The OnDeck-Barbara Corcoran partnership offers a lot of value to both parties and is in its second year of the popular Seal of Approval contest. We talked to OnDeck Brand Ambassador Kimberly Solarz for insight into the mechanics and advantages of the partnership. Regarding the early stages of thinking with whom to partner, she said the goal was selecting someone who resonated to small business owners and cut through the noise.
Since Shark Tank is popular among SMEs and the highest rated show for families, it fit the OnDeck brand well. Corcoran is a good representation of the spirit of the SME owner because she is known for grit and perseverance. People admire and respond to the fact that she turned $1,000 into one of New York’s largest real estate agencies.
As SME advocates, OnDeck’s goal was to solve the problems of access to capital and acquiring clients through marketing. In the first year of the contest (2015), “we offered $10,000 while Corcoran provided the publicity through her media and PR channels,” Solarz said.
The contest was game-changing for the three winners, catapulting their businesses to the next level in capital, guidance, and visibility. Based on that success, OnDeck extended the partnership/contest into 2016 with more channels. Corcoran is filming TV and radio commercials. She is also testing her own digital channel and is a contributing author to OnDeck’s blog.
“Our goal now is to double down on the area where she is back,” Solarz said. “She is strong on advice so we package our strategy to focus on that. Since she is a true small biz advocate, SME owners are responding to what she has to say.”
Corcoran wanted to work with OnDeck because she values OnDeck’s work, but there was a long vetting process to get her on board. “She respected what we did with SME owners and saw a gap in the finance industry,” Solarz said. “She is as passionate about us as we are about her. She is a luxury brand ambassador who does work with other companies, but not in our space. We have a category exclusivity with a confidential agreement.”
OnDeck received over 1,000 applications from SME owners for the 2016 contest, which was far more than last year’s entries. As a result, OnDeck got a lot of press that included Rachel Ray featuring the three winners on her show. Corcoran had the three 2015 winners on Shark Tank in May. Then there was repeat coverage in local outlets in the SME owners’ home towns, Denver and Baltimore.
That coverage fit the overall marketing strategy of OnDeck. “It’s all about how to reach and position ourselves,” Solarz said.
Corcoran has a significant social media following and has been able to reach an audience OnDeck could not have reached on its own. Working with partners who have a built-in SME space is good leverage.
“It’s too early to see a straight ROI from this strategy,” Solarz said, “but so far we are extremely pleased with the results. It differentiates us from a competitive point, but our space has become rapidly crowded and this has made us stand out.”
Over 1,000 applicants from all sides of life and SME experience were vetted for the 2016 OnDeck Seal of Approval Contest. The winners were chosen in collaboration with Corcoran for their uniqueness and potential for success. Each winner received $10,000 and one-on-one coaching from Corcoran.
Here are the winners:
- B’More Organic is an organic smoothie company from Baltimore, Maryland dedicated to local, sustainable, family-owned farming. The owners have parents with health issues, which led to a conviction that a healthy diet leads to a healthy life. They use a sugar-free protein to help cut sugar out of the diet. The popular health food space has an increasing presence in big box grocery stores. This company hopes to overcome its challenges with Corcoran’s advice on marketing techniques.
- Beau & Belle Littles makes reusable swim diapers. The Loveland, Colorado owners invented a diaper that could have less environmental impact and work for families like themselves, with water-loving toddlers who hate messy disposables. They hope to expand their reach, develop new product lines, and pinpoint the most cost-effective way to put Corcoran’s advice into action.
- Hardball Cider began three years ago in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. Their three varieties of cider are found in local restaurants and many of Pennsylvania’s major and minor baseball stadiums. The company is a family farm situated on family land and committed to family-owned small business owners, hard cider, and baseball. They hope Corcoran can help them control expansion and scale production without losing sight of these goals.
With success in the 2015 and 2016 contests, OnDeck and Corcoran are in the process of evaluating the results. So far, all parties are pleased with the value of the endeavor, the mechanics of the process, and the advantages the partnership has offered.
Written by Nicki Jacoby.