Canadian Entrepreneurs can still join Shopify’s Build-A-Business Competition

Ottawa based e-commerce platform Shopify is halfway through their 2nd Build-A-Business competition that awards a $5,000 Apple Gift Card, a VIP trip to New York City to have lunch with Seth Godin, and $15,000 worth of Google AdWords credits to the Canadian entrepreneur that starts the most successful online store on their platform. The contest launched May 1st and concludes December 31st, 2011. The competing store with the most revenue for two months (they average your best two) wins the grand prize.

Last year’s Build-A-Business competition saw DODOcase take home a $100,000 prize and that’s on top of their projected annual earnings of $5 million a year. Due to Canada’s rigid contest rules, Shopify’s competition was not open to Canadian businesses last year.

This year they wanted to expand their reach and went to lengths to open the contest up to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

“We are a Canadian company, and we are not going to do this again without including Canada,” said Tobi Lütke, co-founder and CEO of Shopify (pictured). But opening the contest up to Canada was not an easy sell. The laws that govern Canadian contests require adherence to two separate sets of laws, the Competition Act and the Criminal Code. “I spent more hours on the phone with lawyers than I care to admit,” confessed Lütke, “but in the end it was worth it.” Similar to last year, the grand prize is a $100,000 cheque, but Canadian law does not allow cash prizes to the winner of a skill-based contest, so they had to create a separate prize for the Canadian winner, hence the $5,000 Apple Gift Card and other prizes.

So far, the competition has received a good response from the Canadian entrepreneur community. “Out of the 2,100 online stores competing, 239 are Canadian, many of which are doing quite well,” said Mark Hayes, Shopify’s head of Public Relations. “There’s still a few months left to start an online store and compete, and since we judge the winner by taking their best two months, there’s plenty of time for newcomers to join and have a chance at taking home the prize.” Given a large chunk of online retail sales occur during the two months preceding Christmas, it’s safe to say the current leader-board is not set in stone.

The stores leading the pack and some notable newcomers spawning from Canada are: Frozen Laundry, that sells high-end technical wear for bike and board adventurers, Spicy Life sells playful and risque leather clothing, Play Lashes sells 100% handmade mink hair eyelashes, 72 Hours sells emergency drinking water kits, and Killigrew Fashion designs and sells Peruvian pima cotton apparel. Shopify is not disclosing specific numbers for each store competing, but since the competition began they have moved over $2 million in merchandise.

Photo: Daniel Weinand