SmallBox staff gives up bonus to be ‘Nice’

Jeb Banner puts his money where his heart is.

So when his team at marketing firm SmallBox met an ambitious business goal in October, the local entrepreneur made good on his promise of a $5,000 bonus the staff could use for any purpose.

Being creative folks, they didn’t choose anything as mundane as a party—or even the cash. Instead, they batted around ideas like using the money for art installations around Indianapolis or buying billboards for a fake company to see what happened.

They ultimately decided to give it away.

SmallBox next month will award five $1,000 “Nice Grants” to individuals or groups that need some financial help pulling off a great idea.

Banner said the goal is to make small investments in projects that could have a big impact on the community. Applications are being accepted online through noon Friday, and the winners will be announced Feb. 8.

“We are hoping this results in five initiatives that make Indianapolis a more attractive place to live,” said Banner, who founded SmallBox in 2006. “It’s an idea everyone could get behind, tell their friends about.”

Recipients get the money with no strings attached. All SmallBox wants is periodic updates so it can help promote the projects—and hopefully inspire other companies to come up with similar programs.

And if community buzz results in more business for SmallBox, all the better.

“It’s altruistic, but it’s definitely selfish, too,” Banner said.

Although he denies having any preconceived notions of what the winning proposals will include—a staff committee will choose grant recipients—Banner said he hopes the money helps at least one new business gets off the ground.

“I really want to see a mix,” he said, ticking off possibilities for the grants ranging from startup funding to relocation assistance. “But we’re making this up as we go along.”

Banner expected about 100 applications by the deadline, and he said SmallBox may continue the grant program if it proves successful.

“We love the idea of doing something fun for the community,” he said.

What do you make of the grant program? And if you were picking winners, what kind of ideas would you support?

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