After weathering the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, surviving small businesses are now starting to reopen their doors, only to find themselves with a new challenge: attracting customers. Graphic design platform 99designs by Vistaprint is looking to help these businesses burnish their brands and bolster their bottom lines.
On Wednesday, 99designs by Vistaprint unveiled a more than $1.8 million global initiative aimed at providing a diverse group of 99 small business owners with financial support and design services to aid their plans to reopen amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Through the program, called “99 Days of Design,” each small business will receive a $15,000 grant, brand identity refresh and marketing materials to help them recover.
“One of the things we’re really inspired to do is just show people the power of great design,” Vistaprint CMO Ricky Engelberg tells Forbes in an exclusive interview. (Vistaprint parent company, Cimpress, acquired 99designs in October 2020.) “One of our largest ambitions is to do everything we can to help people in small businesses feel big, to give them access to all the things they might need to succeed as a small business.”
Though the design needs of the small businesses vary—some are marketing their businesses through T-shirts and postcards, while others are setting up Shopify storefronts—Engelberg says brand identity is crucial to the success of all. Data from the Institute for Color Research shows that people subconsciously make judgements about products within 90 seconds of seeing them, and as much as 90% of consumers’ impressions are based on color. As small businesses reopen, design will play a critical role in helping them retain longtime customers and attract new ones.
“We want to make sure that every small business is able to have their unique story be out there,” he says. “Hopefully at the end of this, each of the businesses will be able to have exactly what they needed to be able to make the next leap as a business, versus just having a design that they have to figure out what to do with.”
As part of the initiative, the platform, which boasts a community of more than 150,000 designers, is partnering with publishers to share small businesses’ design-transformation stories through video, audio and photography, among other formats.
Refinery29, for example, will be launching an interview series with up-and-coming female small business owners, while Claima Stories will invite 12 BIPOC entrepreneurs and creatives who have been impacted by Covid-19 to feature on its podcast. And Complex will team up with designers, artists and influencers to give select small businesses brand makeovers before debuting their new looks at ComplexLand, a shoppable, virtual experience launching in June.
“Rather than us curate all the businesses by ourselves and run a bunch of ads hoping people discover this, we wanted to make sure that the storytelling around the small businesses was interwoven into it,” he says. “We’re trying to be able to shine a light on different types of small businesses.”
The 99 small businesses will be revealed on a rolling basis over the next three months and come from 10 countries, including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. Engelberg says 99designs by Vistaprint and its partners sought out small business nominations from their communities to ensure participating entrepreneurs are representative of a diversity of backgrounds and experiences.
“We’re excited about the diversity that has come through 10 different countries,” Engelberg says. “We wanted to make sure that we had a very strong baseline of both Black-owned small businesses, women- and LGBTQ-owned businesses.”
Though the idea for the initiative came about in response to the pandemic, Engelberg hopes for it to be an annual program. “That commitment to finding people that are able to meaningfully impact their communities is something that is an evergreen part of why we want to exist,” he says. “It’s just the beginning for where we want to go as a company.”
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