Local Business

Small businesses compete to win Super Bowl commercial in Intuit contest

ALGONQUIN – Small businesses across the country are competing for a chance to win a 30-second advertisement in this season’s Super Bowl, including more than a dozen McHenry County businesses.

The Intuit Small Business Big Game campaign has attracted plenty of attention from business owners and other groups looking for free exposure during one of the most-watched sporting events. Among the hundreds of Illinois businesses that have made it to the second round of the contest are 13 local businesses, including an Algonquin bakery, a Woodstock power washing service and a Crystal Lake construction company.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for a small business to be seen by millions of eyes,” said Susan Dobbe, president of Crystal Lake-based Dobbe Marketing & PR. “It would be an amazing jumping off point for any small business because Super Bowl ads aren’t just seen by potential customers, but also by consultants, accounts and other professionals that may be able to help you sell your widget to a whole new set of customers.”

However, Dobbe warned that Super Bowl-level exposure might prove overwhelming for small businesses not ready to deal with an influx of new customers. The attention could crash websites, jam phone lines and frustrate business owners.

“It could knock you down if you’re not prepared,” she said.

However, even companies that don’t win may end up benefiting from the experience by thinking outside the box and using the videos and other materials they produce for the Intuit contest to find new customers and exposure elsewhere, Dobbe said.

In the second round of the competition, businesses complete activities that enrich their story, promote their business and help them advance to the next round. To vote, visit www.smallbusinessbiggame.com.

In the third round, which starts later this month, Intuit employees will review the top 20 semi-finalists and narrow them to four finalists. In the fourth round, starting just before the Super Bowl, voting will be opened up worldwide. The business with the most votes will win the free, professionally produced Super Bowl advertisement.

Here’s a list of local businesses that have made it two the competition’s second round.

• Kando Bakery in Algonquin described itself as a “not just for profit” company with a mission to provide work experience for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities making and selling gourmet granola bars.

• Oscar Mike in Marengo is a veteran-owned active lifestyle apparel company founded by former U.S. Marine Noah Currier, a 31-year-old who was paralyzed from the neck down after being in a car accident three days after returning from combat in Iraq. The business employs 11 people, eight of whom are veterans. It has previously sought investment through crowd-funding websites such as Kickstarter.com.

• Schwartz Performance in Woodstock is a custom-car maker started by Jeff Schwartz in 2004 after he lost his manufacturing manager job. While trying to find a similar job, he modified and built custom cars for years. Eventually, he rented a small shop and started reconstructing old cars with modern components. Schwartz Performance, www.schwartzperformance.com, builds cars that use modern chassis and offer the ride of a luxury car with the handling of a sports car. The company makes the largest line of “bolt in” muscle car chassis with more than 20 models, and its customer base spans 25 countries.

• Zenroommate.com in Huntley is a hip, social, roommate-matching website started by Crystal Gluszek and Val Petkov. The site just recently launched. Together, the pair bring a combined 30 years of real estate industry experience to the roommate-matching enterprise.

• Grateful Shed Antler Chews in Algonquin was started in 1999 and sells antler chews for dogs. The company’s products are available in all 50 U.S. states and 14 other countries according to its website, antlerchews.com.

• Limitless Innovations Inc., a corporate entity of McHenry-based Metalmaster Roofmaster, launched its first product, the CableHub, in January. The CableHub is an desktop cable organizer that can be personalized.

• VIVI Ginsberg Smith Studios in Harvard makes ceramic sculpture and pottery. It was founded in 2012.

• Characters of Character in Johnsburg is a nonprofit organization that uses characters such as Behavior Bear, Doer Duck, Friendship Frog, Healthy Hippo, Manners Monkey, Respectful Rabbit, Responsible Rabbit, Self-Esteem Elephant and Warm-Hearted Walrus to teach civic values to children.

• Chicago Johnny’s in McHenry, makes giardiniera a specialty condiment. Josh Downey started the business using a $600 loan from his brother. His products can be found in 14 local shops and are sold throughout the country on the company’s website, www.chicagojohnnys.com.

• SweepSheet in Algonquin publishes a newsletter and website that teaches people how to enter and win corporate sweepstakes. The company’s bi-weekly sweepstakes newsletter provides listings of current promotions. Its website, www.sweepsheet.com, is updated daily with new sweeps. SweepSheet editor Patti Osterheld started the business as a hobby and turned it into a successful business with 15,000 subscribers.

• JH Power Cleaning Services in Woodstock is a residential and commercial power cleaning service that  specializes in pressure washing. Owner Josh Harrison started the business earlier this year. Winning the grand prize and seeing his business featured in a Super Bowl commercial would be a “great experience,” but Harrison said his business could benefit more from some of the contest’s cash prizes, which he would use to upgrade his equipment. “I was on unemployment for a year, so I didn’t have a lot of money to begin with,” he wrote on the contest website. “I put all my money into this business and have bought all of my equipment on Craigslist so it’s used and it seems like it is always breaking down and falling apart.”

• Simply Appetizers Inc. in Algonquin makes mild, medium and hot salsas. The company launched a line of tortilla chips last month, said owner Joanne Shields, who said she hopes the contest will bring more visibility to her business.

• Lausch Construction in Crystal Lake is a family construction business that specializes in new construction, spec homes, additions, design and remodeling. It even makes hand-crafted guitars, according to its website, www.lauschconstruction.com.

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