Calling All Independent Merchants

Editor's note: We're revealing our selections and a new timeline for voting. Please read "12 Days of Indie Merchant Gifts."

This holiday season, let's celebrate the artisans, craftspeople and other independent merchants who create one-of-a-kind items that make for special gifts.

From now until Thanksgiving, we invite all eligible businesses to tell us about ONE item that you sell that is the perfect gift for someone special this holiday season.

So tell us in 250 words or less the story behind the item: the reason you decided to create it; why it's absolutely unique; why it's different than anything you'd find in a mass-market space; whom it's suitable for; and what customers say when they buy it. The item must be priced at $50 or less. (Read all entry rules in our FAQ section.)

On Nov. 30, we'll unveil the items that editors at Entrepreneur.com have selected for inclusion in our “Indie Merchant Gift Guide.” Editors will look at both the originality and creativity of the business owner's story, and take into consideration the gift idea's value, functionality and uniqueness, as well as variety.

Once the gift guide is published, we'll let readers vote for their favorite item, which we'll reveal on Dec. 12, as the “Readers' Choice Best Gift.”

The deadline for entry is Nov. 22 at 6 p.m. EST. Good luck and we look forward to hearing your story.

FAQ

Who's eligible to submit an entry for Entrepreneur's Indie Merchant Gift Guide?
Any U.S. independent merchant is eligible, as long as the merchant has fewer than 500 employees and isn't owned by a large corporation. The person who submits the entry must either own a majority interest in the business, or have a significant ownership stake and approval from other owners/shareholders to submit an entry. Note: The business must be the merchant's full-time operation, not a side occupation or hobby.

I sell numerous one-of-a-kind products – can I submit more than one?
No. Entries are limited to one product per merchant. While you may sell a variety of unique items, please select the ONE product or service you feel makes the best gift for someone special this holiday season.

My best-selling item is priced higher than $50. Why can't I enter that?
We're conscious that readers may have limited budgets this holiday season, so we want to feature items that are $50 or less in our Indie Merchant Gift Guide.

I'm an independent merchant, but I source my unique item from a supplier. Can I still enter it?
No. While many independent merchants sell unique products made by other companies, we are limiting entries to one-of-a-kind items that merchants themselves have created, designed or originated.

I designed my product, but have it manufactured in China. Can I still enter it?
Yes. We understand that manufacturing is an integral part of doing business. Items do not have to be hand-made.

What do I receive if my item is selected for inclusion in Entrepreneur's Indie Merchant Gift Guide?
You will be featured on Entrepreneur.com's website, and receive a digital badge to use (if desired) on your company's site or marketing materials.

Once I've submitted an entry, how can I check to see if it's been selected for inclusion in the Indie Merchant Gift Guide?
We will not reveal which entries have been selected until the gift guide is published. Merchants whose items are selected in the gift guide may experience an unexpected increase in traffic to their site.

What is the Readers' Choice Best Gift designation?
After the gift guide is published, we'll ask readers to vote on their favorite item (one vote per day) between Nov. 30 and Dec. 7. Merchants are encouraged to invite customers, clients or any other members of the public to vote for their one-of-a-kind gift. The Readers' Choice Award will be published Dec. 12.

SAMPLE ENTRY:

Name: Jim Davis

Company: Heartland Brew Master

Headquarters: Ames, Iowa

Year founded: 2008

Product: Bottle of "Davenport" beer

Short product description: Premium handcrafted beer.

Price: $16.99

What's the story behind your product? And why does it make a special holiday gift?
I'm the son of German immigrants who settled on a farm in Iowa. As a young child, I remember my parents entertaining friends, serving meals of schnitzel and sauerkraut, and always enjoying the meal and conversation over glasses of home-brewed beer. To me, beer wasn't about sports or bars or crass commercials - it was about sharing perspectives and talking about life, all while enjoying the spiciness and richness of a hand-crated brew. For many years now, I've been making my own beer, emulating the style of Trappist monks and using only the best malted barley, hops and yeast, and Iowa spring water. Three years ago, I turned my hobby into a full-time business. Now I sell my six varieties of beer, all in large 75cl bottles with corks (similar to bottles of Champagne), in stores, restaurants and online. Each variety is named after a city in Iowa, and my personal favorite is Davenport, which has a subtle aroma that you have to breathe in to experience. My customers love that they can buy a home-grown, delicious bottle of beer, and bring it a friends' home, much like they'd bring a bottle of wine. This is the perfect gift for someone who enjoys a sophisticated beverage with down-to-earth conversation. (208 words)