At Intuit’s 2016 QuickBooks Connect conference in San Jose, California, Avalara was pleased to hold its first ever Business Makeover Contest, which recognized three outstanding small business owners and awarded them a $10,000 marketing makeover with a top consulting company, as well as one free year of Avalara sales tax automation service and a customer spotlight on Avalara.com. At the 2017 QuickBooks Connect conference, November 15–17, Avalara will once again celebrate business success by holding the Business Makeover Contest for a second year.

As we look forward to this year’s contest, we wanted to highlight one of last year’s winners, so we sat down with Adam Wegener, CEO and cofounder of Trash Amps, an innovative company that “upcycles” everyday objects like mason jars, soda cans, and beer cans into great-sounding portable speakers and guitar amplifiers. We asked Adam for his thoughts on being a recipient of last year’s $10K makeover, as well as what impact the prize winnings have had on his business one year later.

What was the experience of winning last year’s Business Makeover Contest at QuickBooks Connect like for you?

It was just so funny, because it was kind of the end of the day, and we’re walking all the different booths, getting free stuff and entering drawings that nobody ever wins. For the Business Makeover, I literally put my name, my email, and one sentence about my business and walked away. And the next morning, I got a call saying I won the $10K makeover. I was like, is this for real? It was hard to believe. I usually think my chances of winning something are basically nothing.

It was nice to learn that you guys went over each submission and strategically picked people, rather than a random drawing out of a hat. I take a lot of pride in the way we do our business, especially our community outreach teaching underprivileged kids about what engineering is and having them build a speaker and feel like there is something they can be successful at and be proud of. It was just nice to feel like that was acknowledged through us winning the competition.

As part of your company’s marketing makeover, you partnered with the pros at the marketing agency Leading Results. What was the best part of getting to work with them?

[Leading Results] and I had a series of phone calls, and on those calls we put together a survey, which we sent out to all of my customers. We used that info to figure out who my customer is, what products I should be selling, what the prices are, and what my future products should be. I flew out to their office for a few days, and we got to spend time in person discussing my company. It felt like I had my own marketing department of experts, when usually it’s just me doing everything by myself. I had a great time getting to know them and building relationships with them. We were able to make concrete progress in marketing, which has always been a weakness of mine. We did a lot of work around what my messaging is, as well as how I should focus and offer something more concrete to the people who visit my website. We even specifically went through my website, almost every page, and asked, “In light of all this information, what do I need to update to reflect the plan we’ve come up with together?” I also shot a few videos, which will build toward the new, refreshed identity I developed with them. So it’s all kinda coming together now, and I’m excited.

We also spent a portion of the prize money to hire another company to help me put my products on Amazon, so we’re just about to launch those. It’s pretty complicated, so it was nice to have 10 hours of consulting from this company that’s an expert in Amazon. I may still have a little bit of credit left with Leading Results, which we’re planning to use toward PR during the holiday season to promote my products. But I could even picture myself continuing to hire Leading Results and work with them because I felt like it was a good experience. To have a $10K credit with them was just super helpful for a small business that doesn’t have a very big budget, especially for something like marketing when your attention is on financing the actual product.

How do you anticipate Avalara helping you with your business?

The reason it took me so long to sign up for Amazon is that once you start with Amazon, you ship your product to all these warehouses throughout the country, and then they ship to the customers from there. But if your product is in a warehouse around the country, technically that gives you a business location and nexus in that state, which requires you to charge sales tax. It becomes complicated, because now I’ll have to charge sales tax to anywhere I ship product through an Amazon fulfillment center. Avalara can help me file with each state, and I’ll be able to set up a system that works, one that I understand and isn’t shady or illegal.

How would you summarize the impact the Business Makeover has had on your business?

Even though everything we’ve done is leading up to the holidays, I have faith that the sales will come now that we’ve done all this work. And I think a lot of it was educational for me, which is super important and beneficial for this business as well as future job opportunities. Not only did I come up with a marketing plan for my business, but I understand how to continue to ask those questions, to make sure I’m targeting the customer I should be targeting and coming up with an offering that is really clear and easy to go in on. They helped me to get organized and helped me focus on developing one message that will go a long way.

What would you say to anyone who is considering entering this year’s Business Makeover Contest at QuickBooks Connect?

I would tell them, “Real people like you could be the winner.” I think a lot of people sign up with no confidence that they ever could win. When you do win, it could be a huge benefit to your company. Avalara wants to get to know you and your business so you can spend the prize money however it will best benefit your company. Whether that’s a website, or marketing advice, or getting your product on Amazon, or getting ranked on Google. There were very few limitations on what you could do with the money, which makes it very powerful and versatile.

Avalara is cosponsoring QuickBooks Connect 2017, and we’re giving QuickBooks users a chance to win a business makeover worth over $10,000. Tell us why you should be selected to win the makeover and explain your biggest marketing challenge for a chance to win the grand prize, one year of filing, and a spotlight on Avalara.com! Enter to win today!