Lion + Cub is thrilled to announce that lead photographer Nikki McLennan was awarded Australian Small Business Champion in 2022 for her ongoing commitment to photography in Australia. From a line-up of 17 finalists, Lion + Cub won gold! Even better, they are in the running to win again as news has just come through that we are finalists again for 2023.

Nikki was also awarded bronze in the Ausmumpreneur National Creative Entrepreneur category the same month!

But this blog isn’t about us winning, although we are still dancing joyfully. It’s about having the courage to put your business out there and be proud of your achievements.

Nikki has been photographing women winning business awards for over ten years and knows much about what it takes to get to the podium – and the rabbit-in-the-headlights moment that can create. There are pros and cons to everything in business, but entering awards can only benefit you: the things you need to prepare to have a winning chance are the core elements to a successful business – strong branding, a straightforward story, passionate engagement, great content and an elevator pitch that you’ve nailed.

Plus, being shortlisted and winning is a powerful marketing asset that will raise the profile of your business and attract new clientele. This recognition’s social proof is hard to buy: it will set your business apart from the pack and add valuable authenticity and authority to your LinkedIn profile, web ranking, socials and blogs.

Hundreds of awards are out there, so it pays to narrow it down a bit. Connect with like-minded groups: AusMumpreneur, for example, is Australia’s leading online community for mums in business and a treasure trove of info. And consider subscribing to The Weekly Rocket, the latest in podcasting, blogging and marketing opportunities. This is a great place to find awards to enter.

When you find an award that suits you, make sure you are honest and authentic when telling your story, and talk to the judges in the first person. They are looking for the progress you are making in the business, so detailing how you overcame challenges – even after failing spectacularly at first – makes for engaging material. Ensure you understand the questions: often multilayered, most require a response backed up by evidence, so it’s essential to have information to hand in PDF format: financials, legal documents, reviews, letters of support etc. And stick to the word limit – too much and too little.

Remember that the lead time for awards can be extensive, so don’t submit in a frenzied panic – take your time. Consider your answers, and ask friends, colleagues or professionals for advice. Lion + Cub works closely with a copywriter,, as a professional content creator with plenty of experience writing grants; her advice is objective and invaluable.

To be in the running, you need to ensure your socials are up to date, your website loads quickly, is relevant, has a high conversion capability, and that you can confidently pitch what you do and why someone should choose you – in seven seconds.

Entering an award is the perfect opportunity to work on getting more Google reviews, upping your presence on LinkedIn and socials, and writing blogs that answer common questions about what you do. But it also gives you valuable perspective on your business journey – what you have achieved, what you aspire to, and where you can streamline what you do to make it more agile, customer-facing, or ‘insert goal here’.

It’s important to remember that DIY phone shots are listed as one of the three biggest mistakes that will render your submission a waste of time, so our top tip is to invest in a professional photo shoot. Not only does this give your confidence a boost and adds value to your brand, but it is also genuinely essential if you are nominated and win – trust us, when a photo of you is blown up to giant proportions in front of thousands of people at an awards ceremony at Star Casino, you want it to be a good shot!

What happens if you win? Well, before painting the town red and waving your trophy like a flag, network with other business owners at the awards and get professional photos taken to promote your win. Then, once the hangover has subsided, you get to tell the world about it. Celebrate online, particularly on LinkedIn and socials, most beautiful, proud pics, and follow up with the people you connected with on the night. The awards circuit is a robust network and worth being a part of.

If you lose? Be proud of yourself for putting yourself out there, follow up with other nominees – new contacts are new contacts – and take a moment to recognise all you have achieved in the process. Let’s face it; your business looks bright, shiny, and new again!