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Entering to Win Small Business Awards: Give Your Business the Award Advantage

Entering to Win Small-Business Awards: Give Your Business the Award Advantage

For a young, small business or startup, distinguishing yourself from the competition can be a challenge. As a new business, gaining credibility and market share can be an uphill battle when you don’t have a track record going back years showing that you deliver on what you promise.

Winning a small business award or entrepreneurial award can be a good way to set yourself apart. An award can help you win credibility and recognition, raise your team’s spirits, and allow you to network with other award winners. Awards can also come with cash prizes, free entry to workshops and conventions, and press opportunities that give you valuable mentions in publications you would usually not have a chance with. A study done on American businesses by the British Quality Foundation ( finds that award-winning businesses go on to increase their sales by nearly 40 percent when compared to non-winners and to improve their operating income by more than 60 percent. Winning a business award can bring great results. You can only win if you apply and enter, however.

How do you choose which award opportunities to apply to?

Many organizations present industry-specific awards to businesses and entrepreneurs. Applying willy-nilly to every award you learn about can stretch your resources too thin. It makes sense to pick a handful of awards that best fit your business and apply to those. 

You need to decide whether you want to apply to a local, regional, or national award, as well. The kind of award that you apply to determines the kind of competition pool that you face. Usually, local award opportunities are put together by the local Chamber of Commerce. Professional organizations, banks, lenders, and publications hand out small business awards, as well.

Keeping a few important details in mind while applying

Most awards programs accept online entries. The SBA is the exception – you need to mail in or hand-deliver a hard copy of your application, in order to enter. Whatever method you use to enter an awards program, saving a copy for your records would make sense. When you need to enter a different program or enter the same program the following year, you can use your copy as a jumping-off point to create a new application.

When you try to decide which awards to apply to, it can help to look to your competition to find out what awards they’ve won in the past. Applying to those same awards and winning them can instantly make you look better than the competition, and bring you credibility.

Organizations in your industry, region, state, and nation recognize entrepreneurs with different kinds of achievement awards. There is a comprehensive list of small-business awards on the Fundera website that you can start out with. The annual U.S. Small Business Administration Awards are a possibility, as well.

How do you qualify for an award?

Organizations that issue awards look at different kinds of qualifying criteria. Some organizations require businesses in the running for an award to accumulate a certain number of online votes before they are considered. Others require that entrants write an application essay, shoot an application video, or prepare a press kit to submit to the judges.

While some awards are free, most require payment of an application fee. Before you spend time, effort, and application money on entering an award contest, it makes sense to study it carefully to determine if you have a fighting chance. A look at the kind of businesses that have won an award in the past can tell you if a contest is right for you.

Every organization granting awards, no matter what their size or submission criteria, tends to ask applicants a few common questions. They ask applicants 

  • What makes them unique
  • If they have grown faster than similar companies,
  • If they contribute to their community in a special way,
  • If they belong to an underrepresented demographic
  • If they do something with their business that isn’t commonly done

When you have a unique story to tell, you’re more likely to win.

Applying to an awards program requires considerable preparation. You need to get organized, note down the different application deadlines for different programs, collect the information needed, and prepare your essay and other materials. Judging tends to be strict at these events, so you must put in your best effort.

Should you win, it’s important to express how humbled you are, and to make sure that you don’t come off as proud. You wouldn’t want to tarnish your win by appearing to brag. You can post information about the win on your website, your brochures, and newsletters, but, in general, tread lightly, rather than making a big deal of it. It’ll help boost your profile among the competition, bring new networking opportunities your way, help attract talent to work for your company and help employee morale.

Winning an award can be an excellent way to boost prospects for your business, overall. While it can take considerable effort to keep track of the different opportunities, prepare thorough applications, and send them in, the benefits to your business can be substantial.
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