Garden & Gun’s Made in the South: Entries Due Tomorrow!

Yesterday we talked about the best local shops in Birmingham, and that got me thinking about local products, and that got me thinking about Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards. Okay, that’s a lie — I got to thinking about the Made in the South awards because they’re being promoted like crazy on the Garden & Gun Instagram … but I still think there’s a connection.


Giving awards for the best coffee shop or the best leather watchband or whatever don’t seem like that big of a deal, but they really can help companies succeed in an extremely tough retail space. Any maker or business that commits to making its products in the United States, where we legally have to provide livable working conditions and wages for our employees, is taking a big financial hit in order to do something pretty important for our economy and for our people. Contents and polls that promote local businesses and products can be the stamp of approval that new customers need to have the courage to try something new.


Garden & Gun’s Made in the South contest is a big one, and all entries are due just before midnight tomorrow night. By all accounts I’ve heard, a mention in the magazine is a huge sales driver, and the first-prize winner this year also gets $10,000. Because of that, entering the contest is a little bit tricky, but a motivated maker should still be able to pull it off by the deadline.


Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards: How to Submit


You’ll submit online, but Garden & Gun provides a printable PDF that you can use as a worksheet before starting your digital submission. You’ll also need three quality photos of your product and $75 for the submission fee. I’d recommend really thoroughly reading the rules first to be sure your entry isn’t thrown out on a technicality or that you’re wasting $75 on an ineligible product. And a really important thing that we sometimes forget in our quest to grow our products and businesses — if you’re going to enter, be sure you have a plan for winning. That means possibly growing production exponentially, so think about whether or not you can change your output from dozens to thousands and ship those products out quickly and safely. (Don’t actually invest in making those changes unless you win or it makes sense for your business to grow anyway, but at least think through what you’d do in the situation.)


Not a Maker? Try the WBHM Artist Challenge


Garden & Gun’s contest is for makers of products, not for painters and designers (unless you paint or design on a Southern-made product). But if that’s your thing, you’re not entirely out of luck — Birmingham’s WBHM Artist Challenge is going on now, and they’re asking for design submissions for their next series of pint glasses. It’s not $10,000, but it’s great recognition in Birmingham (past winners include some of Birmingham’s most popular artists, like Veronique Vanblaere, Paul Cordes Wilm and John Lytle Wilson), so it’s not too shabby. Plus, it’s for a good cause (the cause of supporting the news I listen to every morning and then steal ideas from to write this blog, among other things). The deadline for that one is July 31, so you have a little bit (a very little bit) of wiggle room.


Click here to enter Garden & Gun’s Made in the South Awards, or here to check out WBHM’s Artist Challenge guidelines. It can be tough to be a local maker or an artist because you’re always putting yourself on the line, opening your heart up and inviting conversation and criticism. But as artists, risking rejection is something we do all the time anyway. In this case, we’re also inviting the possibility of big success, and taking that kind of hopeful chance can be pretty transformative — for our products, for ourselves, and even for the South.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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