Now in its sixth year, the Shopify Build a Business competition — which invites aspiring entrepreneurs with little business experience to learn about building a company through Shopify — has two Canadian winners.
“The Build a Business Competition first came about because of a challenge from Tim Ferriss, who was an early investor in Shopify. Even though Shopify provided technology that made it much easier for entrepreneurs to sell online, many people still held the opinion that it couldn’t be that easy,” said Courtney Symons, partner growth manager at Shopify. “So, we created a challenge: start a business from scratch, and grow it as fast as you can in eight months or less. Not only did we want to show people that it was possible to build a successful business this way, but we also wanted to celebrate entrepreneurship, and give aspiring entrepreneurs positive role models to look up to.”
Winners are chosen based on their best two months of sales during an eight-month time period. The competition this year invited aspiring entrepreneurs to spend five days in Oheka Castle — also known as the Great Gatsby castle — with mentors like Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke and NYSE president Tom Farley. Mentors teach competitors various aspects of being a business owner, from idea to execution to scaling. For this reason, Symons said that the experience is valuable even if entrepreneurs choose to run businesses outside of Shopify.
“The entrepreneurs that we meet through the Build a Business Competition generate incredible case studies of success, and lasting relationships with the company. Many of our winning companies become brand ambassadors for Shopify,” said Symon. “One of last year’s winners, Leesa — a foldable, shippable mattress company — officially launched their product in Canada earlier this year, and they tested out their new fulfillment and shipping procedures by accepting orders from Shopify employees. They also chose a homeless shelter in downtown Ottawa to donate some of their mattresses to based on our recommendation.”
To help entrepreneurs beyond the competition, Shopify also created a private Facebook group, and hosted live Q&A sessions with former winners and industry experts on various topics including marketing, entrepreneurship, and accounting.
“One of the most powerful resources these competitors have is each other,” said Symons. “They are able to ask questions from people who are in the trenches right alongside them, and going through exactly the same struggles and victories as they are.”