Business competitions and start-up awards can offer more than just funding, providing winners and finalists with excellent PR opportunities and prestige which can open doors and help leverage further funding and investment.
There are literally hundreds of competitions and awards taking place in Britain throughout the year – too many to list here now – and many of these are often restricted by geographical location, type of business and age of the business owner.
Because of this, your first port of call should be to speak to a professional business adviser at a local enterprise agency or support organisation like the ones listed on the National Enterprise Network (NEN) website as they will be aware of all the relevant opportunities in your area and can often help you with your entry too.
However, if you’re looking to raise your profile on a regional or national scale, then the following competitions and awards are highly rated and well worth considering:
1. Shell LiveWIRE Awards
If you’re aged 16-30, based in the UK, have been trading for less than 12 months and have an ‘innovative business solution that meets the energy and resource needs of a growing population’ you should enter the monthly £5,000 Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Awards competition. As one of the UK’s longest running youth enterprise schemes, Shell LiveWIRE is highly regarded in the start-up and media world and can open doors for you and your business.
Winners of the ‘Shell LiveWIRE Smarter Future Awards’ are then put forward for the ‘Shell LiveWIRE Young Entrepreneurs of the Year Award‘ final (usually in November).
Having worked for Shell LiveWIRE for 4yrs before joining Sage, I know what a big impact their awards can have on a small start-up in terms of PR, kudos and confidence for the winner and so would encourage everyone that fits the criteria to apply.
(Thanks also to Lou Drake @_LouDrake_ for suggesting them on Twitter too).
2. O2 Smarta Awards
The O2 Smarta 100 is an annual celebration of the most resourceful, inspiring and disruptive small businesses in the UK. It seeks to find the best businesses in the UK, not necessarily in terms of who makes the most money, but the businesses that have the most original ideas and make a true difference. With PR for all businesses that are shortlisted, a £1,000 cash prize for each of the winners of 10 award categories and a £10,000 top prize up for grabs.
3. The Pitch
Billing itself as ‘Britain’s biggest small business competition’, The Pitch is organised by Dan Martin, Editor of BusinessZone.co.uk and UKBusinessForums.co.uk so is guaranteed to provide the winners and shortlisted businesses with a high level of online media coverage. It also comes with a prize package that includes business support, tools and resources worth thousands of pounds.
4. Startups Awards
Since 2004, the Startups Awards by Startups.co.uk has earned a reputation for unearthing some of the UK’s finest entrepreneurial businesses, and shining a spotlight on the start-up market. Previous winners have gone on to enjoy phenomenal success, including BeatThatQuote.com, Wonga.com, Ella’s Kitchen, Glasses Direct, The Book Depository, Naked Wines, The Cambridge Satchel company and most recently YPlan and Raspberry Pi.
5. Lloyds Bank Enterprise Awards
With the focus on ‘young entrepreneurs’, the Lloyds Bank Enterprise Awards are for students and graduates aged 18 or over that have been running their business for more than 1 year can win cash prize packages of between £5,000 and £50,000, PR, legal advice and a two year mentoring programme to support their business ambitions.
(Thanks to Enterprise Educators @EEUK for this suggestion).
6. National Business Awards
Since 2002, the National Business Awards have been ‘connecting the UK’s business leaders through its annual ceremony and year-round thought leadership programme to celebrate enterprise excellence’. Any company within the UK, whether public, private or third sector can enter the National Business Awards, regardless of size or industry. Unlike all the other competitions on this list, there is currently a cost of £295 + VAT to enter the awards but this may still be worth it for the networking opportunities and potential PR it provides.
7. Nectar Small Business Awards
The Nectar Small Business Awards have a range of categories including Small Business of the Year, Contribution to the Community, Innovation of the Year, Entrepreneur of the Year, Trades Person of the Year and Startup of the Year. Winners of each category win a £2,000 cash prize, 50,000 Nectar points, a roundtable event with judges and leading entrepreneurs (like Karen Brady CBE) and nationwide publicity for their business.
8. NatWest Everywoman Awards
There are now almost 1.5 million women self-employed in the UK, which represents an increase of around 300,000 since before the economic downturn. Whilst on the increase, this figure is still disproportionately low compared with the number of male-owned businesses, and the NatWest everywoman Awards aims to address the imbalance, highlighting the achievements of exceptional women of all ages.
Other useful resources
In addition to the ones listed above, FlatClub @flatclubcom has compiled an amazingly comprehensive online database which lists over 50 start-up competitions in their UK & Europe Startup Competition Guide.
(Thanks to our friends @SunEosUK for the recommendation).
Your local authority / council office are also worth contacting as it’s likely that they’ll have an Economic Development Team or individuals whose role it is to help new businesses start and grow and may be aware of suitable competitions and awards in your area.
And if you live in or near London, Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle or Sheffield then the British Library Business & IP Centres are great places to find information and advice on opportunities in your local area.
AwardsIntelligence.co.uk is a company that provides a service of helping you to apply for business awards and competitions which is a skill in itself and could be a useful way of increasing your chances of winning that prize you deserve!
As we said above, there are so many small business awards and start-up competitions out there, it’s impossible to list them all in one blog but if there are any particular good ones that you think we should know about, please leave your suggestions (with links to their website) in the comments box below for others to see. Thank you, Paul!