Business Competitions and Awards


Business Competitions and Awards

Name recognition, free promotion and greater perceived prominence are just a few benefits of getting an honor.

Make 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 [email protected]

Applications for Artist INC are open for Fall 2024!

Artist INC is an eight-week program offering professional development for artists of all disciplines. Now in its fifteenth year, this program has served over 1500 artists nationwide.

Click here to apply.

ArtsHERE will award approximately 95 nonprofit organizations

with non-matching grants of $65,000 to $130,000.

ArtsHERE supports organizations that have demonstrated a commitment to equity within their practices and programming and have undertaken consistent engagement with underserved groups/communities. Grants are for specific projects that will strengthen the organization’s capacity to sustain meaningful community engagement and increase arts participation for underserved groups/communities. Grantees have access to peer-learning and technical assistance opportunities designed to share knowledge and build networks.


Businesses must meet the following criteria to apply:

  • The applicant must be an owner of the business.
  • The applicant must be at least age 18 years or older.
  • The business must be in a ​bricks-and-mortar” location and operate in an older or historic main street, downtown, or commercial district in the United States. The business must have occupied their current bricks-and-mortar location since January 12024. (Home-based businesses, even those located in historic neighborhoods, are not eligible. Brick and mortar businesses located outside of historic downtowns and commercial corridors, including, but not limited to, office parks and shopping malls are also not eligible.)
  • The business must be an independent business and not part of a franchise.
  • The business must employ 20 or less full time employees.
  • The business must have been in operation on or before January 12023.
  • The business must be a business entity in good standing in the state in which it was formed and the state in which it does business.
  • The business must have an active business license, if required by state or local government. (Applicants may be asked to provide documentation if selected.)


The Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists, a $10,000 grant, supports visual artists who are self-identified Black trans women. This grant is made possible entirely through support provided by visual artist Mariette Pathy Allen, whose body of photographic work over the last forty years has been squarely focused on expanding cultural consciousness around gender and transformation. The development of this grant was stewarded by consultant and writer Aaryn Lang, working in collaboration with Mariette Pathy Allen, Serena Jara, and Queer|Art. In order to further recognize finalists for their artistic achievements, Queer|Art is pleased to announce that the grant will also provide a $1,250 award to four distinguished finalists.

The llluminations Grant is administered through Queer|Art with a rotating panel of judges, each of whom will conduct a studio visit with the winning artist as part of the award’s focus on supporting creative and professional development. Judges for the 2024 grant cycle include M. Lamar, Tourmaline, and jaamil olawale kosoko. Queer|Art staff will also provide the winning artist and finalists with consultations and further access to many of the tools they have developed in conjunction with the organization’s cornerstone creative and professional development program, Queer|Art|Mentorship.

Qualified artists must be self-identified Black trans women working in visual art and based in the United States. Applications are open March 31, 2024–June 30, 2024.

For questions, email Queer|Art Co-Director, Rio Sofia at [email protected].

Calling all agricultural technology #innovators! Applications are open for our 2024 DFA CoLAB Accelerator, our program aimed at developing and growing startups to drive innovation across the dairy value chain. The 2024 cohort has been expanded from a 90-day to a six-month program and will run May–Oct. 2024. Participants will benefit from: ✔️ An immersive program, with both in-person and virtual activities ✔️ Direct access to top executives at DFA ✔️ A team of DFA mentors relevant to their business area ✔️ Educational sessions on topics vital to start-up growth ✔️ Workshops focusing on leadership development and team building Apply by Tuesday, April 2, 2024 >> Know someone who may be interested in supercharging their start-up journey? Tag them below and let the innovation flow!

Digital Health KC will spur the industry’s growth, increase collaboration among area digital health organizations, and leverage regional strengths into a vibrant digital ecosystem through coordination and communication of regional assets, partnerships, and investments for innovation.

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.

93 proof-of-concept projects funded for area startups
35 new KC-based companies created
53 companies have secured follow-on investment
$38.2 million in follow-on funding
More than 480 new jobs created, with more than $12 million in payroll

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 KC process requires:
– Completion of the Digital Sandbox KC Online Application
– A Meeting/Pitch Evaluation
– A Board Vote

Please keep in mind that this application will be viewed by those evaluating your submission; those participating in your meeting/pitch and by the Sandbox board for voting purposes. Once your application is received, it will be reviewed for completeness and you will be contacted with information regarding next steps. Submission Tip: Thoroughly reviewing the Frequently Asked Questions prior to submission may improve your outcome.

Building on the over $2 Million in small business loans awarded by the EDC Loan Corporation, this program is a partnership with the Prospect Business Association, who will provide their business development services to awardees.

Funds can be used by qualifying businesses for any expense. Preference will be given to minority or woman-owned businesses or those operating in financially distressed communities.

Businesses must be for-profit entities located within Kansas City, Missouri that have existed for at least a year, employ no more than 10 employees, and have less than $150,000 in revenue. Other criteria is listed on the program page.

Loan rates and repayment terms are specific to each loan, though competitive rates of 3.5%–5% are offered. There are no penalties for prepayment and no minimum credit score is required.

To learn more and apply, visit the Microloan program page.

Every year, FedEx offers one small business a $50,000 grant and nine others a $20,000
grant to help grow their businesses. So far, the company has given away about $1.9
million in grants since 2012. Applicants must be existing FedEx customers with a valid
shipping account that has been open at least six months.
The application window opens at noon on March 1, 2024, and closes at noon on April 1,
2024. Grants will be announced on May 16, 2024.

Missouri Small Business Development is offering a Phase 0 FAST Grant to fund up to $2500 toward a grant writer for your Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant submission.

For more information reach out to our Innovation & Technology Counselor, Ed Lahue at [email protected]

The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are highly competitive programs that encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) with the potential for commercialization. Through a competitive awards-based program, SBIR and STTR enable small businesses to explore their technological potential and provide the incentive to profit from its commercialization.

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses has helped entrepreneurs across the country grow their businesses for over a decade by offering a free practical business training program, access to capital, and personalized support services.

Now, we are expanding, bringing this best-in-class training program to rural communities across America.


The Halstead Grant is an annual award for emerging silver jewelry artists. Applicants submit answers to 15 business questions in addition to their design portfolios. The experience is designed to help jewelry entrepreneurs create a strategy to kick-start their careers. The grand prize is a $7,500 cash grant plus other benefits. The deadline is May 1st.


Only 20 spots available for next stage business leaders

HEMP has generated more than $750 million in economic benefits for Kansas City by helping aspiring and successful entrepreneurs grow. The key is building relationships that facilitate trust and sharing – which is why we limit our mentee program to 20 new participants each year.

Mentees accepted into the program receive the following:

  • 3 years of one on one mentoring with the best business minds in KC
  • A peer group of entrepreneurs
  • A 3-year business training program
  • Access to all 200+ HEMP members – CEOs in the KC area

Apply Now

Queer|Art announces The Illuminations Grant for Black Trans Women Visual Artists. This annual $10,000 grant, awarded to draw attention to an existing body of work, sheds light on the under-recognized contributions of Black trans women visual artists and provides critical support to their continuing work. Winning artists will receive additional professional development resources and further guidance to bolster their creative development in the field.

Deadline: July 12
Apply Now

LegalZoom’s Fast Break for Small Business grant program, in partnership with the NBA
and WNBA, will be awarding $1.5 million in grants to 150 small business owners and $1.5
million in products and services to 3,000 entrepreneurs looking to start their own
Small businesses that have been in operation for at least three months are eligible to
apply for the individual $10,000 grants or up to $500 in LegalZoom products and
services. Entrepreneurs are eligible to apply for up to $500 in LegalZoom

Fast Break for Small Business ( products and
Winners will first be announced on social media and Action Opportunity Fund will
administer the grant awards. Grant applications close on September 13, 2024 at 8 p.m.

New $25,000 Grants Available for Socially Engaged Artists in Our Region

Artists are problem solvers and community builders. They possess the skills, training, and vision to collaborate across sectors, stimulate dialogue, activate neighborhoods, and creatively respond to civic challenges.

The Interchange program is designed to strengthen individual artists in the M-AAA region (Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas) who have a history of impactful work with a socially engaged creative practice. The program will provide 16 artists with practice-based grants of $25,000 each, complemented by professional development, peer-to-peer networking, and one-to-one mentoring.

A program of M-AAA, the Interchange program is made possible through the generous support of the Mellon Foundation.

Click here to learn more about the Mellon Foundation’s investment in Interchange.

We are excited to announce our application is now open for companies interested in pitching at InvestMidwest 2024.
Submit your application for consideration to pitch at InvestMidwest 2024. InvestMidwest will be in Kansas City, Missouri on April 17-18, 2024. You will need to be in Kansas City on April 17 and 18 if your company is selected to pitch. Please don’t start this application until you have your pitch deck and executive summary ready to submit. You will hear if your company was selected to pitch in early January.
This is an exciting opportunity for startups and emerging growth companies to showcase their innovative ideas and connect with potential investors. Companies selected to present at the conference will have the chance to pitch their business to a diverse group of investors and industry leaders. Don’t miss out on this chance to take your company to the next level.
You will notice several differences this year, including a shorter application, two periods of time to submit applications, and a shorter window of time to apply in each period. Your first chance to apply is right now. By applying now you can confirm your spot to pitch at InvestMidwest early. There will be a second chance to apply in January.

Kiva connects entrepreneurs with 0% interest loans between $1,000-$15,000 that are crowdfunded by a community of 2M+ individual lenders on their online platform. The Kiva Kansas City team works with local entrepreneurs to help them succeed throughout the Kiva loan application, fundraising, and repayment processes. Kiva engages a community of over 2 million lenders who crowdfund the loans by contributing as little as $25, providing entrepreneurs with affordable capital to support their business. Kiva and its lenders want to support small business owners to create jobs, support their families, and make a positive impact in their communities.

Program Type: Crowdfunded Microloans

For more information contact: Email [email protected] or by phone 816-691-2120

Kiva offers crowd-backed microloans

  • 0% interest, no fees, no collateral
  • Up to $15,000 loan amount
  • Up to 36 months terms
  • Social underwriting – character not credit score

To qualify for Kiva Kansas City:

  • Borrower and business must be U.S. based.
  • Borrower must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Loan must be used for business purposes.
  • Business must not be engaged in multi-level marketing, direct sales, pure financial investing, etc.
  • Borrower or business must not be under foreclosure, bankruptcy, or under any liens.
  • Home-based businesses are eligible for a Kiva loan.
  • Businesses must have a business bank account connected to PayPal. Kiva loans are disbursed and repaid through PayPal.

How does Kiva Kansas City work?

  • Application: 30 min. – 1 hour-Start your application at Meet with the KivaKC team to review and edit your application as needed.
  • Kiva Review: 1-3 weeks-Your application is reviewed by Kiva. You may be asked to clarify information or make edits to your application. Kiva determines if you are approved and for what loan amount.
  • Private Fundraising: Up to 15 days-If you’re approved, you have to demonstrate your creditworthiness by having between 5-40 of your friends, family, and personal network lend as little as $25 to your loan. The pitch section of your application is posted on Kiva’s platform.
  • Public Fundraising: Up to 30 days-Kiva lenders around the world (and here in Kansas City) read your pitch and support your loan $25 at a time until your loan is fully funded. Loans must be fully funded within the stated timeframe to be disbursed.
  • Repayment: 30 days after fully funding loan- Repayments terms are between 12 to 36 months, based on loan size. There are no penalties for repaying early, and six-months after repayment, you can apply for another, larger loan.


Grant Application Schedule

Micro-business Grant (Round 1) Application Opens: February 1; closes March 1

Micro-business Grants (Round 2) Application Opens: May 1; closes June 1Applications Open: February 1, 2024

Program Type: Grants

Contact: by email [email protected] or by phone 816-691-2120


Grant Program Overview

In efforts to assist eligible micro-businesses (less than 10 employees) that experienced negative economic impact from the pandemic, the City of Kansas City, Missouri, has partnered with the Economic Development Corporation – Loan Corporation (EDCLC) to help micro-businesses grow, expand, and retain jobs in Kansas City, Missouri.

Grants are available to Kansas City, Missouri-based businesses operating prior to January 1, 2023, with ten (10) employees or less. The EDCLC will provide grants of $10,000, $15,000, and $25,000. Qualified applicants that own an existing micro-business that is primed for expansion and moving to the next level in business growth can utilize funds towards:


  • Overhead costs (Rent, lease, mortgage, etc.)
  • Renovation costs (Sheetrock, flooring, painting, etc.)
  • Technology (Laptop, desktops, etc.)
  • Professional services (Legal, accounting, etc.)
  • Facade and minor roof repairs (Painting, sealing, etc.)
  • Inventory costs (Except office supplies)
  • Equipment costs
  • Marketing (Website, signage, etc.)


Ineligible Micro-Businesses: 

  • Liquor stores, payday loans, hookah, vape shops, marijuana related businesses, and rental properties (long and short term).
  • Bars and establishments that sell alcohol with less than 50% in food sales (sites with state and federal license for production and distribution may apply).
  • New businesses operating less than one year.


Technical Support Requirement for Grant Recipients

Selected grant recipients will be required to participate in the technical assistance training. Utilizing the foundations of the Kauffman FastTrac program, grant recipients will receive technical assistance focused on collateral and business assessments, business plan development or reconstruction, feasibility, and financial structuring. Additionally, they will set SMART goals and a Tactical Improvement Plan with a focus on expense and repayment accountability plans. This work includes 10 hours of individual 1:1 support or group training, if applicable.

Before you begin, please review the program eligibility criteria carefully to ensure your business qualifies:


  1. Must be a private, for-profit business.
  2. Must employ ten (10) employees or less.
  3. Must maintain an active 2024 KCMO business license (upload a copy).
  4. Must maintain a principal place of business within the boundaries of KCMO.
  5. Must have been in business for at least one (1) year, i.e. established before January 1, 2023.


 The Grant Application Process

  • Central Eligibility In-Take Form: Begin by completing the general eligibility in-take form through the Beam platform.
  • Program Specific Application(s): After the initial eligibility assessment, applicants will be directed to complete program-specific application(s) through the online platform.
  • Review and Selection: A dedicated review panel will evaluate applications, selecting businesses that align with the program’s mission and goals.
  • Technical Assistance: Selected businesses will receive technical assistance to navigate the application process further, ensuring they are well-prepared for success.
  • Payment: Once the application process is complete and approved, successful applicants will receive their capital infusion.
  • Progress Reporting: The program encourages recipients to provide progress reports, ensuring transparency and accountability throughout the funding period.


Pay It Forward is Spectrum Reach’s commitment to inspiring and growing underserved businesses. The program awards grant packages to multiculturally owned businesses nationwide. These grants include

  • Complimentary TV and streaming ad campaigns
  • Creative services
  • Educational resources
  • Business-building mentoring and insights

Since 2001, over 2,000 diverse grantees have received more than $50M in media and services through Pay It Forward. In 2024, 250 additional businesses will be empowered through grant awards.

The program fulfills Spectrum Reach’s commitment to foster growth and opportunity within diverse communities.


MASN invites students in afterschool programs and youth organizations to participate in the 2024 Missouri Youth Entrepreneurship Pitch Challenge.  


Students benefit when immersed in micro-enterprise and entrepreneurial opportunities that connect them with peers to cultivate the entrepreneurial mindset.  

NEW this year: Programs can earn up to $600 in prizes. Earn $200 each for having the grand prize winner in your program, having the most student participants, or having the best program leader pitch. 
What is a Program Pitch? Program leaders can submit a 1 -2-minute persuasive pitch encouraging other programs to participate by stating why you love pitching in your program.


  • Students submit up to 90-second video pitches of business ideas by July 15, 2024 
  • Categories are K-4, 5-8, and 9-12.  
  • Videos are judged by Missouri educators, entrepreneurs, and professionals. 

Contact: Aaron Banks, [email protected], for further questions. 

Support for The Pitch Challenge: Ongoing support is provided by MASN through generous funding from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Technical assistance partners include Young Entrepreneur Institute, and Venture Lab. 

Program Eligibility Requirements

Our Mission and Purpose

As part of our mission to support diverse-led certified suppliers with access to capital, resources and connections, Founders First Capital Partners has joined the Initiative for Inclusive Entrepreneurship (IIE). Targeted to small certified suppliers in California, Georgia, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, the Small Certified Supplier Innovative Finance Program is designed to engage diverse suppliers in educational funding readiness training and funder matching to support capacity building.

A total of 1,200 small certified suppliers will be selected from the pool of applications by a panel of judges to join the Small Certified Supplier Innovative Finance Program.


Techstars has discontinued the Kansas City region accelerator to created a greater reach nationally. However, Kansas City business are encouraged to continue to apply to one of the 50 accelerators worldwide, including a virtual option.

Click Here to find a Techstars Accelerator that is best suited for the needs of your business!

NAACP, in conjunction with Medium Rare and The Shark Group, has launched applications for the fourth annual NAACP Powershift Entrepreneur Grant in celebration of Black Entrepreneurs Day.

The NAACP Powershift Entrepreneur Grant aims to empower Black entrepreneurs and businesses through funding and resources and has, in previous years, contributed largely to the growth of Black businesses across the nation.

The Missouri Arts Council believes that artists are the backbone of our creative state. Through our Featured Artists program, we promote and support individual artists and demonstrate the variety of creative Missouri talent.

Here is how it works: The Missouri Arts Council features four artists each month. They highlight and promote each month’s artists via the homepage of the Missouri Arts Council website, the Featured Artists page on the website, a monthly email, social media, and links to the artists’ websites. Artists receive a $500 stipend/license fee to feature their work online.

Artists must be full-time residents of Missouri. Artists of any medium with online work that they have ownership to license are eligible to participate. Mediums may include (but are not limited to) visual art, literature, music, video, dance, theater, storytelling, and traditional arts.

For more information please contact Michael Donovan, executive director, Missouri Arts Council, [email protected] or 314-340-4740.

Additional information and Applications can be found here: Featured Artists Application (

Now Accepting Applications

This 10 week accelerator starts August 2024. Apply by May 12, 2024 via the Mid-States website, our program partner. We’ll reach out to you if you’ve been selected to move forward to the next step of the application process.

We’ll grant you $5,000 in equity-free funding once you complete the course**, so you can continue to invest in and grow your business.
Now Accepting Applications

Small businesses play a vital role in our communities. The Social Impact Pitch Competition is an event whose goal is to celebrate and support businesses striving to make a difference in Kansas City, Missouri.

Our focus is empowering entrepreneurs with a social impact goal – whether it is health, education, equality, cultural preservation, environmental sustainability, boosting the local economy, etc.

Funds can be used on overhead, equipment, inventory, renovation, technology, professional services, marketing, and outreach activities to support social impact efforts.


  • Must be a private, for-profit business
  • Must employ 10 employees or less
  • Must maintain an active 2024 KCMO business license (upload a copy)
  • Must be current with all KCMO taxes (upload a copy of a KCMO tax clearance letter)
  • Must maintain a principal place of business within the boundaries of KCMO
  • Must have been in business for at least one (1) year, i.e. established before January 1, 2023
  • Must be a social impact venture
  • Can commit to participating in a live pitch competition in late July 2024
  • Can commit to 10 hours of technical assistance


ArtsKC and the Kansas City Film Office present: the Teri Rogers Film Grants. These grants were created in honor of the late Teri Rogers, a woman who dedicated her life to uplifting women creatives in Kansas City. ArtsKC offers two programs to honor Teri Rogers’ legacy: the Teri Rogers Filmmakers Grants and the Teri Rogers Screenwriting Award.

Film Grants – ArtsKC

The CO—100 is an exclusive list of the 100 best and brightest small and mid-sized businesses in America. These are businesses to watch — driving innovation, growth, and ingenuity in their communities and around the world. Our awards program celebrates more than just your business’s bottom line; we care about your ideas, challenges, community, company culture, customers, and overall growth. Enter today to share your story and get recognized.

Is My Company Eligible?

To apply for the CO— 100 Awards, an applicant must:

  1. Be a legal resident of the United States.
  2. Be a for-profit business operating for at least one (1) year primarily within the United States.
  3. Have fewer than 250 employees or gross revenues of less than $20 million for both 2022 and 2023.
  4. Agree to all of the Award Rules, including potentially attending the award ceremony.

Employees, officers and directors of Sponsors and any affiliated entities, and their respective immediate families (parents, spouse, children, siblings) or individuals residing in their household (whether or not related) are not eligible applicants.

Click here to learn more about the terms and conditions and the full program rules.

 Step 1.Guidelines and process for selection

  • Each artist must submit their own application.
  • Must be able to display 16 – 25 works.
  • You may request to exhibit with another artist. Placement is not guaranteed.
  • Selected artists must not have exhibited in a monthly show in any medium within the past 2 years at the Tim Murphy Art Gallery.
  • Applications are reviewed by a committee.
  • Notification will be sent no later than the week after Labor Day.

Step 2.Gather your information

  • Five digital pictures that represent work you intend to exhibit.
  • Samples must be high resolution .jpgs
  • File names must include your last name and the title of the piece.

Step 3.Submit your application


Artists who wish to be considered for 2025 exhibitions must submit application by Sunday, July 31, 2024

Step 4.You’ll hear from us

All applicants receive notification via email of acceptance or rejection the week after Labor Day.

How artist selection works:

  • A committee selects artists for exhibitions.
  • The committee may assign more than one artist per exhibition.

Step 5.Gallery policies

Accepted artists must follow these guidelines:

  • All exhibited 2D works must be matted and framed unless wrap around canvas technique is utilized.
  • Accepted artist must sign gallery agreement.
  • 90% of displayed artwork must be for sale.
  • Gallery commission is 30% of sales.
  • 3-D mediums displayed on pedestals.
  • Insurance is the responsibility of the artist.

The Pilot Research Program is a way for your district or school to engage your teachers, students, and parents in the innovation process. We’ll help you gather data and insights so you can prioritize your biggest challenges. Then, we’ll help you select and research an emerging tech-based program to find out if it works in your context
  • Receive up to $10K in grant funding to support teacher stipends and school needs.
  • Access free learning experiences focused on innovation.
  • Educator leadership opportunities & professional development.
  • Make evidence-based decisions to inform whether you should purchase or implement products at scale.

How it works

Pilot Research Program How it Works Graphic

A school representative starts by completing the short Expression of Interest Form and answering some “Get To Know You” questions. Then, the LEANLAB research team conducts qualitative research through focus groups with parents, teachers, and administrators.

We’ll use those learnings to search the globe and find technology solutions that may work in your context. When a match is found, you’ll go on to co-design a research question and implement the pilot in your school.


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