Get your “Shark Tank” pitches ready, veteran small-business owners. FedEx is looking to give away more than $250,000 in cash and office services in its ninth-annual Small Business Grant Contest.

The 2021 contest will take submissions through March 9, 2021, with public voting set to take place March 10-24. A total of 12 businesses will be selected for support through grants, FedEx Office’s business services, and mentorship from small-business experts.

One lucky business will receive the grand prize of a $50,000 grant with $7,500 in office services. Second place will receive a $30,000 grant and $5,000 in services; the third-place finalist will get $15,000 and $1,000 in services.

Eligibility is limited to U.S.-based, for-profit companies with 1 to 99 employees. Applicants must have been in business for at least six months or more as of Feb. 16, 2021, and have a shipping need.

The 2021 contest will also be the second year that a veteran-owned business will receive separate special recognition with the “Veteran-Owned Business Award Winner.” The special award is part of the office supply and shipping giant’s commitment to support military veterans.

The third-place winner will receive the “Entrepreneur Choice Award,” presented by the FedEx Entrepreneur Advisory Board, which is made up of former winners of the contest.

In all, 100 finalists will be chosen; those who don’t win the top spots will receive one-on-one business coaching through the Accion Opportunity Fund, a nonprofit that also provides microloans to small businesses throughout the United States.

Finalists in the top 100 will also be able to attend the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City’s National Conference (ICIC), and will be granted access to webinars on the ICIC digital platform. They will also have the opportunity to be matched with a mentor from SCORE, a nonprofit with the mission of fostering small businesses through mentoring and education.

These nonprofit education and lending organizations have collectively helped millions of small businesses and entrepreneurs. In the previous eight FedEx contests, more than 42,000 businesses competed for the small-business grants and received mentorship and education from FedEx partners.

To enter the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, applicants should visit www.fedex.com/grantcontest, and enter their business information (including their FedEx shipping account number); write a short profile about their business; and upload up to four photos of their business or product, including their logo.

While not required, participants also have the option of submitting a short “elevator pitch” video to supplement their entry.

Winners will be announced May 10, 2021.

— Blake Stilwell can be reached at blake.stilwell@military.com. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on Facebook.

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