Clients frequently visit our SBDC in search of grants to help fund their small businesses. The reality of grants, however, is they’re very specific and extremely fleeting. Grants in Iowa are typically reserved for non-profits and agricultural purposes, and the old idiom, “here today, gone tomorrow,” definitely holds true. Fortunately, many small business contests — both regional and national — cycle throughout the year, serving as a viable alternative for current and prospective entrepreneurs.
Aside from the prospect of winning money to catapult your small business to the next level, these contests are worth entering for their intrinsic marketing value. Even if you don’t win, contests help get your name out there, keep your company relevant, introduce your products and services to otherwise untapped markets, and create an excellent framework for building your marketing strategy.
We’ve compiled a list of contests and competitions available for Winter 2015, and will update the list as more contests open throughout the new year. Many of the contests on this list have fast-approaching deadlines, so if you feel any prove a good fit for your business, don’t delay in applying!
1) Cupid’s Cup Deadline: January 5, 2015 Prize: $100,000+ total Cupid’s Cup is a business competition aimed at identifying and rewarding young entrepreneurs who possess the drive and conviction to take risks and start businesses at a young age. Participants create a video pitching their concept. Finalists then pitch live in front of a panel of industry leading entrepreneurs, competing for grand prizes. To enter, the business must be a legal entity and must have generated at least $5,000 in revenue or possess proven traction. Any individual who is 30 years old or younger and a current student or alumni of an accredited college or university may enter. 2) Dream Big, Grow Here Opens: January 1, 2015 Prize: $40,000+ total Dream Big, Grow Here is a statewide contest for entrepreneurs in Iowa. Money is awarded to help small business owners fulfill their dreams of self-employment or to expand their current firms. Entrants, competing by industry, upload a pitch video and compete online for votes. A $5,000 prize is awarded per industry, and winners from each industry then compete head-to-head to win a $10,000 grand prize at this year’s EntreFest in Iowa City. 3) DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year Deadline: February 2, 2015 Prize: $10,000 grand prize The DREAM BIG Small Business of the Year contest recognizes and rewards over 100 small businesses with unique stories to tell. Entrants are judged based on their business strategies and goals; staff training and motivation; customer service; and community involvement. To enter, your business must have fewer than 250 employees and gross revenues less than $20 million. You can be nominated for free or pay to apply – both available on the DREAM BIG website. The grand prize winner receives $10,000.
4) FedEx Small Business Grant Contest Deadline: February 12, 2015 Prize: $75,000 total The FedEx Small Business Grant Contest awards 10 small businesses with grants up to $25,000. Any for-profit small business in operation for more than 6 months is eligible to enter. Sign up for the contest, upload 4 images and your company logo, answer a few questions, and create a “pitch” for your company. You then promote yourself and solicit votes through your social media accounts. A selection committee chooses winners based upon number of votes received and other criteria.
5) Shopify Build a Business Competition Deadline: March 31, 2015 Prize: 5-day mentorship excursion with Richard Branson and other world-renowned entrepreneurs Shopify’s Build a Business Competition awards 5 small businesses with a private jet trip to Richard Branson’s Necker Island. During this 5-day excursion, winners receive mentoring and professional development from Branson and other world-renowned entrepreneurs. Develop a product, open a Shopify store, enter the competition, and start selling. The five stores that sell the most over a two-month period win. Any Shopify store opened after June 1, 2014, may enter the competition.
6) The American Small Business Championship Deadline: February 6, 2015 Prize: $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, expense-paid trip to a regional symposium, and SCORE mentoring for one year The American Small Business Championship rewards 102 entrepreneurs nationwide for sacrifices made to make their small businesses successful. To enter, you must apply on the website above, providing basic information about your business as well as uploading (in video or photo format) a response to the question, “What sacrifice have you made to help your business succeed?” You also must solicit 100+ online votes for eligibility to win. Two businesses from each state will win the grand prizes.
If you are in the Southwest Iowa area, our SBDC is happy to guide you through the application process and answer any questions you may have. Feel free to share your comments below, or give us a call at (712) 325-3376.
The Iowa Western Small Business Development Center is a free resource for small businesses and start-ups. We serve seven counties in Southwest Iowa — including Cass, Fremont, Harrison, Mills, Page, Pottawattamie, and Shelby — and provide free counseling services to help businesses start, grow, and prosper.
(Image credit: Brad.K / Flickr)