Each year, the Buccaneers along with UnitedHealthcare, aim to point the spotlight on small businesses in the Tampa Bay area. One of the winners this year was The Color Express, a company started by Jennifer Houston that focuses on art enrichment for children. The Color Express will set up fun painting events at birthday parties, community events or anywhere you can fit a table. Like a lot of small businesses, it started from humble beginnings.
"We are coming up on five years in business," owner Jennifer Houston said. "This started out as something I didn't think would be a business. I was a stay-at-home mom and I was offering painting classes to a moms group that I ran. We did it once a month, the kids would come to the library where we used their meeting room and we would paint. Then it just evolved."
From there, Houston also recognized a need for art enrichment programs in schools. The Color Express got into the local school system doing afterschool on-site field trips for up to 150 kids at a time. They branched out and partnered with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and take visits to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital to paint with the patients.
Upon being selected as a Spotlight on Small Business winner, The Color Express was gifted with partnership assets from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that included a visit from the Street Team, along with members of the Buccaneers Cheerleaders. Houston decided to use that visit for a community event and reached out to the Land O'Lakes Gators football program. They had a day filled with activities, football drills and of course, painting.
"I was trying to research what other winners did with that prize and the other winners had a brick-and-mortar business," Houston said. "We're mobile – we're totally mobile, so we don't have a storefront for anyone to come to and that's where the idea came from to tie in football and the cheerleaders because the Land O'Lakes Gators have a cheer team and then we set up the painting there. We gave them the option to either paint a cheer-themed painting or a football-themed painting. The coaches were out there running drills with the kids and then of course the Street Team was out there doing fun activities and even the Land O'Lakes High School football coach came and made an appearance and spoke to the children. It was just all-around a great community day."
"We love that the Buccaneers partnered with us because, well first of all, I have four children and they are die-hard football fans. It was just a really easy fit."
Another part of the prize was tickets to a home game, which Houston attended with her husband and four kids. They were also able to promote The Color Express and talk with fans about what they do, even getting some recognition on the video boards of Raymond James Stadium.
"While we were there, we noticed on the Jumbotron, 'Oh my goodness, there's The Color Express,' we thought that was so cool," Houston said.
To nominate or enter your company in the Spotlight on Small Business program for a chance to promote your business in front of thousands of Buccaneers fans, visit http://www.buccaneers.com/spotlight.