Small Business Winner Takes Home $100k In IT

The total technology makeover contest anoints a winner amid a full slate of free, online events for smaller businesses.
With all my rambling about the outbreak of contests for smaller businesses (and I'm not the only one), I can't not mention the winner announced at this week's Small Business Summit. The contest, sponsored by Microsoft and Dell, was decided by an online vote and that's why a Microsoft rep was standing outside the Parkwoods Shopping Center in Stockton, CA holding a gynormous check for $100,000 made out to...GymStars Gymnastics

The small business teaches children gymnastics, karate, and dance; the company has been struggling with a 10-year-old, failing computer system. Now I can't claim to be a connoisseur of oversize check presentations, but GymStars president Bob Tanon didn't exactly look surprised. However, he and his staff did look flush with the joy of (free) victory. And with reason, according to a posting by Eric Ligman, Microsoft US Senior Manager, Small Business Community Engagement, GymStars receives:

"Up to $40,000 in Dell hardware, up to $25,000 in Microsoft software, and up to $35,000 in funding for consultation services from a Microsoft Small Business Specialist to implement the Technology Solution. Total Approximate Retail Value (ARV) of Grand Prize=$100,000."

Make what you will of that persistent "up to," but even if it's double speak for "less than" GymStars should come out of this with some useful new tech resources. Runners up, MouCo Cheese Company and Sid's Bikes NYC each get $10,000 in Microsoft and Dell software and hardware (you can't argue with free). It's neither here nor there, but I didn't pick the winning horse on this one, casting a biased vote for Sid's based on my hobby/passion/addiction to cycling.

As for the Small Business Summit, it's still going and it's still free. Microsoft expects 200,000 attendees will tune in to for the 50 odd presenters -- including the Duct Tape Marketing guy and a call-in segment with Rieva Lesonsky, editorial director of Entrepreneur -- during the course of the four-day event. Of course, there are the expected product announcements, including a service pack for Response Point, Microsoft's Point small business VoIP system, but that's balanced with no small amount of skill, tip, and strategy sessions -- and you can't argue with free.The total technology makeover contest anoints a winner amid a full slate of free, online events for smaller businesses.