The Best Business Books 2018 for Makers + Product Designers

I recently asked the Lucky Break community to chime in with their favorite business books.

  • Beloved books that are brimming with actionable advice.
  • Writing from authentic voices that skip the hype to deliver meaty advice.
  • The best business books that have truly helped propel them forward.

Several hundred of you answered my rallying cry (thank you!) and I wanted to share the best small business books that makers and product designers have found most helpful.




My sole aim here is to help you identify solid books that are a good investment of your time and energy, so there are no affiliate links in this list. Each book title  links to Powell’s, the largest independent bookstore in America. Yes, you’ll likely find them cheaper on Amazon… but you’d make me even happier if you hit up your local bookstore. *wink*


Author of cult classics The Pumpkin Plan and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur offers a simple, counter-intuitive cash management solution that will help small businesses break out of the doom spiral and achieve instant profitability.


It’s not how good you are. It’s how well you tell your story.

Big corporations might have huge marketing and advertising budgets but you’ve got a story. Your brand story isn’t just what you tell people. It’s what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The Fortune Cookie Principle is a brand building framework and communication strategy consisting of 20 keys that enable you to begin telling your brand’s story from the inside out. It’s the foundation upon which you can differentiate your brand and make emotional connections with the kind of clients and customers you want to serve.

The most successful brands in the world don’t behave like commodities and neither should you. A great brand story will make you stand out, increase brand awareness, create customer loyalty and power profits. Isn’t it time to gave your customers a story to tell? The Fortune Cookie Principle will show you how.


Book2    Book1     Book3


#LBCWantsToKnow >> May 2018: Productivity

Lucky Break - Productivity

Lucky Break - Productivity


A few months ago, I kicked off a new initiative designed to spark conversations and share resources within the Lucky Break Community.  Each month, I’m asking Lucky Break clients and social media followers to weigh in on a series of questions that revolve around a specific theme. In the month of May, we chatted about productivity.


Ever feel like you’re spinning 7,318 plates and there aren’t rough hours in the day? US, TOO, FRIEND! Read on to discover how to make we’re staying organized and aking the most of each day.!


What’s your best tip for keeping your inbox manageable?

The Lucky Break Community said:

standardwax: This is one of my favorite subjects in the whole wide world. I hope you’re ready for a novel because a clean inbox has lowered my anxiety by about 700%.

1. I don’t let anything sit in my inbox for more than a couple of days.

2. I strive for inbox zero at least once a week.

3. I delete or unsubscribe from crap I don’t even read IMMEDIATELY.

4. This one is the most important: when you’re going through your inbox (I do this first thing in the AM and then try to ignore email for the rest of the day, unless something urgent comes in): Every single message should either be responded to, added to a to-do list, deleted (if it’s marketing and you’ve already read/responded) or saved.

The added to my to-do list and saved are my favorites, because these are the things that tend to sit at the bottom of the email list and stress me out. Typically something will sit in your inbox because you don’t have the time to deal with it yet, or because you’re saving it to reference later. For the first, a to-do list is your friend (I love Wunderlist).

For the second, I love saving a PDF of the email and filing it where it belongs on my computer. For example “Retailer XX fulfillment instructions” doesn’t need to sit in my inbox so that I can see it easily. It can go into a folder on my computer for Retailer XX. I could go on and on but now I just want to sit down and deal with my inbox 👌🏽

Another game changer is a CRM of some kind. For sales-related emails that are stacking up in your inbox so you can remember to follow up with them – archive them and then enter them into a CRM (we use @pipedrivecrm) that will automatically remind you to follow up 👏🏼


kbshimmer: This is a subject I would love to read about. I am an email hoarder. I have 50,000+ emails in my inbox, even with some auto sorted into folders. Right now my phone shows 22,000+. Getting that down to a reasonable number seems daunting.


stellachroma: I loathe having notifications on my phone. That little red circle bothers the hell out of me. So I’ve gotten into the habit of sorting through emails every morning as soon as I get up. I have a lot of folders that I sort everything into (because it helps keep my brain organized) and can move them around later if need be. It’s just one of those stopping blocks – not even stumbling – that interferes with my day.


burlystone: I set up filters. All my stockists get a tag, all my e-courses get a tag, my personal contacts get a tag, etc. it breaks my mailbox up so it’s not one giant wall of spam, and makes it easier to process them. Oh, I still suck at keeping it clean, but it helps


zhibathandbody: I took on a policy similar to puff-puff-pass. 😆 I check – check – delete. My patience can no longer take having thousands of emails so I check email twice a day delete the junk on the second check every day. I limit myself to checking twice so that I no longer waste time checking email several times as I used too.


jupiterjonespinup: FOLDERS!!!! And auto labels. Taking time to set up filters is the best investment ever.


osmiaorganics: I use an app called Astro for iPhone and my Mac desktop. It keeps important emails in one folder and others in a different one. You can snooze messages, Star them, archive them, etc. It asks you once a month if you’d like to archive everything older than 30 days, and I always say YES! You can still search the archived messages, but they’re out of your inbox. It’s a nice interface that works well for my scattered brain!


What strategies or tools do you use to plan your day + keep it on track?

The Lucky Break Community said:

naturallymeandyou: I have a planner and it’s been a life saver. I use post it notes when my calendar gets full on my planner.


makermountainfabrics: My @golden.coil planner is a life-and-sanity saver! I have to use pen and paper to stop my brain from spinning. Then a combo of @plannthat and Buffer for my social media. Oh, and a wall calendar for the out of the ordinary activities that always come up.


urbanessencesalonspa I’m a Google girl! I use the calendar,, google tasks and Google keep for note taking and evernote.


modernmommydoc I feel like I switch it up all the time! Currently have a Google calendar with my appointments, and a hand-written to-do list for my tasks 🙂


Whew! I’m feeling inspired to tackle those to-do lists and implement some systems. How about you? Be sure to stop by the Lucky Break Instagram account, where this month we’ll be chatting about wholesale holiday outreach. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Search the #LBCWantstToKnow hashtag to weigh in!

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 3)

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


I’ve been working my way through a multi-part blog series aimed at helping you identify opportunities to infuse your business with cash, mingle with business titans, and score access to free training. I hope you’ll throw your hat into the ring for a few of these… Lucky Break clients have found themselves in the winner’s circle for several of them in the past and you could be next!


This is the third (and final) blog in the series. Missed the rest? I invite you to check out the first installment of my series of business competitions for makers and designers. The second installment can be found right here.


Lending Tree’s Small Business Grant

LendingTree offers one $50,000 grant, designed to help one small business achieve their business goals. The application process consists of 20 questions, collecting information on historical business performance, future plans, why the business deserves the $50,000 grant and how the grant money would enable future growth.


Applications: November – January


Prize: $50,000





SBA’s “InnovateHER” Women Business Challenge

SBA’s InnovateHER Business Challenge, the nationwide competition highlighting innovative products, services or technology developed by visionary entrepreneurs that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, and in the marketplace.


Applications: Local contests run January – June, and finalists are historically selected in October


Prize: Finalists compete for the three awards totaling $70,000 in prize money, provided by the Sara Blakely Foundation.





HSN’s American Dreams Academy

The Academy consists of two days of instructional, informational, and educational materials in the areas of manufacturing, legal, quality assurance, branding, marketing, pitching/presenting concepts, and social media. The Academy hosts an optional third day for entrepreneurs to present a product or idea to a panel of HSN experts. This third day will also be open to individuals who did not attend the Academy, but anyone who attended the Academy will be given preference.


The Product Pitch Session is merely an opportunity to receive feedback and have a product reviewed with no guarantee of an HSN commitment. However, HSN reserves the right to offer any participant in the Product Pitch Sessions, with an opportunity to bring his/her business to HSN, and to present his/her product to millions of households.



  • Individuals located in the United States who have developed or are in the process of developing a product or product line for retail.
  • Entrepreneurs who only have an idea are also welcome to submit an application.
  • Annual financial receipts for the product must not exceed $250,000.
  • Those who have attended a prior Academy are not eligible to apply or attend again
  • Must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Must be a U.S citizen or legal resident of the United States



Applications: The application window closed in November for the 2017 run… keep an eye on the site linked below for details about the next round!


Prize: A review committee will assess the applications to choose up to 100 applicants to attend the Academy. Entrepreneurs selected to attend the Academy will be responsible for their own travel, accommodations and all other related expenses to attend the Academy. There will be no other costs to attend.




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 2)


Cartier Women’s Initiative

The Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards are an international business plan competition created in 2006 by Cartier, INSEAD Business School, McKinsey & Company and former partner the Women’s Forum for the Economy & Society to identify, support and encourage projects led by women entrepreneurs. Six women entrepreneurs, one Laureate per continent (Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, Asia-Pacific) are awarded every year.


Applications: The application period opens in May 2018, with winners announced the following February.


The six Laureates receive:
• US $100,000 in prize money
• A place on the INSEAD Social Entrepreneurship 6-Day Executive Programme (ISEP)
• Business mentoring
• Media exposure
• Networking opportunities




Independent We Stand “The Indie” Awards

Independent We Stand created the Independent Small Business of the Year Award or “Indie” to help recognize a locally-owned small business that has gone above and beyond to deliver great customer service and community support. Anyone is eligible to make a nomination including business owners and employees, though you must have a brick + mortar store.


Applications: In 2017, applications were accepted September through November. Stay tuned to the link below for more information about the process for applying in 2018.


Prize: The grand prize package includes a marketing makeover, $5,000 cash, $1,000 for your favorite small business organizations, a $1,000 STIHL equipment certificate, a 12-month subscription and three months of free managed marketing services from SnapRetail and more.




Halstead Bead’s Business Development Grant

Each summer, Halstead awards a grant to a new jewelry designer working primarily in silver. Applicants for the Halstead Grant must submit a jewelry collection along with answers to 15 questions that form the basis of a business plan.


Applications: Typically due by August 1st


Prizes: The top five finalists receive $500, the next five receive $250, and all finalists receive trophies. The Grand Prize Winner receives $7,500, plus $1,000 worth of jewelry supplies from Halstead Inc.




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 2)



These are a few of my favorites, though they seem to be in state of suspended animation at the moment. I absolutely believe they’re worth a mention… and a watch. Why not set up a free Google Alert so you’ll be the first to know if/when they’re resurrected?


  • Martha Stewart’s “American Made” >>  Past winners scored a spread in Martha’s magazine, a trip to NYC, and $10k.


  • Etsy Wholesale’s Open Call >> Finalists enjoyed free training at Etsy’s NYC offices, plus an opportunity to pitch directly to a collective of key, heavy-hitting national store buyers.


  • UPS National Pitch-Off >> How does $10,000 sound?


  • On Deck’s “Seal of Approval” >> Love Barbara Corcoran? The 2017 winner landed a one-on-one co0aching session with her, plus a cool $10,000.


  • Miller Lite’s “Tap the Future” Contest >> The 2017 winner snagged a $100,000 prize.



Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 2)

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


I recently launched a multi-part blog series aimed at helping you identify opportunities to infuse your business with cash, mingle with business titans, and score access to free training. I hope you’ll throw your hat into the ring for a few of these… Lucky Break clients have found themselves in the winner’s circle for several of them in the past and you could be next!


Missed part one of this series? Click here to access the first installment of my series of business contents for makers and designers. And the series continues with part three


Sephora’s “Accelerate” program

Sephora is looking for female founders of early-stage beauty businesses to become a part of their annual cohort of Sephora Accelerate fellows. They’re looking for the following criteria:

  • Vision: Do you have the passion needed to make your business successful?


  • Innovation: Are you solving a specific need that is not yet served by an existing company?


  • Product: Do you have a working prototype or product sample that has been iterated on at least once to incorporate user feedback?


  • Plan: Do you have a business model or a strategy to grow your company?


  • Social Impact: Are you eager to incorporate social impact into your business mission (if you haven’t already)?


Applications: Usually close in the fall and winners are announced in early spring.


Prize: Cohort members receive one-on-one mentoring from beauty industry leaders and Sephora leaders. In addition to two all-expense paid trips to San Francisco for program events, winners receive a monetary grant and may be eligible for additional funding.




Lilla Rodgers Global Talent Search

Each year, agent Lilla Rogers looks for the freshest talent in the art industry. She runs a respected illustration agency representing some of the very best artists internationally. Lilia and her team license and sell work for surface design, and they accept commissions for editorial, graphic design, corporate and advertising clients.


Applications: After a hiatus in 2017, the search is poised to return in 2018.  During the last run, registration opened in July.


Prize: International representation by Lilla Rogers Studio and dozens of licensing and publishing contracts.




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 2)


Shopify’s “Build a Business” competition

Come up with a product, open a Shopify store, enter the competition – then start selling. At the end of the competition, the five stores that sell the most over a two-month period will win “the trip of a lifetime.”


Applications: Previous years saw registration run September through March. The competition typically runs in April and May.


Prizes: Previous winners received…

  • A private jet to Necker Island, where you’ll spend five days alongside your fellow winners and mentors.


  • Complimentary meals, drinks, water sports, tennis, pools and a jacuzzi for your enjoyment at Necker Island.


  • The opportunity to gain mentorship and insight from each of our renowned mentors.


  • An intimate group seminar led by acclaimed entrepreneur Seth Godin.


  • Mentorship by Richard Branson, Marie Forleo, Daymond John




StreetShares Foundation grant program

StreetShares goal is to create more opportunities for veteran-owned small businesses is central to providing an awards program for those extraordinary business owners. Apply by writing a 300-word summary of your business and submitting a short video about your product, company or telling us why you should win.


  • Applicant must be a veteran, reserve or active duty member of any of the United States Armed Forces, OR a spouse of a military member or veteran.


  • Applicant must be a U.S. person and at least 21 years old.


  • Applicant’s business must be a legal entity (sole proprietorship or legally incorporated LLC, S-Corp, or C-Corp or formal partnership) under the laws of any U.S. jurisdiction or a legal 501(c)(3) nonprofit.


  • Applicant must own at least 50 percent of the business.


Applications: In years past, the application deadline was in September and the voting occurred in the month of October.


Prizes: 1st Place: $5,000

2nd Place: $3,000

3rd Place: $2,000




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers (Part 2)


The Workshop at Macy’s

The Workshop at Macy’s is an unparalleled and unprecedented opportunity to learn how to scale your business sustainably and effectively for working long-term with a major retailer. This free program for highly qualified and carefully chosen participants provides a world-class toolkit for business growth and development.


Applications: Applications for the 2018 run were due at the end of January. Keep an eye on this contest very early in the year!


Prizes: Top participants in The Workshop at Macy’s will receive additional coaching and support from the Macy’s team, as we collaborate with you on the opportunity to scale your business to the point where you could become a sustainable, successful vendor with a major retailer like Macy’s.





Do you know of a great competition for makers and product designers? If so, I’d love to hear about it. Please drop a comment below!


Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers

Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


Virtually every creative entrepreneur that I’ve ever worked alongside could benefit from an infusion of cash, fame, and free training. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy a bit of all-of-the-above?


Lucky Break clients have an awesome track record of winning business competitions designed especially for makers and product designers. Want a few examples?


  • Zandra Cunningham of Zandra Beauty was named Nickelodeon’s Entrepreneur of the Year. She also scored a $15,000 prize in the 43North business plan competition as the grand prize winner.  And she took home a golden purchase order from Paper Source in Etsy’s national Open Call program.


  • Stacia Guzzo of Handcrafted HoneyBee took home a tidy $5,000 in Intuit’s business competition. She placed second nationally in the popular vote for Martha Stewart’s American Made competition, and was invited to Etsy’s Open Call finals in NYC.


  • Nicole O’Brien of Unique PL8Z was selected as one of 25 entrepreneurs nationally by Inc. Magazine for their Military Entrepreneurship Program, scoring her a free trip and lots of complimentary training.


And those are just a few of the accolades that we’ve been lucky to help them celebrate. I love the power that business competitions hold to boost confidence, build awareness, foster networking, and infuse cash into your business. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite entrepreneur grants and contests, with details on prices, application periods, and qualification criteria. I hope you’ll dive into part one and throw your hat into the ring for a few of these!



SCORE’s American Small Business Championship

If you’ve already been a SCORE client, your business may win one of eleven SCORE Awards and be invited to the SCORE Awards Gala. Entrants must submit a video or a photo with a written response answering the question put forth. Entrants will also need to get at least 100 votes during public voting to be eligible to win. Winners will be based on public voting and judging by small business experts.


Applications Accepted: January – February of each year… the 2018 run has closed, but stay tuned to their website for announcements about upcoming events!


Prizes: Three (3) $25,000 Grand Prizes, 102 $1,000 Gift Cards from Sam’s Club, Trip to Championship Training & Networking Celebration and 2017 SCORE Awards, One Full-Year of SCORE Mentoring to Grow Your Business




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


FedEx’s Small Business Grant

FedEx invites you to create a video that tells the unique story of your small business: how you got started, your philosophy and goals, and what a grant could help you accomplish. If your entry is accepted, your profile will become public in the contest gallery and available for public voting.


Submissions open: March 28, 2018.


Prizes: 1 grand prize grant of $25,000, 1 grant of $15,000, 8 grants of $7,500 (plus thousands of dollars in FedEx print + business services)





Designed for women entrepreneurs, the Tory Burch Fellows Program provides a community of support help you connect, learn, and grow your business.


Applicants must meet the following criteria:

• A woman entrepreneur who owns a majority stake in a qualifying business and manages it on a day-to-day basis

• 21 years or older as of application due date

• Proficient in English

• A legal resident of the United States

• For-profit, from any industry

• Early stage (one to five years of operations)

• Generating revenues (minimum of $25,000 and maximum of $500,000 annually)

• Formed under United States law and operating in the United States


Applications Open: In the fall of each year… stay tuned to their website for more details!


Prizes Include:

• A trip to Tory Burch Headquarters, 3 days of workshops and networking with the most innovative founders and business experts.

• 1-Year Fellowship: Yearlong support from the Tory Burch Foundation.

• $10,000 Grant: Advance your business education.

• $100,000 Grant Investment: Opportunity to pitch your business to Tory and a panel of industry leaders as they determine one winner of the grant investment.




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


Eileen Fisher’s Women-Owned Businesses Grant

In support of her vision of women entrepreneurs as creators of change, EILEEN FISHER Women-Owned Business Grant Program awards up to 10 grants to women entrepreneurs who believe that business can be used to create social and environmental change.


Applicants must meet the following criteria:

• Majority women-owned and women-led (majority defined as minimum 51%)*

• In operation for a minimum of three years at time of application and able to provide accompanying financials

• Revenues not exceeding $1 million in year prior to application

• Business founded on creating environmental and social change

• Fluency in English


Applications Accepted: The 2017 run was open throughout April + May. The website states that the 2018 program will open in Spring of 2018.


Prizes: $100,000 in grants are awarded for up to 10 grant recipients (minimum grant $10,000) on an annual basis. In addition, grant recipients are invited to New York City in the spring following their award for two days of learning and celebration with the EILEEN FISHER community.





Inc. Magazine’s Military Entrepreneur Program

Inc. Magazine launched the Military Entrepreneurs Program to educate and mentor service members and their families about entrepreneurship. The program helps veterans, service members, and their families start, grow and run their own businesses through mentoring, education, networking, resources and information provided through Inc.’s special events and business conferences.


The Program hosts a Mentor Fair at the annual Inc. 5000 conference that provides mentoring by a wide and diverse group of CEOs on the Inc. 5000 list. The CEOs offer business insights, answer questions and provide feedback to active duty, veteran service members, and their spouses.


Application Deadline: Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis.


Prizes: 25 military entrepreneurs will be selected as Special Delegates to the Inc. 5000 Conference & GrowCo, with full access to the conferences, educational sessions, keynote speakers, networking opportunities and special events. A special feature is paired mentoring with Inc. 5000 CEOs.




Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers


Girlboss Foundation Grant

Biannual grants are made in support of female creative business owners in the worlds of design, fashion, music, and the arts. The committee reviews all applications submitted within the period and judges each project based on the following criteria:

• Demonstrates creativity + innovation in the specific field (30%)
• Demonstrates business acumen + forward planning (30%)
• Demonstrates financial need (30%)
• Proposed timing, work plan, and budget are clear, detailed, and achievable within the next 12 months (10%)


Applications Accepted: There were two application periods in 2017. We’re still waiting on news for the 2018 rub, but it’s worth keeping an eye on their website for details!


Prizes: The GIRLBOSS® Foundation awards one grant biannually to female entrepreneurs pursuing creative endeavors. Each grant beneficiary will receive project funding of $15,000, in addition to exposure through the GIRLBOSS® digital channels.




This post was just the beginning! I have more small business competitions and grants for you in part two of this series. And there’s a part three, too!