. The company also pledged $100 million over five years to support economic recovery in Detroit in the aftermath of the city’s 2013 bankruptcy.
Chase’s leadership through the Mission Main Street Grants program and other initiatives is just the latest positive example of how the financial industry goes the extra mile to support entrepreneurship in creative and innovative ways.
The next Mission Main Street Grant application period will open later in 2015, with the date to be announced.
A full list of the 2014 JPMorgan Chase Mission Main Street honorees is below (for lists of 2012 and 2013 honorees, click here):
- Apeel Sciences – Creates products from natural plant extracts that allow growers to reduce use of pesticides, increase crop yield and provide longer shelf life.
- Atlantis Hydroponics, Inc. – Sells hydroponic materials to help make hydroponics the future of horticulture and self-sustaining gardening an integral part of people’s lives.
- Bill Lewis Outdoors – Manufactures and distributes quality lures and bobbers to enhance the fishing experience.
- Blue Oven Bakery, Inc. – Offers an array of farm-fresh foods ranging from naturally fermented and more traditional breads, sweet pastries, tarts, and prepared foods.
- Cuevas Distribution Inc. – Offers high-quality laboratory, medical, safety supplies, and equipment to keep your lab compliant and researchers safe.
- Dat Donut – Provides fresh, delicious, high- quality hand-made donuts.
- Fortified Bicycle, Inc. – Makes city cycling safer through products that protect bikers and their gear.
- GroundWork Renewables, Inc. – Provides meteorological (aka ‘weather’) stations and services to supply clients with the knowledge necessary to develop profitable solar and wind energy projects.
- JC’s Pie Pops – Produces creamy, crunchy, pie-inspired frozen cream desserts on a stick that are all-natural, made with hormone-free dairy and non-GMO ingredients.
- KOTA Longboards LLC – Designs and manufactures handcrafted longboard skateboards from hard rock maple with a unique KOTAgrip finish that eliminates the need for grip tape.
- La Casa Azul Bookstore – Independent bookshop and community hub that celebrates Latino traditions, provides educational programs and features locally made art.
- Mast Brothers Chocolate – Artisanal chocolate factory and brew bar dedicated to the craft of hand made chocolate and brewed chocolate beverages.
- New Orleans School of Cooking – Shares the fun, food and folklore of New Orleans in a variety of cooking classes and retail products.
- Pallet Wrapz, Inc. – Produces an eco-friendly, reusable, heavy duty vinyl mesh used to wrap pallets that is an alternative to plastic stretch film.
- Portland Meat Collective, LLC – Helps consumers procure sustainable, humanely-raised whole animals directly from small Oregon farms and provides butchery and charcuterie classes.
- Qubits Toy, Inc. – Creates an easy to assemble, snap-together toy that explores modular design and lets kids know that geometry can be fun, artistic, and challenging.
- The ReWall Company, LLC – Provides 100 percent upcycled, high performance building materials from beverage cartons and cups.
- SOLOSHOT, Inc. – Designs and manufactures an innovative robotic camera enabling you to film automatically.
- The Root Café, LLC – A casual, family-friendly restaurant that offers award-winning food made with fresh, seasonal ingredients sourced from small farms in Arkansas.
- Titan Paddles LLC – Designs and hand-crafts a strong, durable yet lightweight paddle for paddleboarding enthusiasts.
The next Mission Main Street Grants application period opened on May 4, 2015 and lasts through June 5, 2015. For-profit businesses in the U.S. with fewer than 100 employees are encouraged to apply for one of the 20 $100,000 grants. Follow @ChaseSmallBiz for additional program updates.