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Best Small Business Awards

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Running a small business is enough work as it is, so why would you add more to your plate by entering competitions?

How awards can help small business

These accolades are not just about prestige and a decal to put on your storefront or website. This type of exposure can lead to national publicity and networking opportunities at awards banquets and other events — not to mention that some awards offer cash prizes with which you can grow your business.

Check out the major small business awards programs and some that honor specific types of entrepreneurs. To find more options, investigate your area’s Chamber of Commerce awards and look into other awards from organizations related to your industry.

American Small Business Championship/SCORE Awards

These are two competitions you can enter from the same website. To enter the American Small Business Championship, you must submit a brief video or written case regarding why your business stands out in your community. Those businesses that get 100 or more votes from the public during the voting period are eligible to enter, and three prizewinners are awarded $15,000 each.

Businesses owners who have worked with a SCORE mentor in the past year can enter the SCORE contest by writing about how the organization has helped your small business and answering some questions about your company’s success and growth.

Cost: Free

Best for: Currently, 102 diverse businesses — from a pet bakery to a podcast radio team to a company that emboldens women to go on adventures — are represented as champions in the American Small Business Championship. The SCORE contest is limited to businesses that have recently worked with a SCORE mentor.


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U.S. Small Business Administration National and State Small Business Week Awards

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s National Small Business Awards are part of National Small Business Week, a tradition that’s been in place for more than half a century. The impressive list of past winners includes Ben and Jerry’s, Callaway Golf, Chobani, Pacifica, Dogfish Head, Stonyfield Farm and Tom’s of Maine. All of the SBA’s regional offices also issue their own awards. For example, Hawaii’s 2018 awards included those for “Small Business Person of the Year” as well as “Exporter of the Year” and “Family-Owned Small Business of the Year.” Businesses enter by nomination, and you can nominate your own company.

Cost: Free

Best for: The national awards include categories that honor notable disaster-recovery businesses, outstanding small business exporters, government contractors and subcontractors, investment companies, and veteran- and women-owned businesses.

Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

This comprehensive, global awards program offers winners prestige, elevated brand awareness, and networking potential via exposure and access to entrepreneurs, sponsors, judges and guests. The program begins at the regional level, and all regional nominees are invited to attend the annual, national Strategic Growth Forum. The 2017 overall winner was the self-funded company TESARO, which develops new oncology therapies for cancer patients.

The U.S. national winner competes for the World Entrepreneur of the Year title. Ernst & Young also has a separate program honoring women business owners: Entrepreneurial Winning Women.

Cost: Free

Best for: This is an option for companies of all types that have been in business at least three years.

Dream Big Awards

The Dream Big Awards from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce offers a $25,000 grand prize to an innovative small business that gives back to its community and has fewer than 250 employees or less than $20 million in gross receipts in 2016 and 2017.

Cost: Free

Best for: In addition to the Small Business of the Year award, Dream Big Awards other categories include green and sustainable, minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses, as well as young entrepreneurs and companies that demonstrate outstanding community involvement.

American Business Awards

The Stevie Awards consist of seven award programs held around the world. For stateside businesses of all sizes, there’s the American Business Awards — and there is also the Stevie Awards for Women in Business as well as an awards program dedicated to sales and customer service. In 2018, more than 200 judges scored 3,700 nominees for the ABAs, and the awards gala in May was broadcast via livestream. Winners receive a prestigious trophy that’s finished in 24- karat gold, as well as exposure to hundreds of business leaders.   

Cost: From free to $545

Best for: Businesses of all sizes have a shot, and there is a number of different categories.

Best in Biz Awards North America

Editors and reporters from publications such as Wired, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune and the Associated Press judge this comprehensive awards program (“Company of the Year” is awarded for small, medium and large businesses, as well as for geographical regions).

Cost: $300 to $450 per submission

Best for: With 65 award categories, this program has an award that honors just about every kind of business, including “Best Place to Work,” “Comeback Company of the Year,” “Best Consumer Product” and “Best App.”

Veteran Small Business Award

StreetShares Foundation, champions of veteran-run small businesses, awards cash prizes of $15,000, $6,000 and $4,000 to three veterans on an ongoing basis. Applicants qualify by downloading educational materials and submitting their nominations with a short video. Each month, the foundation selects eight to 12 semifinalists, and the public votes for the winners on the website. The latest edition of the award is for veterans, reserve, or active-duty applicants with businesses in the food and beverage industry.   

Cost: Free

Best for: Veterans, reserve or active-duty applicants who are at least 50 percent owners in businesses that are legal entities.

NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year Award

Each year, the National Association of Women Business Owners honors an entrepreneur who cultivates business excellence and is outstanding in the categories of strategy, operations, finances, problem solving, overcoming adversity and giving back to the community. The top three finalists sit on the panel in a Bank of America-sponsored, Women’s Business Conference breakout panel; are profiled in a NAWBO ONE article; and receive national exposure. The winner is honored at the NAWBO Awards Gala and announced as Woman Business Owner of the Year in NAWBO communications.

Cost: Free

Best for: Women who own at least 25 percent of their businesses, participate in the day-to-day operations of the company and are active NAWBO members.

Award programs for minority entrepreneurs

For 37 years, the Top 100 MBE Awards from the Capital Region Minority Supplier Development Council has been honoring minority and women entrepreneurs in the greater Washington, D.C., area. On a national level, the CRMSDC’s parent organization — NMSDC — presents Leadership Awards to corporate leaders promoting diversity in their companies, as well as minority business trailblazers and other corporate leaders.

Other regional minority recognition programs include the Dallas Business Journal’s Minority Business Leader Awards, Georgia Minority Business Awards, and in Louisiana, the greater Shreveport Minority Business Opportunity Awards. There’s also a nationwide biennial awards program for healthcare — Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare — that accepts nominations from all types of healthcare professionals including small businesses that serve as vendors and suppliers and patients’ rights groups.  

Cost: Free

Best for: These programs are for minority (and in one case, women) healthcare entrepreneurs in specific regions, but there might be one in your local area or industry.

Your industry’s awards

There are specialized awards programs for just about every industry. Here are some examples:

Tech: The International Women in IT Awards

Retail: The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future awards

Food: James Beard Awards

Cost: Varies

Best for: Anyone: You can find specialized awards programs at the local and regional level, so make sure you research the offerings in your community, city and state.


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