May 5, 2011 02:45
New Jersey brothers traveling the country to promote small businesses were taken aback by Lafayette's small business support. Brothers Walter and Patrick Hessert, the brains behind The Million Dollar Road Trip Airstream that spent days parked downtown during Festival International and highlighted local small business success stories, have nominated three Lafayette small business owners for their next Inspiration Grant.

The Hessert brothers have been traveling the country for 10 months to hear the stories of small business owners, all part of a new business venture that sells ad space on a bright blue Airstream and in turn provides multi-media business marketing through the Airstream and the Million Dollar Road Trip website.

In addition to funding the road trip, the ad sales on the Airstream also fund the brothers' Inspiration Grants, given to business owners who share "epic stories" and launch bold enterprises. For the current grant cycle, three out of four nominees are from Lafayette, which confirms that the brothers were sincere when they said in a recent Independent blog they were "swept off their feet by the energy" here.

"We are so impressed by the support within Lafayette's small business community," Walter Hessert says in an email Thursday. "My brother and I love your town!"

The three local grant nominees are Chris Stafford of Feufollet, who recently began leasing space for a recording studio; Will Atkinson, owner of Recycled Cycles of Acadiana, and Jennifer Melancon, Sophi P. Cakes bakery founder and owner.

The cash grant is awarded to the nominee who garners the most online votes. Feufollet's Stafford has a solid lead as of Thursday morning, with four days of voting left before the winner is selected. Voting closes at 5 p.m. Sunday. Read more about the local grant nominees and pick your favorite here.

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