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Before You Start

The very first step is to make sure that you're eligible.




HERE’S SOMETHING IMPORTANT: Before you start your America’s Coolest contest entry, let’s make sure you’re eligible. Entries from businesses that don’t meet contest criteria will not be considered for judging.

Eligibility Criteria

Entrants must:

  • Be a U.S. brick-and-mortar pet store with or without services OR a U.S. brick-and-mortar service provider with retail.
  • Cater directly to consumers.
  • Have been open at least a year prior to contest start date of Feb. 1, 2024.
  • Have 10 or fewer locations.
  • Have NOT previously been featured as an America’s Coolest pet business. NOTE: Our goal is to shine a spotlight on as many different cool pet businesses as possible. So if you’ve won before, think of this as sharing the love with your fellow indie. You’ve had your time in the spotlight, now give others a chance.

Are all the above things true of your business? If so, you’re good to go!

Logging In

Between now and April 15, you will always log in to work on your contest entry at

Bookmark it. You’ll also want to make a note of the email address you use to sign up for the contest. Or else we’ll be receiving more than a few emails from those who can’t remember which email address they used. For sake of convenience, you might make a note of your password, too.

One thing you also want to do is establish a specific person to be your point person for the contest. This could be you as the owner or an employee, but it should be someone who is relatively computer-literate and who has a little extra time to devote to compiling information and photos, and preparing the entry.

And a final note: Historically, a lot of AC entrants tend to leave entering to the last minute. Some of them still do fine, but many discover too late that they don’t have exactly what our judges are looking for easily at hand, such as high-resolution images (more on that later).

Certainly, preparing your entry isn’t the most time-consuming thing you’ll do all year. But it does take time — so if you’re going to do it, it makes sense to do it right. You’ll be well served if you or your point person set aside a specific chunk of time, perhaps when business is normally slow, to work on it — hopefully using this series of tips as a guide. It will be worth it, we promise. Owners regularly tell us how just entering made them think about their business in a new light and made them pretty darn proud of what they have built.

Next up: Basic Info and Stats,” which covers … well, basic info and stats.



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