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30 July 2011

Distinctive Gardens IS the Small Biz Ready for a Big Break

Distinctive Gardens WINS a Big Break!
Facebook American Express OPEN Big Break
Smallest community in Facebook American Express OPEN Big Break national competition pulls out all stops to win Distinctive Gardens Grand Prize

It's Gardenstock style!  Bring a cooler, chair or blanket.
Come celebrate with us!


DIXON, IL – It was a long shot, but the wee town of Dixon, IL and the Sauk Valley region now have bragging rights.  This town (pop. 16,000) pulled out all the stops, voting Distinctive Gardens into the top 5 Grand Prize winners for the Facebook American Express Big Break for Small Business competition.  Distinctive Gardens, co-owners, Bud LeFevre and Lisa Higby LeFevre will fly out August 3rd to Palo Alto, CA for a two day, one on one business makeover and receive a check for $20,000 to help grow Distinctive Gardens with social media.  

Like never before, social media can help small businesses like, Distinctive Gardens reach more customers. That’s why in April 2011, American Express OPEN teamed up with Facebook to give five small businesses a Big Break—a trip to Facebook headquarters for a two-day, one-on-one business makeover and $20K to help grow their business with social media.  After an arduous two-week voting period the results are in, from over 11,000 businesses entered, and competing against those in large cities such as Boulder, L.A., and Chicago, Distinctive Gardens wins a Big Break. 

It “took a village” to propel Distinctive Gardens into one of the top 5 winning slots.  On July 6, two days into the competition, Distinctive Gardens held a Big Surprise Bash at the business to announce to the community and rally the troops.  The people went back home, and for two weeks voted, shared, and spread the word on the Big Break to all of their friends and relatives around the globe.

States Lisa Higby LeFevre, co-owner of Distinctive Gardens,

Distinctive Gardens would not be here without this community.  They relentlessly shared and got the word out, every, single, day for two entire weeks.”

The word spread in several ways.  A Distinctive Gardens Big Break event on Facebook inviting people to vote and invite their friends to vote spawned upwards of 15,000 invitations.  This reach came only through the sustained efforts by the community and their friends across the country.

The community outpouring of support overwhelmed Lisa.  In the first few days after the announcement, Distinctive Gardens Facebook page exploded with activity.  In between normal job duties, she stayed at her computer for two weeks trying to personally thank each and every person she could directly see on her page who was voting, sharing, spreading the word, and providing personal testimony on Distinctive Gardens.  There were hundreds she couldn’t even see who were sharing.  The communities work paid off.

The Distinctive Gardens website saw a whopping 2106% spike in traffic over the first fours days of competition.  By the time it was over, the website showed an overall increase of 808% in traffic compared to the same period before Big Break.  Distinctive Gardens Facebook page saw action too.  In the first four days, post viewers rose by 1740%.  After voting, active monthly users had risen by 1077%.  Before the end of the voting, Distinctive Gardens received hits to its Facebook voting tab from every single continent on the globe.

While Lisa was living in front of the computer, co-owner, Bud LeFevre was out hitting the streets in between doing full time landscape jobs during record heat.  He walked the downtowns of Sterling and Dixon handing out vote cards and talking to people.  At night, he hit the local bars asking people to vote.  He managed to crack off thirteen TV and Radio appearances before and after landscaping.  Even his landscape crew, son, Quin LeFevre and Sawyer Hagen passed out vote cards at night and spread the word on Facebook to all their friends.  Co-owner, Jim Brown handed out some vote cards.  At the shop and on personal time, Peggy Renne and Shannon Godby rallied their Facebook friends while managing normal duties at Distinctive Gardens.

Distinctive Gardens employees and the community were not the only ones stepping up.  Area businesses, such as Hicks Insurance and Flower’s Etc. helped spread the word.  Greg Hicks of Hicks Insurance donated advertising time.  Carla Knack Brooks, of Flower’s Etc put up the Big Break vote link on her business sign.  Dixon radio station, WIXN’s Kathy Cecchetti , and Sterling radio stations’ WSDR’s Jay Pauley, and WZZT’s Ryan Zschiesche helped promote by having Bud LeFevre on air.  Businesses from outside the immediate community jumped in.  Rockford’s WREX-TV had Bud on twice and promoted the Big Break throughout the week.  Quad Cities’, KWQC-TV Paula Sands had Bud on the Paula Sands Live Show to talk about Big Break.  Business social media company, SocialPie, ran a blog series on Distinctive Gardens experience and is conducting a case study on the Big Break impact.   The entire community rallied. 

Big Break voting ended July 19th.  In the afternoon, on July 20th, Bud took a call from Tom Monahan of American Express.  Online was Cynthia Spaulding of Electric Artists, facilitator and contact for Big Break.  Tom played it up as if bad news was coming.  Bud braced himself for disappointment.  After a breathless moment, Tom announced Distinctive Gardens just won the Big Break.  After three months worth of work on the Big Break and two weeks of crazy voting and no sleep, Bud and Lisa both broke down.  Here are some notes from the big phone call, as recalled by Bud:

“We at American Express and Facebook were very impressed with all you did to get the votes”….  ”We know how hard you have worked”…..   “We’re so very happy you won.   We really, really like what you are doing”…..   “Bud you’re a star”…. (Bud’s response through the tears), “That’s what the kids say, but I’m just Bud.”

The community rally paid off.  Now, Bud and Lisa LeFevre head out to Palo Alto, CA to Facebook headquarters for a two day Facebook make over on August 3rd.  During this time, they will meet the other four winners to work in groups to learn what did and did not work for each.  Next, the one on one consultation will focus on specific uses of social media.  A Facebook team will tailor instruction to help Distinctive Gardens implement two of their specific goals: socially integrated online sales and increasing exposure of community projects, such as Gardenstock Art & Music Festival benefit for Sinnissippi Centers and Second Saturdays Art Happenings.  As part of their commitment to the community, Bud and Lisa plan to come back and share the knowledge gained.  There will be scheduled public gatherings where the two share what they’ve learned while out in Palo Alto.

States Bud,

“The community gave all they had for us.  Now it’s time for us to pay back the community.”

Information on those classes will be posted on the Distinctive Gardens Facebook page.

As a thank you to the community, Distinctive Gardens invites all who participated to a celebration out at Distinctive Gardens, Saturday, July 30, 2011 at 6 p.m.  It will be “Gardenstock style”, which means, bring a cooler, chair, or blanket. 

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