Forget Reality TV Business Owners Benefit from Local Contests

Loads of business owners would love to get the kind of publicity bonanza an appearance on a national TV show brings. Turns out, the TV-contest format is spreading rapidly into the real world -- and business owners may get a boost just by entering local competitions.

Like their TV counterparts, competing in a local contest can get your business seen by influential people who could help you. The scale is smaller, of course, but if you have a locally focused business, these contests could be an opportunity for exposure and making new connections.

For instance, in Los Angeles, 100 women business owners recently competed "American Idol" style at the Count Me In Urban Rebound Los Angeles Conference & Competition. Wal-Mart's club-store subsidiary, Sam's Club, picked up the tab for winners to attend a nine-month business-incubator program designed to grow businesses past the $250,000 annual revenue mark.

So far, other Urban Rebound events are being held in Detroit and Charlotte, N.C.

If you're a fashion designer, Seamless in Seattle gives local apparel mavens the Project Runway treatment in a contest that's closing June 1.

The competition is being held by Seattle Magazine, and offers winners a slot in a tony runway show, as well as space in their pages and sister pub Seattle Bride -- valuable exposure for a local designer. The best part may be the feedback and chance to connect with the fashion-pro judges.

There's a reason business contests are so popular lately. Studies have shown they're a cost-effective way to spur innovation and business growth, especially compared to simply handing out grants to a few companies. In a contest, many companies raise their game as they get their contest entry ready. The format has been shown to spur a lot of business activity for one usually modest prize cost.

These local competitions seem to be sprouting like mushrooms, so keep an eye out in your town for business contests where you might make a splash.

Have you entered a local contest? Leave a comment and let us know.

Related: Call for Entries for Entrepreneur Magazine's Entrepreneur of 2012 Contest