Enthusiastic small business owners and contests go together like peanut butter and jelly. Similarly, entrepreneurs are always looking for new sources of funding and building their networks. Lots of these boxes can be checked off when you enter a startup or business competition.
By the way, although many entrepreneurial and small business contests have only one or two winners, the connections the entrants make and the exposure they get can be worth more than the cash prize that goes to the grand prize winner.
Often the entrepreneurs who walk away with mere participant ribbons end up being more successful than the contest winners. Further, entering a small business or startup contest the first time helps you sharpen your business plan and better understand what it takes to be a winner – in the contest world and in the actual business world.
With a few exceptions – which I’ll get to in just a moment – most of the 2016 contests start taking applications in January. However, the practical way to approach contest entries is to size them up early and start planning which best suit your situation. With that thought, I’m going to share a list of recent contests so you can study them and see if any warrant further study and planning as the 2016 approaches.
But before I give you the list of contests to check out for the future, let me mention one cool regional contest that you can enter right now…if you’re a Business Council of Alabama member: The Small Business Game Changer 2016.
Registration just opened and runs until Jan. 29, 2016. The winner will get promoted at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium and mentioned during Crimson Tide football radio broadcasts for the entire 2016 regular season. If that’s not enough, ’Bama fans, you get two season tickets and free parking.
The following list starts with a few programs that are already accepting or close to accepting applications. One of those, Y Combinator, puts two groups of startups through its program each year. I know there are other accelerators, as well as state and local programs, so if you don’t find what you need here, keep looking and talk to local entrepreneurs.
Finally, speaking of local and regional competitions, you’ll note that several on this list are associated with universities. These are usually open to both students and alumni.