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Most people wouldn't think of the bakery business as an innovative industry, but don't tell that to Mark Isreal. The founder of the Doughnut Plant, a popular New York-based pastry shop, has been creating delicious doughnuts since 1994, but he didn't become a success overnight. He's spent years perfecting his craft and developing doughnuts that can't be found anywhere else.
"When I started off it was like a vast uncharted territory," he said in a video created by Ink, the business credit card from Chase. "I wasn't interested in doing something that had been done before, I was more interested in what I could do that would express myself and be original."
As his doughnut business started to expand, so too did the competition. Over the last few years, more bakeries and doughnut stores have popped up - many of which started selling handcrafted pastries similar to Isreal's. While he always innovated with new flavors, last year he felt he needed to do something more substantial.
He wanted to create a "new kind of doughnut," he says, but just like with any business, innovation is expensive. To create The Ripple, which is three doughnuts in one, he had to buy new equipment and ingredients. He didn't spend company profits, though. Instead he used 80,000 credit card reward points from his Chase Ink business card to fund his innovation, including 1,499 on pizza cutters, 52,000 on dough cutters, 9,525 on flour and 6,863 on sugar.
Typically, rewards are redeemed for travel, hotels, car rentals and gift cards, but more entrepreneurs are using points to invest back in their business, whether that's creating a new revenue-boosting product or converting points into cash to use on research and development, says Jeff Hofmann, general manager of Chase Ink business credit cards.
"Business owners are starting to use their business credit card reward points as an innovation engine to take their business to the next level," says Hofmann. "It's going from using points to take a trip to entrepreneurs saying, 'how can I get more creative and use these rewards to really help grow my business.'"
Isreal is a perfect example of how a business owner can turn points into growth. People went nuts for the unusual pastry. Thanks to Instagram, photos of his concoction went viral and his story was featured on Today.com, among other sites. "He invested those points to come up with the next great doughnut idea for New York City," says Hofmann. "It took off and he was able to grow revenues."
While many business owners use points to get traditional things like gift cards, flights and car rentals, other business owners, as Isreal demonstrated, are extremely creative with the way their rewards can pay off.
It's not always about being creative. Smart business owners are also being more strategic with the ways they redeem points.
For instance, if you run a seasonal business you may want to use points to buy equipment or pay for travel in the summer when cash may be tighter. Or maybe you need an expensive tool and know that in two months you'll be able to convert enough points to cash back to cover the cost.
Ultimately, companies should be keeping a closer eye on their rewards and thinking about novel ways to use them.
"Small business owners know they need to be innovative," says Hofmann. "And now they can use reward points to really transform their business."
Learn more about Chase Ink small business credit cards.