Meet GoldieBlox CEO Debbie Sterling, Winner Of Intuit's Super Bowl Ad Contest

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The winner of Intuit's "Small Business Big Game" Super Bowl ad contest has been revealed: GoldieBlox, a toy company whose mission is to inspire young girls to become future engineers. The lucky company will have a 30-second spot at the Super Bowl on Sunday.

GoldieBlox founder and CEO Debbie Sterling launched her startup in 2012 with the help of a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign. The company enjoyed a bit of notoriety this past fall when a YouTube video promotion for the company became the subject of a legal battle over the use of the Beastie Boys' song “Girls” (the lyrics were altered for the YouTube spot.)

Intuit, the maker of QuickBooks accounting software, partnered with “Apprentice” winner Bill Rancic for the contest. Rancic and Sterling are in New York City this week to celebrate GoldieBlox's big win, Though viewers will have to wait until Sunday to see the Super Bowl ad, the pair sat down with IBTimes to talk about the life-changing contest and what to expect from GoldieBlox moving forward.

IBT: So it looks like the contest has been a real success for everyone involved. Did it achieve what you were hoping for?

Bill Rancic: When we first talked about this idea -- it was Brad Smith, Intuit's CEO, myself and the whole Intuit team -- the goal was to celebrate and shine the spotlight on the small-business owner. And I think: mission accomplished. We've really gotten that conversation going, we've gotten some buzz around it, and people now will think twice when they're shopping on Saturday: “Is it a small business? Is it money that's going to be reinvested back into my community? And that's what this is all about.

A lot of people don't realize that small-business owners are the largest creator of jobs out there. And that's what our economy is based on -- people working. We tried to find people who were worthy and who embodied the essence of a small business. And the four finalists definitely all fit that criteria, and then America chose the one that they fell in love with. I think it's a double win because we're celebrating GoldieBlox but it's also a business that's inspiring and making social change.

IBT: Can you tell me a little bit more about the selection process and the timeline? How many entries were there and how was the winner ultimately selected?

Rancic: We had tens of thousands of entries. They were narrowed down by 8,000 Intuit employees all over the world, first to the final 20, and then the final four. And once it got down to the final four we turned it over to America.

The four finalists went on a tear: They become their own publicists ... they had to leave their comfort zone and get out there and talk about what they do. I think it was a great lesson for them, and they certainly got a tremendous amount of exposure.

IBT: Were the finalists given resources or were they on their own for the publicity blitz?

Rancic: They were on their own. Debbie can tell you better than I can...

Sterling: Oh yes, we were on our own ...

Rancic: We had to keep it fair.

IBT: When were the 20 finalists narrowed down to four?

Rancic: It was narrowed down to four on November 5th. I remember because I ran the New York Marathon and then got on a plane as soon as I crossed the finish line and went to the four cities [to bring the finalists the news.

IBT: You must have felt great ...

Sterling: Nobody noticed!

IBT: Were you like Ed McMahon with the giant check knocking on people's doors?

Rancic: Yeah! I really was. It was fun for me. It was exciting because I got to see the reactions ... What was really great about GoldieBlox was the way [Sterling's] employees reacted. That says a lot about how she's running her company. They were all crying and so happy for her. I think it was meant to be. It was just a perfect day.

IBT: It must have been right around the same time that there was a lot of publicity surrounding GoldieBlox because of the YouTube video that used the Beastie Boys song. Was there any kind of internal dialogue about one of the finalists getting so much exposure; whether it might tip the scales? Did you worry about maintaining a level playing field because voters might have recognized GoldieBlox over the other three finalists?

Rancic: That was something I didn't get involved in. Each finalist had their own plan that they wanted to go with, and that was it.

Sterling: We had conceptualized that video long before we even knew that we were in the top 20. So it wasn't at all related to the Intuit program. It was just a coincidence.

IBT: What can you tell me about the creative in the Super Bowl ad?

Sterling: I can't say too much, but I can tell you that it has a lot of girls in it, a lot of toys, a lot of energy, a lot of momentum, and what I love about it is that it really speaks to our mission. It's all about giving girls more options than what the “pink aisle” has to offer, and really encouraging an early interest in science and technology and engineering – making it cool and fun and relevant for kids, which is what we're all about. Intuit has been really generous in letting us be involved every step of the way.

It was a pretty cool experience: Intuit's advertising agency RPA produced the ad, and we got to act like a client at this big advertising agency. We flew out to L.A., we pitched this concept, we got to give feedback. It was really exciting.

Rancic: That's why I really applaud Brad Smith, the [Intuit] CEO. He wanted to make sure that whoever won was going to fit in. And when you watch that ad on Sunday, it belongs. It's not like a local car dealership who did it for five dollars. This is an ad that belongs at the Super Bowl; RPA has done Super Bowl ads before. It's going to be on a level playing field with the big beer companies and the auto makers and the soda companies. That was important.

IBT: I read a statistic that the Super Bowl attracts more female viewers by a long shot than any regular season NFL game. I wonder if that might have an impact on the success of your ad.

Sterling: It's a false perception that only men watch the Super Bowl. It's not true at all – so many women watch the Super Bowl. With GoldieBlox we've found that it resonates with so many people: moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and kids. I can't wait to see and hear what kids say about the commercial.

IBT: So the commercial is going to stay online after it premieres at the Super Bowl.

Rancic: Yes – this story doesn't begin until Monday.

IBT: What do you think is going to happen on Monday?

Rancic: No one knows, but I think after getting to know her a little bit better, I can tell Debbie is going to seize every opportunity that's out there, and I think it's going to be a life-changing event. I think it already has been to some extent. But I think we're going to see a business transform. I'm looking forward to you sitting down a year from now and hearing the story then. Because that's going to be magical.

IBT: Debbie, how many employees do you have now?

Sterling: A year ago I had two, today we have 15, and we're expecting to at least double this year.

Rancic: I think it's going to be more. I'm going on record in predicting that she'll have 50 employees this time next year.

[The above interview has been condensed and edited.]

Check out the Small Business Big Game website to learn more about GoldieBlox and the other three finalists.

Follow me on Twitter @EllenKilloran

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