Needing a minimum of 250 votes from supporters in the first phase of the program, For All Occasions surged to 339 by the June 19 deadline. The voting took place through Facebook.
For All Occasions owner Jodie Sturgeon said she pushed hard with social media, including Facebook, email, Twitter and LinkedIn, to get the necessary votes.
It’s not clear how many of the small businesses applying for the grants made the first cut, but For All Occasions was one of 39 out of 126 applicants with Atlanta mailing addresses to advance. That means the caterer has outlasted more than two-thirds of the local applicants.
Only 20 businesses nationwide will receive the $100,000 grants. The winners will be announced in September after a panel of experts reviews the applications.
Sturgeon hopes that the way she entered the competition is a meaningful sign. She didn’t know about the Mission Main Street program until she got an email from Chase that looked like just another advertisement. “I never click on that email,” she said, “but something told me to click on it.”
The annual competition is open to any for-profit business that has operated at least two years and has fewer than 100 employees.
If Sturgeon wins, she will use the money to improve transportation and kitchen productivity.
She wants to upgrade from her two work vans by buying a bigger truck, possibly with refrigeration.
She also wants to improve the workflow of her parve kitchen at Atlanta Jewish Academy. She said she would remove an unusable dishwashing machine in the middle of the room and put a self-contained, hood-free convection oven in its place to do parve baking.
For All Occasions bakers now have to walk to AJA’s meat kitchen to access a parve oven, “which is a little schlep,” Sturgeon said.
She said a new oven would streamline the process and increase productivity, enabling For All Occasions to offer more parve cookies and other baked goods while keeping prices reasonable.