Awards and Competitions

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 Missouri’s most prominent business competitions that are currently taking nominations.

If you’d like to list a competition or award, please contact [email protected]


Founder Fundamental workshops have begun for those interested in the 2024 Startup Competition. To find out more, register below to receive newsletters, reminders, and more information on the process. If you can’t make a workshop, be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, where we’ll upload recordings of each session.

We’re on a worldwide search for innovative, diverse early-stage startups looking to take their business to the next level. The Arch Grants Startup Competition awards innovative, scalable, and job-creating startups with $75,000 non-dilutive grants (plus an additional $25,000 for companies relocating to St. Louis) and access to an ecosystem of resources in exchange for headquartering their business in St. Louis for at least one year. Competition applications are evaluated by over 400 industry experts from the St. Louis community and around the country.

Want to receive reminders and updates regarding the 2024 Startup Competition cycle? Click here.


  • Founders with idea-stage to pre-Series A companies
  • Companies with an innovative and scalable business model
  • Technology-enabled solutions
  • Diverse Founder teams who have a desire to help the St. Louis ecosystem grow


  • $75,000 equity-free funding + $25,000 for relocation + eligibility for additional funding of up to $100,000
  • Ala carte programming, fundraising support, and access to the Arch Grants network
  • Exclusive discounts and talent acquisition support


  • The Company locate their headquarters in the City of St. Louis for at least one year
  • 51% of the founding team or one founder and 51% of the team need to live in St. Louis for the program year
  • At least one founder is working on the company as their primary or full-time professional role


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 BALSA Grant is free help to start a business

We offer the BALSA Grant to help first time entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground.

BALSA Grant finalists receive:

  • Free (non-dilutive) cash grant of $1,000

  • The Learning Series, a 10 week comprehensive entrepreneur training program that helps participants realize their potential, introduces them to the St. Louis business ecosystem and brings them industry experts every week that also includes one on one time with each presenter after the session.

    (Valued at $20,000+ in In-kind professional services

  • One-on-one mentoring

The BALSA Grant is designed for first-time St. Louis entrepreneurs wanting to start or grow their early stage business in St. Louis.  We welcome applications from all business sectors, and from non-profit as well as for-profit organizations.

You can apply to The BALSA Grant twice a year, January 1-31 and July 1-31.

Before applying, be sure to download and read the Entrepreneur’s Roadmap.  Also, submitting your idea to Idea Support is a great way to get feedback to improve your BALSA Grant application.

More details about the BALSA Grant:

Contact us if you have any questions.


  • Being under the age of 18.

  • Having started a successful business before. We wish to exclude serial entrepreneurs and those who were or are making a living from a business they started.

  • Having received any outside equity investment, significant outside funding, or a previous BALSA Grant. Financial support from the founders, their family, and personal friends is OK.

  • Living outside of the greater St. Louis area. Our aim is to help those in the St. Louis region, broadly defined as residing or operating within 25 miles of St. Louis City Hall.

  • Important: We will not review applications which are outside of the word limits described in the application (1300-1800 characters per section). For more information on writing a strong application look on our website:

We welcome applications from all business sectors, whether for-profit or non-profit, and from everyone regardless of US citizenship. We reserve the right to adjust our eligibility criteria, however.

Please contact us if you have questions or are unsure if you are eligible. Special consideration can be made in exceptional circumstances.


January 1 – 31th: Applications Open

Jan 25th – Feb 5th: Eligibility Checks

Feb 6th – 28th: Second Round of Reviews

March 1 – 11th: Final Round of Reviews

Third Week of March: Winners Chosen

Last Week of March: Winners Notified

Early – Mid April: Pitch Practices

Mid April: $5K Pitch Competition

Late April: Awards Ceremony

May: First 2 – 3 sessions of Learning Series

June: 4 Square One Ignite Sessions!

Month of July: Last BALSA Learning Sessions


July 1 – 31th: Applications Open

July 25th – Aug 5th: First Round of Reviews

Aug 6th – 28th: Second Round of Reviews

September 1 – 11th: Final Round of Reviews

Third Week of September: Winners Chosen

Last Week of September: Winners Notified

Early – Mid October: Pitch Practices

Mid October: $5K Pitch Competition

Late October: Awards Ceremony

Early November: 1st Sessions with BALSA Cohort

Take off December

January: Additional BALSA Sessions

February – March: Square One Ignite Sessions!

Apply for the 1K Grant

Apply for the 5K Follow Up Grant

ROLLING APPLICATIONS-The Catalyst @ PennGSE virtual accelerator, Catapult, transforms education entrepreneurship. From idea to scale, we help companies shape, develop, and deploy innovative, proven solutions to meet critical educational challenges. Catapult features high-quality educational content and tailored recommendations to help your venture take the next steps. Register for the chance to earn $25,000 in validation grants through Catapult’s Advanced Member track


Validation grants worth more than $25,000 in cash and in-kind services



Apply Here

Comcast Sports Tech invests in and develops the next generation of technology to change the way we experience sports. The sports industry is a complex ecosystem of brands, leagues, media distributors, broadcasters, and teams that can be difficult to navigate, so Comcast Sports Tech surrounds entrepreneurs with a dream team of world class advisors and experts who are passionately dedicated to helping them succeed.

Deadline April 24)

Challenge America offers support primarily to small organizations for projects that extend the reach of the arts to underserved groups/communities. Challenge America features an abbreviated application, a robust structure of technical assistance, and matching grants of $10,000.

Click here to learn more about Challenge America Grants.


Ready to Join Our Roster? Apply now.

Comcast Sports Tech invests in and develops the next generation of technology to change the way we experience sports. The sports industry is a complex ecosystem of brands, leagues, media distributors, broadcasters, and teams that can be difficult to navigate, so Comcast Sports Tech surrounds entrepreneurs with a dream team of world class advisors and experts who are passionately dedicated to helping them succeed.

Each startup will have access to decision-makers and leaders across our SportsTech partner consortium, which includes four Comcast NBCUniversal sports brands: NBC Sports, Sky Sports, Comcast Spectacor, and Golf – alongside NASCAR, WWE, and PGA TOUR, and three US Olympic sports organizations: U.S. Ski & Snowboard, USA Swimming, and USA Cycling.


Ready to Join Our Roster? Apply now.

Grant guidelines and eligibility

To make the most meaningful impact, we focus our grant giving to economic development issues tied to work, home and play. Organizations must also be based in and serve designated U.S. Bank communities. When considering funding, we prioritize organizations that focus on more than one of these segments as well as organizations led by a person of color.

Factors considered by the U.S. Bank Foundation:
Because the Foundation receives funding requests in excess to the annual grant program budget, we must decline support to worthy organizations and programs. We may decline support to organizations we have previously supported to expand community engagements. Support should not be expected to continue in perpetuity and declination does not reflect a negative appraisal of the organization or the value of its programs and service.

The following factors are among those the foundation will consider:

  • Innovation and/or differentiation in our focus areas of Work, Home and Play
  • Programming and services that advance positive community engagement efforts
  • Demonstrated outcomes and impact
  • Service delivery to low-and moderate-income, women and people of color
  • Diversity in the management and governing board of the organization
  • The financial health of the organization


The $100 million program encourages strategic investment to revitalize communities and spur economic recovery and growth throughout Missouri. The Department of Economic Development (DED) is currently reviewing public comments and revising guidelines accordingly. Review the draft guidelines.

MMSC hosted a webinar on March 13th in preparation for the 2024 Creative Space Activation Grant. This webinar highlighted the two portions of the grant application and “pitch”. Watch the recording on our YouTube channel to gather the necessary information for crafting a winning application.

MMSC is accepting applications for the 2024 Creative Space Activation Grant until July 24th. MMSC will only accept applications submitted through our Submittable form.

Digital Sandbox KC: Where Innovators Come to Play (Ongoing)

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.

Directly aligned with the STL 2030 Jobs Plan priority to create a world-class ecosystem for small businesses and entrepreneurs, the Diverse Business Accelerator is for ethnically, racially, and gender-diverse business owners looking to advance their enterprise’s capacity to grow. In the span of three months, program participants will learn how to develop actionable business expansion goals, market, and communicate their services, make meaningful business connections, and identify the capital and resources required to support growth.

Qualifications :

  • Annual revenue of $500k or more
  • A business growth plan that demonstrates the business’s capacity to scale (increase revenue, hire employees) within 2 to 5 years
  • 51% minority ownership
  • Headquartered in the 15-county, bi-state St. Louis MSA

To learn more, please visit

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.


ROLLING APPLICATIONS-For ethnically, racially, and gender-diverse business owners looking to advance their enterprise’s capacity to grow. In the span of three months, program participants will learn how to develop actionable business expansion goals, market and communicate their services, make meaningful business connections, and identify the capital and resources required to support growth.


Companies will participate in educational programming and mentoring sessions, while actively building a customized, strategic export plan

Delivered virtually, the program takes approximately 19 hours to complete (3 hours per week on average). 

Why Choose HEA

  • You’ll have intimate access to essential contacts and resources
  • You’ll learn from subject matter experts how to successfully enter or expand into foreign markets 
  • You’ll leave with a fully vetted export plan customized to your business needs 


  • Applications Due: August 30 Program Start: October 3
  • Program End: November 22


$495 USD per company 

Apply Here

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

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.

The Morgan Stanley Inclusive Ventures Lab is an in-house startup accelerator promoting financial inclusion and providing underrepresented entrepreneurs of tech and tech-enabled startups with much-needed access to capital – along with the tools, resources and connections they need to grow and thrive. Launched in New York in 2017, and expanded to London in 2021 with participants from all over the world, our Lab’s mission is nothing less than to transform the investing landscape.

Click here to get more information on the application process

ROLLING APPLICATIONS-Get up to $2500 to fund a grant writer for your SBIR (apply now) Missouri Small Business Development is offering a Phase 0 FAST Grant to fund up to $2500 toward a grant writer/consultant for your Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or STTR grant submission. Must have an SBIR/STTR grant-worthy technology and complete the necessary market and customer research to qualify.

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


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. 

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.


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.

About this Event

This PitchForce will take place virtually using Zoom Webinars. Please see the description on the virtual format for more details.

After signing up for your free ticket you will be given a link to register for the webinar via Zoom.


PitchForce is a weekly event for early stage high-tech startup entrepreneurs to get a chance to deliver a 4-minute elevator pitch to a panel of seasoned angel investors. Please send your deck and executive summary to [email protected] for approval before signing up.


Producing the event is Max Shapiro, CEO of PeopleConnect, a 20 year-old high tech startup recruiting firm. He has been hosting monthly pitch events for the past 8 years. PeopleConnect is the most unique recruiting firm in the world, featuring their Employees Without Paychecks model whereby PeopleConnect places individuals at early stage tech companies who are willing to work for options only for the first three months of their employment

PitchForce Virtual Format

· Each company will deliver a 1-minute elevator to the Investor Panelists. There will be up to two questions from the panel.

· After each company’s elevator pitch the panel will vote on a scale of 1-5 as to how much they like the company.

· The top 5 vote getters will get to do a 4-minute ppt followed by 4 minutes of question and answers followed by 4 minutes of non-rebuttal feedback. The panelists will vote again on the company based on their 4-minute ppt.

· Winners will be announced following the pitches. Companies that do well often get meetings with the investors that result in beginning the process for Angel investment.

Want to pitch?

If you want to present at this PitchForce please send your deck and exec summary to: [email protected]

60th Anniversary Pitch Competition

This summer, be a part of SCORE’s 60th Anniversary Pitch Competitions and pitch your business to a panel of industry experts to compete for a chance to secure up to $20,000 for your business. Imagine how this additional funding could impact your business growth.

Multiple competitions will be held in person and virtually for U.S. business owners due to the generous support of our premier sponsor, Global Atlantic Financial Group, and co-sponsors, the Glenn W. Bailey Foundation and the LPL Financial Foundation.

The 60th Anniversary Pitch Competition is designed for small business owners who want to improve their presentation and selling skills. Participants will receive valuable insights and guidance from SCORE mentors and industry experts, ensuring they are well-prepared to deliver a compelling pitch for this event and for prospective customers and investors.

SCORE will host five pitch competitions across the country. The competitions will be held in the following locations: (Dates will be announced soon. Check back for more information.)

Philadelphia, PA  |  Houston, TX  |  Des Moines, IA  |  Los Angeles, CA

Online/ Virtual Competition

Learn more: About SCORE’s 60th Anniversary Pitch Competition

SLUStart I-Corps is a program managed by the Research Innovation Group in Saint Louis University’s Office of the Vice President for Research. It is designed to help academic researchers, community inventors and innovators, and aspiring entrepreneurs in the St. Louis region extend their focus beyond academia, the laboratory, and the workshop so that they create successful products and services that deliver real value.

By participating in SLUStart I-Corps you can get help pursuing your innovation or new venture concept and possibly qualify for up to $50,000 in non-dilutive financial support.

SLUStart I-Corps helps participants ensure that their research and innovations will have greater economic and societal benefit. It integrates the original SLUStart program and the National Science Foundation (NSF) I-Corps Site program at Saint Louis University. As such, SLUStart I-Corps projects that qualify as NSF I-Corps Site projects have full access to the NSF I-Corps ecosystem.

SLUStart I-Corps aims to:

  • Train participants in the lean startup methodology (i.e., customer development process) popularized by Steve Blank.
  • Increase the quality and impact of research conducted at Saint Louis University.
  • Advance the commercialization of SLU intellectual properties.
  • Increase the effectiveness of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs in the St. Louis, Missouri region.
  • Increase the participation of underrepresented groups, such as women and African-Americans, in entrepreneurship and the technology industry.

SLUStart I-Corps holds cohorts on a rolling basis throughout the year.  It also partners with local community-based organizations to reach target populations and deliver the SLUStart I-Corps curriculum.  SLUStart I-Corps partners include:

  • Arch Grants
  • Inventors Association of St. Louis
  • IT Entrepreneurs Network (ITEN)
  • Veterans Business Resource Center

If you have questions about SLUStart I-Corps, contact Malcolm Townes in the Research Innovation Group at [email protected]. To participate in the program, submit your application.

To submit your Application

For More information:

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.

  • What does this program do?This program provides funding for clean and reliable drinking water systems, sanitary sewage disposal, sanitary solid waste disposal, and storm water drainage to households and businesses in eligible rural areas.Who may apply?This program assists qualified applicants who are not otherwise able to obtain commercial credit on reasonable terms. Eligible applicants include:


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