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The Hartford has a deep and authentic commitment to supporting local small businesses. To learn more about the company’s efforts, MetroHarford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke with Steve Jones, Chief Marketing Officer, Small Commercial at The Hartford.

NAN PRICE: Tell us about your company’s role in the community and its relationship with local small businesses.

STEVE JONES: When our employees leave the building every day, whether we’re stepping out for lunch and errands or returning to our homes in Hartford and the surrounding areas, you can’t help but see how important small businesses are in our surrounding community. From retail shops to coffee shops, restaurants, and cafés to barber shops and beauty salons, these small businesses are what makes up our community.

People who work for The Hartford feel the need to support these businesses in our core. That leads to several initiatives we do within the community.

NAN: Give us some examples.

STEVE: With Hartford Taste, which took place in June, we decided we wanted to engage in a way that really impacted small businesses. Rather than just sponsoring the event and having our logo in places, we thought long and hard about what matters most to businesses participating in this type of event. We ended up paying their entry fees. So, none of the businesses, whether they were a customer at The Hartford or not, had to pay to participate in Hartford Taste. We got feedback from a lot of businesses telling us how much that mattered.

We also had a big presence at Hartford Taste with a bunch of volunteers. It was an awesome couple of days because our volunteers got to engage with and support all these local businesses. It makes us feel good as people, and it’s very important to The Hartford.

Also, one of the most interesting ways The Hartford supports small businesses in the community is through HartMobs, which is a way of raising awareness about and rallying to support local small businesses. The initiative started about 11 years ago. It was the brainchild of a few employees; it didn’t come from corporate.

The Hartford is the kind of place where people really want to give. Some of our employees decided in their free time to go local businesses and support them with their time and their money. They organized big groups to frequent a small business and make purchases.

HartMobs was born out of that spirit of giving and supporting. When The Hartford decided to put some oomph behind it, we didn’t want to drain its soul. We didn’t want to make it feel like it was a corporate mandate. We wanted it to feel authentic—and our employees have lived up to that.

So, while we provide some structure, organization, and ability to find and connect with small business owners, our employees are still the ones who drive HartMobs. That happens all the time in Hartford, in towns throughout Connecticut, and across the country.

Sometimes HartMobs are big events, sometimes it’s an online blitz where we’ll feature one of our customers and encourage our employees to make purchases online.

NAN: Were the online HartMobs a way of pivoting during the pandemic?

STEVE: For us, one of the good things that came out of the pandemic were opportunities to think differently about how we could support our customers and small businesses. We provided a lot of online support. For example, we had our small businesses join big online meetings to share their stories. And then we would encourage our employees to go and support those businesses. We also started featuring small business owners in our social media with the goal of having people who follow us become aware of small business and choose to support them.

Another way that we support small businesses is through Small Biz Ahead, our weekly online newsletter and blog. We provide small business advice from experts and feature one of our small business owners. It’s a way for the more than one million people who receive that newsletter to see, learn, and hopefully support these small businesses.

Also, if The Hartford hosts a big town hall meeting, we’ll purchase products from some of our small business owners and use them as giveaways for our employees. And our support isn’t limited to just The Hartford customers when we’re doing these things. It’s easier for us to connect with some of the businesses who are our customers, but it’s not the only way.

NAN: What do you enjoy most about being involved with the small business community?

STEVE: When you’re an employee in a company the size of The Hartford, you’re looking for meaning in what you do. The efforts we make are authentic; they come from a real place of our employees wanting to support small businesses. And it’s not just in Small Commercial, which is the division that supports small businesses. It’s in our personal lives, it’s in our group benefits, it’s in our middle market groups. Everyone here wants our local small businesses community to succeed.

I’ve been at The Hartford for 23 years and I think you stay at a company for a lot of reasons. Among them is if the company authentically shows its commitment to its community. I think that’s becoming more and more important. The Hartford has been that kind of company for me for 23 years and many other employees here feel that impact too.

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Photo caption: Diane Wagemann, Owner of Divine Treasures (left) and Stephanie Bush, Head of Small Commercial at The Hartford (right). Divine Treasure, a specialty chocolate shop in Manchester, helped The Hartford open its small business pop-up shop inside its corporate headquarters in Hartford.