Lightning launch program to support local small businesses

TAMPA — The Vinik Sports Group, which owns the Lightning and manages Amalie Arena, is launching a new grant program designed to help Tampa Bay area small businesses negatively impacted by the pandemic by providing them with marketing resources to boost their companies.

Each month from March through the end of the year, the Lightning will select one locally owned small business through its“Backing the Bay” program. The business will work with the Vinik Sports Group marketing team to create promotional items such as videos, written features, promotions, custom graphics and Lightning radio spots.

At least half of the businesses chosen will be minority, woman, veteran or LBGT-owned.

The first recipient is a St. Petersburg minority-and-female-owned small business named “Pop Goes the Waffle,” a food truck that sells hand-crafted waffle pops and liege-style waffles in sweet and savory varieties.

During the pandemic, founder Sara Fludd donated more than 5,000 waffles, despite her business facing an uncertain future.

Small business owners can apply starting today at There is a March 15 deadline for the months of May, June, July and August.

The marketing assets are worth up to $50,000, according to Vinik Sports Group, so the program’s total contribution over the next 10 months can be as much as $500,000.

This story will be updated.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieInTheYard.

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