How to become a multi-award winning entrepreneur

Here are some tips and tricks to snag your business a prestigious award

How to become a multi-award winning entrepreneur

Winning a business or industry award can be a great honour for your business. It is also a good way to gain exposure and take your brand to greater heights. Our very own Managing Director of Elite Business, Scott English and Sophie Milliken MBE, founder and CEO of Moja Group, took to the stage at The Business Show in the London Excel, speaking about ways businesses can increase their chances of winning an award. Scott, who currently judges seven different national awards across the UK, explained how entering awards gain give credibility to your brand and the recognition it deserves. Not only that, winning an award can help boost employee morale.

He explained: “When you enter awards, such as EB100, it adds huge credibility to your brand. If you’re a start-up, then you can showcase that you’re an innovative up-and-coming emerging brand or that you’re a well-established successful brand. Not only that, getting an award gives your team the confidence and motivation to see the brand being recognised for their hard work and commitment. It also rewards your team, giving them the confidence that they’re working for a company or business that has purpose and is being recognised for excellence. This can promote team loyalty and help build a successful culture. 

“Winning an award can accelerate your business growth, giving you the PR when you become a finalist or winner gives you an excuse to reach out to local, regional and national press, which can help to generate new customers.” Not only that, award shows also allow you to network and make connections with other businesses across the board. “You can make invaluable connections with thought leaders in your industry,” Scott adds. “By surrounding yourself with successful people, you can learn from their experiences, ask for advice, and gain valuable insights into what it takes to be successful through networking. This could be the deciding factor on why a customer chooses you over a competitor.” 

Some business owners may think that their company is still far too small to be eligible to receive an award. As Scott puts it, “if you reach for the moon you’ll land amongst the stars”, so even if your business is at its early stages, it is still worth applying for awards. This is because your business could still get shortlisted, giving your brand the recognition and spotlight in its own right. Scott said: “If you put the effort in to enter an awards and you get nominated or shortlisted even if you don’t win you can still use the finalist logo and plaster it all over your marketing collateral, which in turn could be the tipping point decision between a customer choosing you over a competitor, still giving you credibility.” 

Even applying for an award can be great practice for the future, allowing you to reflect on your business model and company goals. “Even if you don’t get nominated it’s a great exercise to fill in the online forms, which will make you think about what you’re currently doing in your business to answer these questions,” Scott said. “You also get to meet and present in front of judges who will ask you in-depth questions about your business. This can help with developing how you present your company, but also allows you to actually reflect on the model and think about what you’re currently doing as a business and of course your overall company goals.”

There are many positives to entering award ceremonies. However, there are some negatives that you need to look out for. You may find yourself being approached to apply for awards, which does happen, but make sure you do your due diligence and find out more information about the organisation. If it feels like they’re pressurising you too much, it could be a red flag. Scott said: “You may be contacted by an organiser specifically, A lot of organisers are part of a commercial entity, they’re businesses at the end of the day and they have their targets for entries or applications, so if you’re doing something they consider to tick boxes looking at your brand they may reach out to you.  There’s nothing wrong with this and sending you info for your consideration is fine, could be the right opportunity for you. However, if their touch points to you are intense, and it feels like you’re being pressured into entering. It’s normally a red flag.” 

Some awards shows require an upfront fee to enter. However, if the cost is unreasonably high, it could mean malpractice. It is not unheard of that some awards do charge an admission fee, but if it’s simply a ‘pay to win’ award – that could ring alarm bells. “There are many credible organisers that charge a reasonable entry fee, as mentioned before most are operating businesses with operating costs, however, some trade award organisers ask for thousands of pounds to enter, and the only way you’ll be considered as a nomination is if you book and pay for tickets or a table for the awards ceremony, or you can only win the award if you pay to attend. That is another red flag.” 

It is also a good idea to have a look at the winners of the awards. If they are the sponsors or advertisers of the event, that would likely indicate that the winners aren’t crowned fairly. “Particularly with some of the trade or sector-specific awards, are the advertisers on the site or sponsors the winners of the awards? If they are, it’s another red flag,” Scott added. “Awards should be autonomous and so should the winners. It doesn’t give you good credibility by associating with these types of awards.” And lastly, have a look at the organisers of the awards. Are they a reputable company? Do you want your business to be associated with them? Scott said: “Make sure you pick credible organisers, apart from the reasons above, perhaps the most important one look at the style of the branding of the awards. Is this something you want to have represented across your branding?” 

Sophie Milliken MBE then took to the stage to share her top tips on entering awards. When it comes to the application process, it is important to take your time when answering the questions. Refrain from copying and pasting details from your website, Sophie said, as sometimes judges do have a peep to check if this is the case. “Keep it simple, don’t overcomplicate things also make sure you’re not taking any shortcuts,” Sophie explained. “Don’t copy and paste your bio from your website as part of your application as this is what we often see. You have to think of it like a sales pitch.”

If you do end up getting shortlisted for an awards show, it’s time to celebrate. But don’t forget to share the news with your customers and investors. Sophie suggests adding the awards logo as an accolade to your email signature and on Linkedin, as well as posting updates across your social media. Share the achievement on your proposals, company presentations and more. When you attend the awards, it is important to network. Use the opportunity to gain contacts and get in touch with other businesses that have also been shortlisted. Sophie has a strategy when it comes to networking at awards. She said: “Maximise those network opportunities. I’m super strategic now when I go to an awards. I try and look at the attendance list if I get that in advance, if not I look at the shortlist to see who’s likely to be there. You can look at hashtags on social media to see the businesses who are posting about it and gives you the opportunity to connect with people.” 

And if you do win an award, make sure you are prepared. Have your press release ready the day before so you can send it to news outlets fresh the next morning. This is your opportunity to maximise as much media coverage as possible. Sophie explained: “My top tip is to prepare a press release in advance of the awards so it’s ready to release the next morning and get it out to the press. You can adjust it slightly if you don’t win and want to do something around how prestigious it was to be a finalist. Do have something ready because you are going to win an award at some point, and 

you want to be quick with it. It will be old news within a day or two, so you want to be ready to rock that press release. And lastly, update your socials and your newsletter if you have one.” 

But what happens if you don’t win an award? Don’t give up just yet, Sophie said. Try and get some feedback on your application and it take it on board for the next time you enter. “It doesn’t mean it’s over,” she added. “You’ve got to go back and have another go. Ask for feedback. If you’ve been shortlisted, it would be very unusual for them to not give you proper feedback. If you haven’t been shortlisted, you’re likely to get something a bit more generic. Don’t give up. In my first business, I entered the Great British Entrepreneurial Awards three times in a row, and I got shortlisted every time, and the last time I entered I won. It was the feedback that made sure my entries got stronger each time I applied, so you must keep going.”

A note from Sophie Milliken MBE, CEO & Founder – Moja:

As we discussed at The Business Show, award entries can do wonders for raising your profile. I’ll be discussing this in more detail, alongside other vital PR tactics at Elite Business Live 2024 at the Optimising PR and Marketing to Generate Sales panel on 14th March. If you’d like to join me, you can get discounted tickets for a limited time only from here:

Can’t make it? Check out Moja’s ‘Beyond the Bio’ podcast, where I unpick all things PR and profile raising weekly with expert guests. Listen on your favourite platform below: 




Latifa Yedroudj
Latifa Yedroudj

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