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The UPS Store Small Business Blog
  • 11 September 2023
  • Public Relations

2023 Small Biz Challenge Recap

Small business owners are unstoppable, tackling anything that comes their way. To celebrate and reward the unstoppable tenacity of small business owners nationwide, we hosted The Small Biz Challenge, a nine-week competition that started in the social sphere and culminated in a series of live challenges in New York City at Aspire One World Observatory.

What is Small Biz Challenge?

 The Small Biz Challenge is a competition dedicated to supporting and celebrating small businesses. This year, small business owners from across the country had a chance to compete for a $25,000 grant from The UPS Store, a feature in Inc. Magazine and exposure across all of The UPS Store social media channels.   

Small Biz Challenge lockup

From Online Submission to Social Competition

The challenge began with an open call for submissions, beckoning small business owners from every corner of the country to enter for their chance to win a boost for their business. As for the response? Over 2,000 small business owners applied for their chance to compete. After several rounds of deliberation, the thousands of applicants were whittled down to nine semi-finalists. As semi-finalists, each contestant had to compete in three online, social media challenges. But they weren’t on their own.

Mentors Who Mean Business

 To help guide our contestants through their challenges, three incredible entrepreneurs stepped up to the mentorship plate, offering hours of coaching, advice and best practices. Each mentor was paired with three small business owners based on similarities and strengths. Our mentors then guided their teams through each of the social challenges.

3 mentors sit on the Small Biz Challenge stage.

 Social challenge one was all about crafting, refining and perfecting their business mission statement. The second challenge was focused on social media and how to enhance their online presence for a digital-first audience. The third and final social challenge involved helping the contestants strengthen their websites, for example by improving messaging, refining photographs and streamlining the online shopping experience.

Throughout the online challenge process, contestants shared their social challenge updates and encouraged their followers, friends and family to vote for them, allowing them to advance to the final Small Biz Challenge stage.

The Small Biz Challenge of a Lifetime

After tallying the 8,000+ online votes, the 2023 Small Biz Challenge finalists were revealed—Randy Bezdek, owner of the Hungry Robot, LaDonna Welch, owner of Ebony Notes, the mobile app, and Rachel Garcia, owner of DRY GOODS REFILLERY.

For the last and live phase of the contest, our three finalists had to compete in three live challenges, each inspired by their social challenges and work with their mentor.

Hosted by Olympic gold medalist (gymnastics) and entrepreneur Nastia Liukin, this year’s Small Biz Challenge also included outstanding advice and panel sessions with our three mentors, along with moments when each contestant got to share about their business and shine on stage.   

One Unstoppable Winner  

The competition was close and each contestant was fierce, showing off their passion, dedication and drive. But there could only be one winner. After careful deliberation our Small Biz Challenge judges, Scott Omelianuk, editor in chief of Inc. Magazine, and Dr. Kimberly McGlonn, founder and owner of Grant BLVD and the 2021 Small Biz Challenge winner, came to their decision.

 LaDonna and Julissa with Check

Our 2023 Small Biz Challenge champion is LaDonna Welch, founder and owner of Ebony Notes, the mobile app, a platform dedicated to supporting and empowering the Black Community through powerful affirmations. We know LaDonna is on a mission to change the world, and we can’t wait to see how her newly won business grant can help take her mission even further.

See the Show for Yourself

Want to catch all the action from the Small Biz Challenge? Click here to watch the recap video and see the tenacity, drive and small business wisdom for yourself.

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