Every Thursday evening from 8 to 9pm ET, IBN hosts #HandmadeChat, a Twitter talk show to help handmade entrepreneurs sell more products and make more money. While the show is aimed mainly at business owners and artisans who make handmade consumer products, the topics and discussions can empower and encourage the growth of any small business.
Our most recent chat was sponsored by SoapEquipment, manufacturing equipment for handmade soap and candle makers.
Our topic was How To Use Awards Programs To Grow Your Business. Our guest was LaShonda Tyree, (aka Handmade Soap Coach), a certified soap maker who teaches soap and body care product making classes. LaShonda is also a top 10 finalist in New Jersey’s “Start Something Challenge”. You can find more information about the program and LaShonda’s story here. Here are some of La Shonda's best insights and tips for making the most of awards programs.
Q1 WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO PARTICIPATE IN AWARDS PROGRAMS?
Awards programs force you to step your business up to its highest levels. They increase your confidence and help you grow your Rolodex — a never ending important task for all entrepreneurs.
Q2 HOW DO YOU CHOOSE AN AWARDS PROGRAM TO SUIT YOUR BUSINESS?
Well, you have to know what you want first. Do you want money or just a badge on your website? Once you know what you want, you can choose programs that offer those things as prizes. Just remember that the more you want, the harder you'll have to work for it.
Look for local programs, as I did. There's lots of support for local business in your area. National awards programs are great but they tend to be less “hands on,” and may not promote you and the program as much as local programs.
Q3 WHAT ARE SOME OF OTHER BENEFITS OF PARTICIPATING IN AN AWARDS PROGRAM?
Exposure, exposure, exposure!
Your business could potentially be exposed to a whole new demographic. You'll meet people who can become your mentors, and people you can help too. Participating in an awards program can help you overcome a business plateau, and could very well be the catalyst that pushes you to the next phase of business growth.
And let's not forget the prizes. I placed as a top 10 finalist and won an iPad, which will be presented to me at the awards gala.
Q4 HOW DO YOU MAKE THE MOST OF PARTICIPATING IN AN AWARDS PROGRAM?
Do everything that is required of you, including meeting all deadlines. It all starts with making a good impression. Take advantage of any training made available. If you have a chance to learn something new, take it. Maintain a positive attitude — win or lose.
Q5 HOW DO YOU PUBLICIZE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE PARTICIPATING IN AN AWARDS PROGRAM?
Use all of your social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Ask for ReTweets. Ask family members and friends to help spread the word, especially if voting counts. Make sure your email newsletter readers know how they can help you.
One important note is to make sure you don't overdo it. People get requests for awards support a lot. Be vocal, but not obnoxious
Q6 CAN YOU FIND MENTORS AS A RESULT OF PARTICIPATING IN AN AWARDS PROGRAM?
Sometimes, yes, especially if it's a local program. The judges may turn out to be mentors. Develop relationships with the ones that resonate with you.
Connect with awards program organizers, who can often introduce you to supportive people. Get as many introductions as you can.
Q7 WHAT ARE SOME TIPS, IF YOUR CONTEST IS BASED ON PITCHING YOUR BIZ?
Give them exactly what they ask for, to the best of your ability. If they program offers a training class to help you make your best pitch, move heaven and earth to attend it.
Practice, practice, practice! Ask business colleagues to critique your pitch. Use constructive criticism to improve. Know your stuff!! Note cards don't look good. Have them for backup, but try not to use them. Dress the part. Wear clothing that is appropriate for the competition and which reflects well on your brand.
Practice your pitch, but don't sound rehearsed when you deliver it. Be natural. Memorize but don't sound like a robot. Stay within the time guidelines. Going over time, no matter how good you are, can kill your chances.
Q8 HOW CAN I LEARN ABOUT SMALL BUSINESS COMPETITIONS AND AWARDS PROGRAMS?
The blog, Small Biz Trends, posts awards programs a few times a month at this link. Also, check the US Small Business Administration's site for next year's awards program applications. Look for your local chambers of commerce to have awards programs as well. For example, IBN member Julie Longyear recently won the “Neighborhood Business of the Year,” in her town in St. Louis.
Use your favorite search engine to find larger brands that sponsor small business competitions. For example, there's the The MillerCoors Urban Entrepreneurs Series, sponsored by Miller Coors, the brewing company.
Hey, if you stretch it a bit, even the show on ABC, Shark Tank, is a kind of awards competition.
Meet Our Guest
When Is The Next #HandmadeChat?
The next #HandmadeChat will be Thursday, November 29, 2012, at 8pm ET. Our topic will be Ten Steps To An Efficient, Effective Content Marketing System.
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