Bryan County residents may soon see the city of Durant — and themselves — on the small screen.
The city is among the top 10 finalists for a $500,000 Main Street makeover as part of the upcoming season of Hulu series “Small Business Revolution. Show finalists were announced Dec. 11 and Durant will host a community-wide reception at 6 p.m. Jan. 15 in Southeastern University’s Glen D. Johnson Student Union to welcome the SBR team.
Stephanie Gardner, executive director of Durant Main Street, said she is optimistic about the experience.
“In my three years of being with Main Street, this has gotten more excitement and volunteers ramped up than anything we’ve ever experienced before,” Gardner said. “But I also know there’s a lot of people that don’t know about it or understand what it is and what it means for our community, so I think we definitely have our work cut out for us to make everybody aware of what’s going on and why they should get behind us and help.”
The show, available through Hulu’s streaming service, focuses on improving and revitalizing one small town per season through the help of a $500,000 makeover, highlighting six of the town’s small businesses and Main Street district.
The city’s involvement with Small Business Revolution began in October when Durant Main Street, in conjunction with various other community partners, initially nominated Durant to be considered for the show. SBR producers later contacted the city for additional information and selected Durant among 12,000 nominations as part of their top 20 towns.
“I think it’ll make a huge difference,” Gardner said of appearing on the show. “I think even more so than the six makeovers is the publicity Durant is going to get — to have filming going on in our town for up to four months, it’s going to get a lot of buzz and drive a lot of business to the area.”
Hosted by Amanda Brinkman, chief brand and communications officer at marketing/branding corporation, Deluxe, and Ty Pennington, of HGTV and Extreme Home Makeover fame, Small Business Revolution provides featured businesses with a complete “health analysis,” to gauge the overall success or failure of owners’ business practices, branding/marketing, finances, etc.
“It’s up to their expert (opinion) to decide how they want to spend the $500,000,” Gardner said. “Of course they’re going to take input from community leaders and business owners, but they’re (also) going to assess us from an outsider’s point of view. It’s going to go a lot further than physical improvements. They really look at the business as a whole and try to help them survive.”
So far, 77 small businesses in the Durant area have expressed interest in appearing on the show and interviewing with the SBR team during their scheduled tour of Durant Jan. 15-16. During those two days, Brinkman, the Deluxe team and a film crew will seek to learn more about the city, its small businesses and how Durant could potentially benefit from the makeover.
“I think we’re unique in the fact that so many businesses applied. I’m sure that helped us (be selected) because they saw a lot of options,” Gardner said. “Of course everybody wants their business to win, but just by them coming to our town, it will benefit everybody (and) improving Main Street in general will also benefit everybody as a whole.”
SBR will announce their top five towns in mid-February, which will then be put to a weeklong, nationwide vote to determine which town will be featured on the show’s forthcoming season, to be announced at the end of February.
“If we make it that far, it’ll come down to the votes,” Gardner said. “I’m concerned about the voting process because we need to turn out in big numbers in order to have a chance. I know we’ve got some good competition, so we’re going to really have to rally the troops.”
As the competition progresses, Durant Main Street has established a series of volunteer-led teams to tackle press and media outreach, social media, signage and printed marketing, merchandise, and a video and photography campaign, all to help promote the city throughout the final phases of the contest. The community has also been urged to post on social media using #MyDurant to “share stories and photos of… things that make Durant special,” according to Durant Main Street.
“Keeping #MyDurant going is very important,” Gardner said. “Everybody is part of the community, not just business owners, and we need everybody’s help. Anything (the community) can do, big or small, we need right now.”
Additional information can be found at www.durantmainstreet.org/revolution.