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Competitions and Awards

missouri-entrepreneur-of-the-yearMake your company a household name and get well deserved recognition by competing for and winning locally and nationally sponsored awards.

Check the list below for Kansas City's most prominent business competitions that are currently taking nominations.

If you'd like to list a competition or award, please contact

Apply Now!

The Helzberg Entrepreneurial Mentoring Program (HEMP) is now accepting applications for up to 25 mentees from the greater Kansas City area for the class of 2017.

“The mentoring relationships we created last year between mentors and mentees will prove beneficial to those entrepreneurs who are building businesses,” Helzberg said in a release. “Our previous mentees keep telling me the time they spent in our program was invaluable while they were experiencing the highs and lows of business leadership. And, we anticipate more of the same with this year’s class.”

To qualify as a mentee, candidates must own the majority of a business and operate as the ultimate decision maker of the business for a minimum of three years. In addition, mentees must also have at least five full-time employees and generate around $1 million in annual revenue. The three-year-program costs $5,000 per year for mentees and offers over a dozen of organized events and meetings per year.

Founded in 1995, HEMP has welcomed more than 300 entrepreneurs into its ranks to form a community that still engages with one another. Over 200 leading Kansas City business professionals have participated in HEMP as mentors, including Henry Bloch of H&R Block, Jack Schmid of J. Schmid & Associates and Dave Lockton of Lockton Companies.

To apply to be a mentee or mentor, click here.
Application Deadline: Apply Now! (Summit dates are October 17-18, 2017)

SpeakersAre you a thought leader, an innovative thinker or an industry influencer in public safety and smart city technology? Share and showcase your expertise at our second Smart City Tech Summit event to explore smart cities’ use 21st-century internet of things technology to protect citizens, save money, modernize infrastructure and create new revenue opportunities October 17 & 18, 2017 at the Airline History Museum in Kansas City, Missouri. Get recognition from industry colleagues and take advantage of unparalleled networking opportunities with other public safety and technology professionals, municipal decision makers, industry experts, and thought leaders from around the world.

Speaking opportunities during our Smart City Tech Summit sessions are not strictly defined, but are usually single presenters, joint presenters, panels, interactive case studies, live demonstrations or fireside chats.

Smart City Tech Summit attendees are looking for information they can apply to their communities—not theoretical, but practical best practices and lessons learned, with real implementation experiences and detail. Don’t make it about XYZ product (smells like a sales pitch!) but rather “changes and benefits realized through the deployment of this sort of solution”, for example. Think beyond your basic conference program content, our audience is well beyond entry-level definitions. Don’t shy away from controversy—Smart City Tech Summit is a forum for industry discussion, and debates and out-of-box thinking are appreciated—challenge your audience with unconventional thinking.

Speaking opportunities are limited, contact us today to learn more.

Breakout Session FacilitatorsReady to discuss innovative approaches to pubic safety? Want to explore ideas for smart city technologies? Eager to share your experience implementing a public safety solution? Interested in finding out what your peers are doing to protect citizens, save money, modernize infrastructure and create new revenue opportunities? Then contact us to learn more about facilitating a breakout session.

Breakout sessions enable groups that share a common interest to come together and explore specific public safety solutions. These highly interactive sessions feature a group moderator that is skilled at keeping conversations informative and flowing. To facilitate productive exchange, attendance to these sessions will be limited. This is an opportunity for you to share your ideas, issues and questions on a specific public safety topic with like-minded peers who have much to gain, and to offer.

So, contact us to submit a topic for a Smart City Tech Summit: Public Safety 2017 breakout session and learn more about becoming a facilitator.

Smart City Tech Summit: Public Safety Speakers – If you’d like to delve more deeply into the subject of your presentation or provide a deeper Q&A, we invite you to submit a breakout topic as a follow-up to your session as well.

Application Deadline: Once Funds Become Exhausted (Apply NOW!)

Applications are now open for grants of up to $5,000 through the new KC Global Cities Initiative (GCI) Micro-grant program. Grants must be spent on improving the applicant’s ability to access world markets. Marketing production for international markets, translation services, and market research are just three examples of many eligible expenses.
The micro-grant program is made possible thanks to a grant from JPMorgan Chase, which, along with the Brookings Institute, funds the Global Cities Initiative and its network of 28 metropolitan areas. Kansas City’s GCI Steering Committee released the area’s first regional export plan and implemented the plan’s export concierge concept, centered at the KC Chamber’s World Trade Center.
“This is an important part of the World Trade Center’s mission to increase Greater Kansas City’s share of the international pie by supporting our local businesses in exporting,” says Joe Reardon, President and CEO of the KC Chamber. “With 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the U.S., the opportunities are there. Our thanks to JPMorgan Chase for their generosity and support.”
Interested companies must have fewer than 500 employees and be located in the Kansas City Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). That includes Jackson, Clay, Cass, Platte, Bates, Lafayette, Ray, Caldwell, and Clinton counties in Missouri, and Leavenworth, Wyandotte, Johnson, Miami, and Linn counties in Kansas.
Information and applications are at
Application Deadline: August 25, 2017

The U.S. Department of Defense is seeking innovations that will help solve some of their most challenging problems and opportunities. A dozen or more of these "Tech Scouts" will be gathering at:

Encountering Innovation Week, October 23-27, 2017
Wichita State University Campus, Wichita, KS

This is an opportunity for small businesses to present their innovation and plans for commercialization. To apply for this opportunity, please go to the following website:

No matter the stage of development, we are seeking the best and most relevant ideas to put before the Tech Scouts. There are two presentation forums - a 20 minute private pitch session and an exhibit hall format. Once you have completed the brief application found on our website, we will determine the best fit for your innovation.

Invited technology scouts include representatives from:
- Department of Defense (DoD) combatant commands (CCMDs)
- DoD labs
- Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs)
- Capability developers and program offices
- Other federal stakeholders with strong interest in emerging technologies

The Kansas SBDC is available to answer questions and assist you to better prepare your presentation. Please contact Jack Harwell at 913-469-2464 or

Response Deadline: August 29, 2017 at 2:00PM CDT
Mandatory Pre-Bid Conference: August 3, 2017 at 10:00am
Invitation to Bid No. 52-17 Security Cameras and Servicing

Response Deadline: August 29, 2017 at 2:00PM CDT
Invitation to Bid No. 57-17 Security Officer Services

Response Deadline: August 29, 2017 at 2:00PM CDT
Invitation to Bid No. 58-17 HVAC Filters

Response Deadline: September 12, 2017 at 2:00PM CDT
Invitation to Bid No. 56-17 Cafeteria Plan

Response Deadline: September 12, 2017 at 2:00PM CDT
Request for Proposal No. 61-17 Accounting Software

To obtain a copy of the bid documents, visit our website at .  Select “How Do I…”; “Bidding Opportunities”; “Bid Opportunities”; “View Current Bid Opportunities”.  Scroll down to the Invitation to Bid Number and click on the Invitation to Bid Number.  If you need additional assistance please call 816-881-3267.

Please apply as a New Vendor while visiting our website to receive notifications of upcoming solicitations.

Application Deadline: September 29, 2017

Nominations for the 17th Annual 25 Under 25® Awards are now open through Sept. 29, 2017. You can nominate as many eligible companies as you like – there’s no limit. Self-nominations are encouraged too.

If you are planning to nominate several companies, you may submit a spreadsheet instead of using the nomination form below. Please include your contact information as well as the company name, contact name, address, telephone number and contact email address for each company you nominate. Submit your spreadsheets to Megan Scanlon.

Eligibility: Employ fewer than 25 full-time employees (or full-time equivalents)
Operate a for-profit business for three or more years
Be located within the Greater Kansas City area

Details: Application notices are mailed to all nominated companies shortly after their nomination has been received.
Winners are announced in mid-December.
The 17th Annual 25 Under 25® Awards Gala will be February 24, 2018.
For more information or for sponsorship opportunities, please contact Kelly Scanlon, (913) 432-6690.

Application Deadline: September 30, 2017

Startup Open is a global competition that is open to entrepreneurs from any industry with a new business that has yet to raise any outside capital from angel investors, venture capital firms or other formal sources of seed funding.

Startup Open recognizes the most promising ventures from around the world– based on their growth potential, passion, creativity, level of idea development, and pitching skills. A diverse cast of entrepreneurial leaders will judge and select the entries to advance. The finalists will then compete for a grand prize trip to the Global Entrepreneurship Congress (GEC) in Istanbul, Turkey in 2018. The finalists will receive feedback from investors and experienced entrepreneurs, and participate in the GEW People's Choice online voting during Global Entrepreneurship Week November 13-19, 2017. For more information about rules and judging please see the About Page.

Preliminary registration is now open - online apps officially open May 1, 2017. Apply today!

iStart is the go-to site for entering business competitions from around the world, browsing pages of startup ideas and networking with hundreds of innovative, energized entrepreneurs. 

Find out about business competitions all over the world.

With the financial support of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Downtown Shareholders is pleased to announce the launch of the third round of Pop-Up! Downtown KCK, a retail development initiative to enliven Downtown Kansas City, Kansas. Pop-Up! Downtown KCK matches select entrepreneurs with high-visibility, well-sited spaces at free or reduced rent, and provides an opportunity for local entrepreneurs to test a retail concept or determine whether Downtown KCK is a viable long-term location for their business.

To learn more about this program or to download a funding application, check out our website.

THE INCUBATE ($18K - $36K per grant)

You’ve got a great idea, or even a specific project that needs funding, but need some help introducing it to the world. Individual finalists are selected for Regional Finals, where your work is displayed during the event and grants are awarded.


THE LAUNCH ($72K - $180K per grant)

You’ve introduced your idea to the world, but are still learning as you make it real. Businesses and organizations selected for Regional Finals will pitch before judges, competing for a grant—winners move on to the Global Finals in New York City.


THE SCALE ($180K - $360K per grant)

You’ve launched, learned, have a solid approach, and are ready for the next level. Businesses and organizations selected for Regional Finals will pitch before judges, competing for a grant—winners move on to the Global Finals in New York City.


For more information, visit WeWork's Creator Awards website.
Application Deadline: Ongoing!

DTSKCK promotes economic development, housing, wellness, cultural, and social opportunities in downtown Kansas City, KS. Their Small Business Grant Program provides the small business owner or entrepreneur the possibility of partial “gap filling”, which their research indicates is greatly needed. One qualification: you are in, or plan to locate in, our service area: 4th to 18th; Washington to Sandusky.

Questions are encouraged! Please contact DTSKCK at (913) 371-0705 or for more information, or visit their website.
Are you interested in expanding your export activities, but are concerned about cost, or fearful about entering a new market? Both Missouri and Kansas have your back.

MO STEP=UP: Financial Assistance Opportunities for Expanded Export Activity

The MO STEP=UP program, an initiative of the Missouri International Trade and Investment Office funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, is a grant program offering international marketing and financial assistance, designed with small business owners like you in mind. By taking part in MO STEP=UP, your company could embark on the following activities focused on growing your exports (like trade missions, Gold Key Services, marketing strategy enhancements, and access to sector-specific trade shows w/reimbursement for qualifying expenses) to the Middle East, Central and South America: Learn more here or contact the Export Experts.

KS STEP Grant Applications
The Kansas Department of Commerce is currently accepting STEP grant applications from small businesses to assist them in starting or growing their exports. The Commerce programs, which are being funded in part through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), will help non-exporters begin exporting for the first time or existing exporters expand their export levels. Commerce is administering the grant in tandem with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Programs offered through the STEP Grant include export seminars and training courses, opportunities for participation in foreign trade shows and missions, and support for entering new markets. For the current grant year, SBA has awarded Kansas $383,000 in STEP funding. Businesses that wish to apply for support or are interested in learning more should visit

(Taken from releases by the Missouri Department of Economic Development & the Kansas Department of Agriculture)

Digital Sandbox KC brings together people, ideas and resources to build thriving companies. The program provides much needed early-stage funding to rising stars. The region's longtime leaders including private companies, government agencies and universities have united to help this new wave of entrepreneurs. It's an unprecedented metro-wide effort to help make KC America's most entrepreneurial city.


55 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
27 new KC-based companies created
39 companies have secured follow-on investment
$22.7M in follow-on funding
247 new jobs created, nearly $7.3M in total salaries
Digital Sandbox KC broadly seeks new innovation in information technology.  The Sandbox provides innovators with proof-of-concept resources to support early-stage commercialization processes. The Sandbox may cover expenses for project consultants, market research, legal support, equipment and other market validation, prototyping and beta testing needs.

The Digital Sandbox process requires:
  1. - Completion of the Digital Sandbox Company Profile
  2. - A meeting/pitch evaluation
  3. - A board vote
To proceed with funding requests, you'll need to download the Digital Sandbox Company Profile Word document, fill in the requested information and return it by email The final summary can be no longer than three pages. 

Please keep in mind that this summary will be viewed by those evaluating your submission; those participating in your meeting/pitch and by the board for voting purposes. Once we've received your company profile, we'll review it for completeness and then send you information regarding next steps. Submission Tip:  Thoroughly reading our Frequently Asked Questions prior to submission may improve your outcome.

Choose your entrepreneur type.

Choose your entrepreneur type.

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  • iconStartup

    You're a member of the start-up group. Brand new to the entrepreneurial world, your ideas and energy will take you far. Welcome to the family.

  • iconMicroenterprise

    You're a member of the microenterprise group. Your small business is not only your dream job, but also gives you the flexibility to do things on your time.

  • iconMain Street

    You're a member of the main street group. Your entrepreneurial spirit brings people together, providing your customers with a more personalized service.

  • iconInnovation-Led

    You're a member of the innovation-led group. You make the revolutionary ideas that will break through the ceiling. Let our resources get you there.

  • iconSecond Stage

    You're a member of the second stage group. Faster than a speeding bullet, your business is taking off. We have the resources to help your growth and expansion.

  • iconEntrepreneurial Community

    You're a member of the eco-devs group. You're the support system of the economic, small business and community rooted in getting things started. Let's connect.