Do you want to create your own online store?

Win $100,000 with Shopify's Build a Business Competition

Win $100,000 with Shopify's Build a Business Competition

Update - The Build-A-Business Contest is back. Visit the contest page for more info on this year's competition.

The Shopify Build a Business Contest

The news is out and the response has been phenomenal: we’re giving away $120,000 in prizes for whoever builds the best online business on Shopify in the new year.

This started out as just an idea between Tobi, Shopify’s CEO, and Tim Ferriss, NYT Bestselling author of the 4-Hour Workweek. Before he started writing his book, Tim created a business that let him automate nearly everything and travel Europe while working, and Shopify was built with just this kind of automation in mind, to help you run an ecommerce website without any hassles. When we all met, it seemed only natural that we would work together, because in Tim’s own words, “Shopify is exactly the product I wish I could have used when I built my own business originally.” We wanted to give everyone with an idea the chance to put it into action. Everyone wants to be their own boss, have more independence, and we thought since the tools are already available, a $100,000 grand prize might be just the incentive to get you started. And here we are:

A Business for Life

Starting on January 1st, compete to build the highest-grossing business over 6 months. The two best months are used to determine the winner of the competition, who will receive $100,000. More winners will receive $5,000 in other categories, and there will be some great surprises along the way. Although the competition starts on January 1st, you can and should start an account now so that you get a head start learning. Throughout the competition you will receive great tips and expert help from people in different fields, including Tim and Tobi, and you’ll have the great support that Shopify is known for.

The business you’re registering must be new, and even if you’re not the winner, at the end of the six months you should end up with a great business of your own.

Here is a quick summary:

- $100,000 grand prize
- $120,000 total in prizes
- Only new businesses are eligible to enter.
- Contest runs for 6 months starting January 1st but you can register and start working on your business now.
- The best two months of sales are counted.
- Even if you don’t win the prizes, you should end up with a viable business at the end of 6 months.
- The steps and details in the new, expanded 4-Hour Workweek will be used as ground-zero for instructions.
- Contest open to US businesses only. The tools and guidance will be available to all entrants, though so you are encouraged to enter no matter where you are.

Register at the Store Contest Page to get started.


I’m outside the US, can I still participate?

We welcome you to the contest and you will have full access to the tutorials, guides and video addresses that we are creating and posting over the next 6 months. However, you will not be eligible for the prizes.

We are planning on posting international leader boards as well so you will be able to compare your store to the American crowd.

You are a Canadian company but Canadians cannot participate?

Believe us, we are as frustrated about this as you are. We spent countless hours on the phone with lawyers over the last few months trying to make this truly international, but in the end we simply could not offer the contest the way we did if it were available in Canada or in Europe.

Without going into too many details, the crux of the matter is the legal classification of the contest as a game of skill vs. a game of chance. Some agencies see our contest as a game of chance. Apparently they believe that being a successful entrepreneur and building a great business online has more to do with luck than with skill. Unfortunately games of chance are governed under Lottery law, which makes them essentially impossible to run (or even outright illegal).

Can I move my existing online store over?

Obviously we would love to have your business on Shopify. However, the spirit of this contest is to encourage new businesses to be created. Maybe you already have an idea for a new business that is only semi-related to your existing store? You should try this idea and you will be free to enter the contest with this. You can contact our sales team at

If you are planning to move your existing business to Shopify as well please contact our sales team and we will be able to give you special discounts.

What about a brick and mortar store?

It’s a fantastic time to move your business online. However, much like with existing online stores – see previous point – the spirit of the contest is to encourage new businesses. Moving an existing brick and mortar store online is not going to be a valid new business unless you can clearly demonstrate that you are not taking advantage of the existing offline business.

Is there a maximum order price?

Yes, only the first $5,000 of each order will count towards the contest. We put this rule in place to stop used car sales men from sweeping the contest.

Can I sell Real estate, Pianos, Cars?

Sure thing. However, only the first $5,000 of each order counts towards the contest. No you can’t get 100 orders placed by the same person for $5,000 each either. We check for this :-)

Can I sell digital goods?

Yes, in fact we worked hard on finalizing support for digital goods just in time for the launch of the contest. Since early December you can now tell us that certain items in your store don’t require shipping addresses and/or taxation. If an order consists of only items that don’t require shipping then Shopify will not ask for a shipping address during the checkout.

If it is software you are selling then we recommend you install Fetchapp from the Shopify App Store. With Fetchapp you can automatically send out software bundles and licence keys once orders have been placed.

Can you sell a combination of affiliate products and your own products through Shopify?

Yes absolutely. In fact we highly encourage our customers to source extra products that round off the product offering. A lot of our customers started by selling just a single product and later on started cross selling related products between their stores for additional sales.

I’m a programmer. Can I extend Shopify with new features?

Yes. This is what we created the Shopify Platform for. The Platform is fairly similar to the Facebook platform and allows you to add all sorts of interesting capabilities to your store. You can browse through existing apps at the Shopify App Store and you can find the API docs here.

Can I use a drop shipper like Doba for products?

Yes, Shopify even integrates directly with drop shippers and fulfillment services such as Shipwire, Webgistix and Amazon fulfillment. These services are really the key to fully automate your online store because manual shipping is labor intensive. At Shopify we have something called the App Store, which allows you to add extensions to your store (think a mix of WordPress plugins and Facebook apps). We know there are currently a few developers working on a Doba integration.

Why do you judge based on revenues? Aren’t profit margins a better measure of how healthy a business is?

This is true, but it would be impossible for us to determine profit margins of all the participants. Since revenues are easily trackable, we use them as the measurement of success. This was the best way of running the competition without making it overly complicated. Of course, all the information we track for the contest strictly complies with our privacy policy.