Today SCORE, mentors to America’s small businesses, announced a $700,000 grant award from Sam’s Club, a leading U.S. membership club serving small businesses since 1983, to support and celebrate our nation’s entrepreneurs through The American Small Business Championship. The Championship program provides expert training, resources and networking opportunities to small business owners from coast to coast.

Kicking off today with an open call for applications, The American Small Business Championship will award 102 small businesses, two in every state and the District of Columbia, for their sacrifice and dedication to the success of their business. The Small Business Champions will receive a $1,000 Sam’s Club gift card, an all-expense-paid trip to a training event, SCORE mentoring for one year, and promotion throughout the year to showcase each Champion’s story.

Apply to be a Champion

U.S. small business owners can apply to be a Champion through February 6, 2015 at www.score.org/championship. To be eligible, applicants must have been in business for at least one year and currently generate revenue. Applicants must complete an online application to include response to the question “What sacrifice have you made to help your business succeed?” via either (a) a 60-second video OR (b) a written statement of up to 250 words combined with a photo. Each applicant must also gather at least 100 votes for its online entry on the contest platform during the nomination period (January 12 – February 6, 2015). Applicants will then advance to final judging by SCORE leadership, mentors and board members.

About the Program

The $700,000 grant from Sam’s Club to SCORE not only supports the 102 Champions with resources and training, but also allows SCORE to host five regional training events for an additional 1,500 small business owners throughout 2015. The regional training events will take place in Phoenix, AZ, Austin, TX, Jacksonville, FL, Chicago, IL and Rochester, NY from March through July 2015. Visit www.score.org to learn more about the events and registration.

“We are so grateful for the opportunity to once again work with Sam’s Club to recognize the incredible achievements and perseverance of American small businesses,” said SCORE CEO Ken Yancey. “This combination of funds, training and mentoring is the perfect formula to help take these stellar businesses to the next level of growth.”

In 2012-2013, Sam’s Club and SCORE rewarded 102 small business owners through a similar grant program, including Tabitha Birdsong, owner of Miss Birdsong’s Sweet Tooth in Memphis, who said, “To have an idea, a dream and to see it manifest, it’s just wonderful. Through the grant that was provided to me through SCORE, I was able to learn very important information on how to hone my craft as a business owner. When I think about my SCORE mentors, it just makes me smile.” To hear more from Tabitha and other Champions, watch the video here.

“Sam’s Club business members tell us they need better access to training, mentoring and capital to succeed, and by working with SCORE, we can respond to these needs while taking time to reward small business owners’ hard work and dedication,” said Don Frieson, executive vice president for operations at Sam’s Club. “Our associates and the communities we serve are excited to celebrate America’s Small Business Champions and continue to help them save money and time every day.”

To learn more, apply or nominate a business for The American Small Business Championship, visit score.org/championship. Champions will be announced in late-February, 2015.