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Dick Pond Named National Award Winner

Kyle Thele

Earlier this week, Dick Pond Athletics was named one of the winners of the Facebook and American Express Open contest along with four other small businesses across the country.  The contest lasted over one month and Dick Pond had to go through three different phases before they were finally named as one of the Big Break winners.

"It's not just a big break for us, but for other small businesses in our community," store owner Kirsten Pond said.  "I'm just thankful I'm part of the business. My dad could have been passionate about anything but fortunately he was passionate about running."

The ball was put in motion when Pond, who now runs the running shoe company her father started over 40 years ago, "liked" the American Express Open Facebook page.  American Express planned to help out small, local businesses, and Dick Pond Athletics fit perfectly in that demographic.  The guidelines included being locally and independently owned and the companies also needed to give back to the community they serve.  These were obvious answers for Pond who decided to enter her company in the contest.  Shortly after entering, American Express called Pond notifying her that the company had made it to the second round where she would go through a series of phone interviews with both American Express and Facebook.

Dick Pond made the cut down to 40, and then again into the final 10. This is where the difficulties began.  The finals were based on Facebook voting, and at that time Dick Pond had a small base of Facebook followers and no one to lead them in their campaign.  "I felt like we were harassing people to vote for us so I felt bad," Pond said.  "But you could vote each day throughout the competition."

With the help of fellow small businesses, Dick Pond Athletics was named one of the winners.  In the process they gained over 2,000 Facebook followers.  Along with the notoriety, American Express and Facebook provided the sporting goods company with $25,000, an individual class held by Facebook meant to increase the company's ability to use social media, and bonus rewards for Dick Pond costumers. 

The only caveat that came along with the prize money was that it needed to be used to invest in the community.  This was obvious to Pond who planned on using the money to increase the company's interaction with their customers. "Honestly, we decided earlier that our business is doing pretty well so the best thing we can do is take this and invest it back to others,"  Pond said.

Pond and her managers have already started discussing what to do with the prize money.  While American Express has to give consent to each dollar spent, Pond is confident that their new programs will fit within the structure.  Dick Pond is already the co-sponsor of a local running team, but looks to add an additional youth team.  Pond said they want to reach out to middle and high school students who would compete in the 38 local races the team goes to.  Furthermore, Dick Pond wants to find a way to help out kids in need of shoes.  Finally, they plan on reinvesting in their 10 week "Walk2Run" program.  The free group works with beginning runners helping them reach their goal of competing in a road race by the end of the program.  The money would be used to increase their marketing efforts and bring in new runners, they would also hire on new professionals to train the group and keep them healthy.

The Facebook difficulties Dick Pond faced in the competition should be a thing of the past. The social media company will send out a marketing expert to the suburban running store to teach them and prepare them for the new wave of marketing.

"I really think that email is second now to social media," Pond said.  "They are going to come prepared to help us market better in social media, we have never really got any special advice and they are doing that for us for a full day."

The following week Dick Pond will once again have a chance to help out their community.  The Facebook marketing experts will return the following week to lead a class of 30 local businesses invited by Dick Pond. 

"I thought it was really exciting not just for Dick Pond Athletics but for athletic stores," Pond said.  "Whether it's Naperville Running Company or Fleet Feet or Runner's Sole, it doesn't matter.  If we can get out of this that people support their local business that would be a great message.  That's the opportunity we feel we have been given.  Yes, the money and the exposure has been great for us, but hopefully that will be great for everybody."

Finally, anyone who registers their American Express card can receive a one-time statement credit of $20 if they spend at least that same amount in any single purchase at one of the local registered small businesses.

Pond's main excitement over the award is the opportunity to increase the awareness of small businesses across the country.  She said that the company knows they will never be able to compete with the prices of the Internet and big box stores, but she wants everyone to know what shopping at a local store can do for the community.  With each $100 spent at a local store, $68 is put back in the community.  When the same amount is spent at a chain store, only $43 is given back, and no money is reinvested in the community with online purchases, Pond said. 

This new success is still sinking in for Pond, who is still trying to wrap her head around the idea of winning this national award. "You have everything else going on in life, and then there is this," Pond said.  "We have been really excited; it is great for company morale.  We are all celebrating."

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