Top North American Awards for Entrepreneurs

Business awards

Awards. Whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they’re part of playing the game. While many people jump at the chance to be recognized publicly or featured in a magazine, other folks (including some of the best entrepreneurs that I know) shy away from the spotlight.

But the reality is that awards are a great way to build your personal brand and raise your professional profile – both of which are things that will benefit any venture that you take on.

So to help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of the top awards for North American entrepreneurs. Enjoy!


United States

For Young Guns

National Federation of Independent Business Young Entrepreneur Award

The NFIB knows that entrepreneurship is the future of the American economy – and they want to support the next generation of innovators and job-creators. Since 2003, the annual scholarship awards recognize graduating high school seniors that are entering their first year at an accredited post-secondary institution that are running their own small business. So if you’re ready to launch your entrepreneurial career – this is the award for you.

Under30CEO Awards

Each year, Under30CEO highlights 300 promising young entrepreneurs in 10 cities across America. In order to qualify, the entrepreneurs must meet revenue requirements of between $50,000 and $10,000,000 (OR) over 10,000 users, (OR) have between $50,000 and $10,000,000 in funding. And, of course – winners must be under the age of 30. From travel to healthcare to construction, this diverse group of entrepreneurs is sure to be an incredible asset for any young American founder.

For Founders, Hustlers and Visionaries

Entrepreneur Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year Award

From products to software to service businesses, the annual Entrepreneur of the Year Award is dedicated to recognizing innovative founders who are “bringing new light to [their] industry, employees and community”. These awards go beyond company revenues and sales figures to celebrate the vision and leadership of America’s top emerging entrepreneurs.

Smart CEO Awards

Through their magazine and their various outreach activities, Smart CEO set out to create a community of leading entrepreneurs and business professionals. One of these activities was the creation of the Smart CEO Awards program. With diverse awards recognizing everything from future leaders, to female CEOs and industry leadership, there are tremendous opportunities to be recognized for the work that you do.

US Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship Achievement and Advocacy Awards

The USASBE is committed to raising the profile of entrepreneurship and small business ownership in the United States. The annual Entrepreneurship Achievement and Advocacy awards are presented annually at the USASBE conference to entrepreneurs who have achieved great personal success, while promoting the growth of the American entrepreneurial economy. Award categories include Woman/Minority Entrepreneur, Entrepreneurship Educator, and Lifetime Achievement.

CEA Innovation Entrepreneur Awards

Brought to you by the folks who run the annual Consumer Electronics Show, the CEA Innovation Entrepreneur Awards program was designed to “recognize[s] entrepreneurs and leading businesses with revenues under $30 million and the contributions they make to the U.S. economy”. There are two awards up for grabs through the program: one for a consumer electronics company, and another for an industry executive.

For Women Who Rock

McCormick Foundation New Media Women Entrepreneurs

Since 2008, the The McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs program has sought to highlight innovation and leadership among women in the journalism industry by highlighting their entrepreneurial achievements. The unique program awards funding to women with creative, high-growth ideas for revolutionizing the journalism industry. At the 2013 awards, 4 laureates were awarded a total of $56,000 to pursue their ideas, ranging from e-publishing to expanding Latino coverage in New England. So if you’re burning with an idea that will turn the communications world on it’s head, stay tuned for the 2014 nominations!

Ernst & Young Entrepreneurial Winning Women Program

This national competition was created to seek out and develop the most promising female entrepreneurial talent in the United States. The Winning Women Program looks for women whose business have significant opportunities for growth, and then helps them scale their offering through an executive leadership program. The best part? There have been independent impact assessments conducted on the value of the program, and they found that the companies of participants have grown by 50% each year on average – not too shabby!

Stevie Awards for Women In Business

The Stevie Awards for Women In Business are an annual celebration of America’s female entrepreneurial talent. With over 50 awards recognizing everything from Best Employe of the Year to Mentor and Coach of the Year, there is an opportunity for nearly everyone to be recognized for their entrepreneurial achievements. This well-established awards program dates back to 2004, which means winners will join a large circle of connected business leaders.

For Change Makers

The Manhattan Institute Social Entrepreneurship Initiative

Each year, the Manhattan Institute recognizes excellence in ground-breaking social entrepreneurship with their William E. Simon Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and their Richard Cornuelle Awards for Social Entrepreneurship. Awarded to both non-profits and social entrepreneurs, the purpose of these awards is to encourage and enable growth and innovation in the social entrepreneurship sector. From medical services to immigration support, the winners of these prestigious awards are true change-makers who are making tangible social impacts through their creative approaches to business.


United States & Canada

For Badass Businesses

Entrepreneur Magazine 100 Brilliant Companies

Entrepreneur Magazine is known for highlighting the innovators of our time and spreading startup news to the masses. One of the most coveted issues of the magazine is their annual 100 Brilliant Companies edition. Each year, Entrepreneur recognizes game-changing startups in a variety of categories from art to food to apps. With coverage both in print and online, this is one award that you won’t want to be humble about.

The Crunchies

Presented by TechCrunch, the Crunchies have spent the last six years celebrating all things startups, innovation, and technology. The Crunchies are an incredible opportunity for fledgling startups to gain massive exposure – not only is the event sponsored by big-name parnters like VentureBeat and GigaOm, but the award recipients are chosen by the online community (AKA potential customers).

TiE50 Awards

TiE is a world-renowned not-for-profit organization dedicated to connecting entrepreneurs and professionals and advancing entrepreneurship. The annual Tie50 awards are given out at the TieCon conference, attended by some of the Valley’s most promising entrepreneurs. Categories for the Tie50 awards include software, internet, mobile, energy and life sciences.

The Stevie Awards
(Note: The Stevie Awards also present the annual American Business Awards)

For over a decade, the Stevie Awards have been celebrating excellence in all aspects of business and entrepreneurship. Every year, these awards bring together some of the finest entrepreneurial minds from around the world to celebrate innovation and growth. The wide-ranging categories include creative awards, new product awards and marketing honours. Plus, the award itself is actually gold. Baller.

For Young Guns

Entrepreneur’s Organization Global Student Entrepreneur Awards

It’s no secret – some of the best and brightest entrepreneurs got their start while they were still in school (yes, Zuck included). Entrepreneur’s Organization is keenly aware of that fact, and they wanted to celebrate the next generation of entrepreneurs who are pushing boundaries and innovating from the classroom and the dorm room. This competition-based awards program comes with a cash prize, as well as some invaluable access to mentors and leading entrepreneurs. So, are you ready to go head to head with your fellow young guns?

For Founders, Hustlers and Visionaries

TechFellow Awards

In their very own words, the “TechFellow Awards is an annual startup investment program to honor the people who make great innovation happen through excellence in high-tech entrepreneurship”. Supported by Founders Fund, TechCrunch and NEA, these awards recognize an elite group of innovators that are transforming the industries in which they work. The four award categories are: General Management, Disruptive Innovation, Product Design & Marketing, and Engineering Leadership.

Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Canada)

Ernst & Young is famous for their celebration of entrepreneurs through their annual awards program. Sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation and SAP, the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (as well as the regional awards) recognizes the accomplishments of business leaders across fields, including retail and media. One of the most exciting things about the Ernst & Young program is their extensive alumni community – which means that the benefits of recognition go far beyond a crystal trophy.

For Women Who Rock

Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards: North America

This annual business plan competition was created as a partnership between Cartier, McKinsey & Co, the Women’s Forum and INSEAD Business School in an effort to creative a thriving network of female entrepreneurial leaders and role models through the discovery and funding of early-stage women-run businesses. The two rounds of competition will see entrepreneurs from around the world competing based on the merit of their business plans. At the end, one winner from each region will be awarded the grand prize, which comes with funding and mentorship for one year.

For Kick-A$$ Products

CES Innovations Awards

The CES Innovations Awards were created to honour the best in design and engineering in consumer electronics. Covering everything from accessible technologies to gaming, this platform comes with unparalleled exposure for the winners and their products.

Edison Awards

Named after, you guessed it – Thomas Edison, the annual awards recognizes excellence in product development and innovation. With wide-ranging categories including Consumer Packaged Good, the Edison Green Award, and Lifestyle & Social Impact, this prestigous prize seeks to encourage innovation and recognize the efforts of America’s leading inventors and entrepreneurs. If you think you have what it takes to join the ranks of Disney, 3M and Logitech, be sure to toss your name in the hat and make Edison proud!

Best App Ever Awards

For over five years, the Best App Ever Awards have been recognizing rising talent in the iOS and Android categories. These awards aim to highlight the best in app design and development – not just the highest selling products. From best family game to best new app to best adult education map, there are many opportunities for talented developers to highlight their creations.

Appsfire App Star Awards

With over $10,000 in prizes and exposure to partners like GigaOM, TechCrunch and The Next Web – this is not an opportunity to be missed. The App Star Awards highlight new and upcoming iOS Apps. The 2012 top prize winner, Mooklet, allows users to create and publish and original photo story book. If you’re designing the next great app, consider throwing your hat in the ring for the App Star Awards.

Apple Design Awards

With the sheer volume of apps being created every single day, there are far too many gems that get lost in the noise. The Apple Design Awards cut through the mediocrity to highlight the most innovative and beautiful apps of the year. These awards honour app creators who are at the forefront of user-friendly app technology. With four categories (iPhone, iPad, Mac Developer Showcase, and Student Showcase), there is no question that taking home one of these coveted prizes at the World Wide Developer Conference is something to write home about!

For People Making Beautiful Sh*t

SXSW Interactive Awards

It’s SXSWi…need we say more? No – but we will anyways. In their very own words, the SXSW Interactive Awards “uncovers the best new digital work, from mobile and tablet apps to websites and installations, while celebrating those who are building tomorrow’s interactive trends.” With the major industry exposure, prizes and startup clout that comes along with winning – time spent creating a kick-ass entry is definitely time well-spent.

Applied Arts Mag Design Award

For over 23 years, the Applied Arts Design Awards have been celebrating beauty and innovation in the design community. These awards recognize talented designers from across North America in dozens of categories – from young bloods typography and everything in between. One of the most exciting things about this award is the exposure that it generates. The work of laureates is not only featured in the magazine and displayed at the event, it is preserved online forever. So if you want to make a lasting mark on the creative community, be sure to submit your work!

American Design Awards

The goal of the American Design Awards is to recognize and award outstanding graphic and web design achievements throughout the world. From their Quarterly Awards design contest to their Web 50 and Student awards, the ADAs recognize that design excellence comes in all shapes and sizes. One of the most interesting things about the Awards is their Inspire category. The ADA believes that “when rebranding, sometimes the story behind your inspiration is as important as the design itself”. The Inspire award not only rewards technical achievement, but creative vision – and we think that’s pretty cool.


The Awwwards are all about highlighting and honouring the creators of unique, beautiful and intuitive digital experiences. From developers to designers to web agencies, the Awwwards are handed out to individuals and groups who have pushed the envelope when it comes to web design. The Awwwards team has also set out to build a creative community around the awards, as well as a space for debate, discussion and idea generation. So if you’re hacking away at the next great website, visit the Awwwards website and toss your hat into the ring!

CSS Design Awards

According to their website, the CSS Design Awards “is a living archive of the world’s greatest websites and an inspirational showcase celebrating emerging talent.” The goal of these awards is to take snapshots of the rapidly evolving web development space and highlight the remarkable creatives that are creating bold and beautiful sites around the world. Websites must be highly creative, coded in CSS, fully functioning and preferably W3C compliant.

The Webby Awards

This annual celebration of all things web hardly needs an introduction. Presented by the Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, The Webby Awards are arguably among the world’s foremost creative web design and development prizes. With academy members like David Bowie and Arianna Huffington, the stakes are high in this contest. Last year’s annual contest saw over 10,000 entries from around the world, in five categories. With such international prestige, there is no question that being able to boast a Webby award is a powerful asset.

For Marketing and Moguls

Shorty Awards

The Shorty Awards are the social media awards par excellence. With celebrity hosts and previous winners including Ricky Gervais and Michael Bloomberg, the Shorty Awards celebrate boundary-pushing creativity in social media. The awards celebrate innovation across a wide range of industries (really – they even have fitness and best charity account categories). Whether you attend as a nominee or simply a curious spectator, you’re sure to have your mind blown at least a few times.

Social Media Awards

Founded in 2011, the Social Media Awards celebrate the work of marketing industry professionals who are advancing the craft of social media. Lead by an advisory panel of professionals from across North America, the ‘Coasties’ honour marketing professionals from Canada and the United States who are using social media in new and creative ways. With nine categories, including best student work and best customer service award, there are plenty of opportunities to spread some social media love.

The Bees Awards

When the Bees Awards were launched in 2009, the goal was simple: “to define the best practices and the best professionals” in social media marketing. Since their inaugural awards, the Bees have honoured a wildly diverse group of marketing professionals for their accomplishments in everything from analytics to micro-blogging to crisis management. If you or someone you know has been pushing the envelope in the social space, be sure to keep an eye out for nominations!

PR Daily Digital PR & Social Media Awards

These annual awards presented by PR Daily honour the accomplishments of PR and marketing professionals across a variety of industries, including government and private business. Whether you want to nominate a community manager who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, or you want to recognize your marketing team’s brilliant email campaign, there is a category for everyone. This award also comes with some major exposure in PR Daily and tickets to PR Daily/Ragan events.

For Change Makers

SVN Innovation Awards

The Social Venture Network is a worldwide network of high-impact social entrepreneurs who are dedicated to changing the way we do business – and creating a healthier, more sustainable world in the process. The annual SVN Awards honour leaders in the social entrepreneurship space. Winners of the SVN Awards benefit not only from great exposure, but they receive access to the SVN, as well as their conference and introductions to impact investors.



For Badass Businesses

PROFIT Hot 50 Awards

For over 14 years, the PROFIT Hot 50 awards have been recognizing Canada’s hottest growth companies in their annual ranking. Based on two-year revenue, the awards shine a light on Canada’s best and brightest entrepreneurs. Award winners will also receive coverage in PROFIT magazine, as well as an invitation to GrowthCamp.

Canadian Startup Awards

Presented by TechVibes and sponsored by KPMG, this two year-old awards program recognizes the companies and entrepreneurs that are revitalizing the Canadian startup space. With categories like entrepreneur of the year, angel of the year, and best overall Canadian startup and big-name winners like Indochino and Ryan Holmes, these awards are sure to become a staple in the Canadian startup scene.

For Young Guns

FuEL Awards

The FuEL Awards is an annual event dedicated to promoting entrepreneurship by highlighting the accomplishments of remarkable young hustlers. With sponsors like KPMG and TD, this award comes with significant exposure, and great networking opportunities. With categories ranging from Best Green Business to Best Emerging Business, the FuEL Awards are a great opportunity to get recognized and get your name out there!

BDC Young Entrepreneur Award

If you’re an entrepreneur between the ages of 18 and 35 in the great white north, the Business Development Bank of Canada wants to hear from you! The BDC Young Entrepreneur Award is all about supporting young Canadian business owners who are at a crossroads on their entrepreneurial path by providing them with the financial and educational resources that they need to take their business to the next level. With a $100k grand prize, it’s definitely worth a look!

Canadian Youth Business Foundation Best Business Awards

Many organizations claim to support the ‘leaders of tomorrow’, but CYBF really puts its money where its mouth is with the annual Best Business Awards. The awards celebrate Canada’s rising entrepreneurial stars and the unique companies that they create in five categories, ranging from Best Emerging Business to Best Socially-Minded Business. While only one grand prize winner is named each year, all best business category winners receive cash, access to personal development opportunities, and (most importantly) – exposure.

Top 40 Under 40

While this honour isn’t reserved for entrepreneurs, many CEOs and founders have been featured on this prestigious list. For over 15 years the Top 40 Under 40 awards have celebrated the finest in business and social services from across Canada. With over 600 recipients to date, you will be joining a well-established network of up-and-coming Canadian professionals.

For Founders, Hustlers and Visionaries

Atlantic Business Magazine Top 50 CEO Awards

At Clarity, we’re a little partial to Atlantic Canada. But set our personal bias aside for a moment, and you will find that Atlantic Canada is a growing hub of entrepreneurship. These annual awards recognize 50 business leaders for the region, as nominated by the community and by nominees themselves. It’s a great way to gain some press coverage for you, and for your company.

Desjardins Entrepreneur Awards

Desjardins knows that entrepreneurs are a dedicated group of change-makers that breed innovation in the communities in which they work and play every day. To honour that spirit of community-building and leadership, Desjardins created the Entrepreneur Awards. In addition to all winners receiving coverage in Canadian print media, the Young Entrepreneur category winner will receive a $10,000 bursary.

C100 Icon of Canadian Entrepreneurship

The inaugural C100 Icon of Canadian Entrepreneurship award was presented to Rob Burgess in March of 2013. This new annual award will recognize outstanding leadership and contribution to the Canadian entrepreneurial community. Award winners will be selected based on their entrepreneurial achievements, as well as their contributions to the community.

For Women Who Rock

RBC Canadian Women Entrepreneur Awards

The RBC CWEA Awards aren’t just about hosting a fancy party once a year – they are dedicated to creating opportunities for growth and personal development for Canada’s leading female business leaders. With over 19,000 nominees to date over several categories (including impact, momentum, and sustainability), there is no doubt that this growing community of women is a valuable network for any entrepreneur to tap into.

Profit/Chatelaine W100

For over 14 years, the Profit/Chatelaine ranking and awards program has celebrated the largest Canadian firms owned by women. The reason that the W100 is considered an awards program, not simply a ranking, is that winners enjoy support from both Profit and Chatelaine in the year following their win. In addition to being featured in Chatelaine magazine, winners will receive marketing and PR support from Profit, as well as access to an exclusive conference for W100 entrepreneurs called the Profit/Chatelaine W100 Ideas Exchange.

For People Making Beautiful Sh*t

Design Edge Awards

Produced by Design Edge Canada magazine, these annual awards celebrate Canada’s finest in graphic design. Categories include logo, campaign, editorial, print, mobile design, and more. Whether you are a graphic designer just starting out or an established pro, these awards are a great opportunity to gain exposure and recognition for your best work in the community.

For Marketing Moguls

Marketing Magazine Awards

For over 90 years, the Marketing Magazine Awards have recognized outstanding achievement by Canadian marketers. Now, after amalgamating with the Digital Marketing Awards in 2012, the MMAs have added several new awards to their roster, including six for design achievement. One of the most unique aspects of the awards is the prize awarded to the Best of Show winner. Not only will the recipient receive recognition at home in Canada, but Marketing Magazine will pay the winner’s entry fee should they wish to enter in the Cannes International Festival of Creativity in June 2014. Not bad, right?

Canadian Marketing Association Awards

The Canadian Marketing Association Awards were created to celebrate the client-agency relationship, and to recognize outstanding marketing work that breaks creative barriers while achieving measurable results. With categories ranging from automotive to food and beverage, there are plenty of opportunities for remarkable Canadian marketers and agencies to be recognized for the amazing creative work that they produce every day.

For Change Makers

The GLOBE Awards

The annual GLOBE Awards recognizes outstanding Canadian companies who are creating successful businesses, while contributing to a greener future for our planet. With categories ranging from technology innovation and application to next generation entrepreneurs, these awards seek to identify the business leaders of today (and tomorrow), who understand the power of the triple bottom line.

So, are you ready to put your name into the hat?

Now it’s your turn – did we miss any? Just like we did for our popular Top Conferences for Entrepreneurs in North America post, we will be updating the list as your suggestions roll in.

Be sure to comment below if you have an award that you think should be added to the list!

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  • Social Media Camp

    Thanks for the mention of the Social Media Awards in Victoria BC on May 7th. This year the awards received 82 nominations across 9 categories. Some truly stellar work being represented.

  • Adeel vanthaliwala

    Great post. You’ve done a great service to many up and coming entrepreneurs. This will be very beneficial.

  • mma007