How do you launch a slew of new companies, enable e-commerce, generate millions in sales, and help thousands of entrepreneurs create new jobs for themselves and others? You might think the answer starts with venture capital, but for online store builder Shopify, the solution is: pit a bunch of bloodthirsty aspiring business owners against each other (all in the spirit of healthy competition, of course).
Shopify, which launched its Build A Business contest last year, generating more than 1,350 new business and $3.5 million in gross sales, wanted to ramp up the competition even further in 2011. So to make things a little more interesting, it's brought on blue-chip names Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin, dangling promises of consulting and mentorship for the companies that fare the best (a strategy that Ferriss calls a "benevolent and encouraging kick in the ass"). Besides providing entrants with the online store platform, Shopify also provides new users with tools like Adwords and MailChimp credits to get them off to a running start.
So far, that strategy is paying off—more than 2,500 entrepreneurs have registered for the contest by creating new shops with Shopify's platform. And while the individual stores may not sound like disruptive game changers that'll take down Apple or Microsoft anytime soon—some of the most successful shops so far sell feather hair extensions, wooden iPhone back bezels, gadget cases, and space-age shoes—the stores have generated a collective $4.2 million in sales, with two months left to go in the contest.
Check out the video below to hear more from Vaynerchuck on how contests and competitions can help launch and grow new businesses.
[Image: Flickr user Paolo Camera]