The secrets to winning awards for your small business or startup

The Awards Expert, National Business Awards, Small Business Awards, Startup Awards, Win Business Awards

Are you an entrepreneur or innovator? Perhaps you don’t even think of yourself that way, you’re just ‘Freelance’ or ‘getting started’. Well no matter how small your business or start-up, you could be winning awards – but there’s a few secrets to success you need to know first.

Entrepreneurs and innovators running small businesses tend to fall into two main camps when it comes to entering ‘industry’ or ‘business’ awards competitions.

The first is the ‘hungry for awards’ camp who are keen and eager to start filling the trophy cabinet from day 1.

The second is ‘I’m too small to win awards’ camp who stand back from awards opportunities and watch others walk away with the awards.

Both have their reasons for their approach to awards. Both have their pros and cons.

The entrepreneurs in the ‘hungry for awards’ camp realise the importance of gaining external credibility for their business; are determined to show the world how brilliant their business, service or innovation is; and have the drive and determination to reach the podium. But they are in danger of falling at the first hurdle if they don’t yet have award-winning results.

The entrepreneurs in the ‘I’m too small to win awards’ camp are just as driven and determined, but perhaps less confident. They see all the big brand names out there winning awards and think they have to wait until they’ve got a few more years under their belt and a recognisable name before they start competing.

So what’s the secret to winning awards for start-ups and small businesses?

The answer is the same no matter what the size of your business. If you don’t enter the right awards competitions you won’t have a chance of winning – no matter how big, small, old or new your company.

To win awards when you are running a small business you need to be strategic. Take a bit of the confidence of the ‘hungry for awards’ camp, add it to the caution of the ‘I’m too small to win awards’ camp, and what do you get? A balanced and measured approach to winning awards that’s what.

Work your way through the questions below and take a look at my small business and start-up award suggestions and you never know it could be you walking away with the next cash prize, mentorship or industry trophy – and then the world will be your oyster.

  • Do you have a minimum of 12 months financial results? Without at least a year’s financial results that demonstrate that your innovation, business model, or service is commercially viable and sustainable, you are simply pitching a ‘good idea’. Don’t jump in too early to gain serious credibility and buy-in from the judges.
  • Is there an interesting story behind your business? Did you know that some awards judges are journalists looking for a great story for their winner’s write-ups? If you have conquered adversity to get your business off the ground, or founded your business based on a new, fun, or unusual approach, you could have something special for your award entry. The judges don’t want to hear your whole life-story, but if a part of it is connected to the creation of your business it could give you that magical USP that helps you to stand out.  So don’t ignore your history, use it within a slick storytelling method to breath real life into your award entry.
  • Do you have big plans for the future? If you have a clear idea of the next steps for your business, and your success is just the start of an exciting journey that you have mapped out, tell the judges what you’ve got planned for the future. When entering awards for small business or start-up achievements the awards organisers are often offering significant benefits to help grow the winning businesses and they want to find a winner with a solid plan and exciting ideas. Cash prizes, mentoring, support to export, and free PR are just some of the benefits of winning many dedicated small business and start-up awards.
  • Have you selected the awards you are most likely to win? It’s so important to make sure you are running in the right race before you spend precious time working on your awards entries or invest in outsourcing your awards project to an expert. Check out past winners, look at the awards organisers own marketing material, find out who the awards organisers’ target audience is, look at who the judges are, look at who runs the awards and what the benefits of alignment could be before assessing if the categories fit your business achievements.

Enter these 7 great awards for small businesses and startups:

Now you know where you stand, here are a few suggestions of awards you could enter:

  1. The Federation of Small Business Awards: In partnership with Worldpay, the awards offer a cash prize for the winner and a logo that shows credibility the FSB awards are very popular across the UK – there is even a Microbusiness category for the smallest of businesses to enter.                       
  2. The National Business Awards : A big name award with a big brand audience – but with a lot of love and support for small businesses, the National Business Awards dedicates a category especially to New Business of the Year and even has a category for New Entrepreneurs – supported by The Duke of York no less!
  3. The Chamber AwardsRun by The British Chamber of Commerce this is a great award for gaining local business support, allowing you to enter and win regionally before competing for a national title. Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to be a Chamber member to win, and there’s even a cash prize up for grabs! Categories include Young Person in Business and Small Business of the Year.
  4. The Startup Awards: Based in London these awards offer lots of categories and will give you a ‘startup’ winner’s logo that could help you attract new investment or business support for your new and innovative business. Lots of great categories highlighting the best Crowdfunded Business and Lean Startup of the Year.         
  5. The Growing Business Awards: These awards do exactly what they say on the tin – champion the hottest small businesses in the UK. Sponsored by Lloyds bank and with inspirational talent on the judging panel, your business could get a fantastic audience just by entering. Categories for Digital Champions and Innovators.  
  6. The Guardian Small Business Showcase: A great award run by a national newspaper these awards focus on one category at a time and include a Rising Star Award. Enter for national recognition and excellent PR opportunities.

More awards for small businesses and start-ups:

And once you’ve checked out the awards above, there are also brilliant awards run by your local newspapers, magazines and business networks. Often appealing to small businesses looking to gain more local customers, local and regional awards can be a great place to start when you run a small business.

You should also check out my list of Awards for Women in Business and Awards for Entrepreneurs, Directors and Business Leaders to enter even more awards that will raise your personal profile and support your growing brand.

Do you have more awards suggestions you could add? Share them with me on Twitter and I’ll give you the inside scoop on whether they’ll work for you: Just post to @comms_director and #smallbizawards.

Good luck – I can’t wait to hear about your award-winning adventures!

Donna O’Toole is an awards expert with an outstanding record of helping businesses and the people behind them to win awards for their hard work. Contact Donna for your FREE Awards consultation today. 

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