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Vinik Sports Group (VSG) is proud to share Backing the Bay, a marketing grant program designed to help small businesses in the Tampa Bay community that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. VSG is offering up to a total of half a million dollars in media assets in 2021 to help amplify small businesses across various Vinik Sports Group brand platforms, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, AMALIE Arena and The Identity Tampa Bay.

From March through December 2021, the VSG marketing team will work with select businesses in the Tampa Bay Area to create a robust, custom marketing and advertising package, worth up to $50,000. Each month, a new small business will be highlighted via VSG brand marketing assets, which may include brand videos, written features, promoted sweepstakes, custom graphics, Lightning radio spots and more. At least half of the businesses will be: Minority-Owned, Woman-Owned, Veteran-Owned, or LGBT-Owned.

Vinik Sports Group is proud to use the organization's voice to support, uplift, and amplify small businesses and to help neighbors in the Tampa Bay community.

Applications are now open!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Open only to legal res of US/DC, 21+ who are the principal owner/operator of a for-profit small business (as defined in the official rules) operating within Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, or Polk County at the time of entry that have fewer than 200 employees and have been operating for at least 3 years from Program start. Program Period starts 9AM ET on 7/13/21 & closes 12/31/21. To enter, applicants must visit https://sptimesforum.formstack.com/forms/backing_the_bay and follow the directions to complete and submit the Program application during the Application Period. Applications accepted only from 9AM ET on 7/13/21 through 11:59 PM ET on 7/25/21. Limit one (1) application per business. Businesses' operating in categories that conflict with exclusive sponsors of VSG are not eligible for a Marketing Grant. Businesses that have previously received a Marketing Grant from VSG in 2021 are not eligible. Top 10 finalists notified on or about 7/28/21 and may be required to provide further information for final judging. Marketing Grant recipients notified on or about 8/3/21. Recipients (4): one (1) full calendar month-long Vinik Sports Group marketing and advertising package, during one (1) of the four (4) months of the Delivery Period (September - December 2021). ARV: $50,000. The odds of receiving a Marketing Grant in the Program depend on the total number of applicants. All Recipients resp for all taxes/costs not stated above. Other restrs & elig lims apply. Msg & data rates may apply. For full rules & recipient's list (avail 12/31/21), visit www.BackingTheBay.com. Administered by VSG Enterprises LLC (Sponsor). Void elsewhere and where prohibited. Not sponsored/endorsed by NHL entities, Twitter, Instagram and/or Facebook.

October's Feature Business: Tampa Tutors

Teach skills that foster independence

Kayla Reynoso, CEO and Founder of Tampa Tutors has been working with students in the Bay Area for more than three years.

Tampa Tutors specializes in work with children who have learning disabilities and collaborates with parents and teachers to help students build autonomy, accountability and advocate for themselves. They identify each child's learning style and prepare individualized lessons and visuals. They meet each student where they are at. Tampa Tutors provides an academic coach who uplifts, guides, supports, cheers and mentors students to expect more from themselves. Tampa Tutors know that life doesn't have a report card. 

September's Feature Business: Big Ray's Fish Camp

From our bay to your belly

Chef Raymond "Nick" Cruz grew up watching and learning about fishing from Grandpa Cruz a few blocks from his restaurant at Ballast Point Pier. Countless summer days spend fishing, cleaning and cooking "fish on the line" would eventually turn into a personal passion to serve the freshest seafood in South Tampa. 

Big Ray's Fish Camp now has two locations, the original in the Ballast Point neighborhood and the Tampa Convention Center spot.

August's Feature Business: Ava's Lowcountry Cuisine

Personal Chef and Catering

Where modern comfort cuisine, creativity and outstanding service intersect. Using the highest quality ingredients, Ava's provides a unique and delightful culinary experience through our Eatery, cocktail or dinner party catering events. Located in Lutz, FL, we look forward to serving you in our Eatery or through our catering services. 

July's Feature Business: DrivenFit

DrivenFit is a veteran-owned fitness studio offering personal training, massage therapy and chiropractic wellness. Brothers Luis and Marco Echeverry evaluate each client and provide custom programming. Luis discovered his drive in the Airforce and uses that to help his clients unleash their potential. The Echeverry brothers pride themselves on changing lifestyles and helping beginners transform into athletes. They support numerous non-profits, including Miles for Moffitt and St. Jude's Children's Hospital. They were forced to close their doors during the pandemic and to implement virtual training; they're thankful for this opportunity to help reach even more future athletes in the Tampa Bay community.

June's Featured Business: Tailored Twig

Tailored Floral Design

Tailored Twig is a floral design studio based in Tampa that is anything but ordinary. The team, led by master tailor Darin Bahl, values the thoughtful placement of every bloom and using unique vessels. They blend layers of floral textures with foraged architectural elements to create a modern, dynamic style. 

Known for work at large-scale events, the pandemic decimated the event business. The Tailored Twig team pivoted; Darin created virtual floral design classes, complete with mailed boxes containing everything one would need to create gorgeous arrangement at home, alongside live-streamed classes to guide students. Now, Tailored Twig virtual floral design classes are offered nationwide. 

Darin is a proud member of the LGBTQ community and prides himself on employing a diverse staff.

May's Featured Business: The Merchant - Purveyor of Local Goods

A "Funky Urban" General Store

The Merchant-Purveyor of Local Goods is nestled in the eclectic Central Arts District in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida. The store fuses the modernity of a well-lived urban lifestyle with the charm and nostalgia of an old fashioned general store. Their ever-changing assortment of gifts and wares promotes the creative community of artists, craftsmen, and makers in St. Pete.

In the back of the shop, you'll find Crislip Café, with a coffeehouse and espresso bar, as well as locally baked goods. Starting this month, they're also offering wine, cheese, charcuterie, a selection of local craft beer, fondue and desserts.

Backing the Bay | The Merchant

On this edition of Backing the Bay we highlight The Merchant

  • Oct 16, 2021 • 01:51

April's Featured Business: The Modern Paws

Natural Pet Market and Spa

The Modern Paws is a pet boutique with locations in Channel District and Sparkman Wharf. The minority-owned business is known for locally sourced treats and toys, as well as nutritious and natural pet food. During the pandemic, husband and wife Ben and Lisa Prakobkit gave away more than 100 rescue dog starter kits to families who adopted rescue dogs, free of charge. Despite having to close their own doors temporarily, The Modern Paws ramped up their local pet food delivery service, as well as e-commerce. They offer spa grooming, pet nutrition consultation and support for Tampa Bay pet rescues.

March's Featured Business: Pop Goes the Waffle

Waffles You Can Walk With

Pop Goes The Waffle is an innovative waffle company dedicated to providing exceptional sweet and savory liege waffles and waffle pops to retail customers in St. Petersburg, the greater Tampa Bay area and to wholesale partners throughout Florida.

VSG is offering half of a million dollars in media assets in 2021 to amplify small businesses across various Vinik Sports Group brand platforms, including the Tampa Bay Lightning, AMALIE Arena and The Identity Tampa Bay.  

From March through December 2021 the VSG marketing team will work with select businesses in the Tampa Bay Area to create a robust, custom marketing and advertising package, worth up to $50,000. Each month, a new small business will be highlighted via VSG brand marketing assets, which may include brand videos, written features, promoted sweepstakes, custom graphics, Lightning radio spots and more. At least half of the businesses featured will be either: Minority-Owned, Woman-Owned, Veteran-Owned, or LGBT-Owned.

The program begins September 1, 2021 and ends December 31, 2021. Application period is Tuesday, July 13, 2021 at 9am through Sunday, July 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm. The Top 10 finalists will be notified on or around July 28, 2021. Marketing grant recipients will be notified on or around August 3, 2021.

Beginning July 13, 2021, VSG will accept applications for September, October, November and December. Deadline to apply is Sunday, July 25, 2021 at 11:59 pm.

To apply, visit https://sptimesforum.formstack.com/forms/backing_the_bay and follow the directions to create an account, complete, and submit an application. Applicants must fully complete and submit all non-optional data requested on the application. LIMIT OF ONE (1) APPLICATION PER BUSINESS.

The official rules can be found here.

Four (4) marketing grant will be awardees will be selected, September through December. Restrictions apply.

The Program is open to legal residents of the United States and the District of Columbia who at the time of entry are the principal owner/operator of an eligible for-profit small business that: (i) is incorporated or otherwise considered a valid legal entity in the State of Florida as of 3/1/2018; and (ii) operates within Hillsborough, Pinellas, Hernando, Pasco, Citrus, Manatee, Sarasota, or Polk County.

In order to be considered an eligible "small business" for purposes of this Program, the business must meet all the following criteria:

  1.  

a. The business must be in good standing with the State of Florida as of the date of submission and must remain so through the end of the Program Period;
b. Applicant/owner must be at least twenty-one (21) years of age at the time of entry;
c. Applicant/owner must be an authorized agent of the registered business;
d. The business must be currently active, lawful, and have all necessary and required licenses and registrations through the end of the Program Period;
e. The business must be for-profit;
f. The business must be independent/non-franchised;
g. The business has annual operating revenues of no more than five million dollars ($5,000,000) per fiscal year for the last three (3) years;
h. The business must have no more than two hundred (200) employees on its payroll through the end of the Program Period (sole proprietors are considered as an employee and part-time employees are included);
i. The primary purpose of the business must not be in competition with Vinik Sports Group; and
j. The business must not be under bankruptcy protection or have judicial liens or attachments through the end of the Program Period. 

Please refer to the Eligibility and Disqualification/Marketing Grant Forfeiture sections of the Official Rules for more details

A non-profit is NOT eligible for the Backing the Bay marketing grant program.

Please refer to the Eligibility and Disqualification/Marketing Grant Forfeiture sections of the Official Rules for more details.

Franchised or direct-seller businesses are NOT eligible for the Backing the Bay marketing grant program.

Please refer to the Eligibility and Disqualification/Marketing Grant Forfeiture sections of the Official Rules for more details.

No, a business that have previously received a grant from VSG in 2021 is not eligible.

Please refer to the Eligibility and Disqualification/Marketing Grant Forfeiture sections of the Official Rules for more details.

Businesses that operate in a category that conflict with exclusivities that VSG has with current sponsors will not be eligible. If your business falls into one of the following categories*, you currently conflict with a sponsor and are not eligible.

  • Carbonated Beverage
  • Coffee & Donut
  • Copier/Printers
  • Craft Beer
  • Energy Drink
  • Financial Services
  • Hard Seltzer
  • Health Insurance
  • Homeowner/Renter Insurance
  • Motor Oil
  • Pizza
  • Telecommunications
  • Tequila
  • Truck

Please refer to the Eligibility and Disqualification/Marketing Grant Forfeiture sections of the Official Rules for more details.* Note: this list of exclusive categories is accurate as of March 1, 2021 and is subject to change at any time throughout the Program Period if VSG enters into an exclusive agreement with additional sponsors. Any such changes will be announced.