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Shopify Contest Yields Big Money and Bigger Ideas

Posted on 2.28.2012

Back in June, e-commerce platform Shopify invited Web entrepreneurs to enter its $500,000 Build-A-Business Competition. More than 3,000 entries were received and now, after eight months of competition, a winner has finally been announced.

Coffee Joulies is a startup company that sells a new product by the same name. Joulies are polished stainless steel beans that regulate the temperature of coffee, and were developed by New Jersey mechanical engineers Dave Jackson and Dave Petrillo.

The two Daves went on Kickstarter to crowdsource their funding with a goal of $9,500 and ended up raising $306,944 with 4,818 backers. Then they entered the Shopify competition and built their Web store on the platform, ultimately earning the $100,000 first-place prize. In all, $12 million in products were sold by competing startups during the eight-month period (see the entire list of winners below).

“I spent one evening building our online store on Shopify,” says Petrillo. “We were accepting orders the next day and quickly sold out. Using Shopify for e-commerce eliminated most of the tedious parts associated with starting a business.”

“The only thing we had to focus on was our brand, our products and our customers – the way it should be, adds Jackson. “We know if we build our brand slowly and carefully, we can make Coffee Joulies a million dollar business by the end of the year.”

Along with Shopify’s grand prize of $100,000 cash, Jackson and Petrillo also earn VIP trips to New York City and San Francisco to meet Web marketing gurus Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk and Timothy Ferriss to gain some high-end business advice to further grow their company. Shopify is also awarding a total of $150,000 cash and $60,000 in Google AdWords credits to the following industry and regional category winners:

Tattly: Tina Roth Eisenberg was frustrated that children’s rub-on tattoos were often poorly designed. Tina (aka Swiss Miss), opened her own temporary tattoo online store featuring art by famous designers.

Opena Case: Rob Ward and Chris Peters solved a dilemma of epic proportions, having a cold beer but no way of opening it. What’s the one thing you always have on you? Your phone. Solution: an iPhone bottle opener.

FlockStocks: Sophie Kovic was working at a local movie theatre until she read Tim Ferriss’ book “The 4-Hour Workweek.” She followed his step-by-step business plan and created a feather hair extension online store. Her feathers are selling all around the world.

NeuYear: Jesse Phillips was disillusioned with his computer science degree and became determined to save himself from a life working in a cubicle. He semi-quit his day job and developed an artistic one-year calendar poster.

MyFootyBoots: Brad Jorgensen was tired of overpriced soccer cleats in his native Australia. He found suppliers and opened an online store offering fair prices.

Simply Hops: Small batch beer makers often have difficulty finding a variety of quality hops available for purchase in small quantities. Simply Hops was developed to cater to craft brewers that don’t want to make expensive bulk purchases.

Clearpath Robotics: Matthew Randall and four other mechanical engineers from the University of Waterloo created an open-source and fully customizable robot called TurtleBot. It’s currently the most powerful and capable entry-level robot in the world.

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