Dick Pond Athletics named “Big Break for Small Business” finalist

With Dick Pond's focus on fitness and community, the nation’s oldest running specialty store catches attention of American Express OPEN and Facebook

             August 20, 2012 (Carol Stream, IL) – Dick Pond Athletics, the nation’s oldest running specialty store with six locations in the Chicago area including a shop in Carpentersville, has been named a finalist in the Big Break for Small Business national contest sponsored by American Express OPEN and Facebook.

            Sorting through more than 12,000 applications from small businesses across the United States, Dick Pond Athletics earned a spot among the contest’s final 10 given its 43-year-old grassroots approach to business, unrelenting focus on fitness with free group training programs, and continued support of community cornerstones, including a campaign that reinvests in the cross country and track and field programs at local schools.

“When my father started this business in 1969 out of the trunk of his car, it wasn’t about the money, but about his passion for running,” Dick Pond Athletics owner Kirsten Pond said about her father Dick Pond, an All-American runner at Western Michigan University in the early 1960s. “Though Dad passed away from leukemia in 1991, we’ve found ways to continue that passion and build a company that would make him proud.”

The 10 contest finalists are now competing in a round of public online judging on Facebook. The nationwide voting began on August 20 and will end at 10:59 p.m. CST on Friday, August 31.

Voting for Dick Pond Athletics on Facebook is easy by visiting www.facebook.com/OPEN. There is a daily limit of one vote per finalist per person.

American Express OPEN and Facebook will announce the five winners on or after September 4. Each of the winners will receive a one-on-one consultation from American Express OPEN and Facebook branding experts as well as $25,000 to launch strategic actions aimed at building and marketing the company’s brand.

            In addition, American Express Cardmembers in the winners’ communities will get statement credit offers to spend at area merchants that accept American Express Cards one weekend in September.

            Each of the winning businesses will also have the opportunity to “pay it forward” by inviting other small business owners within their community to learn better use of social channels for business from American Express OPEN and Facebook social media and marketing experts.

            “It’s just remarkable to think of the potential ripple effect to our business as well as our neighbors and customers should we be fortunate enough to win this prize,” Pond said.

This is the second year of the Big Break for Small Business contest. American Express OPEN Social Media and Small Business Saturday vice president Laura Fink said, “This year’s Big Break is about celebrating small business owners as hometown heroes and strategically using tools and resources to rally community support that keep their businesses operating every day.”

The finalists were judged by a panel of American Express OPEN and Facebook representatives as well as Bonobos founder Andy Dunn and small business expert Melinda Emerson on: the commitment to their business and growth; the commitment to the community that fuels their business; overall social media and business need; and energy and enthusiasm for the entrepreneurial community.

Hailed as one of America’s 50 Best Running Stores by Competitor in 2011, Dick Pond Athletics claims six locations in the Chicago area – Carol Stream, Lisle, Schaumburg, St. Charles, Carpentersville, and Park Ridge – as well as two traveling “shoemobiles” that make regular visits to high schools, colleges, and local running events.

The still family-run company continues the customer-centric mission established by its owner in 1969. The free and no-hassle Runner Rewards program allows loyal customers to earn discounts on future purchases, while the inventive Team Bucks program reinvests 5 percent of all purchases from middle school or high school athletes back into the athletes’ team.

Meanwhile, regular fun runs, training programs, and the company’s pioneering “Walk 2 Run” curriculum, which trains novices to complete their first 5-k race in just 10 weeks, has reinforced Dick Pond Athletics’ ties to the community and commitment to healthy lifestyles.

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