Wyoming Entrepreneurs Inspired By Reality TV Small Business Guru Amanda Brinkman

Wyoming small business owners say they’ve been inspired by Hulu reality TV guru Amanda Brinkman, who was in Wyoming touting the benefits of her mantra — do good to do well.

RJ
Renée Jean

March 16, 202410 min read

Bailey Nowak had never heard of the "Small Business Revolution" or Amanda Brinkman, right. But she was looking for answers to big questions after a recent medical diagnosis and Brinkman had just what she was looking for.
Bailey Nowak had never heard of the "Small Business Revolution" or Amanda Brinkman, right. But she was looking for answers to big questions after a recent medical diagnosis and Brinkman had just what she was looking for. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Growing up, reality television star Amanda Brinkman had her eyes on a prize — to do “good” with her life.

“So, when I think about good, I think about our first responders and military,” Brinkman said. “I think of our teachers. There’s just certain jobs — running a nonprofit — that they just are good.”

At the same time, Brinkman was feeling this pull toward an area that’s not characteristically thought of as good. She liked marketing, branding, advertising and even film and design.

One day, Brinkman found herself wrestling with this conundrum during a high school classroom conversation about who she wanted to be when she grew up, what she wanted to do in life.

Her teacher interrupted all the back and forth with a thought that changed Brinkman’s life.

“But Amanda,” her teacher said. “If people who want to do good in the world don’t go into business and don’t go into marketing, how will the business world ever get better?”

That “aha” moment set Brinkman’s feet on a path that would one day take her across the country for a six-season Hulu series titled “Small Business Revolution,” a campaign that was entirely built around her trademark motto of doing well by doing good.

Do Well By Doing Good

Through that campaign, Brinkman was able to help the main streets of six communities across America, pouring $500,000 into each one and boosting several small businesses that were on the edge of collapse.

The changes Brinkman helped bring about not only had a lasting impact in all six of her “Small Business Revolution” communities, they provided takeaway ideas for countless other small business owners in America, including during the COVID-19 pandemic, when small businesses needed ideas the most.

Brinkman was in Wyoming on Thursday to share her ideas with students and business leaders at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne.

She played to a small but attentive audience of about 50 people, many of whom told Cowboy State Daily they came not because they’d heard of Brinkman before, but because when they saw her motto, they knew it was exactly what they themselves have been looking for to make their businesses and personal lives complete.

And that also is all part of Brinkman’s next phase of doing well by doing good.

Amanda Brinkman talks about the ripple effect revitalizing main streets has for communities in Cheyenne on Thursday.
Amanda Brinkman talks about the ripple effect revitalizing main streets has for communities in Cheyenne on Thursday. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Making Negatives Into Positives

For Cheyenne resident Bailey Nowak, the timing of Brinkman’s appearance in Wyoming couldn’t have been better.

Nowak had just received a life-changing medical diagnosis the week before, and she was looking for answers to big questions in her life.

“It was a heart issue,” Nowak said. “I thought I had a massive heart attack on New Year’s actually. Come to find out it’s a normal, irregular heart rhythm that I’ll just have the rest of my life, actually, and I’ll just have to deal with it.”

That was tough news for Bailey, who relies on going to the gym every day, not just for physical health, but her mental health as well.

“I’m still in the gym, because that’s where my positive space is and that’s where kind of my escape from reality is,” she said. “So, no HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts anymore, though. It will be more endurance.”

When she happened to see a flyer about Brinkman’s appearance, she knew she just had to be there.

“I’m just trying to find the positive in everything (right now) and a sense of purpose,” she told Cowboy State Daily, holding up an electronic notepad full of notes she’d taken. “And I saw that was part of her keynote and thought that is really perfect.”

Purpose Doesn’t Have To Be Capitalized

One of the key messages Nowak took to heart is that purpose doesn’t have to always mean a capital “P.”

That was a conclusion Brinkman didn’t reach until after hundreds of self-help books and podcasts, as well as interviews with people from many age groups, cultures and religions.

“I even went on all the yoga retreats in the middle of the desert,” Brinkman said. “I did all the things you would expect that you’d do when you are pursuing your purpose.”

After all the wrestling was done, Brinkman decided she had been lifting the bar way too high.

“We’ve made it this capital ‘P’ thing that’s way out there that we’re going to get to someday,” she said, gesturing off stage. “And it’s become almost paralyzing. Because we go, ‘I don’t know, is this sacrifice what I’m supposed to do with my life? Is this the version of me that I want?’ We’ve made it so daunting that we feel like we can’t move forward if we don’t know what our purpose is.”

Brinkman found her breakthrough when thinking about striking out on her own after the “Small Business Revolution” series ended.

She realized then that her identity had become entwined with the work she did there. But she also realized that wasn’t her purpose. A job can’t be our purpose. In fact, anything external to ourselves can’t be the real purpose, because external things can be taken away.

“How we are is our purpose,” she said. “How we move through the world.”

That’s not something we have to go way out there to find either.

“You already have it within you,” she said. “Your purpose is who you are. Like the way you’re designed. Who you are as a person is different from me, and that’s all on purpose.”

That’s why, so often, when people quit jobs to find their purpose, they end up unhappy with the choice within a couple years, Brinkman added.

“You have to get it right within yourself, how you think about it,” she said. “And then you can take that somewhere else if necessary.”

Baby Steps Can Be Big

Brenda Birkle, executive director of My Front Door, which is based in Cheyenne, wrestles with negativity in one form or another every day.

Her organization aims to not only help people become first-time homeowners, but break the cycle of poverty itself. Given the high inflation and high interest rates right now, the people she hopes to reach have plenty of reasons to feel negative.

“I think young families right now are really struggling to make a move right now because they feel like the world is unstable,” Birkle said. “Instability has kind of become the new norm.”

Given that, her challenge is how to get a positive message to people who may feel beaten down.

Birkle said she found great ideas in Brinkman’s discussion about how FAQs can be used to ramp up search engine effectiveness, and she already has ideas about how to change her website to take better advantage of that.

She also liked Brinkman’s message about how little decisions along the way can make a huge difference.

Brinkman illustrated that point with a little bit of simple math. She threw up the equation of 1 to the 365th power, which, at the end of the day, is always going to be 1.

The idea is that if we do nothing different, nothing is going to have changed by the end of a year, even though 365 days have passed us by.

Then Brinkman changed the number 1 to 1.01. Suddenly, instead of an unchanged result, the answer to the equation becomes 37.78 and some change.

“This is how we get to epic,” Brinkman said. “A lot of times when we think about the life we want, we fell like the little changes won’t matter. We think we need something seismic to happen to get to those things.

“But it’s the baby steps that are incredibly important. By just changing one thing every day, that helps us get closer to the life that we really want to live.”

  • Nancy Rich, a student at Laramie County Community College studying business and accounting, shakes hand with Amanda Brinkman, who was in Wyoming on Thursday to talk about lessons learned from her hit reality television series.
    Nancy Rich, a student at Laramie County Community College studying business and accounting, shakes hand with Amanda Brinkman, who was in Wyoming on Thursday to talk about lessons learned from her hit reality television series. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Amanda Brinkman also shared tips from her personal journey looking for purpose in her life.
    Amanda Brinkman also shared tips from her personal journey looking for purpose in her life. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)
  • Brenda Birkle talks with Amanda Brinkman about her work at My Front Door after a presentation on Brinkmans hit reality TV series "Small Business Revolution" Thursday in Cheyenne.
    Brenda Birkle talks with Amanda Brinkman about her work at My Front Door after a presentation on Brinkmans hit reality TV series "Small Business Revolution" Thursday in Cheyenne. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Small Businesses Need Us Like Never Before

Brinkman also spent time talking about how much small businesses across Wyoming need their communities to support them.

Small businesses are under siege like never before right now. Inflation has been crushing, but on top of that, there are ever more online shopping venues to compete alongside.

A third of American small businesses across the country have highlighted 2024 as their make-or-break year after what’s been a serious economic roller coaster ride in small town after small town.

The struggle of America’s small businesses really hit home with Brinkman when she was developing a campaign celebrating the 100th anniversary of Deluxe Corp.

Deluxe’s legacy business was check-printing, but that’s something that was no longer the centerpiece of the company’s business model.

Brinkman needed a way to highlight the company’s history without throwing too much attention on something that was no longer the company’s focus.

On top of that challenge, she also had a very small marketing budget, one that wouldn’t buy many eyeballs if she took a traditional approach.

First, she went to Deluxe customers to understand what made things tick for them.

Their personal stories blew her away. She’d had no idea how hard it is to run a small business these days, how all-encompassing it is.

As she heard story after story about how business owners are struggling to make it on the main streets of America, she knew this was it. This was the right angle for her campaign to highlight Deluxe’s new business model, as well as its 100 years of history.

“As soon as you hear a small business owner’s story, you want to support them,” Brinkman said. “You suddenly see that there is an actual person behind the family.”

The Small Business Revolution Begins

Brinkman set out to tell 100 stories of small businesses across the country, and she called her campaign the Small Business Revolution.

It was an instant social media darling. People really responded to the stories, Brinkman said, and it soon became clear that they wanted more than just 100 stories.

That demand ultimately led to the idea for the “Small Business Revolution” television series, which ran six successful seasons on Hulu alongside two reality television stars, Ty Pennington from the popular TLC show “Trading Spaces,” and “Shark Tank” investor Robert Herjavec.

All told, Brinkman’s campaign resulted in 14 times the ad value that her marketing budget would have bought in traditional advertising, and drew 13 billion total impressions, 6,000 news stories, 15 million views and 500,000 followers.

“It was unbelievably successful in terms of reaching people organically across the country,” Brinkman said. “And it was meaningful. These business owners’ lives were changed — by something that could have just been a big company’s marketing ad campaign — because we were intentional about using our dollars and our platform to really make a difference. And not just these businesses, but the ripple effect within these communities.”

Best of all for Brinkman, it had all come from her personal motto of doing well by doing good.

Amanda Brinkman talks about how she took a tiny marketing budget and blew it up 14 times by leveraging the stories of small businesses.
Amanda Brinkman talks about how she took a tiny marketing budget and blew it up 14 times by leveraging the stories of small businesses. (Renée Jean, Cowboy State Daily)

Renée Jean can be reached at Renee@CowboyStateDaily.com.

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RJ

Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter