Insights from Lowe's Small Business Shark Tank

Just over a month ago, Lowe’s issued an invitation to “entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities to participate in “Making it…with Lowe’s.” In partnership with Daymond John, star of ABC’s Shark Tank, Lowe’s is creating an opportunity for minority-owned small businesses to pitch their products for sale online and in stores. From what we know, the program will be a series of virtual sessions and pitches focused on reducing a pool of 375 applicants down to a select group of five that will receive mentoring with Daymond John and ultimately pitch live to Lowe’s executives.

First off, we should acknowledge that Lowe’s has devised an idea that simultaneously targets both its company values and marketing goals. That’s not easy to do. But we’re not really here to advocate for the program. Instead, we’re peeling back the layers to see what news like this means for our clients and our industry.

Here’s what we think matters most:

Socially conscious sourcing is on the rise.

This much is pretty clear from the call for entries. Lowe’s is trying to do something to address economic disparity and its effect on minority communities. Small businesses, in particular, have been hit hard by the global pandemic, and minority-owned small businesses have been hit even harder. We’ve seen it in the news, we’ve seen it on social media and we’ve seen it down the street. People want to help and “Making it…” is a really powerful way of saying you can help small businesses by shopping at Lowe’s. If you’re a small business, and you’re still in business, it’s a good time to let people know.

Content is king, and control is queen.

Sadly, it looks like this program will not be broadcast in keeping with most reality shows, which are everywhere these days. But according to Lowe’s, “The finalists will be announced and featured on later this year, and the “Making it…with Lowe’s” results will be revealed on Lowe’s social channels in early 2021.” 1 No doubt, Lowe’s will create a steady stream of social content that will provide a steady stream of content, catapult their social media following and provide outstanding ROI. Creating unique, compelling content can be a challenge for big brands. Designing a content-generating program that’s suspenseful, leverages big-name influencers and targets specific audiences where growth opportunities exist…well, that’s smart.

Minority voices matter in marketing.

The “Making it…with Lowe’s” program is only open to small business owners from underrepresented communities, specifically minorities, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, veterans and women. The rise of social media has enabled these communities to organize, to have a voice and, as such, has made them a sought-after audience for marketers. Whether or not they are a key target audience for your marketing plans, the cares and concerns of minority audiences should be on your radar.

The boundaries of home improvement are growing.

Last but not least, we’re thinking long and hard about the parenthetical product categories that Lowe’s is looking to focus on in “Making it…” These categories include “farm and ranch equipment, Microban or antimicrobial products, accessible home, touchless products, home gardening, home décor products and more.” 1 It’s a quirky list for sure. Whether these items are trending in Lowe’s stores, or they are on the radar for market opportunity is yet to be seen. One thing is for sure, these are categories where smaller brands have a chance to get in and get seen by the big retailers.



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