Which came first -- the chicken or the Super Bowl?
For a family business that only got off the ground in 2012, it's pretty impressive to already be in the running to have an advertisement air during the Super Bowl. But that's where Jason Amundsen finds himself. Locally Laid Egg Company -- which he started with a backyard flock and grew into a serious business in no time flat -- is currently a top-four finalist of Intuit's "Small Business Big Game" competition. Not too shabby, for something that just came out of the blue.
"We work with the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Center for Economic Development," Amundsen said. One day, his advisor turned his computer monitor toward him and showed him the Intuit contest. "He looked at me and he said, 'You might do pretty well at this.'"
Locally Laid entered the contest. They were one of almost 15,000 small businesses that did so.
"Round one was nothing more than a picture and an essay, and then round two was a little more in-depth," Amundsen said. "We had to post a video, we had to get essays online, and there was voting. We were wondering how we were doing."
Amundsen said that Google searches at the time were showing he and his family that their entry was among the top of the heap, as far as Google Analytics was concerned. "We were like, 'This can't be true,'" he said. "Because we were using our own computer. So my wife" -- Lucie, who is also Locally Laid's 'Marketing Chick' -- "went to Canal Park to one of the hotels," where she connected to Wi-Fi and got the same result: they were placing in the top handful, nationally.
Partly due to their organization and their strong social-media presence, Locally Laid has now found themselves as a top-four finalist to have an ad created by Intuit and aired during the Super Bowl, which could bring a level of attention that would be truly life-changing, especially for a company that has only recently been birthed.
"It's actually pretty shocking," Amundsen said. "What's going to happen is, if we win, during the Super Bowl, third quarter, 105 million people are gonna see an ad for a sassy little egg company with a tagline that says 'Get Locally Laid.'"
Even if a small portion of those people are paying attention at the time and not refilling the Doritos bowl, the implications for their business are astounding. Amundsen said a Locally Laid Super Bowl ad could even change the egg industry itself.
"The egg industry is a calcified, ossified dinosaur," he said, "and there's an extremely strong demand for locally-raised eggs, and a commercial would skyrocket that demand."
It's notable that Amundsen talks about the implications for healthy, good food before he talks about the implications for his own pocketbook. Point out that if even a sliver of that 105 million goes to his website and buys a T-shirt, and he just laughs down the phone line. Some of this is due to the fact that things are happening so fast, there's no time to dwell on anything.
"I'm on the road right now, going to meet with some farmers who want to produce eggs for us," Amundsen said. "I've had companies from all over the country reach out, just from us being in the final four."
"I think the bigger picture is, if you look at the opportunities that exist because of this, in all seriousness, I do believe we can build America," Amundsen said. "We can create jobs. And we're gonna do that because you're gonna see new companies entering the marketplace, meeting the demands of the consumer. They're gonna be building barns. They're gonna be hiring professional laborers, construction crews, electricians, people to pour concrete. Feed mills will make new deliveries. Lumber's gonna be ordered. That's real economic growth," and Amundsen thinks that could come from just one national commercial's ability to raise awareness of a world outside of factory farming.
That commercial has yet to be shot, but it will be in the bag even before the winner of the final four is announced. All the finalists will have their spots produced beforehand by experienced Intuit crews.
The farm has even been visited by Bill Rancic already, the winner of the first season of "The Apprentice," who is the spokesperson for the contest.
Meantime, it's all about the voting. Votelola.com is the site, and Locally Laid encourages people to vote daily through Dec. 1. Cell phones, tablets, laptops -- they all can be employed once a day. No logging in is needed. There is information aplenty available at locallylaid.com, and at their Twitter and Facebook sites.
Jason Amundsen truly feels that a victory for Locally Laid could be a victory for the region, and potentially for the food industry, itself. His chickens graze, they exercise. They're not trapped in cages. This results in better-tasting eggs, according to satisfied customers like Duluth Grill and Zeitgeist Arts Café. A Super Bowl ad could enlighten millions upon millions more, bringing money into the region in myriad ways.
"It's a very Duluth-oriented effort," Amundsen says. "Companies and non-profits and organizations and individuals are working their butts off. None of this would be happening without the support of literally thousands of people."