Entrepreneurial Contests and Grants for Makers + Product Designers

Lela Barker

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!



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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