Whether your company has been around for decades or is just getting off the ground, getting a business award under your belt is a great way to build credibility and generate positive PR. Winning an award tells customers that you’ve been vetted by a third party and bested other companies to come out on top – no easy feat!

Awards programs run the gamut. Some are free to enter, while others can cost hundreds of dollars per submission. Some have simple entry procedures, and others can rival an Ivy League college application. Still, others are inexpensive to enter but will cost an arm and a leg if you want to buy a certificate, trophy or rights to use their logo. It’s a good idea to do some research before diving right into the application.

To get you started, here are 10 small business awards programs and ideas to consider:

1. National Small Business Week Awards

The National Small Business Week Awards are organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration and have several categories, including Small Business Person of the Year. Submission deadline: Jan. 5, 2015. Cost*: Free.

2. DREAM BIG Blue Ribbon/Small Business of the Year Award

The DREAM BIG Awards are organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. There is one winner, seven regional finalists and 100 Blue Ribbon honorees. Prizes include $10,000 cash. Submission deadline: Jan. 7, 2015. Cost: $25 for U.S. Chamber members; $150 for nonmembers.

3. SCORE Awards

The annual SCORE Awards are organized by SCORE, a non-profit association that has been supporting small businesses across the country for nearly 50 years. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in January. Cost: Free.

4. Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Recognition for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year is given on both a national and regional level. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in January. Cost: Free.

5. American Business Stevie Awards

The American Business Stevie Awards feature an impressive array of categories in management, marketing, customer service, human resources, information technology, new product/service and more. Submission deadline: March 25, 2015. Cost: Some categories are free; the rest are $215 to $470 per entry.

6. Small Business Influencer Awards

The Small Business Influencer Awards are produced by Ramon Ray (founder of smallbiztechnology.com) and Anita Campbell (founder of Small Business Trends), two big names in the small business community. There is a public-voting component. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in July. Cost: Free.

7. Indie Awards

The Indie Awards are a part of Independent We Stand, an effort to get consumers to shop locally at independently owned and operated businesses. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in September. Cost: Free.

8. Best in Biz Awards

Entries for the Best in Biz Awards are judged by press and industry analysts. There are 60 categories across five focus areas: company, department or team, executive, product, and PR and media. Submissions for the 2015 program will open in September. Cost: $350 per entry.

9. Local Chamber of Commerce

Check your local Chamber of Commerce and find out if they have any recognition programs; many of them do.

10. Local “Reader’s Choice” Lists

Many regional magazines, newspapers and websites have annual lists where readers can nominate and vote for the area’s best coffee shop, best mechanic, best veterinarian, etc. (Here’s one for the San Francisco Bay Area.)

Did an award win give your business a boost? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

* Costs listed are accurate at time of publication.

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