With Small Business Week in full swing, intuit Inc. announced a number of initiatives aimed at supporting small businesses – and their accountants.

“These all line up with fueling small-business success,” said Dan Wernikoff, senior vice president and general manager of Intuit’s Small Business Group, in describing the programs, which include a new edition of a contest for small businesses, a new platform for businesses to connect, and a new fund for business loans.

To start, the tax and accounting software vendor is bringing back its “QuickBooks Small Business Big Game” contest, which offers small businesses the chance to win an all-expense-paid commercial during the 2016 Super Bowl.

The contest is expected to be open up in early June; details are available online. Winners will be chosen by public voting.

Over 15,000 companies participated in the last iteration of QB Small Business Big Game, in 2013. The new edition will run along similar lines, but with at least one significant addition: Now there are prizes for accountants. “There weren’t any fun prizes for accountants before,” noted Wernikoff, “but small businesses consider them such great partners, when we get down to the final ten, we’re going to include their accountants.”

The accountants of the 10 QB Small Business Big Game finalists will be eligible for a $10,000 prize, as well as a local ad campaign for their firm, and an all-expense-paid trip to Intuit’s annual QuickBooks Connect conference. There will also be smaller weekly prizes that accountants can win.

“Accountants are the ones who enable small-business success,” Wernikoff said, “so it makes sense to reward them.”

 

Enabling connections

“Small businesses are actually quite lonely,” Wernikoff noted, citing an Intuit study where 40 percent of small-business owners described themselves that way. “They don’t engage with as many other businesses as they’d like to.”

To help with that, and to follow up on the contest, Intuit will be rolling out a platform for small businesses to connect with one another. “After we ran QuickBooks Small Business Big Game a few years ago, we realized that as soon as the contest ended, a lot of participants asked to say engaged with other participants,” Wernikoff said. “We thought it would be great if we have some kind of online network for small businesses, so we’re creating that now.”

The platform, which is expected to launch at the same time as QB Small Business Big Game, will also offer opportunities to accountants. According to Wernikoff, “Accountants have surprised us by how good they are with social tools – so we’ll create a special part of this platform for them.”

 

A new fund

Finally, Intuit announced that it would be launching a $100 million fund in late summer to lend money to small businesses.

Of the two thirds of small-business owners who tried to raise money last year, Wernikoff noted that 60 percent were declined outright. And while Intuit’s QB Financing initiative to connect businesses with lenders has facilitated $150 million in loans so far, the company was not happy with the rates available.

The company aims to give qualified borrowers access to rates of 15 percent or less, with same-day funding, and a one-click application, since all the necessary data can be drawn from QuickBooks records.

“We’re hoping to run out of money in three to six months,” Wernikoff said. “And then we’d like to move on to a billion-dollar fund.”

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