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story.lead_photo.caption Amanda Brinkman, creator of Small Business Revolution-Main Street, an online and Hulu series, addresses a crowd in Searcy when a production team visited in January. Searcy, which entered an online contest and made the cut to the top 10 cities from about 12,000 entries, is the only Arkansas city in the running to win $500,000 for six small businesses and be featured on the series. The top-five cities will be announced Tuesday at a watch party from 7-8 a.m. at the Rialto; then online voting will begin immediately and continue through Feb. 19. Also pictured are Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne, left, and Mat Faulkner, owner of Think Idea Studio. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— Amy Burton, executive director of Main Street Searcy, wants residents to “think big” to help Searcy win the Small Business Revolution-Main Street contest.

Searcy made the cut to the top-10 cities from about 12,000 entries — the only one in Arkansas — and is in the running to win $500,000 for six small businesses and be featured on the eight-part online and Hulu series.

The top-five cities will be announced Tuesday; then online voting will begin immediately and continue through Feb. 19.

“It’s a waiting game, and it’s killing us,” Burton said, laughing.

A watch party is scheduled from 7-8 a.m. — yes, in the morning — Tuesday at the Rialto Theater. Savor + Sip will have coffee and breakfast options available, Burton said.

“What we need now is for people to text Searcy or MySearcy to 484848,” she said.

A text will be received in return, thanking them for opting in.

“If Searcy is chosen for the top five, you will be alerted the day voting starts. You can vote every day Feb. 12 through 19,” she said. “It is one vote per day per email per device. That means if I voted from my MainStreet Searcy email from my laptop, I could turn around and vote from my personal email on my phone.”

Burton emphasized that it will take several hundred thousand votes to win.

“We need people to vote every day as many times as they can; we need them to reach out to friends, family, co-workers. I’ve already reached out to my family in Oklahoma and Mississippi.”

Burton also said that she’s contacting her Main Street-director counterparts in Mississippi and Louisiana, which have no cities in the running for the sweepstakes.

“The winner has to take it by several hundred thousand votes. We need more than the 23,000 people who live in Searcy to vote. We need people to think big.

“Ultimately, something this powerful — we’re talking about half a million invested in small businesses — can impact the state. Healthy business grows healthy business. You never know how many businesses that one business impacts. It goes beyond the bricks and mortar.”

Burton said 200 Searcy businesses signed up to be considered for the $500,000. Businesses can use the money for everything from changing their logos to renovating physical locations.

The online series, in its fourth season, is hosted by television personality Ty Pennington and Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer with Deluxe, the national marketing company that sponsors the project. Readers may remember that Pennington was the host of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

A team from the show, including Brinkman, visited the city for two days in January, and Searcy rolled out the red carpet, Burton said. The team visited small businesses throughout the city.

Mat Faulkner, owner of Think Idea Studio, said Searcy saw the online contest and entered “on a whim,” he said in an earlier interview.

A social-media campaign launched for the contest in November was successful in getting Searcy in the top 20 before it made the top 10.

Once Searcy made the top 20, residents got organized and promoted Searcy with a video. Community and state leaders and entities got in on the act. The Searcy Regional Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront, as well as the White County judge, the Searcy mayor — even Gov. Asa Hutchinson helped by holding a poster of #MySearcy for a promotion.

Faulkner said Searcy and the surrounding area “just did an exceptional job” of presenting itself when the producers came to visit.

“We didn’t get any firm feedback. They’re keeping everything close to the vest. I don’t know what else we could have done to show how much support we had in the state. We need the entire state to support Searcy [in voting],” he said.

“The pep rally had a fantastic outpouring of support and a large crowd, even though it was the same night as the Justin Timberlake concert,” Faulkner said, laughing. “We still had several thousand people come out.”

He said the food was great at the indoor event for the show’s producers and crew.

“We had a lot of businesses participate in helping set it up and pull it off,” he said. “Yarnell’s Ice Cream came up with a custom flavor, Coming Together, for the event. It had custom packaging with Small Business Revolution on the ice-cream container, so that was really cool.

“I think we showed how sweet our people are and how deserving we would be to make it to the top five,” Faulkner said.

And then, Searcy residents are hoping, on to No. 1.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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