YOU’VE DETERMINED that you’re eligible, made note of your login email address and password (and put them in a place they won’t get lost), appointed someone to take the lead on your contest entry, and scheduled a few minutes each week to work on it. At this point, it’s time to start your entry.
Those New Checkboxes Up Top
This year, we have two new checkbox options at the top of the etnry page that we need you to check before continuing with your entry.
The first checkbox is to confirm that you understand that all winners of the contest — from first place through honorable mention — are required to give an interview to INSTORE editors for a feature story in the magazine.
Quick background: In the past, in our three publications, we’ve had several instances where, after judging was completed, business owners decided that they weren’t happy with where their store finished (“We only want to be featured if we come in first place!”) and refused to be interviewed.
This is unfair to all the other participants, as well as to the judges who spent their time judging the contest. If you can’t handle not finishing first, then please don’t enter the contest. America’s Coolest Stores is an extremely competitive contest, the toughest and most comprehensive in the industry, and to be voted anywhere in our top 16 businesses should be a point of pride and a testament to the extremely cool business you have built.
But if you can’t handle second place, then please don’t waste your time … or ours.
The second checkbox asks if you’d like to have editors review your entry before judging begins and provide hints on ways in which you can improve it.
This is a new service we’ve started offering this year, in an effort to increase the overall quality of entries and to help stores differentiate themselves from competitors. To benefit from this service, you must submit your entry before our early bird March 1 deadline.
Finish your entry, click “Submit”, and our editors will get back in touch with you with a review of your entry and some basic ideas on where you might improve it. For some businesses, this might be better or different photography, or more examples of marketing, or a different approach to your text entry. For some businesses, we might not have any advice at all.
For entries where we recommend additional changes, we will then provide you with a link that lets you revise your submitted entry.
Please remember that, if you submit your entry after March 1, you won’t be able to benefit from this service.
General Info and Business Stats
The general information required is pretty straightforward. One potentially tricky bit: It’s possible that your contact email (see below) will be different from your login email.
For example, maybe you, the owner, signed in initially using your email address as the login. But now you’ve handed the job off to an employee who has their own email.
The contact email is exactly what it sounds like: the email address we’ll use to get in touch with you about your entry. So the contact email should be that of whoever is handling the contest entry. If it’s the same as the login email, that’s fine. If it’s different, just remember that, so that you’re not confused later about which address to use to log in. (That would be the login email.)
You can skip the “Online Presence” section for the moment; we’ll cover it later. For now, go to “Business Stats.”
Again, pretty straightforward. If your location hasn’t been renovated since it opened, enter the same year for “Year Opened Featured Location” and “Year Last Renovated.” (It seems redundant, but that way we know you didn’t just accidentally miss filling that line out.)
Other questions include your number of full and part-time employees, your showroom and total square footage, your top brands and your buildout cost (if you don’t have the exact number, just give us the closest estimate you can provide.)
Finally, we ask for to the people who helped you build your store — the architect and design firms, as well as showcase manufacturers.
If you have any questions about preparing your entry for the America’s Coolest Stores contest, email them to us at [email protected].