E-commerce platform Shopify and Sir Richard Branson have teamed up to host the fifth annual "Build-A-Business" competition, an entrepreneurial contest whose winners will be flown to Branson's private island for a five-day business workshop.
Not only will winners get a chance to rap with the eccentric billionaire, they will be mentored by some of today's most successful entrepreneurs, including Shark Tank judge Daymond John.
"It's incredibly rewarding," said 2013 mentor Mark Cuban about the competition, which puts the winners in one-on-one meetings to receive exclusive business advice.
To enter the competition, startups must set up an online store through Shopify, which will track sales between October 2014 and May 2015. The five founders whose companies sell the most product during a two-month period will win a free trip to Necker Island, or as it's known for the competition, "Entrepreneur's Island."
Besides Branson and John, this year's group of mentors includes author of The 4-Hour Workweek Tim Ferriss, Marie Forleo, founder of 2014 Inc. 500 company Marie Forleo International, and Squidoo.com founder and book author Seth Godin.
Last year's competition saw 21,000 businesses sell more than $120 million of products in just eight months of existence.
Previous Build-A-Business winners include iPad case company DODOcase, founded by Patrick Buckley, and girls' toy startup GoldieBlox, founded by Debbie Sterling.
"A great thing that came out of the competition was the connection that we made with the mentors," Sterling says. "[Swissmiss founder] Tina Roth Eisenberg was our mentor and she gave me really good advice around how to build culture and how to make people feel empowered and motivated to help take your products or business to the next level."
GoldieBlox, which has grown into a multi-million dollar business, recently doubled its product line and has grown from seven employees to roughly 30 in the past year.
Shawn Rowland, co-founder of drone company Drones Etc., a 2013 competition winner, launched his business roughly a year ago and has grown sales from around $60,000 per month to close to $1 million a month.
"A lot of our big picture ideas--if not all of them--have come as a result of either mentor advice or knocking around ideas with mentors," he says. Among Rowland's mentors last year were renowned photographer Chase Jarvis, who has used drones extensively for his photography.
"His advice was specific for our industry," Rowland says. "I thought the [mentorship program] might just be a photo op. It wasn't."
For details on the competition and instructions for how to sign up, visit Shopify's website.