While many of us have heard of an elevator pitch, few have had the chance to ride 24 floors up an iconic Chicago building to sell an idea to one of the best-known business gurus in the country.
In each of the 15-minute episodes posted to The UPS Store's YouTube channel, three small business owners present their elevator pitches to Mr. Lemonis, who can interrupt them at any time with questions or comments. Once the elevator reaches the top floor, the time is up. One winner, who will receive a $10,000 prize from The UPS Store, is selected from each episode.
"You expect you're going to give your spiel, but [Mr. Lemonis] talked back, and you sort of just had to go with the flow and roll with it," said Melissa Yen, 50, a contestant and owner of the Chicago-based craft syrup company Jo Snow Syrups. "It was an amazing experience."
A survey by The UPS Store of business owners found that only 30% had an elevator pitch ready, which motivated company staff to consider a miniseries on this topic.
"You need to be ready to sell your business or at least articulate it clearly and be prepared," said Chelsea Lee, director of public relations and social media for The UPS Store. "We saw that as a need."
The miniseries is a partnership between Mr. Lemonis and The UPS Store, an effort to reach out to the company's small business customer base.
"We try to be the resource center for all things small business," said Ms. Lee. "Whether that's products or services but also educational content where you can have an expert talking about an elevator pitch, or how to market your business or getting tips that have some value -- and that's why we decided to align with him."
The company refocused its branding efforts on small business customers in 2012, after its analysis of customer data concluded that small business clients were its most valuable customer segment, Ms. Lee said. In 2015, the company launched the "United Problem Solvers" campaign created by Ogilvy & Mather that emphasized small business services, including logistics and supply-chain solutions.
The UPS Store's relationship with Mr. Lemonis developed earlier this year, and in May 2016, the company launched a week-long "Small Business Salute" campaign that included live business idea pitching competitions before a judges' panel that included Mr. Lemonis.
The agency decided to post episodes on YouTube to engage existing customers through social media and build new networks, said Karen Mawhinney, managing director of Erwin Penland, the creative agency that developed the miniseries. "The Elevator Pitch" will be promoted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Despite being a marketing tool for The UPS Store, the miniseries does not include any ads. It follows a reality TV format that includes clips of the elevator pitching sessions and reactions from Mr. Lemonis and contestants. Brand placement is restricted to the miniseries' name and the award presentation ceremony.
"We didn't want it to feel like a commercial," said Ms. Mawhinney. "We wanted people to feel they were getting something meaningful and purposeful out of it."