As anyone who’s hung around here for more than two seconds knows that one of my driving passions is supporting small businesses (particularly women-owned small businesses). I grew up with a foot in two worlds: the poor city where I lived, and the (also none too affluent) entrepreneurial artist community where I spent my weekends. What I learned from both of those environments is that if you want to get something done, you usually need to do it yourself. But I also quickly grasped in my world of fewer resources that if you go for something, your community will back you a thousand percent, in any and all ways that they can. Which means I’ve spent my adult life with a lot to pay forward.
I am always trying to honor the profound levels of support that I received from my communities as an ambitious and gutsy kid. I love working with small businesses who didn’t start with a pile of resources, but instead started with a marginally insane amount of determination and a dream. (APW had no start-up capital, I had nearly zero savings at the time, no financial partner, and a sixty-hour a week job. Not exactly ideal conditions to start a big project.) I’ve spent a handful of years doing more free consulting than I reasonably have time to do (and later on hiring staff members equally devoted to small business support; hat tip to Maddie, Keriann, and Emily, who have also proceeded to provide more free consulting than they reasonably have time to do). But for the past few years, I’ve dreamed of offering a small business scholarship to go with that advice (inspired in no small part by Susan Peterson of Freshly Picked).
And today, we have really, really, really exciting news. Squarespace has partnered up with us for APW’s very first small business scholarship. If you followed along last year, you already know that Squarespace is an amazing user-friendly website-building platform that provides the creative tools to help give a voice to your work (without all the hair pulling that usually goes along with building a website). But this year, they’re taking that another step and giving one lucky APW reader a $5,000 scholarship to help further their business. Here’s how it works:
We are looking for a small business within the APW community that is ready to take their business to the next step, whatever that may be. The winner of the APW + Squarespace Scholarship will receive $5,000 toward furthering their business goals, plus three one-hour business coaching sessions from the APW staff. In addition to the scholarship, the winner will receive one year of hosting from Squarespace, along with the standard awesome support offered by the Squarespace customer service team. (On that note, you must be willing to either create your business website, or switch your website to Squarespace in the event that your application is chosen as the winner. To tour Squarespace and learn more about what that means, click here.)
How To Apply
The APW + Squarespace Scholarship is open to APW readers who already have a business up and running. As anyone who ever owned a small company knows, $5,000 can completely change the game. (Hell, a few hundred dollars is how most of the businesses you see on APW got started, and $2,000 in early APW earnings was what launched the first professional APW site.) What we want to know is what you plan to do with the scholarship, and how that will change things for you.
To apply, send a one-page essay (no more than 1000 words) to team (at) apracticalwedding (dot) com, describing in detail what kind of business you run, why you’re passionate about it, and what you’d do with the scholarship if you win. Please consider the following questions when writing your submission:
- What is your business or product?
- How did you get started?
- What challenges have you faced in building your business?
- What makes your product/business interesting or unique?
- What has been your biggest business challenge so far?
- What will you do with the money if you are awarded the scholarship?
Be sure to include the following elements with your application, or it will not be counted:
- Your name, age, and where you live
- A short bio and headshot
- A link to your business website and all relevant social media accounts (if you don’t have a website yet, a few photos of your product or a business plan will suffice)
Essays will be accepted from January 10, 2015 to February 8, 2015 at 11:59 PM PST. Finalists will be notified no later than February 26, 2015 via email and announced in Friday Happy Hour on February 27, 2015. Finalists will then enter the voting period, which will run from February 27, 2015 until March 1, 2015 at 11:59 PM PST, and the winner will be notified via email and announced on the site and on social media on March 6, 2015.
By submitting your application, you agree that you have read and understand the official rules of entry, which can be found here. By submitting an application, you also agree to 1) either create a business website hosted by Squarespace, or switch your current website to Squarespace, and 2) provide APW with periodic updates about how your business has benefited from the Scholarship, and 3) allow APW to use your name, likeness, and image and the name and trademarks of your business.
What We’re Looking For
We’re looking for applications that have a strong voice and a clear vision for what you would do with the scholarship should you win. The winner will be asked to check in with the APW community throughout the year, so we’re looking for someone who will be excited to share their experiences with the site. (Note: you do not have to be a skilled writer for this. Just willing to share the growth of your business.) Lastly, you must be willing to either create your business website on, or switch your website to, Squarespace in the event that your application is chosen as the winner.
How Judging Works
No fewer than three finalists will be selected by the APW team and announced in Happy Hour, where the community at large will have the opportunity to vote for their favorites. The winner will be selected by a combination of popular vote and input from the APW staff. (Meaning this isn’t just going to go to the person with the largest extended family that likes to vote. We’re going to try to get an honest read on what the community’s thoughts are.)
We’re excited to see what you guys are up to, and we can’t wait to read each of your applications. While we can only give away one scholarship this year, our goal is to provide a yearlong motivational kick in the pants to all of us to hustle hustle hustle and make our businesses (and lives) a little better. Here is to paying it forward!
This post was sponsored by Squarespace. The Squarespace mission is to provide creative tools that give a voice to your ideas, so you can skip the annoying part of business-building and get right down to making your goals into reality. (You can find out how the new Squarespace 7 makes that even easier by clicking right here.) In conjunction with the APW + Squarespace Scholarship, Squarespace is offering APWers a 10% discount on yearly subscriptions when you use the code APW15 at checkout. Click here to start your 14-day free trial.
Note: This post has been updated from the original published version, in order to reflect new submission deadlines.