SMB Influencer Initiative: Interview with Anita Campbell

Enterprise

Anita Campbell

Anita Campbell, Founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of Small Business Trends

Since I’ve been at Research In Motion® (RIM®), I’ve been very lucky to be able to work directly with quite a few small business owners and small-medium business (SMB) experts. At the moment, RIM is the premiere sponsor of the Top 100 SMB Influencers Contest, being conducted by Small Business Trends and SmallBizTechnology.com. Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends and Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.com have been writing articles, creating tools and speaking at events for years, with a mission to make it easier than ever for small businesses to thrive in today’s economy. I’ve watched their work from afar for quite some time, so I’m thrilled to interview Anita about the SMB Influencer contest.

Anita, can you give our readers an overview of what the Top 100 SMB Influencers contest is all about?

The Top 100 Small Business Influencers contest recognizes the companies, people and organizations that support the small business community in the United States and Canada. The requirements to be nominated are that the person, company or organization must have accomplished or produced something that positively impacts a group of small businesses. I am thrilled with the response — so far there have been nearly 400 nominations.

After nominations close, there will be a voting period to choose the Top 100 Small Business Influencers.

How do you think it benefits the small business community to have these SMB Influencers?

A lot is said about small businesses being the lifeblood of the economy and unsung heroes – and that’s true. But the entities and people who make it their missions to serve small businesses sometimes get even less recognition. My partner in this initiative, Ramon Ray of SmallBizTechnology.com, and I thought we should do something about that.

Ramon and I had actually been kicking around this idea for 18 months. We both follow the players in the small business market closely, due to providing the information to small businesses that we do. Initially we were planning to create a list of who we (and a few others) thought were key influencers of the small business market, to recognize them. But then we got to thinking about it, and decided we’d get better results if we allowed the public to nominate. And are we glad we did! We’ve already seen much more diversity in the nominees than if we had tried to create a list on our own. There have been dozens of fascinating nominations. More heads really are better than a few.

Who can nominate a SMB Influencer? When is the deadline to do so?

Anyone can submit a nomination. You don’t even have to register. The deadline to nominate is July 8, 2011, at 11:59 pm Los Angeles time. Our team reviews all nominations to make sure they meet minimum requirements and are complete.

How will the top 100 SMB Influencers be selected? What do they win?

There are two parts to the selection: the community gets to vote (counts for 40%) and then our expert panel of judges will vote (counts for 60%). This way, we get the input of the community – who THEY think is influential. We also have the input of our expert judges who live, breathe, eat and sleep “small business.”

What do they win? Much deserved recognition. We’re planning an awards gala on September 13, 2011 in New York City to honor as many of the top influencers as can attend.

We also have some great stuff we’re giving away – some to the influencers and some to the community helping with the initiative. For instance, we just gave away two of the new BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablets on Twitter®.

Have you, in your own business, had an experience with an influencer that really made an impact on your outlook or way you approached a challenge?

I have been influenced in hundreds of ways. Consider the technology products we use in my business. We couldn’t have built the business and achieved the success we’ve had, were it not for inexpensive yet powerful technology. We run websites and online communities as a business – I couldn’t imagine doing so without reliable hosting, a dedicated Web design and development team, open source software such as WordPress™, savvy Internet marketers and social media. Behind all of that technology are companies and people with vision – they ultimately made it possible for my business to thrive.

Just imagine if we’d had to launch this initiative in the days before social media such as Twitter and Facebook®. There’s no way we could have built up this level of community support in the space of a month, without social media. We’d have needed a multimillion-dollar TV deal, plus a magazine and newspaper ad campaign to spread the word.

Just because I’m curious – you went from being a lawyer, to being a small business owner. What do you think your biggest challenge was as you made the transition?

Luckily I had a lot of corporate business experience in between. But I’d say the biggest challenge is also the biggest attraction: making decisions everyday that will either make or break my business. Sometimes the decisions weigh heavily – yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. Having the freedom and independence to create a business and see my vision take shape is exhilarating. I may not be sure if a decision will be a huge win or a colossal mistake. Decisions have an element of risk. But I have the profound satisfaction of creating something from nothing – and I love to do that. That makes it all worthwhile.

Thanks so much for this interview, Anita! Readers – we’d love for you to nominate someone that has influenced you and your small business, so head over to the contest website to get started and for complete details!

About Hilary A.

Hilary works within the Global Business Communications group at Research In Motion (RIM), with a focus on connecting BlackBerry smartphone devices with events, individuals and organizations who are Thought Leaders in Enterprise. Previously an entrepreneur, Hilary began at RIM as a subject matter expert within the Small and Medium-sized Business Marketing Team. She is passionate about cultural movements, new media, meeting interesting people and local arts & culture. Her favorite app is Twitter for BlackBerry smartphones.

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