By Karen Axelton

photo contestHave you ever entered (or thought about entering) a business contest? Whether they offer prizes ranging from a free printer or tech tool to cash or consulting help, business contests can give you a leg up on success.

The Wall Street Journal recently took a look at the ins and outs of entering business contests, and offered some useful tips about deciding what to enter (and not to bother with).

More sources are holding contests these days, the Journal reports. To cut through the plethora of options and find the best contest for you, the article recommends starting at, a site that helps organizations publicize contests and prizes.

Here are 5 recommendations from the article:

  1. Start with smaller contests so you can polish your skills.
  2. Network with past winners to get tips on what worked for them.
  3. Make a detailed and compelling case for your business in the application.
  4. Follow the directions in the application process. You’d be surprised how many people don’t.
  5. Show your humanity. If your passion for your business comes through, judges will sometimes bend the rules.

Having judged business contests in the past, I agree with all the tips–and I’d like to add one more: As with any publicity effort, when you enter a contest it’s important to highlight what makes your business different and unique. If a contest has three winners, judges don’t want them all to be 40-year-old male technology company founders. Even if you think your business doesn’t “fit the mold,” that could be exactly what makes it stand out from the pack–and win.

Have you ever entered a business contest? Did you think it was worthwhile? I’d love to hear your experiences.