For Barley Labs LLC, it came down to the Final Four.
The Durham-based small business that creates all-natural dog treats out of recycled barley from a local brewery was selected from nearly 15,000 companies as one of four finalists in Intuit's Small Business Big Game contest, sponsored by Intuit QuickBooks.
The small business winner of the contest, selected by popular online vote during November, wins a Super Bowl commercial.
"When we started this business, we had a lot of hopes and dreams about what it could potentially be someday," said Theresa Chu, who co-owns Barley Labs with Scott Beaudry. "At the time, it seemed those dreams would happen 10 years down the road. This contest accelerated the timeline so that our dreams could potentially come together in the next several months."
"We could have never gotten the exposure we have locally and nationally on our own," Chu added.
Chu and Scott Beaudry transformed their love of dogs and beer into a company in September 2012 by selling their beer-grain dog treats online and through local retailers. Beaudry came up with the idea shortly after his love for beer turned into an avid home-brewing hobby. Their dog, Barley, a lab mix, serves as the company's Chief Inspiration Officer and VP of Quality Control.
Chu sought the expertise of NCIMED's Women's Business Center of North Carolina, which helps companies like Barley Labs start and grow through individual business counseling, loan package preparation and networking opportunities.
"I'm always interested in talking with business owners about what sparks their ideas and hearing how they creatively approach problems, coming up with new solutions," said Alyssa Mako, assistant director of the center.
"With Barley Labs, I read through their business plan, provided feedback and discussed ways they might polish up the plan," Mako said. "We also talked about potential funding strategies if they decide to grow into a commercial space or retail location."
The process of preparing a business plan and entering the contest happened simultaneously but yielded big results, Chu said.
"We finalized the business plan and made the Final Four of the contest during the same week," she said.
"So often when you are a one- or two-person business, you are caught up in what you're doing on a daily basis," Chu said. "When you're ready to grow and expand your business, NCIMED is a great sounding board to take a look at what you want to do and help you get there."