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

Lela Barker

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.



About the Author

Lela Barker

Lela Barker hails from the deep-and-dirty south (ATL, represent!), where she spends her days helping makers and product designers navigate the pitfalls of product pricing, brand development, and wholesale strategy. She launched her apothecary brand in 2003 and bootstrapped the hell out of that little business to cultivate a portfolio of 1500+ stockists worldwide, generating $12million in revenue and establishing successful distributorships in the Middle East, EU, Scandinavia, and South Korea. Lela is the keeper of a well-worn passport and the maker of the finest lemon meringue pie you’ve ever put in your mouth.

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